By Popular Request

Well, at Mark’s request, anyway, I’m resuscitating the Seabury “wet hay theology” thread. It got lost in one of Seabury’s transitions from one server configuration to another..

The formatting will be a little wonky, I suppose, but I’ll add the first few entries here, drop the rest into the extended entry area, and the comments are open once again. So, here we go:

January 10, 2003

Scripture and Mission

This idea that Jesus changed his mind and saw the larger horizons of ministry is a difficult one for me. I can appreciate a mission only to the Jews or a mission that is Gentile-friendly and I certainly don’t have a problem with Jesus learning things or learning things from a woman, but I struggle with what it means about God’s mission that Jesus potential audience could change.
Posted by Trevor Bechtel at January 10, 2003 08:20 AM


I think this is right
Posted by: Trevor on January 10, 2003 09:39 AM

I think it’s full of wet hay!
Posted by: AKMA on January 14, 2003 01:54 PM

Since when was wet hay wrong?
Posted by: Trevor on January 14, 2003 10:17 PM

You’ve GOT to be kidding!
Posted by: Mary on January 15, 2003 06:45 PM

No, Mary. They are quite serious!
Posted by: Leigh VanderMeer on January 16, 2003 03:25 PM

I can’t believe that at least three of us have read these comments and felt the need to comment 🙂
Posted by: Susie on January 16, 2003 10:25 PM

Trevor wrote:
“I struggle with what it means about God’s mission that Jesus potential audience could change.”

Process theology?!
Posted by: Leigh on January 17, 2003 12:04 AM

I thought process theology was more about GOD changing than the audience changing… if the audience is humanity, doesn’t change just come with the territory?
Posted by: Susie on January 17, 2003 03:52 PM

The audience didn’t change per se. Jesus did. His focus changed/expanded from seeing his mininstry as being only to the Jewish people to now including the Gentiles.
Posted by: leigh on January 18, 2003 10:08 PM

In the season of Epiphany, aren’t we celebrating the manifestation of Jesus as King to the Gentiles? I don’t think Jesus changed, I think we just caught on! Maybe the manger is where all this hay talk came in…
Posted by: Susie on January 20, 2003 10:23 PM

The theology of Wet Hay?!!!
Posted by: leigh on January 21, 2003 05:27 PM

Or… wet hay as a metaphor for theology?
Posted by: Susie on January 23, 2003 05:13 PM

Maybe we need to look at what the ‘marks’ of wet hay are? How would we know something is wet hay?

What would be the ways in which we would enculturate wet hay into cultures different than our own? What limits would we go to and when we would know whether or not we were bordering on syncretism? What if wet hay started getting mixed in with dry hay?

What if I stopped procrastinating and got to work on something I should be doing?!! 🙂
Posted by: leigh on January 24, 2003 08:38 PM

I wonder if being “wet” is a religious or cultural statement… And is the wet hay really all that different from dry hay? What about those allergic to hay?

And I wonder… do these comments count as partcipating in the blog?
Posted by: Susie on January 25, 2003 05:30 PM

You are not going to believe this! I am not making this up! Have you done your readings for Old Testament yet? Well, let me share a passage with you…

“Like thorns they are entangled, like drunkards they are drunk; they are consumed like DRY STRAW.”

I think the spirit is at work here! 🙂

re: whether “wet” is religious or cultural…I think there’s a baptismal thing going on here. Maybe the difference is pre and post baptism.

I need to think more about the allergy question.

Of course it counts! Everything counts in the Kingdom of God! 🙂
Posted by: leigh on January 25, 2003 10:52 PM

I like the analogy of Baptism… especially in light of the OT reading you mentioned 🙂

In terms of everything counting in the realm of God… I know that God counts every hair on our head. Is that like saying God knows every bit of straw in the hay stack?
Posted by: Susie on January 27, 2003 12:09 PM

I tried posting this before, but it crashed….

The real question is:

If a student posts a blog, but there is no professor to read it, is there a thought?
Posted by: Mary on January 28, 2003 06:55 PM

I think the only person who can answer that is our esteemed profs…
Posted by: Susie on January 28, 2003 09:55 PM

I realized last night that coming down from the anti-racism training I was experiencing a bit of the Dark Night of the Dry Straw.

After hearing Frank’s sermon I know that God did not give me a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline…. and of wet hay!

Posted by: leigh on January 31, 2003 07:58 AM

Ok, here’s another…
Does Dry Straw exist in and of itself, or is it the absence of Wet Hay?
Posted by: leigh on February 1, 2003 12:51 PM

Or… is wet hay an improvement upon dry hay?

