Worm Composting. If you’ve been around the church this Lenten season (or last Lenten season), you might know that I’ve become sort of obsessed with the worm composting bin and their tiny crawly red-wriggler residents.
I’m obsessed with these tiny-little friends because, in sort of a quirky way, they connect me deeper to my faith in God. My hope is that with the children of the church will feel his deep connection too. So, going into the 4th week of Lent in the second year of worm composting, here is what worms have taught me about God so far.
1.) These worms deeply connect me to God’s good creation and teach me to be a good steward of it. Especially in a largely urban area surrounded by pavement and traffic, I find the connection to the earth that the worms provide to be highly transformative. When I cook, rather than just throwing my veggie/ fruit scraps away, I’m attentive to the extra bits, carefully saving them in a bag for the worms. In saving my scraps, I’m more attentive to my waste. I’m more attentive to the bounty given to us through the soil and our calling to be good stewards of what we have received. I look forward to having a full bag to “feed” the worms, and to dump in the food for them. I love stirring the bin, often by hand, and seeing my red wriggler “friends” crawling about. I’m amazed by the speed in which they multiply and consume. I’m amazed about how they take the bits that we would throw away and turn them into the basis for new life.
2.) These worms teach me about the spiritual practice of patience. I’m now in my second year of worm composting. Last year, I really wanted to get the worms going quickly so I dumped in LOTS of leftovers, and I wasn’t really careful to what I dumped in. I would occasionally dump in a whole forgotten apple, not bothering to chop it up or even take off the plastic label. Two practical lessons were learned here. First, a worm has an easier time with a smaller thing. A smaller thing takes far less time to break down than a larger thing. Pretty obvious. Second, plastic, even small plastic things like labels aren’t compostable. Duh. Yes, of course. I had to go through the whole bin bit by bit and separate the pieces, take out the plastic and break down the parts. So, the big lesson is not to hurry, not to skip steps, and to be purposeful about the practice. It is the same about faith. Faith isn’t something that can be hurried to achieve an end goal. Faith is also something that is practiced again and again again..
3.) These worms teach me about God’s Holy Spirit existing everywhere in the midst of life. Man oh man. You should have seen the children in worship play this past week. (And you could, by volunteering to teach/ help with us… just email ALICE!) They were holding the worms, they were dumping in new veggie/ fruit scraps, they were mixing up the whole thing, and cleaning up afterward. Everyone was able to help from our 2.5 year old to our 4 and 5 year olds to our 9 and 10 year olds (and everyone in between). Everyone had a job to do. Everyone could participate. Everyone could LOVE(?!?!?!) on these worms. It was my plan that we could TALK about the worm bin in worship play but not that we would necessarily get our hands DEEP into the compost too. But then, suddenly it just worked and the children and the adults were asking: “Can I hold one?” “Me too; I want to hold a worm.” “Here’s mine.” “I’ll share with you.” “Can you help me?” “Can I help you?” And the time was up, and we were still having fun, still experiencing the movement of the Spirit in our midst.
These worms show me how God invites us to life out of the “death-tending ways of the world.” In sermons, in conversation and in Pastor Roger’s Book Theology in the Trenches, Pastor Roger is often speaks of “how the cross exposes the fact that the violent-death tending ways of the world are not God’s way in the world. Indeed, God’s love and justice are at work in the world to bring life out of these death-tending perversions.” (p.109)
How might I translate that statement into something that could drive our children’s ministry? And then last year, totally awesome then second grader told me about Red-Wriggler worms.
These red wiggler worms take what we would normally throw away and over time they turn what we would normally consider to be trash into compost. They turn our trash into life giving soil. God takes what we we see as used up and forgotten and breathes in new life creating something new. That is what God does all over the Bible.
That is what God did for Abraham and Sarah in the birth of a child. That is what God does delivering the people out of bondage in Egypt. That is what God does with Ruth and Naomi when they are lost in a foreign land. That is what God does with the disciples’ impatience and foolishness. That is what God does with us — telling us and showing us that there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love for us. God promises to always be with us, and in that promise God is always bringing in new life especially in ways we don’t expect. We are then to look for all the ways that God is calling us out of the death tending-ways of the world and beckoning us toward life abundant.
For me, this Lent, it begins with worms. To me, they serve as a bearer of God’s compassionate life-giving love to the world. They are just under the soil. Just dig.