Sunday, July 01, 2007

There has been a lot to think about this week.

I read this week that immigration to the U.S. from Mexico increased by 60% after the NAFTA agreements took effect. The agreements have to do with free trade, and that Mexico cannot tarriff the goods we want to sell them to protect their own interests.

Our government subsidizes our staple crops, like wheat, corn, milo, etc. They give us farmers a check when prices are low so that we can still afford to farm. Then they sell this low priced grain to other places, like Mexico, undercutting the farmers there who do not get a subsidy. Now the rural families in Mexico are forced into poverty.

I read about a couple of villages where the population has decreased significantly since NAFTA. Of those who are left, every family has a member who has left to work elsewhere and try to send money back home. Whole villages of families that are divided because of their poverty....

The families in Mexico don't want to live here. They just want to to live. Why would they want to split up and come to places where they are unwelcome and must struggle with language and must live in fear of being deported?

I read that just about every day someone dies trying to get across the desert, which is now the only way to slip into the United States.

So what I'm thinking about is this: is the check we get after harvest every year blood money? If we can't farm without it, do we quit farming? Is there a way to farm that supports us and doesn't hurt others?

I've always thought of farming as one of those livelihoods that was most connected to wholesome and conscientious living. Of course, I'm not stupid about it. I don't like the idea of factory farming, or farming that depletes the land instead of caring for it. But what could be more wholesome than raising food for a world that has so much hunger?

And now I'm hearing that the way we raise our food, or the way we are paid for raising our food, is creating hunger and hardship.


Following Jesus...
This morning our sermon had some parts that were helpful to me. A lot of it was theological groundwork in preparation for the meaty parts that followed. I can't recreate the theological groundwork so I'm not sure how successful I will be in writing about the other things.

The speaker was saying that Christians are called children of God. Not everyone is a child of God. Everyone is a creation of God. Becoming a child of God means being in relationship with Jesus in such a way that we are becoming like Jesus, God's child. We are God's children because we are like Jesus. We love those Jesus loves. We are willing to suffer for them as Jesus did. We don't only love our family and friends, but we choose to love anyone Jesus loves. We choose to be like Jesus.

This isn't just generic love. It isn't taking care of myself and then if I have time maybe doing something nice for someone else.

One thing that came up was the idea that you can't love someone else until you love yourself. The speaker said that this isn't true. The truth is that you can't love someone else until you can fully accept being loved.

I know this is true from my experiences with adoption. Those kids who finally feel loved also find a way to be loving.

In faith, it is our acceptance of the enormity of God's love for us that makes it possible to love others the way God does.

The speaker asked the question, "When have you suffered?" He told the story of asking that question in a college class and how the students spoke of losing their cell phones and how difficult life was without the cell phone. He stated that this isn't suffering. This is inconvenience. Jesus loved us enough to leave safety and home and to live in poverty and to be tortured and killed by those he loved so much.

I think we find it hard to risk, hard to give up the comfort of our lives, because we don't have a clear picture of the depth of God's love for us. In Sunday School this morning we were looking at the story of the ungrateful servant. The servant owed an unimaginable amount of money and was being threatened with jail until he paid. He begged for mercy and his debt was forgiven---not just postponed, but forgiven. His response? He found a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount of money and demanded to be paid. When he was begged for mercy, he showed none, and had his fellow servant put in prison until the debt was repaid.

One of my fellow class members suggested that the ungrateful servant didn't really get a glimpse of the greatness of that forgiveness. He didn't really accept it. He didn't see it for what it was. So he didn't act on it.

That makes sense to me.

The story of Isaiah's calling came up. Isaiah found himself in the presence of the Lord and his immediate response was humility and fear. He was unworthy. How could he possibly survive such a meeting with holiness? The Lord touched his lips and declared him cleansed and worthy. Then the Lord asked who he could send to do a task. Isaiah did not hesitate. "Here I am. Send me."

Isaiah had a grasp of the hugeness of the gift he had received. His response was to give back---to give back with everything in him. He didn't know the task. He didn't know what it would cost him. He didn't know if he would be safe or have a place to live or anything. All he needed to know was what he already knew. That God loved him so much. That God was worth following. The rest he could leave in God's hands.

I think the reason we have such a hard time following God without guarantees is because we don't have that glimpse of how much God loves us, how good God is. If we could see that clearly, could we walk away from it?