Manure Happens

Manure is a most101

int’resting thing

Put it in the garden

And the plants turn green

Rub it on your lips

They’ll never be chapped

It ain’t that it heals

But youll stop lickin’, true fact.

It polishes boots

Gives’em a shine,

Even masks the smell

Comin’ from the inside.

It comes in all hues

Of brown, black and green

From the dark em’rald free range

To high-grain-grey and b’tween.

To numerous to mention

Are the names it goes by

All manners of slang like,

chip, muffin, patty, and pie.

It lays in fields undisturbed

a testament to feed

four chambers of leftovers

a vet gets to read.

The little swirled disk,

Like a book it contains

Everything that that went in

And what still remains.

The stuff that ain’t turned to beef

Hits the ground with a thud

Showing off all the great things

That manure’s made of.

Manure is fascinating,

And so much info wont fit

Some much more to say

But it’s time to end the bull…you get the picture.

Manure is something I am quite familiar with. It seems to be everywhere I travel, most places I stay, and few places that most would want to spend an expended period of time. Gardner’s, ranchers, and farmers love the stuff. Put some in the bottom of a hole and place a plant on top and the poo produces produce; the manure makes magic; the feces fosters flora. Shoot it in the air over your brome, alfalfa, or any other crops and refuse becomes reused.

This has probably been the most you have ever read about dung and it is certainly the most I have ever written about it; but I read a read a fascinating statement the other day that brought to my mind manure.

Paul says in Philippians 2.12: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you will and to act according to his good purpose.”

A study of this word, as used in Papyri, is helpful to mention at this point. The word occurs various places without any real background information or illusory usage. However, in one script, dated to 119 b.c., the word for “work out” [gk. Katergazomai] was used of a man named Menches. Menches was given the job of Scribe of the Village, under the presupposition that he would take a previously unproductive field in the village and turn it profitable, at his own expense of course. His task was to “cultivate” [katergazomai] this field and make it profitable. How does one “cultivate” a field? Turn it from unproductive to productive? It takes labor, stress, and change. (Papyrus Tebtynis 1.10)

The Greek word for “work out” is used 22 times in scripture and many times it is used in connection to pressure and opposition of some kind. Paul says in Romans 5, in the face of suffering:

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces [katergazomai] perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (v.3)

“…do not lose heart…for our light and momentary troubles are achieving [katergazomai] for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all…” (2 Cor. 4.16-17)

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God…for while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us [katergazomai] for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit…” (2 Cor. 5.1-5)

“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that went the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done [katergazomai] everything, to stand.” (Eph 6.13)

James would add to Paul’s argument of cultivation despite opposition with this:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…” (James 1.3)

The book of Philippians was written to a church in Macedonia where great persecution was happening.  Paul mentions his own chains, the ones he is dealing with in Rome at present, in the first chapter of his letter.  Those in Macedonia are facing pressure and suffering; trials and persecution.  It is a struggle, Paul writes in Phil. 1.30.  After he mentions both his and their struggle, Paul moves into Christ’s afflictions and his attitude:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2.8)

Then comes the verse that was looked at earlier.  Paul says: “work out your salvation.” (Phil 2.12)  Remember this is Paul who knows that it is not by his own accord or works that brings righteousness (Phil 3.9), but faith.  He isn’t advocating works as a means to salvation, but a process that ends in salvation.  Paul is saying: “Your salvation will come about, but sometimes you have to trod through the manure of this life.”  Cultivation [katergazomai] is a hard, messy, manure filled journey to harvest…just like our salvation.  Jesus promised us life….he never said it would be easy.

In the face of opposition, while standing in the manure, what comes out? Cultivate the crops. Cultivate the field. When manure happens, cultivation happens. When the manure is spread, it can smother us or grow us. Paul testifies to it and so does James. For those of us living in the manure, what will the outcome be? Will it cultivate us to become more God-like, or will we let it derail us? In the midst of disease, divorce, and doubt; while cancer strikes and confusion hits; when manure makes its appearance…what happens? Cultivation is happening, how do we respond?

A little bird was flying south for the winter when a cold arctic blast hit him. He fell to the ground, his wings frozen, and prepared to die. Just then a cow wandered pie and pooped on him. While laying in a pile of poo, the little birdie began to warm up. He found himself so excited that he began to chirp. A cat wandered by and heard the chirping. He dug the little birdie out and ate him. A couple points come out from this story:

  • Not everyone who poops on you is your enemy.
  • Not everyone who digs you out is your friend.
  • When you find yourself covered in poop, its best you keep your mouth shut.

David Erickson posed the question so eloquently in his Preaching and Teaching Sermon in 2007 when he asked: “What do you do when you find yourself in the midst of the uncomfortable?”

When we find ourselves knee deep in manure, the only thing to do is cultivate! Keep working the land; keep turning over dirt; and develop the perseverance that Paul talked about. In the midst of cancer, death, divorce, and denial, use it as fertilizer for the life that will come. Cultivation uses manure and poo to bring new life and new growth.

In the moment poo stinks, is unsanitary, and worthless. But when applied to a field, a plant, or a garden, manure is transferred and changed into something that gives life, gives sustenance and nutrition. Our sufferings and doubts can lead to the same place.

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