we have to farm Eden

‘Today’s global food economy, with its lengthy distribution networks traversing continents and oceans, makes it difficult for eaters to know the places and communities that produce and prepare food. Having so little direct contact with food’s context’s – the fields and waters, livestock crates and pens, the factories and distribution centers, worker communities and restaurants – it is next to impossible for us to act in ways that would promote the good of any place or community’
Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith, A Theology of Eating

It can tie your head in knots to think that each time you eat something there is some specific place somewhere on planet earth that had to grow that food,
(or the things that make up that food)
with very specific fellow human beings doing the farming and either treating creation with respect and love or else treating it badly.
It can tie your head in knots and so why would we even bother thinking about stuff like that? Why not just be thankful you have enough to eat and get on with living life as best you can.

I often do and my default setting is just to consume uncritically, to munch my way through a Mars Bar as I rush from one thing to the next. Yet at other times a sense of unease comes upon me. Because I eat I ‘m involved with agriculture and farming, and so are you. You are responsible for farming.

This can of tinned rice had to be farmed in different nameless places throughout the planet

It’s an incredibly complex journey from farm to my mouth (without even considering the packaging) so I won’t even try or else I might drive myself crazy.
Yet surely few things (if anything) are as fundamental to humanity to eating, which also means that few things are as fundamental as farming to human beings.
This is something which we have completely forgotten in our culture. We know that we have to eat but we don’t seem to realise or have lost sight of the fact that we are dependent on the farmer to grow our food. Right now you are completely dependent on the fact that someone, somewhere is growing your next meal. Farming and agriculture matter, they matter  more than the Man Utd game or ipad 3 or Google or nearly anything else.
And because we eat and depend on the farmer (who depends on grace and things he ultimately can’t control) we also depend on taking care of the earth like we were designed to do in Eden.
If we’re serious about looking after creation we need to support good farmers and those gardeners who use sustainable practices, even if that means much more work on our part in doing research and paying more for our food. We also need to stop supporting those who use destructive practices.

With most of our mass produced food  it’s nearly impossible to know if you have acted in a way that has promoted the good of the communities and places it has come from. So we need to go looking for good farmers who we trust, (or grow as much as we can ourselves) which means more work for us but is the sort of thing we probably should do more off if we’re trying to reflect that idea in Genesis of tending the garden of Eden.



As someone married to a assistant minister and a life long church goer who has sat through many Presbyterian communion services in a mixture of confusion, mystery, respect while at the same time wondering what is going on and why something just doesn’t seem right this passage from ‘Food & Faith‘ struck a chord

The ritualized character of the Eucharist sometimes causes people to forget that the supper was a meal. It was not a nibbling session but the place where the disciples came together to obtain their inspiration, strength, and sustenance. The evidence of the early church suggests that the community of followers ate together regularly and often, and that in their eating they tried to bear witness to Christ’s way of dwelling on earth.
Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith

the mystery of the sourdough

‘Whenever people come to the table they demonstrate with the unmistakable evidence of their stomachs that they are not self-subsisting gods. They are finite and mortal creatures dependent on God’s many gifts….Eating reminds us that we participate in a grace-saturated world, a blessed creation worthy of attention of care, and celebration
Norman Wirzba

So a new book arrived and I started to think once again about the importance of food and eating and how we’ve made a poor show of things. I still wonder how we can pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ but not look into the mysteries of how God has actually supplied our daily bread. The question that I always wonder is would God supply our daily bread through injustice?
Like if our tinned tomatoes are being harvested by immigrants who are being abused in the south of Italy and we buy the tin in Tesco for 50p and eat it has God supplied our daily bread?

I’ve been using a nice sourdough recipe the past year and it is a constant source of wonder that only three ingredients can bring forth something as tasty as this loaf of bread. It truly is a miracle.
Simple though those ingredients are I am still far removed from their original sources and unaware as to how they got there.

I have been using the Don Carlos salt brand which according to the website is ‘is sourced from the Atlantic Ocean off Sanlucar de Barrameda in the Donana National Park.’

Strong Bread Flour
According to the packaging the flour was produced in the UK. Being skeptical about these sorts of things when it comes to the supermarket is now my default setting.
Does being produced mean they bring the wheat grain in from other countries  then mill it in the UK?
Well OK then I guess I’ll take them at their word.
A bit of Google action suggests that it might have come from the east of England.
But I’m not sure.
Which highlights the problem of trying to find out where our food comes from. We’re largely clueless about the origins of our food.
I’m not sure where the water is piped from, I’ll hazard a guess and say The Silent Valley up in The Mournes.