Way to get the profs to weigh in on the conversation 🙂

Is “way” the contraction for wet hay?
Posted by: Susie on February 2, 2003 10:43 PM

Do you mean that wet hay is dry hay redeemed? Is wet hay our sanctified state?

re: your other point…maybe ‘way’ did come from wet hay. Maybe it was a scribal error! So did Jesus really say, “I am the wet hay, the truth and the light”? 🙂
Posted by: leigh on February 3, 2003 01:31 PM

PS. There has got to be an easier way to get back to this spot to post.

Can anyone offer some guidance?
Posted by: leigh on February 3, 2003 11:50 PM

I’m pretty sure that we’re the only ones still on this page…

What about the “straight and narrow way”? I guess hay is usually straight…
Posted by: Susie on February 5, 2003 09:27 PM

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for us to get back to this page to post!

Posted by: leigh on February 5, 2003 09:47 PM

I’m not sure I can help. How do get here now? (No you’re not alone.)

Not sure about redeeming hay. I know that wet hay rots. Used (processed?) hay ends up on the straw, I believe. the compost might be likened to the transformative power of cross? and the garden is the mission field. Flowers or vegetables?
Posted by: mary on February 11, 2003 06:42 PM

“Bringing in the sheaves….”

If you want to continue making hay, bookmark this page. The URL is [now]

Posted by: Wes on February 12, 2003 11:25 AM

Wes- Thanks for the bookmarking idea!

I hadn’t thought about wet hay rotting… maybe we have the whole wet vs. dry thing backwards… maybe dry hay is better?

And what about straw really… is straw and hay like the sheep and the goats?
Posted by: Susie on February 12, 2003 12:56 PM

Wet is always better. It’s a baptism thing. Not that dry doesn’t have any redeeming values (desert experiences, etc…), but wet is definitely better!

What exactly is the difference between straw and hay anyway? And to what authority does wet hay hold itself to? Is it the same authority as dry straw? Is dry straw not wet because it’s a refusenik?
Posted by: leigh on February 12, 2003 08:00 PM

Remember, you asked.

First there’s the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. Then you take the ear off, and you end up with straw.

Now, grow some grass, with the little leaves and seed heads and everything. Then mow it. That’s hay.

Hay – you get it when you cut them off at the knees! Straw – off with his head!

Posted by: Wes on February 12, 2003 10:03 PM

So maybe the question is about martyrdom then? Or about transformation? All hay and straw were orginally something else, and have become hay and straw through a process… So maybe its about full imersion vs. apsperging baptism?
Posted by: Susie on February 13, 2003 04:23 PM

Thank heavens it’s not about getting chopped off at the head or knees!

I’ll take immersion, thank you very much!
Posted by: leigh on February 13, 2003 10:22 PM

I didn’t say the choice was between immersion and martyrdom!!

How wet does hay need to be to be considered “wet”? Is damp hay really wet hay?
Posted by: Susie on February 13, 2003 10:25 PM

I don’t know—this is some of the most sophisticated theological reasoning I’ve read since I came to Seabury. . . . Congratulations, gang!
Posted by: AKMA on February 13, 2003 10:48 PM

AKMA, you are full of wet hay.
Posted by: Trevor on February 13, 2003 11:26 PM

I could put a link to this page on the main page since it doesn’t seem like this conversation is going to end any time soon.
Posted by: Trevor on February 13, 2003 11:27 PM

So the church is water (baptism) and the state is straw (unstable) then do we again have wet hay? Or have you already solved this
Posted by: Trevor on February 13, 2003 11:29 PM

When Trevor says that AKMA is full of wet hay, is that like saying he sees God at work in AKMA?

Hmmm… maybe hay and straw are state and church… since we know that water (mark of Christianity) can rot the hay (the state)?
Posted by: Susie on February 14, 2003 11:02 AM

good work susie
Posted by: Trevor on February 14, 2003 11:09 AM

hmmm…. don’t know if I like the idea of the state being the straw considering what it usually catches.

But on the other hand, what gets us into trouble is when we think the state and the church are synonymous, or worse the state becomes our ultimate concern (i.e. God). Likewise if we feed on straw rather than hay, we are malnourished and hunger for “real food indeed.”
Posted by: mary on February 14, 2003 07:41 PM

I hadn’t heretofore considered the sacramental nature of wet hay… Who’d have expected such earthy country theology in Evanston?

Related musings: When the woman in the fairy tale (Rumplestiltskin?) spins straw into gold, is that an allegory about the Holy Spirit’s work in the world?

And, if someone says you’re “all wet,” does that count as a blessing?

