Seeds of Faith: We are Dust

Genesis 3:1-19 (Common English Bible)

Knowledge, not eternal life

3 The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”

2 The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees 3 but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’”

4 The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! 5 God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves.

8 During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. 9 The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?”

12 The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

13 The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!”

And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the snake,

“Because you did this,
    you are the one cursed
        out of all the farm animals,
        out of all the wild animals.
    On your belly you will crawl,
        and dust you will eat
        every day of your life.

15 I will put contempt

    between you and the woman,
    between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
        but you will strike at their heels.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pregnancy very painful;
            in pain you will bear children.
You will desire your husband,
        but he will rule over you.”

17 To the man he said, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and you ate from the tree that I commanded, ‘Don’t eat from it,’

cursed is the fertile land because of you;
        in pain you will eat from it
        every day of your life.
18 Weeds and thistles will grow for you,

        even as you eat the field’s plants;
19     by the sweat of your face you will eat bread—
        until you return to the fertile land,
            since from it you were taken;
            you are soil,
                to the soil you will return.”


Thoughts on the passage:

During the season of Lent, we are going to be looking at the image of the seed and exploring passages of scripture that use the seed as a metaphor for faith.  As we prepare for Easter I want us to be looking at what seeds of faith we are planting in our own lives and what sort of a garden we hope they will bloom into.  Seeds represent potential, just as faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, so too are seeds something that give us a chance to look not just at what is, but also to imagine what can be.

“You are soil, to soil you will return” is how the Common English Bible translates the last verse of our passage today.  It might be more familiar to us in the New Revised Standard Version “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  To talk about seeds, we must first talk about the soil, the ground that we are planting these seeds in.  When we are talking about seeds of faith then that ground is our hearts, that soil is our soil.  If we are going to be planting seeds of faith, we first must tend to that which we are planting them in.

Sadly, none of us is perfect soil, ready for the tilling, instead we all need work.  How much, and what kind of work we need varies from person to person.  Some of us are filled with weeds, the seeds of our faith choked out by the busyness of our lives.  Others among us are more like undernourished soil, we are so worn out and tired we do not have much left to give when it comes to our relationship to God.  Still others are filled with rocks and boulders, big barriers that come between us and God.  Whatever the reason we all need some work.  The challenge is to be willing to examine those problems and do the work that it takes to improve on them.

In our story in Genesis, we see people who have some problems in their relationship with God.  Both Adam and Eve do things that come between them and God, between each other, and come between them and creation.  Their sins create separation and destruction and prevent things from flourishing.  What is striking to me is not that Adam and Eve sin and eat the fruit.  Instead what is notable is what they do in response to it.  Here is where the real and lasting damage occurs.

When God punishes Adam and Eve, I believe it is more in response to their inability to take ownership of and repent of their actions than the harm of the actions themselves.  They move from Eden and its prosperity to a land of hardship, where they eat thistles instead of fruit.  Their soil is unable to flourish because they have failed to do the first step, attending to what was wrong in the first place.

Do we do the work of attending to our sins and our separation from God?  If we are going to be planting seeds of faith in preparation for Easter, what are we planting them in?  We need to first look at what is wrong in our relationship to God in the first place.  We need to take the time to understand why we are in need of Easter and the Resurrection in the first place.  Once we are able to claim our mistakes and own our failings, then we can begin tilling the soil for what God hopes to plant in our lives.

So what do we need to do?  We need to remember we who we are: dust and soil but also children of God.  We do not need to get caught up in our flawed nature, or the sinfulness of humanity.  Instead of seeing it as a bad thing we need to see it simply as the start of something.  We are less than perfect, we are going to make mistakes, but we can let those come between us and God, or we can own them and move on.

None of us is perfect, but if we ignore our failings than the seeds of faith are never going to truly flourish in our lives.  We will always be getting less out of life, feeling like everything we plant is cursed.  Without working to till the ground and develop our relationship with God we are always going to be kept apart.  This Lent I hope that we all take heed of this lesson from scripture.  We must remember we are the soil that needs to be tilled so that our faith might grow and flourish.

Questions to Ponder:

When you think about faith as a seed, what kind of plant does it grow?

What are the thorns or rocks that keep faith from growing in your life?

Who is someone you know who seems to always be humble and accepting of their mistakes

Prayer: Spirit, stir in our hearts this Lenten journey.  Help us to till the soil of our lives and plant seeds of faith.  Water us with your grace that we might flourish in your name. AMEN