Slow Theology: Gardening, Faith & Justice

Slow Theology: Gardening, Faith & Justice

Growing our own food enables us to teach our kids the important theological lesson of slowing down. And it enables me to remind myself of this spiritual discipline which I seem to be forever forgetting.

I recently posted some reflection on Slow Church and “coffee theology”, the idea that beauty, rather than efficiency, is more of a kingdom value. And this is something that I really want to teach my girls as they grow up. In a world which values efficiency, fast everything and instant gratification, the 12-14 weeks to wait and watch our food grow are a gift. In the garden we teach our kids the importance of planning ahead, the truth about the variability of life and the seasons, the virtue of patience and slowing down… that beauty (and food) takes time. And this has lasting effects on the way we view the world and interact with it.

I think by slowing down in the garden we are able to engage more fully in issues of justice. By slowing down our food production we begin to engage more fully and even rectify some of the things that are broken in our food system. Unfortunately, the global food system is one of convenience, productivity and profit over worker’s rights and environmental impact.

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Dirt Theology: Gardening & Justice

Dirt Theology: Gardening & Justice

I recently wrote a post about how gardening connects me to my theology about creation, restoration, justice and the New Heavens & New Earth. And as I re-read what I published, I saw a gap which I want to address here.

In my previous post I wrote:

As I tend the garden and healthy crops grow and produce food, I am reminded of God’s provision and grace in my life, even now. But I am also called to look toward the time when God’s provision, love and grace will be experienced in abundance!

I realized that this short paragraph, while never intending it to be comprehensive, missed a vital part of my “dirt theology”. I cannot speak of God’s provision and grace to me without considering the call of Jesus to love my neighbour (Mark 12:31).


As I consider the way God breathes life into the dirt (Genesis 2:7), I am reminded of how God provides and tends and cares for his created world. As Jesus would say, not even a sparrow falls without the Father knowing (Matthew 10:29). His grace and provision abounds in my life from the big things that I seek God’s guidance and wisdom for, to the simple things I take for granted, like the air I breathe and lungs which are healthy and work effectively.

But even at the gardening level, I notice the grace of God. God allows my plants to grow and produce a crop, as indeed he allows many plants in many gardens and paddocks around the world to do the same. None of these plants would grow without the unseen hand of God tending our crops. This is grace, mercy, provision.

As I consider this grace of God, I am left wondering of my duty, my responsibility, as an agent of God, an ambassador to His Kingdom, as one called to work for a glimpse of the World to Come, the New Heavens and New Earth. What must I do with the grace and provision God has shown me? And this stretches even to the level of my own garden which produces a crop only by the unseen hand of God at work.

garden 2

This is particularly confronting when I consider issues of justice, food insecurity, domestic & international poverty, famine and starvation. Even in my own neighbourhood there are people who struggle at times to have enough. And yet God has blessed me with food from the dirt in my own backyard.

And this is not even touching issues of a fully functioning body and brain, education and opportunities, and even an income which, by the world standard, places me in the richest few. This is the grace of God.

What is my responsibility as an agent of the Kingdom of God if it is not to share the abundance of God’s grace with those around me? My gifts, my abilities, my education, my opportunities, my career, my wealth, even my own vegetable garden, all these things and more are to be used to give generously of the love, grace, mercy and provision that God has shown me. All these things should be used to promote love, hope, mercy and justice in a world which (at times) can seem so devoid of these things.

At a simple level (related to the very dirt in my back yard) my responsibility in working for justice, love and hope looks like sharing the abundance of produce in my garden with my neighbour. It looks like cooking and eating together and giving generously of the produce that has been grown by the grace of God at work in my backyard. 

It looks like prayerfully considering the plight of those in our world who do not see justice, who do not experience love or mercy or hope. It looks like committing tirelessly to demonstrate in any way I can the love and compassion of God as I seek to work for justice in their lives and their communities.

God’s grace and provision will be experienced in abundance when Christ returns. And while I wait expectantly, experiencing a taste of what is come even now, I will work for justice, seeking to see others experience God’s love, grace, provision and compassion as he works through me.

– Jono

Dirt Theology: Creation, Restoration & Gardening

Dirt Theology: Creation, Restoration & Gardening

Genesis 1-2 is full of dirt! It just keeps popping up everywhere! And God does some incredible stuff with it!

God gathered the waters together so that dry dirt could appear (Genesis 1:9), and he even took a handful of dirt, breathed life into it and created people (Genesis 2:7). But of all the great things that I love about God and His dirt, I especially love this:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good… And The Lord God planted a garden. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to sight and good for food. (Genesis 1:11-12, 2:8-9)

God was a cosmic gardener. And he created human beings to be gardeners  of sorts (Genesis 2:15). As a person who loves getting dirt on my hands as I tend the chooks, plant and harvest crops and dig up the soil, I love the link back to Eden. When I’m in the dirt I love the sense that in someway I am connecting back to my true roots, back to the time when things were the way God intended. There is something beautiful about that.