Mmm… all questions and no answers… must be seminary.
Posted by: Jane on February 15, 2003 08:15 AM

As I recall, only Rumplestiltskin knew how to spin the straw into gold, and she had to learn his name for him to come back the third night… 3 nights, unspeakable name… ringing any bells?
Posted by: Susie on February 16, 2003 12:56 PM

Rumplestiltskin taught her to spin straw into gold in exchange for the promise of her first-born child; she had three nights to learn his name, in order to save her baby.

Mmm… ritual to redeem the first born. This is sounding more familiar by the moment.

Posted by: Jane on February 16, 2003 09:58 PM

Bruce read this last night; he noted the lack of hay/straw awareness, and suggests a new section for the Gospel Mission curriculum: “Farm as Culture.”
Posted by: Jane on February 17, 2003 01:26 PM

I see GM has been talking about Willow Creek. Back to water again, I see.

So, is Willow Creek all wet (blessed) or all wet (on the wrong track)? While I think Christ meets us where we are, does he meet anyone there?
Posted by: Wes on February 20, 2003 09:08 PM

“…does he meet anyone there?”

Yes, Christ does!

Posted by: leigh on February 21, 2003 01:50 PM

Whoops, that came out wrong. I didn’t mean to say that Christ wasn’t meeting people at Willow Creek.

When I wrote my previous comment, I had seen a number of postings that had questioned how Willow Creek does things. There’s more of a balance now.

I haven’t been to Willow Creek myself, but I am aware (through various readings) what Bill Hybels has done there. I might disagree with their theology, and find their worship quite different from what I’m used to. Even so, it seems that Christ is present there too.

Posted by: Wes on February 22, 2003 12:59 PM

Okay – I feel called to respond to this. Being a farm girl, I fear that we may have to re-examine the stated theology before this post. I understand that people may be upset with my “truth-telling” as it then confuses what has been previously posted. Points listed below may turn these theological reflections on their heads.

We must examine the purposes of hay and straw before we can discern where they might fit in our spiritual lives (as the basis for our spiritual lives?).

1. Hay is food. Hay is fed to cattle, horses, sheep, and goats as a substitute for grass. The nutritional value of hay is lower than that of grass. (Therefore, grass is superior to hay.)
2. Hay that is wet will mold. Moldy hay fed to cattle makes them sick. Moldy hay fed to horses kills them.
3. A further note – hay when it is cut, before it is bailed, can get wet. However, one must wait until it is dry again before bailing it. It usually also takes another trip with the rake to ensure that it is all dry (the rake flips the windrow over and allows the sun and wind to dry it again). Hay that is bailed wet or allowed to sit out in rain gets moldy.
4. Straw is not food. Straw is bedding. It is put at the bottom of stalls to soak up excrement. There is not nutritional value to straw and most animals are smart enough not to eat it.

Reflecting on some of the posting:
The initial insult of “wet hay” refers to the unusefulness of said hay.

Wet hay cannot be used for feed. However, wet hay does have usefulness. Wet hay can be composted and used on the garden. However, to be most nutritious for the garden, it should include composted manure.

So, unlike Mary, I do like the idea of the state being straw…

We may be able to salvage this discussion by reorganizing our priorities. How does grass fit in? Each substance has usefulness. What does that mean for our theological reflection?
Posted by: Heather on February 26, 2003 10:33 AM

Oh my. I did not know.

When I was in H.S., I held a summer job as a farm hand. I was all about hay and fencing. Other things to know about hay…

Hay is heavy, or at least bales of it are. Lately you see the the big round bales of it. They are too heavy for anything but a fork lift. Is there any theological import to the changing bales?

Hay is itchy. You have to wear long sleeves and jeans in the summer sun. Armor of God?

Snakes can reside in bales of hay. They get swept up in the machinery and crawl out of the bales rather irate. Genesis reference?

I found a hornets’ nest the same way once. Ouch. No particular theological reference.

Performance reference: baling hay takes a team of people. It engenders community. There is room for strong and weak alike. I was a “catcher.” The little guy who stands on the big stack of bales and catches the new bales. Exciting, no?

I have also shoveled out a lot of stalls. Amonia ios involved with straw. Can straw kill you? Maybe.
Posted by: Tripp on February 26, 2003 10:57 AM

Ahhh Heather, you didn’t read my whole post. I did offer another hand – particularly about the straw (state) being confused for hay (God – that which nourishes).

Yes, the state does catch a lot of excrement, many times rightly so. On the other hand, it seems to produce it as well. Never heard of straw doing that!

