Thank you for the opportunity to share a word with you this afternoon.
A reading from (Genesis 2:4-7).
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being.
When I think about a handful of dirt in God’s hands and God breathing into that dirt, I think about my neighbor over on standard mountain Rd. who makes dirt. You may know Tom Gilbert and black dirt farm. They take food waste and table scraps turn it into dirt. To me that seems like holy work.
Every time I drive by that farm, I get a strange, warm feeling, kinda like the feeling I get when the sunset is spectacular, or when I’m standing on a mountaintop or at the edge of a seashore or in a cathedral.
By some estimates, 95% of the world’s food is grown in the uppermost layer we call topsoil. Dirt is a life as it was in the beginning, so it is now. In the hands of God or in the hands of a Vermont farmer, soil gives us life, nurtures us, and sustains us.
We know now more than ever before how all lifeforms are interconnected, forming a complex and beautiful whole. Every part of it matters and every part influences the rest. My faith teaches that the complex and beautiful whole is enough to sustain life and not just enough to sustain it but to sustain it abundantly for all — People, plants, animals, dirt, air, water, All. Abundant life.
Abundant life for all is more than most of us can wrap our minds around, So we give into our fears and allow ourselves to be governed by scarcity rather than abundance. That choice leaves some of us with more than we can use in a lifetime and some of us with barely enough to live on day by day. As brutal and tragic as that choice has made life for some of our human siblings, it has had a devasting impact on our planet. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 33% of the Earth’s soils are already degraded and over 90% could become degraded by 2050.
In 1942, J.I. Rodale said, “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People.” Conversely, In 2023, we know that Degraded soil = less nutritious food=undernourished people.
I think that is why I get that strangely warm feeling when I drive by Tom’s farm. Good Dirt = Good Food = Good life. He is doing holy work. And he is not alone. There are so many Vermont Farmers who strive everyday to farm in a healthy, regenerative way. Doing the stuff that sustains life.
You are a part of that. When you are making decisions here in this house. You are never just making political decisions, or agricultural decisions, or environmental decisions, or educational decisions. Thankfully, you are doing all of those things and more, but you are also making moral decisions and when you make them in a way that keeps in mind that we can’t live without good dirt, you are doing Holy work.
Thank you. Amen.