Sunday, March 14, 2010

Joshua 5: Son, you have a problem

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, NM  March 14, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Lent. 

Son, you've got a problem...  I can help, call me. That was the message Trasie's grandfather --affectionately known as Paw Paw Dan--left on my phone one late afternoon Spring of 2005. Trasie and I had been working outside all day, in what was our first attempt at planting our own vegetable garden.  See, Paw Paw grew up on a farm. And everywhere he went in his life, including a large part of his adult life in Fort Bliss, the base outside of El Paso, Tx, PawPaw always kept amazing gardens...tomatoes, squash, beans, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce, collard greens, okra, turnips...If it would grow, he would grow it and he did it until the day he died.  He loved it.

He hand wrote for us a how to plant and harvest his favorite crops; so we had to try it out. (Pictures and journal)

But, it wasn't as easy as he made it sound.  We called him a lot while working in the garden: What kind of seeds?  What about the dirt? What about the frost date?
He always had the answer.  But I had to be readyIf I asked a question that he had already answered, even if he had told me weeks or months earlier, he would say, SON, You're not listening.  

He loved that we were getting into it, carrying on this legacy, and so that's why I got the phone call that one afternoon.  "You've got a problem...I can help.  Turns out, I did have a problem and he helped!

How many of your parents or grandparents had a garden? Or even a farm?  

How many of our relatives generations before us, didn't grow their own food and have a farm because it was fun, a neat hobby, but because that's how you lived/ and survived?  Have some of you tried to grow your own food?  Times have changed: It’s no longer a survival skill. The closest thing to gardening for most kids and adults alike is watching the automatic sprayer some grocery stores have in the produce section…and the best ones make a lightning noise before the storm hits!
It so crazy to think that we can buy seedless fruit.  Not only are seeds life: but if you buy a seedless watermelon, how do you have a seed shooting fight?
And we want our fruit and vegetables, even our meats to look pretty…Perfect shapes…Kind of like our bodies…Whatever perfect means…

Gardening, growing our own food; it’s hard work, weeding, sweating, and bugs (can you see it?)   
But, imagine with me for a moment…what if we had to return to producing our own food locally?  What if God wanted us to learn again how to be dependent on the land, and not just rely on the system big businesses have made our food industry? What if we had to change our whole food economy? 

This is what happened to the people of Israel.  They had to convert their whole food system.  It was a big change, but they did so with joy. Because that is what God wanted for them.

In our short passage from Joshua, we read a very important story of new beginnings. The people who had been enslaved for 400 years in Egypt, who were delivered by God from slavery, who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, who had survived on manna for food during all those years…Manna, which in the Hebrew means: “What is it?”  Manna, God’s provision for them.  

Nicolas Poussin. Gathering of Manna.

Nicolas PoussinGathering of Manna. 1640s. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France.

But now, under the leadership of Joshua, they have crossed through the Jordan and into the promised land…and fertile land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 

And it is in this new land, that the people celebrate the passover feast—reminding them of their days in Egypt as slaves.  Now, they are free. But they remember, YHWH, their God, has brought the people to this new place of freedom. Out of an unpredictable and uncertain circumstances...God has made a way!

And in this new land: The people go on a new diet. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the landThe manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year. 

they no longer ate manna, they ate the crops of the land that year...Which meant, they had to farm, they had to cultivate, and grow and harvest the crops of the land. 

A new—but ancient—food practice and economy was established.  I wonder if the people, who had wandered 40 years in the desert, eating manna—remembered how to sow seed? The importance of the changes in weather?  Previous generations who had farmed the land in the fertile nile valley had died in the wilderness. Was there a grandfather-in-law still around willing to share his wisdom of working the land…?

Whenever we read this living word of God, we gain new and different understanding depending on what is going on in our lives...and our circumstances.  And right now, I am reading this during our time of lent, when we are seeking to reduce our use of fossil fuels, reduce our carbon footprint...
and during a time in our history, when food is produced in mass, mechanically, with pesticides and harmful chemicals, and is packaged with preservatives, do we even understand the ingredients? A time when small local farmers--the ones that are still around--are struggling to make a living. A time when the average distance the food on our plates has traveled is over 1500 miles.  A time when food has lost flavor, but it is easily found.... A time when we are disconnected from our food and the land…

I wonder, I wonder...could God be calling us to something new? a new food practice, eating from the produce of this land....Challenging us to live in a new way as the people of God, for our own sakes, and for the sake of the World?