Would that it were not so!
Posted by: mary on February 26, 2003 10:22 PM

One more fact to remember: when wet hay begins to mold, it has a peculiar smell… bluntly, it’s like Martha said to Jesus about Lazerus in the tomb: it stinketh. Another good reason for not baling wet hay: that would WAY inhibit the engendering of community.
Posted by: Jane on February 27, 2003 08:54 PM

As Heather mentions, grass, straw, dry hay, wet hay – all have their uses, some of which aren’t always obvious (e.g., wet hay on a garden was news to me – but I’m a city boy.) From what I can tell the GM2 class is seeing this same kind of variety in the ways of the gospel mission. (Please forgive me if my perception is “all wet”.)

Maybe this ties into the parable of the growing seed (Mk 4:26-29.) The Kingdom of God is like the scattered seed in that it sprouts and grows, but the man knows not how.

Posted by: Wes on February 28, 2003 02:46 PM

Ahh…thanks Mary. I’m glad that you re-stated that.

Also – we were having some more conversations about hay.

(Dry) hay can be used as an insulator and can also make mattresses (though not as comfortable as feathers).

But a very important point was brought to my attention: wet hay can spontaeously combust. (thanks for the reminder, Todd!)

Burning hay is bad. It tends to take barns and lots of other hay and sometimes animals with it.
Posted by: Heather on February 28, 2003 08:10 PM

Yes, it’s true. I got sucked into this wet hay thing also. And yes, wet hay can spontaneously combust. But not just any wet hay, it has to be bailed hay. Something to do with the water generating mold, exciting the atoms under pressure and POOF. So, is it possible that wet hay can symbolize both our baptism with water and our baptism in the Holy Spirit (that whole ‘tongues of fire’ thing)? And was it really a bush that Moses saw? Could it have been a bail of hay left by some herder that just happened to combust when Moses showed up?
Posted by: Todd Young on March 3, 2003 08:49 PM

My fear is that we are too concerned with the hay. Are we begining to believe that hay, most especially wet hay, is better than other farm crops? Is our focus narrowed by the cultural underpinning that hay is God’s chosen crop…the Hay on the Hill? Does our concern and focus on the hay distract us from other incarnational exhibitions of God’s presence on the farm?
Posted by: Bill Barfield on March 4, 2003 04:11 PM

wow. Can’t leave the middlers alone for too long 😉

I may be a city girl, but I baled hay on a farm this summer. There was an awful lot of it. Maybe unbaled hay is the harvest – “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”
Posted by: Susie on March 4, 2003 05:07 PM

Hay is our original state. Wet hay is our postbaptismal state. Moldy hay is our sinful state. This is what happens when hay is stagnant. As pointed out, hay can be used to ‘build up or tear down’…hay needs to be harvested (where are those darn laborers when you need them?!)
Regarding Bill‚Äôs fear that we are too concerned with the hay, I suppose if I were an exclusivist I would say that ‚Äúhay is the way, the truth, and the life‚Äù. While hay may be our cultural recognition of God‚Äôs presence on the farm, maybe in another part of the world it would be rice. I just finished reading a book entitled, Living Buddha, Living Christ…in the context of this conversation it might be Living Rice, Living Hay.

But, the hay with this! I’m up for some new incarnational exhibitions of God’s presence on the farm.

Posted by: leigh on March 4, 2003 07:21 PM

Heavens, 60 comments (including this one) and still going.
Posted by: Wes on March 4, 2003 07:53 PM


That’s what I was getting at with my “growing seed” reference. (Maybe it was just a bit opaque.) It’s not just hay or straw or grass. It could be wheat, rice, millet, sorghum, cattle, poultry, serpents (er, maybe not serpents,) Anglicanism, Catholicism, Fundamentalism, Willow Creek, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, etc., etc., etc.

What matters is growing in relationship with God.

(Does this make me a pluralist?)
Posted by: Wes on March 4, 2003 08:06 PM

Hey Hay…all are saved! The wet, the dry and the moldy!
So…to quote Rodney King, “why can’t we all just get alone?” Ooops, Wes, I too will be judged as a pluralist, and even a heretic by some.
Leigh, salvation is at the harvest…so that leaves us to do what during the time inbetween? Grow and enjoy the gift of the growing season, even hang out with a few weeds, until Tripp ‘catches’ and bales us?
Posted by: Bill on March 5, 2003 02:08 PM

“Hey Hay…all are saved! The wet, the dry and the moldy!”

I think we have something here! Lyrics for a new hymn?! Printed on a t-shirt maybe?!!

