Category Archives: Harvest

Disaster Capitalism in the Bible

Yesterday I preached at Texas Lutheran University’s chapel service. I used what I’ve written before on the story of Joseph’s attempt to deal with famine in Genesis. The sermon might tie together some loose ends and certainly makes a stronger connection between the interpretation of that story and the exploitation of natural disasters today and throughout history. Here’s the sermon:

It’s a familiar story, in more ways than one. We don’t know how his sisters felt about him, but Joseph’s brothers got so fed up with his arrogance that they sold him into slavery. He ended up working for an important official in Pharaoh’s administration. Then an unfortunate encounter with his boss’ wife landed him in jail, where he proved his usefulness to the jailer and became known for interpreting dreams. It was this talent that brought him to the attention of Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s sleep had been tortured by vivid dreams, perhaps nightmares, that troubled and haunted him, emaciated cows eating fat cows, thin and scorched grain consuming healthy grains and an overwhelming sense of foreboding. None of his advisors could satisfy him with their interpretations. So Joseph was brought in from prison and here is his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams,


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Happy Holidays with Humanure!

Aaron (pictured below) and I cleaned out two composting toilets on the farm. We have a total of six composting toilets on the farm, soon to be eight. The average American uses about 80 gallons of water a day just flushing the toilet. We figure why call it waste when it can be put to good use as humanure. We don’t use any humanure on our vegetable crops. Instead we spread it on our pasture where our animals graze. We could use it on food crops if we followed the USDA guidelines for composting humanure… in case you were wondering.

One of the toilets we emptied today belongs to one of the families that lives on the farm. This was the first time it had been emptied in a year, since their duplex was built. The compost in there was pretty well finished and not very putrid at all. The design for those is a toilet near an outside wall where the waste falls onto a slope that goes out of the building into a chamber on the ground. That one took a year for a family of four to fill.

The other one we did today was in our education building. This was the first composting toilet on the property and consistently the most disgusting to empty. As you can see, the design does not make it really easy to empty. It’s a large compartment so there is a lot of crap to shovel when it’s full. It also gets a little spongy or squishy. The drier stuff on the top actually floats on the sludgy liquid stuff below. So as you shovel it gets more and more liquid and sludge-like. The smell in this one is horrible and nasty. Only a gas mask would be effective in filtering out the brutal odor of this one. We earned a Manure Movers of America shirt today.

If you’re interested in making better use of your own poop check out The Humanure Handbook.

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Adventures in Guerrilla Gardening

bpwa_harvestwalk07_persimmon-hachiya.jpgI’ve already shared how enamored i am with the idea of guerrilla gardening (“gardening in public spaces with or without permission.”). I’m eager to start some projects, but I want to do it right so that my efforts will not just get mowed down or uprooted. Last week I was driving around east Waco to get to know the neighborhood better and scope out potential sites for some subversive planting. I was also looking for residents with a lot of well cared for plants who might be allies in greening up their area (sharing plants, knowledge of the neighborhood, etc.).

My boss had previously explained to me what “green tagged” and “red tagged” meant for buildings. If a building is “green tagged” it cannot be occupied until certain repairs are made to the structure. If a building is “red tagged” it is condemned. No one is allowed to live in it and it will be demolished. I did see one lady sitting on the front porch of a red tagged house. I’m sure people continue to live in condemned houses when they don’t have other options.

My boss pointed out a green tagged house that had a tree falling over with ripe persimmons. In my tour through the neighborhood I decided to see if I could harvest some of the fruit. I pulled over and walked up to the gate in front of the house. There was a chain around the gate. So, I decided to nonchalantly hop over the fence. As soon as my feet touched the ground I heard the deep bark of a large dog. There was at least one resident at this property and he was guarding those persimmons. I judged how long the leash was he was on and decided the persimmons were not worth rabies or loss of limb. I quickly hopped back over the fence and went on my merry way.

There are perils to urban foraging. I think many of those dangers are helped by getting to know your neighbors and building relationships. Just beware when scoping out places to harvest that when you hop a fence you should be ready for anything. In these parts that can include shotguns and pit bulls. On the other hand, what would life be without some adventure.

Food in the Bible: Matthew 9:35-38

Matthew 9:35-38Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

I would first like to step back from the baggage this passage has acquired. Usually it is interpreted in terms of evangelism. The “harvest” is the souls that Christians are going out to “win” or “save.” So, knowing that up front let’s see if that is actually what’s happening in the text. After the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) there are a lot of stories about healing with two interludes (8:18-27; 9:9-17). The above passage is the capstone of this whole narrative (Mt 8-9) before the story shifts towards Jerusalem and Jesus’ imminent death. There will be some healing and miracles in the second half of Matthew, but primarily it is parables and the passion account.

This whole section gets started with Jesus healing two outsiders, a leper and a Roman soldier. Jesus has some difficult words for his followers (8:18-21) and shows his command of nature (8:23-27). Again he turns to outsiders and heals the Gadarene demoniac (8:28-9:1). The healing of the paralytic is more about Jesus’ daring to claim the authority to forgive sins (9:2-8). Then he calls Matthew (the presumed author of this gospel) a tax collector, a despised profession. That calling concludes with “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners” (9:13). Then there is the discussion of fasting and feasting we have talked about (9:14-17). Jesus heals a girl and a woman, both marginalized people, and two more before this concluding passage(9:18-34).

So, what’s the point of all this healing? And what does it have to do with our passage about harvest and laborers?

Well verse 35 sums it up nicely. Jesus is “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” and “curing every disease… and sickness.” In Greek the “and” does not necessarily denote two separate, isolated and distinct things. In fact, wherever Jesus goes it seems that the coming of the kingdom and healing of sickness and disease go hand in hand. They are bound up together in the in-breaking of God’s future perfection in Jesus. In the next verse Jesus has compassion, not because people are sick or diseased, but because they have no hope. Healing is a sign of the kingdom, but the kingdom itself is so much more. It is precisely following the summation of Jesus’ ministry (proclaiming the kingdom and healing the sick) and his sense of compassion for the hopeless crowd that Jesus proclaims a plentiful harvest.

Let’s remind ourselves that the terms “harvest” and “laborers” were not abstract spiritual concept to these original hearers. Harvest means life or death and most of life is labor and toil for subsistence farmers. Certainly Jesus is using the terms on more than one level, but we shouldn’t toss out the literal physical meaning of what he says for the spiritual. Perhaps they are meant to be taken together to say something like, “You know only subsistence, but when God reigns there will be more than enough. The problem is there aren’t enough people willing to bring in this kingdom harvest. Pray to the God of abundance for all to send laborers into the harvest of his kingdom which includes both physical and spiritual redemption and reconciliation.”

It has also been pointed out that in the narrative Jesus tells only his disciples this line about the harvest and then immediately in chapter 10 sends them out. Apparently they were the answer to their own prayers.

Honey Harvest

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Enough said really. We should end up with 20+ gallons of delicious local nectar of the gods. It was really cool and the flying insects didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would.