But tending the garden doesn’t just pull me back to my original roots, it points me towards my future, the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21:1). God tells us that one day, when Jesus returns, everything wrong will be undone and everything right will be restored (Revelation 21:5). The Earth will not be destroyed, but restored. Beauty, life, goodness… restored.

This restoration of our relationship with God, one another and creation will once again happen in a garden. The City, the New Jerusalem, will come down but the city will be over taken by a river and a fruitful garden. Eden will be where we find true life again (Revelation 22:1-3).

Scripture plainly teaches that the Kingdom of God is “now and not yet”. We have a taste of life with God now, but it’s fullness is yet to come. And as we wait, we work. We work for a world which resembles the world to come.

When I pull out weeds which are choking my vegetables and stifling growth, I am reminded of my task of working for a restored world. As a Christian I am to be seeking order where there is chaos, life from the dirt.

As I see crops grow from the dirt I am reminded that my God brings life from the ash heap, hope where it is hopeless, life from dust. God is working for restoration of people and a world who are hopeless to save themselves. And he has invited me to join him in that work.

As I tend the garden and healthy crops grow and produce food, I am reminded of God’s provision and grace in my life, even now. But I am also called to look toward the time when God’s provision, love and grace will be experienced in abundance!

As a care for our chooks I am reminded that one day all of creation will be restored. Perhaps I will no longer have to treat lice and mites, but rather I will watch and join in as all of creation, the chooks and plants and even the rocks, sing praise and glory to God our King!

God is a God who brings life from dirt. And one day he will restore even the dirt to be all that he originally intended it to be.

– Jono

Working for Justice Through Gardening 

Working for Justice Through Gardening 

One major issue disadvantaged and poor communities face around Australia is food insecurity. Generally speaking, the cost of living (particularly in major cities) is high and then the idea of buying fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is just not an option. This is particularly the case for those who are unable to work, have a low income, are unemployed or under employed.

One thing communities are doing to address food insecurity and disadvantage is helping people to grow their own through community gardens and backyard gardening initiatives. Community gardens can provide small quantities of fresh produce, at low cost, to communities suffering from food insecurity. They also allow people to learn how to grow food themselves, and when combined with a community kitchen they can teach people how to cook and eat seasonal, fresh produce.

They can also provide safe spaces of welcome and acceptance for people who are marginalized, unemployed, retired or lonely in the community, as well as providing a therapeutic and relaxing time in the garden which has been linked to better mental, physical and emotional health. Here is how one group is seeking to address food insecurity in a particular community in Melbourne Australia.

Putting Down Roots (Australian Red Cross gardening pilot project)

The Putting Down Roots project is in Melbourne Australia. It helps newly arrived asylum seekers and mirgrants learn organic gardening in their own backyards or a local community garden. Here is how the Red Cross project describe themselves:

Putting Down Roots is a gardening and food security program for vulnerable migrants. Run in partnership with CERES and Cultivating Community, the Australian Red Cross provides opportunities for participants to develop their sustainable gardening knowledge. Putting Down Roots increases the social and emotional well-being of participants and provides the means for participants to have additional access to fresh and nutritious food.

Putting Down Roots, Melbourne AUS

Many asylum seekers in Australia not allowed to work which contributes to food insecurity as fresh produce becomes out of reach financially. Putting Down Roots seeks to tailor their project to individuals, helping them grow the types of food they want in the space they have. The local community too assist in donating plants and seeds for the project.  This project is designed to sustainably address food insecurity among asylum seekers in Melbourne but it also provides a therapy for a community often suffering from mental health issues, grief and loss after fleeing their homeland.

However, the project also addresses another issue of justice through this gardening program. In a political climate which seeks to demonise asylum seekers, lock them up in indefinite, off-shore detention and suggest that somehow asylum seekers, migrants and refugees will have a negative impact on Australia’s culture and economy, projects such as Putting Down Roots are working for truth and justice. Putting Down Roots demonstrates the benefits of having asylum seekers in your community and provides the local community with opportunities to meet, get to know and assist their newest neighbours. Through projects such as Putting Down Roots the Australian public are presented with a positive and alternative perspective of asylum seekers living in the community.

This project is working for justice through gardening as it demonstrates welcome, acceptance, social support and language support to the local community’s newest residents.

For more fantastic stories about communities gardens see Cultivating Community