Even a quick dip into the origins of my simple loaf shows that it is anything but simple. There are men and machine extrating salt in the south-east of Spain, combines tearing down wheat in east Anglia and men monitoring the water supply from Mournes. Not to mention the wind turbines supplying heat to the oven, the oven and on and on it goes.

But at the end of the day it all comes from gift. The sea gives up its salt, the farmers rely on weather and rains (which are beyond their control) and the rain falls in Co. Down.
The supply chains are so complicated and hard to trace. But I think it is good to do if we care about the planet (which is a loving gift from God and should be treated as such)

a hungry son of the righteous?/ church /sharing meals

Sometimes it would be nice to see a harvest for all those seeds you planted in good faith.

I’m not just talking about my veg patch (though that would be nice as well) but for all the unseen hidden groundwork in life that you do and nobody seems to notice.
I’ve actually my suspicions that nobody does notice.

I know of a gentleman (and he is a gentleman) who has come over to this country to for theological training, except not being  from the EU it has been an endless to find work. Now that he has eventually found work it is a slog to do his theological training and take it back to his country.

Keeping it vague he was telling us that he bumped into people from his own country the other day, men who where staying in the place he worked. It turned out these men worked for the corrupt government of his own country.

And my friend couldn’t help but wonder about how it is that someone who is trying his best to honour God could have life so tough while the government officials of a dictator could have it so easy?
Or how could that fit in with Psalm 37, especially verses like

5 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

That was a verse I came across the other day as well. Is that verse true?
Does God really look after us and give us our daily bread?

To be honest money can be pretty tight in our household.
So one day a cheque came throught the postbox which would gave us a sense of breathing space or a safety net.

So what happened the next day? The car went to pot and the breathing space gift money was gone.
Of course you could say ‘Well isn’t it just as well the gift money came through when it did because the car was about to break…what an answer to prayer..’

but part of you goes

‘Could God not just do his miracle thing and keep the car running smoothly?We’re trying to do the right thing by him and we’re sick of living on the edge…if God can part the Red Sea he can keep a Fiat Punto on the road’

(Actually,maybe keeping a Fiat Punto on the road is asking too much, even from God.)

It just seems to be hard to do the right thing.
However one of the problems seems to be a sense of alienation.
You seem to be the only ones struggling with money or with a car that is shite. You’re worried that if you can’t pay the rent there is nowhere for you to live.

This sense of alienation is the scariest thing about it all because there is no sense of people being there to pick you up when you fall.

Blogging and Facebook are pretty narrow ways to live, but they don’t give you any sense of reassurance that you have people that have got your back or covering you. Does technology feed our sense of being alone in the cosmos?

Yeah, definately – the sense of alienation is what makes things especially hard, You need to know that if your car breaks down for examply there is someone who will give you a lift to wherever you need to go, or let you borrow their car without any sense that they are doing you are favour or because someone made them do it.

They need to feel that from you as well. But its a hard place to get to, this sense of belonging and being. We’re so alienated as people, we’re so alienated in church.

But I know what I would do to fix this.

We should all eat together more. It is no exaggeration to say this but those people I feel closest to, who I feel safest with are those people I have shared meals with.

If we want to stop feeling to alienated from each other we need to start cooking for each other and having each other round for dinner more, we need to break bread together and drink red wine, or cook fish

I’ve had the image of the Jesus cooking fish and telling the disciples ‘Come and have breakfast’ from John 21 in my head.

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

give us this day our daily (Fairtrade) salad?

I’ve been challenged the last few days by soya beans, NT Wright, The Lord’s Prayer and few Facebook friends.

Sitting by myself  in St George’s Market like a Billy-no-Mates  (Mrs Canal Ways is being cultured in Paris until Wednesday) I scribbled all over my notepad(and when I say notepad I mean paper and pen like in the old days, not fancy pants electronic tablet device with WiFi blah-de-blah), and drew thought bubbles here and there, and tried to work out what was going on…

Anyway, after a bit of mind judo and looking ‘intellectual’ I think my thoughts revolve around  words Christian’s pray regularly and what those words actually mean

‘..Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses…’

Firstly, what does the phrase ‘give us this day our daily bread‘ mean?

