The Living Soil (Rev. Tom VandeStadt)
In his book, Out of the Earth, Civilization and the Life of the Soil, soil physicist Daniel Hillel describes the complex nature of the earth’s soil. What may seem to us a simple and mundane substance—dirt—is anything but. Indeed, Hillel likens all the organic and inorganic materials that combine through elaborate and intricate processes to become soil to the human body:
“We can visualize the living soil as a composite body in the same way we think of the human body as a distinct organism, even though in reality it is an ensemble of numerous interdependent and symbiotically coordinated groups of compounds, cells, organs, and colonies of varied microorganisms.”
The Apostle Paul used the human body to describe the church. The human body, though consisting of many members, is one body. All the members are indispensable to the one body and contribute to the body’s functioning. All the members depend upon one another, and upon the body as a whole.
I’ve always appreciated how the Apostle Paul used the human body as a metaphor for the church. It’s so down-to-earth. Of course, we know today that the human body did evolve from the earth. The Hebrew rabbis who wrote the second creation myth found in Genesis were on to something, more than they themselves ever knew or appreciated, when they described God creating the first human, Adam, from the dust, the soil, the earth. Adam’s name is derived from the Hebrew word, adama, which means earth, soil, ground. The ancient rabbis didn’t have the benefit of our scientific understanding of evolution, but they certainly understood humanity’s intimate relationship to the earth’s soil. Adam—created from the vast complex system of earth’s natural relationships, embodying earth’s very own matter and energy, water and minerals, gases and nutrients.
We are formed from the body of the earth, but we are also formed as the Body of Christ. Our lives as earth creatures, as humans, takes a certain form. Aware that we are related to one another, to all people, and to all that exists on earth, we seek to infuse all of our relationships with the qualities Jesus Christ embodied. The qualities with which Jesus Christ related to everyone and everything. Our way of being human in a Christ-like way is not limited to how we treat one another and other human beings. Our embodiment of Christ’s way extends to the earth itself. The body from which we are formed and always a part.
Let us be deeply mindful and appreciative of the two bodies that have formed us, the two bodies of which we are a part—the body of the earth and the Body of Christ. Let us live as that part of the earth’s body that has become human in a manner that seeks to embody Christ’s healing and reconciling love. And let us be deeply mindful of how the Body of Christ depends upon the earth’s body for its life and sustenance, and how the earth’s body now depends upon the Body of Christ for the healing and reconciliation that must occur.