A composted church

San Lucas now has a compost bin. Our mission partners from Iowa built it a few weeks ago after I had suggested it as a way for us to deal with our lawn clippings, horse manure, and the produce donated for the food bank that has already started to spoil. We’ve already started to put leaves, branches, rotten tomatoes, and cantaloupe rinds into the wooden containers. In three or four months, these remains will become something new and useful, full of microscopic organisms and minerals that bring new life and help other plants grow. The compost is a good project for ecology and creation stewardship, but it is also a perfect metaphor for resurrection.


Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain: but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).


We can use the compost image to think of the transformation that God makes in our lives  and in the life of our Christian community. The Church is like a box of compost. With the compost, all sorts of things that are going to be lost are mixed together—vegetables that smell, fruit with mold, wet coffee grounds. It is a beautiful transformation.


In the church, all sorts of potentially lost things get mixed together—all of us. With the odor of our sin and the mold of our imperfections, here we are, ready to be mixed, heated and transformed. With the power of Christ, God transforms us into healthy soil that feeds, helps, and sustains. It is a beautiful transformation.


What needs to die so that we can live? What do we need to compost in order to be a beloved community full of new life? Pride? Conflict? Disagreement? Prejudice? Jealousy? Inferiority?


When we see the compost, it’s easy to only see rotten cabbage greens, grapefruit peels, and pony shit. We don’t see the invisible process with the organisms and minerals that helps new life grow. But it’s there and at work, becoming something healthy and sustaining.


When we see a congregation like San Lucas, it’s easy to see gossip, conflict, and disagreement—sin. We don’t see the invisible process of God’s Holy Spirit, transforming our lives and our communities. We, too, are becoming something healthy and sustaining. Yes, there is acid, but we also have assets. Yes, there is hiel, but there is also miel.


Like in the compost bin, God is at work, transforming us into something new:

  • A community of unity, where every person is important.
  • A community of hospitality, where we want to invite and include our friends and neighbors.
  • A prophetic community, where we recognize the injustice in our world and work with others to change it.
  • A teaching community, where we show the wider Church what it means to be an international Christian community, without borders on the border.
  • A community of unity instead of uniformity, where we find value in our diversity.


I can imagine a life together of abundance, celebration, and proclamation.

What needs to die so that we can live?

We are compost. We are the Church, trusting in the power of God to heat us up and mix us around into something new that feeds, helps, and sustains.


A quick update!

It has been a while since I’ve blogged here. My time has been very full with all the ministry on the border. Christmas, Epiphany, annual meetings, visiting mission groups…There has been some violence in Piedras Negras—some shootings and grenades. We cancelled worship at Cristo Rey two weeks ago because of the safety issues. A visiting mission group from Iowa was going to put on a medical clinic across the border, but stayed on this side instead, putting on a health fair at San Lucas.

San Lucas has also gotten a little bit of publicity. I wrote an article about my ministry here for my seminary’s alumni publication. (http://www.lstc.edu/voices/stories/bailie.php).

Bishop Michael Rinehart (who was one of my pastors while growing up at St. Paul in Davenport), recently wrote about the ELCA Mission Builders, who constructed the parsonage at San Lucas. (http://bishopmike.com/2012/03/19/mission-builders/).