NICODEMUS SAID TO HIM, "HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?”
with Beth Nelson
9 NICODEMUS SAID TO HIM, "HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE” - John 3
“’Want to dig in the dirt,’ says Beth”: This is the caption written on the back of a photograph of me, about two or three years old, eagerly about to plant something with my grandmother. Before you have visions of me gardening by her side throughout my childhood years, I will share that I don’t remember ever gardening or planting with her. I didn’t grow up gardening or even working in the yard. But as an adult I have not been able to stay away from it. From the moment I had a yard to tend, I have had my hands in the dirt.
After being in worship, and hearing Rachel’s sermon last Sunday about our original vocation in the Garden, I have been thinking about what it means to “serve and preserve”. In my work at Tricycle Gardens I spend a lot of time thinking about serving and preserving the earth, specifically the soil.
For the last nine months I have been doing the work of instructional design to create a Certificate in Urban Agriculture. It has looked like a lot of reading, a lot of conversations with experts in the field, a thousand or more questions, and some digging in the dirt. [But not dirt, soil!]
One of Tricycle’s partners in this endeavor is the Natural Resources Conservation Service. They have this tagline: “Unlock the Secrets of the Soil”. In John’s gospel, Nicodemus goes to Jesus to do just that—to unlock the secrets—of eternal life. Can you picture it?
One of the things I like to do is visit the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s website, where they are works of art, hymns, poems and prayers inspired by the Scriptures. When I looked at the artwork portraying Nicodemus with Jesus, what stood out to me most was their hands. Whether open or pointed, resting or in action, they are a visual representation of their being present, of their questions and of their listening, of their work in their conversation.
It is true that for most of us the work of our hands is not in the earth. We do not put our hands into the soil of a farm in order to grow food for ourselves, our family or our community. So, then, how do we serve and preserve?
Nicodemus went to visit Jesus under cover of night because he was curious; which has me thinking about our work. Our work, whether it’s this month’s mission focus or next, is to be in conversation with Jesus, wanting to dig into that which we do not know or understand. Maybe we volunteer at a community garden. Maybe we invest in an urban farm. Maybe there, or elsewhere, Jesus sticks around because our questions are earnest and something locked gets unlocked. The secrets of the soil...eternal life...God’s love for this world...who knows?