Is is it just the essentials like basic food, basic clothes, basic shelter, water etc?
Like should we be praying every day for chocolate cake?
Does that count as daily bread?

It would be a messy discussion for church to have but my feeling is we loose sight of the essentials all too easily and confuse ‘wants’ with ‘needs’. For example a family may say we need a large people carry to bring the kids from A to B and comply with EU laws. Maybe that is a need in our culture and society.But is a people carrier for our family daily bread? What are we going to do when families in China and India for examply want to eat the same people carrier daily bread? Are we going to say ‘Er no, because the earths resources won’t take the strain..?”

And secondly would the God who Christians proclaim is loving and just, the Jesus who is Lord and we make a big fuss about on Sunday mornings provide our ‘daily bread’ by exploiting our neighbours around the world?

Obviously once again these matters are complicated and the world is messy (for want of a better word) but do we just leave it at that and say something like ‘I’ve got to live my life, I can’t worry about everything going on in the world sad though it is…oh well,what can you do.?’

Do you ever notice that sometimes when people are slagging off the church  some evangelical book writers or speaker will say ‘Ah, yes, but what about William Wilberforce?He helped abolish slavery you know..
Now abolishing slavery is obviously good except for the inconvient fact that slavery still  goes on and  needs abolished. As this video shows they’re not just working the sugar plantations anymore, they’re working in the salad farms in Southern Spain to supply us here in Lisburn and Dublin with our out of season salads and tomatoes.

If a tomato is  essential daily bread(and we do need to eat) has God somehow given us that tomato using slave labour?
Because hard though it is for us to get our heads and disembodied bodies around that tomato wasn’t just plucked out of a pallet from thin air at the LIDL/ASDA/Tesco distribution cente.

It’s interesting the gentleman at the end of the film says

‘People just don’t want to hear.Everyone knows this system exists. It’s slavery in Europe.At the door to Europe there’s slavery as if we were in the 16th century.Let’s speak out together. No! Everybody can say it. No! You can say that if you continue like that, I’m not going to buy your products. Why do we not say this?’

He’s right. We often don’t want to hear.
Yet (and this is the point where I go into a self-righteous, hypocritical rant writing my blog) we hip, cutting edge Christians seem very adept at hearing that Rob Bell’s latest book is theologically unsound and then having endless theological discussions/fights/tweets/blogs around the reaction to that, or _______.
All the while there are areas of life that we don’t even begin to peak into because they’re too complicated or you need to be an expert  they say you need to be an expert to understand and we’ve more important things to be getting on with.
Eurovision is on!
Man Utd are playing Barca!
iPad2 is out and Steve Jobs is doing a launch!

But how can  we (and especially a Christian ‘we’) have become so used to not looking  into where our daily bread comes from or how it actually got there on our plates?
How can we pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ and not wonder how God supplied it?
Is it unreasonable?Have I just got a bee in my bonnet about something and ‘oh well, what can you do,life goes on?’

All those ingredients in your stock cube that we don’t even know how to pronounce come from somewhere on planet earth. They where not supplied out of thin air in some magic portal out the back of Tesco. Perhaps it was grown in Brazil by slave labour. But who cares eh?

Meanwhile our daily salad or tomatoes most likely has been supplied by slave labour in Southern Spain. Forgive us our trespasses?

sourdough tribulations.

I’ve been making bread this year, and there is something good and noble about doing so……BUT….the mess drives me (and H______) crazy! Everything is fine and theraputic until it gets to the kneading stage. Is there anything that sticks to a sideboard quite like wheat and water? How do get to the phone if it rings?Why does someone knock on the door at this stage?Why do you wear your floppy jumper with sleeves that flop into the bowl?

And how annoying are the clumps of dough that stick to your arm hair? It is a nightmare for a man with hairy fingers as well. You think you have it washed off but a hour or so later you will look down to see a shrivelled, hardened ball of dried dough stuck to the back of your finger and up your arm. Bits of dough will have hardened to the sideboard.

If it wasn’t for the stickiness it would be a lovely job. Tonight I tried a new tactic of adding a few sheets of baking paper on the sideboard. Part of me didn’t like the idea as it was killing the environment and wasting paper but I was happy if it prevented it sticking to the sideboard. But as I kneaded the mixture in a bowl on the paper, the bowl slide about. And the olive oil I rubbed on my hands didn’t mean that the dough didn’t stop sticking (though it did seem to come off easier). Sourdough tribulations.