I want to share with you from of a man I met last summer named Jose H. Lucero.[1] 
Greetings, my name is Jose H. Lucero of the White Corn family and Winter clan from Santa Clara pueblo, New Mexico. I speak in part from the collective thoughts and wisdom of my traditional elders, which they have entrusted to me to share with you now.  
There is a short story of two indigenous elders standing on the side of the road holding a sign that read, "The End is Around the Bend." Shortly a tour bus full of eco-tourists passed and the people laughed and joke about the two crazy men.  
Next the elders heard screams and a great crash. One elder turned to his companion and said: "Maybe we should change our sign to read, Caution: 'Bridge Out'."

Indeed, Lucero says, “there is inherent danger when people choose to ignore signs. In 1854, Chief Seattle wrote to the President of the United States and said, ‘Continue to contaminate your bed and one day you will suffocate in your own waste.’ Perhaps nowhere in time has this statement been more relevant than today.  Despite the signs, we have contaminated our world in many ways, and are only now seeing that we, along with our world, are suffocating.  

Lucero continues: Recently the concept of sustainability has become quite important. When examining this concept we must ask ourselves one question: Exactly who sustains whom?  There is only one Earth, whom we call "mother" who sustains us. We, as her children, cannot do the sustaining.  The Earth would survive, and more than likely thrive without us. We would not be so fortunate without the Earth.  The Creator, through Mother Earth, has gifted us with all we need to survive.  However, instead of protecting and carefully utilizing these gifts, we have exploited them and wasted them.  

So what can be done? What is God calling us to do?  Is something new springing forth?

Liz Lopez works with the Women, Infants and Children program. She told me that they provide some 80,000 women and children who are nutritionally at risk with vouchers to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets. These families get fresh nutritionally rich food, and this invests more than $500,000 back into the local farming economy.

Lucero suggests we listen to the elders who “say we must create a deeper empathy and love for the people who keep their spiritual equilibrium with the natural world through action, ceremony, prayer and songs; and like them we must maintain a spiritual connection with our planet in spite of all the obstacles that face us.”

I love that:  Deeper empathy and love fore the people who keep their spiritual equilibrium with the natural world….get to know local farmerswhere our food comes from.

Lucero also reminds us: We are part of the Creation, where trees grow, we grow, and this is how we remember who we are. 

So maybe it’s time as we are able to start diggin in the dirt again.  Get back in the garden—where humanity came into being—where I connect with the land. 
I feel peace, I feel part, I contribute to something. The food is great! I fall in love with God there in that place, I hear PawPaws wisdom echoing in the soil, I watch the miracle happen…

Ruby’s been getting her hands dirty too.  Tuesday, for Trasie’s birthday, we spent the afternoon sowing seed of some cool weather crops.  Ruby, imitating us stuck her hands in the soil…and then she stuck it in her mouth (not imitating us).  When she did this, Trasie looked at her sternly and said, No en la boca,” Not in your mouth.  Ruby looked at her, and smiled, black dirt smeared all over her tongue and teeth.  She reached for another handful of dirt and defiantly ate more!  “No en la boca Ruby. Trasie cautioned. Ruby looked at her and laughed!   (Who me mommie?)

Maybe it’s part of our DNA, the way we were made to get dirty, and laugh and enjoy it, to eat, if not the dirt itself, the produce from the land…and become whole and complete. 

What might we do when the manna runs out because or current food system is not sustainable?  We will have to rely on the produce of the land…God can still provide, but in a new way…a better way.  But, in order to do so, we have to listen to our elders who remember…especially when they call and say, Son, you have a problem…I can help.” 

Is God calling us to live in some new way?  

[1] from an article I read in the annual magazine, Sustainable Santa Fe

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful and well-expressed. It's enough to make me choose the garden over the grocery store!