sustainability, saskatchewan, san francisco

Posted by on Mar 18, 2011

Little did I know, when this tour began with the “Sustainable Food and Farming” conference 3 weeks ago, that the very geography of the tour would serve as a kind of “commentary” on the themes we explored there.

I led worship times at this year’s “Sustainable Food and Farming” conference in Laurelville, Pennsylvania. During our worship sessions we spent some time reflecting on God’s “alternative economics,” including a different kind of food and land-use policy being implemented (manna and quails – Exodus 16) and legislated (sabbath, sabbatical, jubilee – Leviticus 25 and 26, a text that vividly links obedience to God’s laws regarding land use to the health and productivity of the land…)

As we wrestled with these issues, we explored the stories of Joseph and Daniel, both dreamers and dream-interpreters (visionaries and policy analysts) in the context of empire, embodying different approaches to pursuing “wisdom” in terms of food and food policy.

Joseph, who becomes the architect and administrator of the “food policy” of Pharaoh’s Egypt, which we typically consider to be a wise and prudent policy of “food security” that provided food in the midst of famine and saved Joseph’s family… but reading the devastating details of this “food policy” in Genesis chapter 47 prompts a lot of other reflections and questions and analysis (and some remarkable resonance with contemporary realities, including the control of seed).

And Daniel who, with his friends, is the subject of the strategy of another empire (Babylon) to co-opt and retrain Israel’s elite, including, significantly, by seeking to change their traditional diet. But Daniel and his friends resist the diet of empire (which, it  turns out, is not as healthy as their traditional dietary practices). Again, some remarkable resonances with current realities.

From Laurelville I spent a week and a half in southern Manitoba and western Saskatchewan, and then I flew to San Francisco where I spent time in the Bay Area and in Davis… heartland of the “local food” movement for the past 40 years (Alice Waters, et al). These travels (and conversations) provided an interesting geographical counterpoint to Joseph’s granaries and Daniel’s dietary resistance.

And then, on Sunday night, I was visiting the Church of the Sojourners, a “live-together church community” in San Francisco, and the topic of reflection that night was… you guessed it… food and food policy, scarcity and enough, Joseph and Daniel, manna and quails… (the person who led the reflection drew on some of the same materials that I had for the sustainability conference – eg: Walter Brueggemann, “The Truth of Abuncance: Relearning Dayenu” – and introduced me to a new one – Daniel Erlander, “Manna and Mercy”).

In the midst of my journeys – which have included uncountable potlucks and shared meals with such wonderful people everywhere – the meal and worship time with the Church of the Sojourners seemed to put an exclamation point on the tour so far.

So very much to learn, such a long way to go… so glad for all these companions on the way.