humanity

Love and Dirt and Dust

By Brian Carr

Human beings have a profound connection to dirt and dust.

What a strange concept for most of us. We as humans often have a higher view of ourselves that to be related to the dirt and dust around us. If you found dirt and dust in your home, wouldn’t you clean it up? We appreciate clean. 

And yet our history and creation are so dirty

From a cosmological and scientific point of view, we are literally made from dust. Specifically, from the dust of stars. It is in stars that the elements needed to sustain life are created, and when these stars explode, they release these elements into the universe. It is through this action that Earth received the elements necessary to sustain life. “For you are dust,” so says both science and Genesis 3:19.

From a theological point of view, the creation story from Genesis 2 tells us that God created us from dirt and clay. The first human, ādām, translates as “earthling” or “groundling” and was made from the ădāmāh, which translates as “earth” or “ground.” The ‘ādām from the ădāmāh. The groundling from the ground. 

We are intimately tied to the ground; to the dirt and earth. 

Humans oftentimes have a top-down theology of themselves. We were made in the image of God and so we are as close to God as any created thing can be. Everything else is below us. We came from above and were then placed on this earth. 

But in reality, we are a ground-up species. We were created from the ground. We are made of dirt and dust. We came up from the earth along with all of creation. We are not above everything else, but among and with it.

We come from humble beginnings.

And yet we’ve brought ourselves to prideful and dangerous heights. 

In no way am I trying to devalue how important it is to be a human. Every person has immense value and worth, and we were indeed created in God’s image. But this does not make us gods. It does not make us angels. It does not place us on God’s divine council. 

We must realize that we are a part of this earth. We were created in the image of God so that we could work with creation, to work with each other. We were created for all of creation. We can only truly realize this if we recognize our shared and humble beginnings. 

We have placed ourselves above the rest of creation. We have decided that we have the right to use and abuse nature and animals and resources. This power hungry concept has also led us to believe that we have the right to use and abuse each other. We forget that we have all come from the same humble material. Humans, trees, animals, flowers – all from dirt and dust. 

We need to, literally, ground ourselves. 

Barbara Brown Taylor once said “My skin is happy on the black dirt, which speaks a language my bones understand.”

There is a deep connection with the earth below our feet. Something profound happens when we run our hands through the soil. We are connecting to the very dirt that we were created from. God ran her hands through the dirt in order to form us, and so we find connection to God when we touch this same dirt. 

We also find connection to each other, through dirt and through God. 

Learn to love the dirt, because as a wise prophet once said, “Life’s a garden. Dig it.”

Fully Human Jesus

By Rev. Mindi

On Palm Sunday, I went to the last show of a six-week musical run at our local little theater.  I went to the last show of Jesus Christ Superstar.   I really wish I hadn’t gone to the last show only so that I could urge others to go see this fantastic production, but the last show was incredible. Amazing. The band rocked, the voices were incredible, and many numbers received applause afterwards or reverent silence.

Did I mention that it was an all-female cast?

I have seen passion plays and other productions of Jesus Christ Superstar that were good, but this is the only production that has ever left me with tears in my eyes, unable to speak.

Just as in Shakespearean days with the actors being all men playing both parts, so in this production, the actors were all female and played all roles. They didn’t change the words of the songs. They still referred to each other as “he,” referred to Jesus and Judas as that “man,” but they told this old story in a new way, even new from the original production.

As I watched this Jesus, beaten, stripped, covered with blood, raised up on a cross writhing in pain and crying out, I saw Jesus. Maybe at first it was the just-below-shoulder-length brown hair, the way this Jesus looked at others, or the crown of thorns, but for a moment, I forgot that this Jesus was a woman.  At first I thought this was powerful: an image of Jesus that transcended (trans-cended) gender.  But then, as this Jesus became a victim of violence, I saw

the woman who was raped in Steubenville

Malala Yousufzai, shot by the Taliban in Pakistan

Mollie Olgin, killed and her partner Mary Chapa injured last summer in Texas

and countless others, named and nameless women raped, injured and killed every day in our culture of violence, specifically the culture of violence against women. 

This Jesus was no longer gender-less, but fully human, male and female.

The suffering of this Jesus was raw, emotional, and right in front of us. Not a story we could skip the page, not a name we could forget, not a newscast we could pass over.  This was Jesus, in front of us, bearing the wounds and scars that go forgotten by so many.  This Jesus that first impressed me by being portrayed in line with traditional renditions, then surprised me by seeming to go beyond gender, lastly brought me to tears because this Jesus was a woman.

This Jesus showed the horror of violence, but specifically because Jesus was being played by a woman, and the actress was phenomenal in her keeping to the role as traditionally played while showing her genuine, raw emotion—no one could ignore the fact that this production seriously calls into question our glorification of violence in our culture, and specifically, our culture that encourages violence against women. 

As we near the Cross of Good Friday, and the empty tomb of Sunday, I know I will visualize the story differently, and I hope as a pastor, I will tell the story differently. No more will I see the women on the sideline until the resurrection.  No more will I only see a crucified man up on the cross. I see Jesus, beyond and inclusive of gender, taking up the fullness of humanity in life and in death, overcoming our violence that leads to destruction and death in the resurrection.  In Jesus, I have hope that we will end our violence, both the spoken and unspoken, both violence against men and women, young and old, violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—violence against all people. Jesus came in the fullness of human life. All too often, we tell the story of Jesus as God becoming a man, instead of the Word becoming Flesh, God entering our humanity. We must tell the full story of Jesus, and to do so, we must acknowledge the fullness of humanity that has suffered, the same suffering that Jesus went through, in Jesus’ death on the cross.