God likes dirt.
The creation story, right there at the beginning of it, God plays in the dust of the earth, shapes a human form and breathes life into it.
The first thing almost, God playing in the dirt, and making dirt people, earthlings, that is what the word Adam means.
It is a very childlike image of God, one of the first images we are given.
Jesus speaks of earth today.
Falling into it and rising from it, dying into it, returning to the dust and rising from it, lifting from it, drawing and dragging all people to himself.
It is a powerful image this earth play that we are given, a deadly serious game in the dirt.
Taking it back, a deathly game that brings back life to a barren and dead patch of ground.
The ruler of this world cast out, the dead raised up, life returning, creation becomes alive again.
It is the story of the Gospel, God re-inhabiting what was lost and stolen.
It is a tenacious image, stubborn as all hell and then some, literally more determined than death and hell, to reclaim, to restore, to bring back to life.
We cling to our deathliness, and God draws us up from our graveness kicking and screaming like newborn babes, born again from a new earth that lives again.
Have you ever had a dead patch of ground that you decided to bring back to life? It takes years, determination, attention.
God is like that.
Jesus is that stubborn as all hell and then some determination to bring back to life what has withered away.
Love is stronger than death and hell. That is a great line from the Song of Songs, the great love song of the Bible. That love falling into the earth that we may live again.
Salvation in John’s Gospel has immediacy to it, not a someday thing, it is life now that carries us forward into the new age of creation turning green again.

The judgment is whether we choose to share in that life or not. Do we cling to death or do we cling to the one who lifts us up, drags us up, drawing us up out of the hell that poisons this earth.

Those dead patches of dirt, sometimes it seems like they will never grow something again. Like all those old houses with dead spots from leaky heating oil tanks, some above ground some buried deep.

Sometimes I feel like one of those dead patches of earth. I imagine most of us do. Then someone comes along and brings life back if we let them. And I learn to give love rather than just take love.

We are made for relationships, for connections. When we lose those connections deadliness takes over, addictions, violence. It is interesting the new research that societies and communities that are full of connections between people have a much lower incidence of addiction and violence, dramatically lower. The cause seems to be the loss of connection, everything falls apart from there. Social disruptions cause the addiction and violence, not the other way around. A surprising shift in direction.

The cure then becomes not addiction recovery or the therapeutic rehabilitation of our pent-up violence but rather the restoration of significant and meaningful connections and relationships.

In John’s Gospel God’s playing in the dirt makes the earth flourish anew, vanquishing that force that erodes what connects us to one another.

In John’s Gospel, the precious community of connection is the Church.

This patch of earth is the place of significant connections that casts out that which isolates us from one another.
Grace Church is a good place of lively earth, where we play in God’s dirt and find life again.

Lift one another up and bring life back to what has withered and died.
Play in the dirt.