Worship ~ 3 October

Genesis 1:9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

I have made a point over the years of introducing you to a wide and varied assortment of images for God. I believe that when we are presented with something that doesn’t fit our pre-conceived categories or stock images, we’re forced to consider that dissonance, to pause our rote religious expectations — and think! And that is always my preaching goal. I don’t want to be the only one thinking about this stuff!  I want to coax you away from static, standard, simple images and conventions and assumptions. 

I’d like you to find a connection to God everywhere you look: a gardener planting Eden, a potter forming little creatures from dust and ashes and water; God as clothing swaddling you, or a cloak warming you; God as purifying fire, as warrior, as king; God as shepherd, or lamb; God as woman sweeping her house or kneading bread, God as mother hen, God as eagle; God as dazzling bright cosmic light; God as Water. I preached a what if sermon about God being water a year ago.

What if water is the image of God in which we are created? 60% of our bodies are water! I’ve kind of kept this idea floating around since that sermon. I like it a lot. If God is water, then every living thing is sacred because every living thing contains water. It means the very fact of our continued existence requires God. Humans can live for up to 40 days without food, but each cell in our body requires water to function. Water lubricates joints, regulates body temperature, and helps to flush waste. We can live only 3 to 7 days without water. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God,” says psalm 42.

In the beginning was Water, and the Water was with God, and the Water was God. 2Water was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through it, and without it not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in water was life.          ~a retelling of the prologue to John

The watery chaos of complex cells and gregarious genomes that the wind of God’s Spirit nursed into life in the beginning; rain and snow coming down from heaven, watering the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, accomplishing the divine purpose, succeeding in the thing for which it is sent; water pouring on the thirsty land, streams on dry ground; a new thing springing forth, a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, springs gushing forth in the valleys; still waters in green pastures, living waters of the womb; ever-flowing streams rolling down justice and righteousness in a parched and weary world; water flowing from the pierced side of Jesus;   a river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Come, to springs of living water. 

God is water because all things – seen and unseen, known and unknown – are in God and, as water, God is in all things. It stands to reason, right? All things react to water, are acted upon by water, and new things spring forth: microbes and long dormant seeds come to life when water soaks into dry soil — like hope in despair. Water powers the climate in an eternal cycle, and will as long and heaven and earth endure. 

Is water God?  I don’t know.  Have we anthropomorphized God, imagining the Most High in human form? Well, of course we have. 

I think a case could be made for this bit of whimsy – especially after the reading I’ve been doing about soil. I had decided to begin the Season of Creation with humans and work backwards through the days of creation because I wanted to end with the highpoint of creation: earth’s story of death and resurrection. Dirt. Well, soil, actually.  History is always interpreted through the perspective of the one telling it. So humans would naturally think that Day Six is the pinnacle of creation. It’s the day of mammals and mankind: the day we are given stewardship of the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and of every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ 

But none of that would be possible without Day Three, when the waters were gathered and the dry land appeared and when God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation.”

The way earth puts forth vegetation is through fungi. Fungi is the Kingdom that bridges the plant and animal kingdoms. Mushrooms aren’t plants. They are the matrix of life. Fungi were the first, and will likely be the last, living organism on earth. Mushrooms are the fruit of fungi, and as the image on the bulletin cover shows, the life of mycelium lies beneath, throughout every bit of soil, connecting, feeding and communicating with ‘every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit’. Mycelium are the tiny, threadlike networks of fungal cells that cluster and connect. It is the mycelium who bring nutrients and water to plant roots. The mycelium who break down dead and dying material and make it available for new life to grow from the minerals and chemicals. Mycelium work very much like the nerves and synapses in our brains. They communicate through carbon. They are literally everywhere on earth, billions of threads beneath each step we take – we breathe in spores with every breath, without fungi and bacteria in our bodies we would not be able to break down and digest food. Water, minerals and chemical nutrients are necessary for plant life, but without mycelium, plants would not be able to access their food. 

So, I’m working on a trinity! If God is water, Christ is fungi! Christ is the one who brings us to God, who makes God known. That’s the role of fungi – the mycelium bring water to plants, to make it available to the roots to take up into the tree and give it life.

Okay, I’m going a little far. But there is so much beneath our feet that is life; that creates or allows life processes to occur; that break down all organic material – even oil slicks and diesel spills – to get it out of the way so that new life can thrive. And in that process of death, it feeds and supports the new life, makes it possible. This is divine mystery, divine mastery at work. Sacred soil. 

I think it makes a good image for God – the earth of all the living, ground into the knees of our clothing, stuck to our boot treads, smudged on faces. If God is soil, we are laid to rest in God, enveloped, regenerated, reborn a new body. “O Death where then is your victory, where then is your sting?” I like that dust to dust.

If soil is sacred, if water is sacred, if creation and creatures, made in the image of God, are beloved from the ground up, we’ve got some explaining to do, repenting to do. Major changes to make.

The value of playing with images of God in ordinary, everyday, earthly things is to take these things really seriously, to look at each sustaining, interconnected part with wonder, to ask what if…. What if this is God, what if God is truly present here? The goal of imagining God in earthly form is to ask that of everything and everyone we see. If the ground beneath our feet bears such extraordinary complexity, carries out unfathomed activities like being the communication medium for trees, invisibly houses a kingdom responsible for all life on this planet… how can God not be present there? 

Give thanks for the ground of your being, open your eyes to the wonder, and tread softly as you go.