Sacred Earth

I am the vine and you are the branches.
-John 15:5

God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.
-Exodus 3:5

This earth we are riding keeps trying to tell us something with its continuous scripture of leaves
–William Stafford

I love the element of earth. I adore trees and mountains. I love the feel of dirt or sand under my feet.  The earth feels solid and secure, grounding me here in this place, in this moment.  When I am deeply rooted, my branches can reach far and wide.

When Jesus walked the earth, he used metaphors of soil and harvest to deliver his message.  What does it mean to take this image of vine and branches seriously?  We live in a time when we are disconnected from the gifts of the earth, from her cycles, rhythms, and seasons.  I love the image of the scripture of leaves that Stafford offers — what if we were to consider the changing trees as a sacred text where the Holy One is revealed to us in new ways each season?  We are cut off from the origins of our food so neatly packaged in supermarket displays.  How might our eating patterns be transformed into sacred nourishment, connecting our feasting to and honoring the land that is the source of this abundance?

When I was at the Columbia River Gorge in October there was a day when Mount Hood appeared so clearly against the pale blue sky where the day before it had been shrouded in mist.  I was filled with awe and felt connected to the wonder this sight must have inspired in indigenous peoples, and why this mountain would have been considered sacred.  Mountains have always been places of theophany, an encounter with holiness.

What does it mean to be rooted in a time when we are so free to move to another place?  What are the gifts the earth is waiting to offer us, if we only pay attention?  When was the last time you stood on the earth without your shoes and recognized it as holy ground?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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13 Responses

  1. Hi Christine, one of my yearly rituals, or rythmn of life is to trek into the mountains on Vancouver Island in Strathcona Park for a weekend, alone. I take my bible and my journal…backpack. My goal is just to look and listen…to let it ” all ” speak to me. It has always told me that the gospel and redemption…is about all creation. Creation is the very imagination of God, the more we sink our feet into it…the more we find we are very very much apart of it, that we can not separate ourselves from it…or somehow think we are outside of it. Oh, yah…before I forget Christine, thankyou for a beautiful week of writing. Pax…Ron+

  2. Another very deep image Christine. And that bible verse, I am the vine and you are the branches, is one of my favorites …it goes right to the heart of things. In a way our gifting of earth is our ambiblical cord, while God is both earth’s cord as well as our deepest cord…

  3. Juniper, thanks for the great prayer, that does fit right in! So beautiful too. Petfinder is dangerous, we weren’t actually going to get a dog, but then we saw her, then we met her, now we are fostering her and figuring out if we can adopt her! (the time away this summer is the challenge)

    Thank you Bette, I love Jung’s writings, he has much wisdom to teach us.

    Thanks Rich, I hadn’t thought of the labyrinth explicitly, but you are right! I love the deeper layer there.

    Welcome Prairie Pastor and thank you for the poem recommendation. I will definitely look it up. I bet the landscape where you are is amazing.

    Me, how fun to learn that about you. I love the city, but sometimes wish I could raise chickens on my tiny balcony. We do get all our produce from organic local farms.

    Thanks Cathleen, there will be one more tomorrow on water. And I keep pondering your great question about what we need to foster in ourselves as I grow quickly in my relationship with Tune.

  4. I like this print best so far, but I know there’s more to come.
    I find being out doors helps me feel grounded, and the less between me and the ground the better – a bit of a challenge during Michigan winters.
    Your words are an appropriate follow-up to pondering our Winter God.

  5. I grew up a farm girl. We grew our own food both vegetable and animal. We had a huge garden, sheep, pigs, goats (for milk), chickens (for meat and eggs) and an occasional steer.

    When I left home I became citified. In 1998 we moved to this house. I had gardened at the previous house and I started a garden here. But what was even more important was that we were only a few blocks for a nature preserve. As the years pass my garden and the walks in the creek, and at bunker, and at egret…all become more and more essential to who I am – they connect me to my past. And my city girls know exactly where all food comes from much to the delight and amazement of their dairy farmer uncle who says even kids in the rural towns around him don’t necessarily understand where their food comes from.

  6. Christine,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts/devotion/art. Are you familiar with Harold Shapiro’s poem “Grace to be said at the Supermarket”? If not, I commend it to you. Most of us are far too disconnected from our roots in creation. This summer I accepted a call to ministry in rural North Dakota. Coming from Tennessee by way of seminary in Gettysburg and internship in upstate NY, it was a startling change, yet a wonderful one. The prairie and the sky above it are amazing and starkly beautiful. Watching the summer fields of wheat, flax, and canola, remind me of being at the ocean. There’s an everpresent wind/breeze and sky of piercing blue. It is a good place to listen for God.

  7. Modern man is so disconnected from nature. I was just reading about this last night from the book “The Earth has a Soul” by C.G. Jung. Modern man vs. Archaic man. Quoting: “Modern man deprives himself of Nature’s inherent guidance and wisdom, which presents itself regularly in dreams, visions, and creative fantasy.” and “a balanced interaction between human nature and Nature requires that we also invite–allow–Nature heal us.”

    Your vine stamp carving spirals with truth and beauty.

  8. Hi Christine!

    What a sweet dog! Oh, you are going to send me right back to Petfinders….

    Here is a poem I heard at a meeting today – for opening devotions. Seems to go with your theme so well:

    Deep peace of the running wave to you,
    of water flowing, rising and falling,
    sometimes advancing, sometimes receding…
    May the stream of your life flow unimpeded!
    Deep peace of the running wave to you!

    Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
    which fans your face on a sultry day,
    the air which you breathe deeply, rhythmically,
    which imparts to you energy, consciousness, life.
    Deep peace of the flowing air to you!

    Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
    who, herself unmoving, harbours the movements
    and facilitates the life of the ten thousand creatures,
    while resting contented, stable, tranquil.
    Deep peace of the quiet earth to you!

    Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
    which stay invisible till darkness falls
    and discloses their pure and shining presence
    beaming down in compassion on our turning world.
    Deep peace of the shining stars to you!

    Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you,
    who, swift as the wave and pervasive as the air,
    quiet as the earth and shining like a star,
    breathes into us His Peace and His Spirit.
    Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you!

    Mary Rogers, adapted from the Gaelic

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