What did Jesus say to the hay at the well?
Go and mold no more! 🙂

What did Jesus say to the apostles?
Come and follow me…I will make you balers of hay!

What do you get when you cross a …..
Ok, it’s getting late and I’m getting punchy!
Posted by: leigh on March 6, 2003 12:50 AM

Yup, very punchy. I hear hay bales may be good for that sort of thing…

In regards to Bill saying “salvation is at the harvest…so that leaves us to do what during the time inbetween? Grow and enjoy the gift of the growing season, even hang out with a few weeds, until Tripp ‘catches’ and bales us?” – This is exactly what we are left with: Hence the parable of letting the weeds grow with the wheat, lest we accidently chop down the wheat.

Back to those other farm grains again…
Posted by: Susie on March 7, 2003 05:56 PM

While working the other day I went to type the word ‘Yahweh’.

I accidently transposed some letters and up came ‘HAYweh’.

do think it was a coincidence?! 🙂
Posted by: leigh on March 8, 2003 11:19 AM

Perhaps it was a call back to this website, and the little sub community it is. Perhaps then, it was a call to community? Hay, after all, is most useful in bales!
Posted by: Susie on March 9, 2003 02:32 PM


Round or square? Alfalfa? Rye? You see, there is diversity even in hay!

Note: round bales are too big to catch.
Posted by: Tripp on March 9, 2003 10:24 PM

Heather or someone else who would know,

Is hay plural. can you have one piece of hay? Maybe it’s because I’m Mennonite but I just can’t imagine hay that’s not in bales. Who would even want to?
Posted by: Trevor on March 9, 2003 11:26 PM

Well, those who actually EAT the hay would want it not to be in bales. Makes for an awfully big bite! Ever seen a depiction of a farmer with a piece of hay sticking out of his mouth (or in his hair)? I can’t imagine suckking on hay, but I’ve had it stuck in my clothes. They set up mazes made out of bales of hay for city kids around Halloween – and “good mother” that I am, I go.

(My daughter says it symbolizes our spiritual journey because it is never clear what path we should take.)

To actually answer your question, I believe hay is a collective – like grass, or milk.
Posted by: mary on March 10, 2003 09:54 PM

A couple of points to…
Susie: “Hay is most useful in bales.”
Mary: “To those who eat…”
Along with Trevor: “I can’t image hay not being in bales”

Hay, I feel, is not useful unless there is a lot (therefore, this may be interpreted as plural). As Wes had said earlier, hay is just grass that’s been dried. So, in the movies (or at my house), when you are chewing on “hay”, that’s just a piece of dried grass. It’s much better to chew on a certain type of grass – it’s very sweet (just my preference).

But, in order to be useful to animals for nutrients, you need to have a bunch. However, this does not have to be in bales. Baling is a new result of the industrial revolution. Before that time, grass was cut with sickles, left to dried, picked up with pitchforks, and stored in the barn as a big pile of hay. (How the Amish still harvest hay, I think.) The bales are more “efficient” – can move more of it faster. But, what does that mean for proper use of the resources of metals and gas? Without the tractor and baler, we don’t need the metal to build the machinery. Just enough wood for the handles of the sickle and pitchfork and the wood for the blade and tines.

Rectangular bales are light enough to be lifted by a human. When these are fed, the “(baling) twine” that holds the bale together is removed. If you are feeding only part of the bale, then it comes apart in “flakes”. A horse would get about 4 flakes of hay a couple times a day.

The very large bales are moved to the field with a tractor and left with the twine holding the bale together.

Trevor, I would hope that you could be open-minded about the hay. We have listed hay’s usefulness. Which, of course, is not how you should evaluate everything you come across. How can we embrace all the forms of hay and recognize their gifts and unique attributes? Also, embracing the various types (as Tripp listed)?
Posted by: Heather on March 11, 2003 05:51 PM

When “Farm as Culture” is added to the Gospel Mission curriculum, I think Heather should teach that section. What about it, Heather– Adjunct Professor of Agricultural Theology?
Posted by: Jane on March 12, 2003 07:48 AM

I need to ammend my comment about the Amish: they cut and rake with horse drawn implements. But still store loose hay. (I think I’m closer with this…)

Wow. Jane, you may have found a subject that I can teach! (I’ve been avoiding the whole teaching thing…it’s not one of my strongest spiritual gifts…) Can I add “Deaf Culture” to the curriculum too?
Posted by: Heather on March 12, 2003 04:54 PM

How about Adjunct Professor of Theologically Deaf Hay?


I would say hay is always a collective. When I first moved out to the hinterland of Gum Tree, VA, I called those little individual pieces of hay “pieces of hay.” You see, hay is only pieces of a larger whole when it is seperated.

