Sunday, June 14, 2015

Conditions for Life

Ezekiel 17:22-24 
Conditions for life

A couple weeks ago I began my morning as I typically do by climbing out of bed and stepping over the dogs, throwing on warmer clothes and my glasses and stumbling down the stairs to make my coffee. Then - a part of my spring and summer routine I head out to ‘walk the north 40’…  as I call it- or meander around our little back yard to examine the chickens and the garden.

On this cool morning a couple weeks ago I was looking to see how the seeds had finally burst through the soil and the little heads of the green beans, snap peas and zucchini were finally beginning to open and look toward the sky- hopeful- just as I was- that we might -finally- see the sun..

But on this day- as I looked down something caught my eye.  It was a little - translucent worm like creature - it looked like a little piece of angel hair pasta- but it’s neck stretched and twirled in a kind of snake like movement. I’ve never seen anything like it. So I kneeled down to see that there were about 20 of these little critters all over the soil- freshly composted soil I had recently added to the garden. I was so mesmerized I plopped down on the ground to watch. I texted Kyle to come look- and quick! A text which he was super excited to receive at 5:30 am…

Later that day I went to do some research to get to the bottom of this mystery creature.

With a bit of digging I discovered that these little snake-like angel-hair-pasta translucent worms have a name: they are called enchytraeids, or as they are commonly known- which I can pronouncepot worms- no, not that kind of pot- flower pot. They sometimes appear in compost soil in times when there has been a lot of moisture - like when we’ve had a month of rain in Colorado. They are generally harmless - but are an indicator that the conditions of your soil might not support other types of life— as these little worms thrive in conditions that are low in pH and high in moisture.

It turns out- my compost bin had created the perfect conditions for life…. for pot worms- but perhaps not for the vegetables I hope to grow to feed my family.


The prophet Ezekiel spoke among the people of Israel in the midst of the babylonian exile in the early decades of the sixth century BCE. The people had just lost everything. Their land, their monarchy, and their temple were all destroyed, and here they are in babylon trying to understand what has happened to them and what it means for them as a community.

We pick up with the prophet Ezekiel in the 17th chapter- which is pretty darn beautiful honestly… 

“  On the mountain height of Israel
               I, God, will plant it,
          in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
               and become a noble cedar.
          Under it every kind of bird will live;
               in the shade of its branches will nest
               winged creatures of every kind.
24        All the trees of the field shall know
               that I am the LORD.

however- reading the rest of Ezekiel is a lot more harsh, and gives a more broad understanding of the depth and meaning of todays text.

You see, the first chapters of Ezekiel tell a story of death and exploitation. The powerful have taken everything from the people. Chapter 17 begins with a long, poetic riddle like allegory of two eagles and a vine- recalling the leaders of Israel being seduced by the power and armies of Babylon- only to desert their own people. Ezekiel says that following these corrupt leaders is like transplanting a vine in poor soil. The roots are easily pulled and the fruit rots on the vine. We see patterns of those in power exploiting and neglecting those without.

When we come to todays text we see that God’s power and creation is bigger than the ways of exploitation and corruption.

God is the one who creates an environment for life. God takes a sprig from atop the lofty cedar. And, foreshadowing the poetry of Mary’s magnificat in Luke, the high are made low and the low are made high. God creates an environment where all can live and grow and thrive.

This is in line with this theme we see throughout the Bible old and new- God calls for conditions that support life… in a context where the people have been oppressed and the powerful have exploited and taken advantage of their own… The Prophet Ezekiel reminds us that God is the one who reverses the status quo so that all may thrive.

One of my favorite thinkers- Buckminster Fuller said, “I must commit myself to reforming the environment and not people; being absolutely confident that if you give people the right environment they will behave favorably.”

Buckminster Fuller knew that given the right conditions people will thrive- when starved of the right conditions- often due to a lack of will or greed on the part of those with power and resources, people will suffer.

And then this week I read an article in the satire magazine- The Onion-source of truth and wisdom…  the headline read “15 years in constant fear somehow fails to rehabilitate prisoner”….

While it may not look like it if you step back and look at the systems and communities we have created - We do know what it takes for people to thrive, for communities to thrive: 

All people need access to healthy food, homes free of violence, clean water, opportunities to learn and be challenged, communities where we can feel safe outside, clean air, jobs that pay a living wage, friends and family who are supportive, affordable healthcare, and opportunities to work, play and rest.

We do not have a lack of knowledge of what conditions it takes to thrive- we have a lack of will.

While many here- including myself- might have conditions that allow them and their families to thrive…

too many in our communities and too many in our world are not able to survive- let alone thrive.

Because something is out of balance- the ph in our soil is too low to support life for all.

We have pot worms growing in our soil.

Disparity between rich and poor in our country has grown exponentially in the past 40 years. Theories that if we only increased the gross domestic product of our country then all of our social ills would be solved have been busted. Studies show that social ills are tied more to inequality than to poverty alone. Thriving is more about balance than wealth.


I invite you to wonder:

What conditions support life for all?

Why is our ‘soil out of balance’? What is stopping us from creating an environment where all can live? 

What actions can we take to build a church/ community where all can thrive?

Ezekiel came in the midst of brokenness beyond our imagination. A time of exile and wondering when people felt helpless and hopeless. 

And he brought a word of life. He came to remind the people that they need not rely on the leaders who had fallen into corrupt ways. They needed to turn to God- and to take action - to rise up and live into the ways of life. 

“  I myself will take a sprig
               from the lofty top of a cedar;
              I myself will plant it
           Under it every kind of bird will live;
               in the shade of its branches will nest
               winged creatures of every kind.
24        All the trees of the field shall know
               that I am the LORD.”

May we have the will to take action. To till the soil. To water, fertilize and weed. To name injustice, to support those in need, to call for systems that are fair and provide opportunity for every person— every person- to live and love and grow.

May it be so


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