There was a time when the world was wicked; when every inclination in the hearts of humankind was evil. It was a time filled with violence and corruption. When God saw this time and this earth that was filled with wickedness, she was grieved to her heart. She decided to fill the world with water and blot out from the earth the very human beings she created.
If you remember, this was the story of the great flood. But the point in me reminding you of this story is not to remind you of impending doom, but the recall what happened after the flood. God makes a promise to never again destroy the world. In Isaiah (Ch. 54 and 55), he repeats and renews that promise to us.
This past week, Team Mexico had a retreat on Globalization and Food Security. We had the opportunity to have a conversation with an indigenous spiritual leader. During our conversation, he said something to the effect of “Land is a spiritual inheritance.” The process of planting food is a spiritual process for those who plant to eat and survive. It is part of a tradition of sowing and reaping that has lasted for thousands of generations; in fact, this spiritual leader showed us corn whose lineage could be traced back 2,000 years in his family. This process of planting and picking is part of a life giving process, not only for the plant being grown, but for the people and animals who consume that plant. Whether or not the crops grow and produce food is linked to the lives of the farmers who work the land.
Growing and harvesting fields is meant to feed families. To provide “bread” that nourishes all who eat it. This is the simple purpose. They are part of the cycle to give us food, give us bread and give us life. In the Isaiah text we read, “All who have NO money are invited to come, buy and eat.” Food is part of God’s free gifts to us. It is an essential piece of life that God provides. You plant a few seeds, and the result is an abundance of food and seeds for next year. It is intended to be without cost. We can even recall from Exodus, the story where Moses and the Israelites are in the desert, starving: Some gathered more (manna), some less, but at the end of the day they each received as much as they needed. God has promised to provide.
But what happens when the purpose of farming changes from seeking to provide the nourishment for the people of the world, to creating short term profit? When the corn cobs and chili peppers become ways to garner wealth, not feed a community. When seeds are planted and grow a plant that is unable to reproduce another year?
What happens when you start charging for God’s free gifts?
People begin to die. When food is grown for only profit and not for sustenance, people begin to perish.
During our retreat we also met with an older lady who had planted and tended fields since she was a young girl. It was her family’s land and we heard stories about how the trees were planted and how they grew big with her. She never married, but has continued to plant corn, beans, and other crops. She told us the story of how she planted corn: First digging the rows, and then planting it. But as she placed the corn into the ground, she talked to each seed. “The birds, they will come and bother you, but I will help you. I will try to protect you when the rains come and try to wash you away.” She said things like this as she planted her fields. Once the hard labor was done, she would rejoice, and hold a party with lots of food, so all would know that she had finished her planting. Likewise, when it came time to harvest, she gave thanks and hand-selected seeds for the next crop. “You have done well, thank you for giving yourself to eat, and to provide for me. These seeds will continue the cycle and I will plant you again.” The nature of how she planted relied on not just the growth of the crops but the ability to follow the cycle of death with replanting. Both the harvest and the rebirth are critical pieces.
But today as corporations seek to maximize profits, they are stopping the cycle of rebirth. Companies --like Monsanto-- are sterilizing seeds and patenting new varieties of them. When you can’t afford to buy new seeds, you can’t plant food. If you can’t plant food, then you can’t eat. And if you can’t eat, you begin to die.
As globalization practices --ones that focus on large individual gain-- begin to destroy the spiritual practice of planting and harvesting, they are destroying along with it thousands of years of tradition, and killing the people who participate within them.
God’s call here is again about community. It is not selling food to get massive wealth, but to provide food to sustain and grow the community of people both near you and around the world. Globalization shouldn’t be about becoming a monopoly to rule the world with an economic fist, but to work together for the benefit of everyone! To make goods and bread available to everyone. We are not meant to stand alone on a global scale and work merely for ourselves or ourkind, but for everyone. We cannot abandon each other to the market.
And God’s promise is to not abandon us either. God’s invitation is still for EVERYONE to come drink, to come eat. Whether you have money or not, you are invited to buy wine and milk, not even just bread, but wine and milk!
God has promised us that she will not end our cycle again. She has invited us into an abundant life where out of her love for us, she formed an everlasting contract. A contract of baptism, of renewal, of abundance. But it is a contract also requires us to participate. We must learn to care for one another as well, to work together with creative tensions and to create societies filled with vital communities –free of injustice and inequality. We must remember both our physical and spiritual connections with one another and quit spending our time on unsatisfying labors and on those pieces that are not bread, that are not sustaining.
God tries again. She doesn’t flood us, she doesn’t destroy us. She replants and patiently waits for the harvest. A harvest that is shared abundantly with all creation.
Can we learn to do the same?