“Flakes” is an interesting word. I too am oft a flake. If it were not for community I would cease to function in any useful way.
Posted by: Tripp on March 14, 2003 02:36 PM


In ‘Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today’, Joan Chittister says “Alone, I am what I am, but in community I have the chance to become everything that I can be.”

Ain’t it the truth!!
Posted by: leigh on March 14, 2003 08:25 PM

Ah, Tripp: as Heather points out, flakes are very useful, if you have enough of them. Perhaps that’s what seminary is for (and why I’m at home there!).
Posted by: Jane on March 15, 2003 08:51 PM

Back to Trevor’s question… Hay is very hard to pick up unless its in bales. You can gather it, but the pieces fall out all over the place. That was my expereince at least.
Sounds to me like “flakes” are anti-community. So, the important question is… can wet hay flake?
Posted by: Susie on March 16, 2003 09:33 PM

Wow…I am in awe of all these postings.

Susie – I would doubt wet hay could flake; I would think clumping would be a more accurate way of looking at it. But I would bow to the knowledge of our esteemed Professor of Agricultural Theology before presuming a correct answer.

I would disagree that flakes are “anti-community”…after all many flakes make up a bale, so, would that not be community – the community of the bale. Just a thought.
Posted by: Margot Eccles on March 17, 2003 02:39 AM

I’m with Margot on flakes – they aren’t anti-community – each is a community of its own.

Think of various types of hay (alfalfa, timothy, clover, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.,) gathered into bales (rectangular, round, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Sunni, Shia, Jodo Shinsu, etc.,) with flakes as congregations, and “pieces of hay” as individuals.

The different types of hay mix easily when separated into individual pieces, or when growing in the field (though one doesn’t normally do this). In the same way, it is relatively easy to interact with people of other faiths when we are in one-on-one situations, and when we realize that we are all one people in God, rooted in our “ground of being.”

But when hay is in bales and flakes, it doesn’t intermix very much. Likewise, there is separation both between and within faith traditions due to differences in doctrine, liturgy, tradition, etc.
Posted by: Wes on March 17, 2003 11:45 AM

I do believe that you’re on to something. Taking this another step, the “bales” are created by humans when God intended that we be “pieces” of hay. Instead of freely intermingling with other “pieces” we separated ourselves into flakes (denominations) and bound ourselves into bales (religions).

Now that we are bound into bales, we can’t seem to be able to loosen the bindings that hold us in place. Bales are tightly bound – intending that they stay together until a large force knocks it apart. Moving as a “piece” of hay inside that bale is very difficult – pretty much impossible. Therefore, not only are we missing out on the interactions from each other, but may block out some of our interactions with God.

Might we be called to cut off the bailer twine and reconnect with all of the other “pieces” of hay in the world? How do we get enough force to break us out of our bale?
Posted by: Heather Voss on March 18, 2003 10:31 PM

Heather…in an attempt to address your question “how do we get enough force to break us out of our bale?” would the answer not be to ask God through prayer…that would seem the most powerful and yet gentlest way to break the twine. The other ways that come to mind are only going to lead to the destruction of not only individual “pieces” but perhaps the flakes or the entire bales…
Posted by: Margot Eccles on March 19, 2003 02:17 PM

Margot’s right; hay doesn’t break out by itself. The bale has to be broken open from the outside.

Does that mean Jesus is like God’s pocketknife?
Posted by: Jane on March 19, 2003 02:30 PM

Oh Jane – the images that flood my mind: the Swiss Army Jesus…with at least twelve functions, changes water into wine, heals, walks on water……oh help!!!
Posted by: Margot Eccles on March 22, 2003 01:07 PM

Tripp says “pieces of hay,” and all I see is a pirate parrot saying “Rawwwk! awwk!! Pieces of hay! Pieces of hay!”

No wet hay that I could see in California.
Posted by: dave on March 23, 2003 01:12 AM

I don’t think it’s necessary to break out of the bale one is in. There are many pieces of hay that spend their entire existence within a single bale. They are in community with those in the same bale, and the bale is suited to them due to tradition, enculturation, etc.

However, I think it is also important for each bale to at least acknowledge and tolerate other bales, and even those not in bales. One’s bale is not fundamentally “better” than the others, as all are part of the “community of hay.”

And on occasion, a piece of hay will fall out of its bale. It may be gathered into a different bale or regathered with members of its original bale (with a different flake, maybe.) One hopes that it doesn’t lose community by remaining disconnected, merely drifting from place to place.
Posted by: Wes on March 23, 2003 09:42 PM

So, on this hay thing…Susie likes the swiss army Jesus. Now what does this do with the toothpick? And anyway, doesn’t the Spirit break the bale and not Jesus?

