distance, we all depend on food from farms across the world. Harvests
however are changing.
The passage in John 10:10 is a popular and often quoted verse. And the word
abundant meaning lots of, reminds us at harvest time that we hope for
abundant yields so that all may have enough to feed ourselves.
Christian Aid have a strapline ‘we believe in life before death’.
These words of Jesus are spoken as part of a conversation between Jesus
and the Pharisees. Pharisses were nitpickers. Log not splinter guys! In
chapter 9 Jesus had healed a man who was born blind on the Sabbath. That
would’ve been the Saturday then. This healing challenged two laws and
resulted in the healed man being driven out.
By his actions and by his words, Jesus demonstrates how abundant life is
available through him here and now and is particularly available to those on
the edge, the marginalised and excluded. Hard words for those of us who are
well off to hear.
For Frank Zulu of Chithumbwi village, Malawi, abundant life is in part denied
because the rain is no longer reliable: ‘Sometimes it rains heavily and washes
seeds away and then it suddenly stops; sometimes it rains very late so our
seeds die in the ground; sometimes it doesn’t rain
at all.’ (grape crop in England this year).
The consequences for the maize
harvest, and the communities, is devastating. Frank says: ‘In Malawi, when
we say somebody is hungry, we mean they don’t have maize. When the
maize is not in harvest or there are shortages, people starve.’
With support from Christian Aid, Frank has diversified his crops to include
sweet potatoes and pigeon peas, which are better able to survive low rainfalls.
However, even with a successful harvest of pigeon peas, the poor market
prices for individual farmers prevent Frank and his family from getting a good
price for his crops and they are thereby denied food and also abundant life
that Jesus is talking about.
Jesus does go on to say he is the good shepherd, and the gate to the field
where the sheep are (kissing gates). Not a gate many of us experience every
This sheepfold gate is protection from thieves, bandits and corrupt shepherds.
And it is a portal for good shepherds to enter and to lead the sheep to good
grass, to water and to what they need to grow healthily.
In our world ‘gate’ is a word often associated with bad things, Watergate. In
Africa they talk of cashgate, tractor gate, maize-gate, and all other gates that
may have happened or are happening behind the public eye.
Often corruption happens at the farm gate where they are selling their goods.
The middlemen use illegal scales and exploit farmers. This tactics drives
For Frank, this is a disaster: ‘Even though I am growing more pigeon peas
than ever, my life is miserable because of the low prices offered by the
traders. The money is not enough to feed my family or pay school fees for my
“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy”. How then can we help Frank and
people like him?
The sheepfold was a place where farmers gathered their sheep for safe
keeping as a cooperative, the farmers in Africa have come together in
cooperatives. Working as a group, they can negotiate with professional
buyers to get better prices for their crops.
Abundant in Greek is perissos , which means ‘superior, extraordinary life. We
have got used to a narrative of scarcity. “Theres just not enough to go around”
. But Jesus teaches us to work towards a narrative of abundance so we do
have enough to share for everyone.
In the story of the sower we are shown we should sow the good seed
everywhere even in places you wouldn’t expect growth. Our job is just to sow.
To get a harvest we have to sow seed, and the seed we sow is different to the
worlds seed. We have to be different-stand out from the crowd in our
relationships, in our attitude, to others, the earth, to animals, to old people to
teenagers, to little children, to people it is difficult to love. (Syrian terrorist)
We have to listen to what God wants.
We have all sown the gospel. Some of it has produced good growth/good
harvest like my crop of main potatoes this year. Some has produced bad fruit.
What have we sown and harvested this year? The Spirit of God encourages
us to go places we don’t want to go- the rocky soil. But we have a heavenly
mandate, a vision. We are not tied down by ordinary human prejudices or the
behaviour of people around us. We are called to sow and harvest good news,
love, peace, justice even though this is no easy task.
What are we harvesting as a world? What are we harvesting as a society?
What are we harvesting as individuals?