Fifth Week of Lent Feasting on God’s Gifts; Fasting in Sorrow A Lenten Devotional by Presbyterians for Earth Care 2012
Enjoy Your Oatmeal!
For God sent flesh and blood into the world not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved
through the just, kind and humble way of life the Child of God brings.
Something revolutionary happened at breakfast this morning. The Scottish oatmeal, the creamy milk, even the raspberries and almonds on top all came from our county. Just a small thing, I know, a tiny uprising in a world so proud of the absentee feast. The berries and nuts grew in our garden. And the oatmeal? Well, early this year, I was a guest of our farm friends Tom & Sue Hunton at the ribbon cutting ceremony for their newest venture, Camas Country Mill. 10 miles from our kitchen, they now grow the grains with a co-op of farm neighbors. It’s milled to flour and our cereal right down the road. When I start my day with Tom and Sue’s oats or toast made of the bread I yeasted, kneaded and baked of their flour, I feel strangely...well...I’m gonna say, strangely destined for good.
I have to say, as I feast and fast my way through Lent this time, I have to come to terms with John 3:17 again. It’s been a hard scripture for me to like. More for how others have used it to condemn and divide than for its truth. And how, so often, it’s used to say life is all about right belief and eternity is somewhere else after you die. I’m just saying eternity, for me, is in the oatmeal.
And it’s not just about grain. Grass seed monoculture has been the convention here in the Willamette Valley for decades. Farmers used to get premiums raising grass seed for golf courses, lawns and grave yards. Soon very little food was grown on this sacred ground. As if that weren’t condemnation enough of our way of life, once it became profitable the market became globalized and commoditized. Then the contracts growers were promised, vaporized along with their bottom line and their dignity. If you think about condemnation at all during this time of death and resurrection, think about golf courses and dignity.
The feast we partake is a new thing and new things take deep change. Tom, Sue and their neighbors are re-learning to grow varieties of bread and cereal grains our culture had long since forgotten how to grow. And, of course, grains can’t be grown on the same fields year after year. It wearies the ground. A whole new occupation is mandatory. Pinto beans and black turtles, garbanzo beans and lentils, as it turns out, can be grown in rotation even in our climate. They rebuild the soil and create new wealth. Contracts with bakeries, schools, restaurants and tortilla makers ripple this earthy genius through the nearby economy.
Wealth is shared, conscience embodied. In a world where 1% of us possess 50% of the stuff, here a few are chosen to live in paradise and the rest can go to hell, this kind of meal will literally be the New Covenant in our blood. My favorite prophet, Wendell Berry, interprets John 3:17 into language I can employ:
"To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want." ~ Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land (pg. 304)
For a very long time now, I have suspected that living a Godly life has much to do with taste. Next week our church will host the 13th Annual “That’s My Farmer” spring gala, inaugurating another year of connecting local CSA farms with members of 14 local congregations. Since the opening of the Camas Mill, a small band of local disciples is hosting a regular breakfast of local oats at our church on Sunday mornings while they discuss strategies for organizing buying clubs through our communities of faith. As we approach Holy Week we have begun to imagine the Maundy Thursday table. As we sit down to break the body and shed the blood of Creation, will it be desecration or sacrament we choose? What kind of meal does it take, shared around the feast table of the world, to finally cause the plagues of land and economy to passover till we are all truly free? In what kind of food should we feast and from what might we fast? Our friends Tom and Sue are good business people and they choose good financial partners but, for them, it’s not all business. Last time we talked, they were working out a deal with our regional food bank to sell them lentils and barley at far less than what they cost to produce. Lentils at 24% protein and barley at 14% will go into a soup mix providing to the most hungry of our people, many of whom are children, the protein they need without having to afford meat. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Creator God, make us worthy of our food. Let us feast to the fullest on the faire of flock and field that most honors the integrity of soil, water, air, the sanctity of human labor and the sufficiency of community. Let us fast of tables that exploit, deplete, isolate and condemn. And may we welcome to the best seats, the most marginalized of humanity and the most endangered of plant and creaturekind. If by breakfast, lunch and dinner we can condemn, then by dinner, lunch and breakfast may we be saved. Amen.
John Pitney is Assoc. Minister at First United Methodist of Eugene, Oregon where wife, Debbie is the lead. "That's My Farmer," (13 faith communities supporting 14 CSA farms), a wetland restoration ministry called "Riparian Redeemers" and a 256-panel solar array (created with Oregon Interfaith Power & Light), highlight their Creation Care ministries. Since 1988, John has created 3 albums of Creation Care songs (johnpitney.org)