Kingdom Come

When a couple of Jesus’ close disciples came to him requesting that he grant them prestigious positions in the kingdom they believed he was about to establish, he responded by telling them, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all.”

Our pastor mentioned that episode in his sermon last Sunday, pointing out how shocking the statement would have sounded to the disciples, who lived in a culture where greatness could be measured in part by how many servants one had.  Greatness was certainly not measured by how many persons one served, and the “slave to all” would obviously be the least great person, not the greatest person.

Of course this statement of Jesus, like everything else he said, when not completely ignored, has been sanitized, diluted and rendered innocuous.  His shockingly revolutionary message, when not completely disregarded, has been processed and reconfigured to serve and promote our cultural, political and economic idols, rather than to smash them.  Typically, when the message of Jesus threatens our culture, we defang the message to protect the culture, or even worse we misuse the message to validate the culture.

This comment about being slave to all wasn’t an anomoly.  Nearly everything that Jesus is recorded as having said was like taking a sledge hammer to society.  The kingdom that he was calling for was entirely upside down.  When he told his followers that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” the Bible says the followers were “amazed” and asked “Who then can be saved?”  Their culture told them that it was the rich who most obviously had God’s favor, and if they couldn’t make it, then who possibly could?

It seems a great pity to me that we can’t read those stories and feel the same shock and amazement that would have been felt by those who first heard them.  We’ve declawed them and loaded them all with a couple thousand years of imperial baggage.  Now they are almost always adapted to our predominant metanarrative–to serve its interests.  For example, the humility and nonviolence taught by Jesus somehow gets twisted into a bizarre combination of  pride, arrogance, tribalism, coercion and glorification of violence.  All we have to do is look around us and try to find a person who is actively seeking to be a slave to all.  Of course there are folks who do and I am privileged to know a few, but they aren’t easily noticed because, naturally, they aren’t seeking to draw attention to themselves.

Is the message of Jesus now so entangled with power structures and institutions and so coopted by the defenders of the status quo as to be permanently neutered?  How do we try to live out the kingdom in an age where “Christian” often has come to mean doing just the opposite?

I get disheartened sometimes when I think about it too much.  Cherie has told me often it makes her so sad that she literally wants to just sit and cry.

I surely don’t have it all figured out and I don’t claim to have the answers or to be any kind of good example.  But I yearn for this kingdom and I know with all my heart that what the vast majority of us are doing now isn’t advancing it.

Two thousand years ago the people of a tiny, poor place, under the boot of the military superpower of that day, were waiting and hoping for a savior.  They believed he would ride triumphantly into Jerusalem one day to be crowned, to cast out the Romans and then inaugurate an era of peace and justice–which they called the Kingdom of God.

But the savior they got wasn’t a military hero, riding into Jerusalem in a chariot at the head of an army.  Instead, he was a peasant from the sticks, the son of a construction worker, riding in on a donkey.  He wasn’t followed by an army, but rather by a crowd composed largely of the poor and marginalized–servants, women, children, lepers, fishermen.  The only crown he got was a crown of thorns.  Instead of casting out the Romans, they mocked him, tortured him, stripped him naked and publicly executed him.

But I believe with all my heart that something very special happened on that first Easter morning.  And no matter how unlikely it often seems, I know that the world and everything in it will be redeemed and made right.

And even in the heart of empire, sometimes we might notice a knowing glance or a little nod from another.  Evidence that we’re not as alone as it may sometimes seem.

Your kingdom come.

Love Wins

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Better Understanding

Cherie was away all of last week while I was here tending the farm.  I used to work till it was dark, then come in expecting to have supper at 9 o’clock, or whatever time I stopped for the day.  At some point she told me that supper is at seven, and if I want to eat with the rest of the family I need to be sitting at the table at that time.  I’m glad she did it.  After that I made it my practice to come in and eat with the family.  I’m just sorry I didn’t do it sooner.  During my lawyering days I almost never ate meals with the family.  I skipped breakfast, ate lunch at work and had supper whenever I got home, which was long after the rest of the family had eaten.  I regret how I lived in those days.  Now I’m a strong advocate of family meals and prioritizing them over work.

But with Cherie and the kids gone I decided to squeeze in more farm work and just eat supper after dark.  Unsurprisingly, I found that when I came inside at 9, after a very long and tiring work day, I just didn’t have the energy to prepare a decent meal.  One night I made a sandwich and if we had any junk food in the house I would have eaten it.

My experience confirmed what I’ve read is a significant contributing factor to our health crisis.  In our contemporary culture, where both spouses work (or where a single person is head of household) it is often exhaustion that causes one of them to pick up KFC on the way home, or to serve preprepared processed food to the family.  There isn’t enough time or energy to prepare a healthy meal.

As I reflected on this I better understood why this happens, but I also knew that I couldn’t do it too.  We must resist becoming slaves to this system and when it threatens to enslave us, we simply cannot give in.  So I made meals, no matter how tired I was.  I took time during the day (usually after lunch) to prepare good food that I could heat at night.  I made the time, understanding as I did that growing good food was a worthless enterprise if I didn’t eventually eat it.

