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Monday, February 9, 2009


Reading: Exodus 14-19

This reading sets out God's commands as the the festivals when the Israelites were to celebrate and appear before the Lord. The Israelites were to celebrate three festivals each year: the Passover, the Festival of Harvest and the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year.

God specifically tells the Isrealites to celebrate the blessings he has given them at least three times a year. He knows the importance of special occassions in making us remember specific blessings he has given us. He also knows that it is important for us to occasionally stop working and spend the day praising and celebrating him. By cultivating a sense of gratitude and remembering His presence we are kept from becoming hopeless or bitter through the hard work of the rest of the year.

I also want to point out that two of the festivals God tells us to celebrate are to do with the harvest/environment. There is one festival to present the first fruits to the Lord, and one to celebrate the end of the harvest and the gathering of fruit. God obviously sees the harvest as so important He tells the Israelites to celebrate it twice!

Today, most people are several times removed from the cultivation and harvest of the food they eat. Childeren can quite seriously believe that milk comes from a carton and that meat comes wrapped up in a tray. I think this separation is a bad thing. I believe we should try and keep in touch with where our food comes from. The separation leads to people taking food for granted and has created a strange culture around food. We are so used to foods such as carrots bought from the store that we find it strange if we grow one at home and find that it is small and spilt rather than long and smooth. We have come to have a strange idea of what is 'normal' for food, and this can lead to us rejecting perfectly good food because it doesn't look the way we think it should. Farmers and supermarkets, aware of this, have been forced to introduce more pesticides, growth hormones and wasteful elimination processes to provide the food we expect.

The separation has also lead to two other interesting phenomenons. Firstly, I believe that many people I know would not eat meat if they had any link with its production. They can't bear the idea of eating animals, but we wrap it up and cut it in such a way that it doesn't look anything like the creature they are eating- allowing them to intentionally forget what they are doing. Since the production of meat sucks up so many of the world's reasources, perhaps reducing the separation would be good. Especially in situations where the animals are allowed to suffer because we 'don't know what's happening'. Of course, we never really tried.

The second interesting phenomenon is the world of global industrial food production. This behemoth is designed to provide us with the food we want; and in some cases damn the consequences. We all know (or at least we should) about rice and cotton being grown in arid landscapes, the Amazon rainforest being cut down for soybeans and big macs and Orangutans being forced out of their homes by palm oil (usually vegetable oil on your food label).

It's not all bad news, there is a growing counter-cultural movement going on with a massive growth in purchases from farmer's markets. So much so that some of the 'big guys' are beginning to feel threatened enough to want to introduce standards and inspections of all food before sale in the USA. Seems like a good idea doesn't it? Except the beaurocracy would close most farmer's markets down.

People are beginning to become increasingly concerned about the impact of agriculture on climate change leading to massive growth in sales of organic products and calls for food mile labelling on food. These are good concerns, but they can be taken too far and are not holistic enough. For example some people have started avoiding Fairtrade foods because they are produced overseas rather than locally. I believe this is an example of our distance from food production. Were we to visit the local farm, we would probably find that the product was grown using carbon intensive fertilisers, tractors and other equipment. In contrast the Fairtrade product would be grown by hand, and probably organically, meaning that even with the food miles it is still a lower carbon option than the local product. This is not to say that buying local isn't a great thing.

Better yet- grow your own! Many churches are building fantastic community gardens. Alternatively you could arrange with your church community to grow a fruit or vegetable each and then share the produce. Give yourself or your kids that magic feeling that comes from growing and nuturing plants, and the victory of growing your own food. Then you will understand why God tells us to celebrate the harvest.

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+