Tripp would like to suggest a trinitarian model for hay…flake, bale and pocket knife. In this way we can see the great plurality in hay (Wes). This is a strong withness to the generosity of the Lord God of Balers…

What say ye?
Posted by: Heather & Tripp & Susie on March 24, 2003 11:31 AM

There’s only one thing I can say right now – LOL!
Posted by: Wes on March 24, 2003 04:07 PM

A whole new look at the Gospel, translated into agricultural metaphor:

“For God so loved the bale…”
“… and the baler became hay and dwelt among us…”
“Go, therefore, and make flakes of all nations…”
Posted by: Jane on March 26, 2003 02:48 PM

(Wow, I’m on Wet Hay! ^_^) Jane, that leads me to an analogy that I’d be more comfortable with than the one Jeus gives. “Farmers of bales/hay/flakes” rather than “Fishers of men”. It seems less violent and more like gathering into the fold.
Posted by: Si on March 27, 2003 09:17 AM

“Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;”

This little snippet from Whittier’s “Snowbound” informs us about loose hay in the hayloft… but more interesting perhaps is the sight rhyme of mows/cows/rows/bows… mow of course rhymes with cow, but in this case row and bow do not. What should we make of that?

But to the point: where does silage fit in your theological explication of fodder and bedding?

And by the way… all you young folks in Northrun Illinoise should zip up to Madison for the weekend of April 11 – 13. There’s a conference that is sure to broaden your perspectives: “Hip Hop as a Movement” check this out Dick Gregory has replaced Congresswoman McKinney on the program and Barbara Lee may be there.

Posted by: fp on March 27, 2003 09:26 PM

Si, I like your new metaphor, and it is less violent. After all, love and being loved can cancel out all sorts of violent losses….
Posted by: Susie on March 27, 2003 11:04 PM

Very nice Si, we’re all proud. Ok, I don’t FULLY understand how all of this started but here’s my view. Wet hay smells, it’s dangerous in a barn, and harms horses. I don’t have a CLUE how it relates to Jesus per se, but whatever works I guess. The thought of Jesus as a pocketknife……..mmm……..that does give one pause for thought. Have fun. : )
Posted by: Carolyn on March 28, 2003 01:28 PM

i had a dream…and though it was slightly off topic, i thought that i’d throw it in…

i’m at a friend’s house (i haven’t seen this friend since high school). she’s having a party in her barn. so we start to clean it out. everything is out but the hay. she also wants the hay out. i thin that the party would be just fine with the hay (moving the hay seemed like an awful lot of work for one night). but she wants it out. so we have to move out all the bales and clean up the mess (of “pieces of hay”) off the floor.
Posted by: heather on March 29, 2003 03:48 PM

Actually, your dream sounds like cleanup after Boar’s Head. Hay in action, and there was no theologically redeeming feature to THAT mess.
Posted by: Jane on March 29, 2003 10:10 PM

Ok, to me thiss whole disscussion seems like a group of Seminarians getting together to do something, in order to avoid doing what they actually SHOULD be doing. SHAME SHAME!! Have fun 😉
Posted by: Carolyn on March 29, 2003 10:11 PM

I’m with you, Carolyn. While there are some good theological discussions here, it’s a little too easy for some people to get sidetracked. *long pointed glare* Having said that, thanks for the support Susie, and very professionally put. ^_^
Posted by: Si on March 30, 2003 01:57 PM

I sense a pastoral concern at work here.

Si, what is at work here amidst hay is a new way to capture the theological imagination. It i interesting that you have introduced this new metaphor. I am grateful for hay itself is so very complicated.

I, however, need a redefining of hay. As a youth I frolicked a bit too furiously amidst hay. The “loft” is a great common space for frolic, but may not be the appropriate nature of hay…. Can hay contribute to frolicking? Someone help me out. Si?
Posted by: Tripp on March 30, 2003 03:20 PM

“this whole disscussion seems like a group of Seminarians getting together to do something, in order to avoid doing what they actually SHOULD be doing.”

Yeah, and your point?! 🙂

Did any of you Ethics I students notice the following quote in Galeano’s book…
“The dry grass will set fire to the damp grass.”

dry straw…wet hay?