This is a challenge our society has to face and overcome.  We cannot be seduced by the industrial food complex into surrending to them.  Our workaholism is a deeper problem, and too complex for this modest post.   So is the materialism which drives us to try to earn so much more money than we really need.  It seems to me that our single most significant reason for earning money should be to assure that we and our families are well nourished.  If the effect of earning more money is to cause us to be less well nourished, then we have crossed into paradox and irony. 

But I’m glad to have experienced what is a reality to millions of Americans.   And may we all have the strength and self control to dodge that trap.

Love Wins

Off to the Goose

We’re leaving this morning for the Wild Goose festival.  It’s certainly not an ideal time to leave the farm.  It seems that pregnant goats and gardens are just waiting for me to leave.  But our son Will and family will be here to keep things reasonably in order until we return Sunday or Monday.

This festival was an integral part of the life change I implemented last year.  It was the inspiration I found there that gave me the courage to finally completely cut the chord and walk away from my law career.

No doubt I’ll blog afterwards about what we experience.  I’m excited to be in the company of our heroes like Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne and John Dear.  I’m looking forward to hearing Derek Webb, Gungor, Jennifer Knapp and David Crowder.  And as I know from last year, we’re certain to discover new voices that we’ll love. 

I’ve tried to try to set up the blog to continue publishing while we’re gone.  I usually have several of these posts done in advance, so maybe there will be new content in our absence.  I’ve never done it before, however, so I’m not sure it will work.  If not, I’ll just take a short break.

Peace.

Love Wins

CSA so far

About 1/3 of the way into the year (the gardening year, that is) our CSA experiment has been successful, so far.  The feedback has been all positive and, most importantly, we were blessed with an abundance of Spring veggies.  Spring is always an iffy growing season here, so I was nervous that we might disappoint our members.  But this Spring we faced the issue of whether we were delivering too much, never whether we were delivering too little.

I’ve been keeping track of the weekly deliveries and posting them on our website.  It is satisfying to know that not only are our members getting great food, but they’re getting great value too.

And now we face the Summer.  So I’m nervous about whether the squash bugs will kill our squash, whether the tomatoes will make it, whether the deer will jump the fence and eat our beans and sweet potatoes, whether it will be too dry, or too wet, and so on and so forth.  And inside I feel pretty sure that everything is going to be just fine and we’ll be blessed with another abundant season.

I absolutely love the fact that we’re helping get healthy delicious locally-grown food into the homes of so many families.  I feel a bit like we’re poking little holes in the industrial food complex dike.  May the day soon come when that dike breaks and is swept away in a flood of organic gardens and happy healthy gardeners.

Love Wins

Morning Scenes

One of the first things I did this morning was check on this kid.  He’s been sick and has had me very worried about him.  I intervened with some aggressive worming and, although he’s still weak, he seems to be much improved.  He and his brother were orphaned when Angie died and even though they were old enough to wean at the time, they missed out on a lot of nutritious mother’s milk.  A couple of days ago I found him far off in the pasture, separated from the herd, lying down and very weak.  His healthy brother was with him.  I found that touching, sentimentalist that I am.  I carried the little guy all the way back to the barn and gave him some grain and medicine.  Hoping he’s now on the road to full recovery.

Here’s our Great Pyrennes guard dog Joey, on duty.  He’s a friendly happy dog, who can’t resist laying in horse poo and generally making himself as dirty as possible. 

Zsa Zsa is getting so fat that she prefers to sit while eating.

Johnny really wants to come over and eat their food.  But like all goats he hates getting wet, so my standing there with a hose in my hand keeps him safely at a distance.

Rush hour traffic on the farm.

A nice way to start a morning.

Love Wins

Healthy Gardens

This is a healthy garden.  These are green beans.  The garden is being kept reasonably free from weeds to allow the beans to establish and grow.  We do this without chemicals, of course, so this is accomplished with hand, hoe and cultivator.

This is also a healthy garden.  It is overrun with bugs and weeds.  The plants (broccoli in this case) are beginning to bolt.  It looks like a wild, unruly mess.  So why do I say it’s healthy?  Because as the broccoli began to wind down, nature was allowed to take her natural place.  Because the soil and the plants haven’t been poisoned, they explode with life and variety.   The weeds prevent erosion and attract beneficial insects.  When they’re plowed back into the soil to make way for our cover crops and fall plantings, they return biomass to keep the soil healthy. 

The flowering plants, such as this bolted broccoli, are food for pollinators, including our honeybees.  By the end of the summer we expect the now pristine bean garden to be as wild as this one.  That’s the way we want it and that’s the way it should be.

Love Wins

Taking off my shoes

This cloud caught my attention yesterday afternoon.  How much beauty do we overlook in our hurried lives?  Even though I see only a tiny fraction of what’s there before me, the little I see is enough to keep me constantly amazed.

It reminds me of something from Elizabeth Barrett Browing.  I’ve posted it on here before, but it is worth repeating: 

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries…

Sometimes some of that heaven crammed into earth is subtle.  Other times, it’s impossible to miss.  I was delighted to find this beneath one of the sitting hens this morning.

Then I walked to the back pasture to find my friends there waiting to greet me.

Early chores done, I come back to the house to have a little breakfast before going to tie tomatoes.  When I get to the garden, I’m going to take off my shoes.

Love Wins