Ok, do something with this.
Posted by: Leigh on March 30, 2003 03:29 PM

I apologize, but I can’t resist sharing this. I laughed out loud after first reading it and immediately thought of this site and all the ‘farm’ talk.
It’s from the book I’m reviewing for Ethics, After Christendom by Stanley Hauerwas, p. 115. The quotes within this quote come from a report sponsored by the Catholic Theological Society of America called Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought. It’s the last line I got a chuckle out of in relation to this site…I mean blog.

“As far as I can tell there is only one clear case that is clearly off limits given the criteria of ‘creative growth toward integration’ and our lack of good data about the forms of sexuality that more nearly conform to that criteria – that is bestiality. As they say, ‘where the individual prefers sexual relations with animals when heterosexual outlets are available, the condition is regarded as pathological…There is no question but that this practice renders impossible the realization of the personal meaning of human sexuality. Persons so involved need to be gently led to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the full meaning and significance of human sexuality’. Which seems to me to be a clear indication that this is a report written by urban dwellers that have very little appreciation of farm life.”

Thank you Stanley!
Posted by: leigh on March 30, 2003 03:47 PM


Wah?! Is Stanley proponing sheepy love? Are we saying something here about the rich life that is rural life? What does this say about hay and aforementioned frolicsome behaviors?

Wow…radical orthodoxy is really that, no?
Posted by: tripp on March 30, 2003 06:22 PM

Tripp, I don’t know of any innate relationship between hay and its location and frolicing, but then again, I don’t want to touch your frolicings with a ten foot pole. Especially if it includes sheep.
Posted by: Si on March 30, 2003 07:04 PM

Stanley said it for me, Si. “[It] seems to me to be a clear indication that this is a report written by an urban dweller that have very little appreciation of farm life.”

Should there be a truce betwixt and between us, young Adam? I am uncertain. Let us take this to our personal blogs as not to overtake the making of hay here.

Re: frolicing and hay – chalk it up to experience and a deep love of animal husbandry.

Stanley is so very wrong…lol!!!
Posted by: Tripp on March 30, 2003 08:26 PM

“The dry grass will set fire to the damp grass.”

I didn’t have the guts to say it in class, but this quote was one of the reason why I assigned this book for Ethics 1. I’m so glad you picked up on it Leigh.

It seems, at least for Galeano, that wet hay has a responsibility to the dry grass that it ignores at its own peril. If we allow too much dry grass to persist in this world we risk getting burnt. Our mission must be to make all grass wet. The proverb says nothing about the damp grass being burnt by something other than dry grass.
Posted by: Trevor on April 9, 2003 11:21 PM

Hmm… I took that sentence differently, since Fire is another Baptism symbol. Damp grass is neither really wet nor dry, its just damp. “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot!” (Rev. 3:15) Perhaps we need to recognize the dry grass is there to fire ourselves up for spreading the waters to the rest of the field?
Posted by: Susie on April 12, 2003 02:07 PM

I came to bring fire…hmm…Susie and trevor are dancing around something here. Fire and water cleanse. The burned hay is cleansed. The wet hay is cleansed. But what remains after the cleansing? What is hay after it has been consumed? Is there a corolary here or has our metaphor broken down. I am not sure. But I like the two notions of purification.
Posted by: Tripp on April 17, 2003 02:11 PM

What is hay after it has been consumed?

“We are but dust, and to dust we shall return.”

Purification, indeed.
Posted by: Jane Ellen on April 17, 2003 09:44 PM

Trevor wrote: wet hay has a responsibility to the dry grass that it ignores at its own peril.

The ‘cost of discipleship’ maybe?
Posted by: leigh on April 18, 2003 10:18 PM

Leigh, say more on this please! I’m not following you here…
Posted by: Susie on April 21, 2003 11:35 PM

I was thinking along the lines of submitting to God whether we think it makes sense or not…whether it puts us in ‘peril’ or not. The wet hay lives out its responsibility to the dry grass through its obedience to the will of God.

BUT, I see now that I read Trevor‚Äôs post too quickly. The peril he was talking about is what happens when the wet hay is NOT faithful to its responsibility and ignores the work it is called to do. No wonder you were wondering what the heck I was talking about!! 🙂

This idea still fits for me though. There is peril (worldly and spiritual) if we do not follow through, yet we still risk peril (worldly) if we DO follow through. What got me thinking this way was Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship. Here are some excerpts that might help to clarify where I am coming from….

“The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience.…. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reason for a man’s religious decisions. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ Himself. 61

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. … There is trust in God, but no following of Christ. 64

He wants to follow, but feels obliged to insist on his own terms to the level of human understanding. The disciple places himself at the Master’s disposal, but at the same time retains the right to dictate his own terms. But then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a program of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves, and to be judged in accordance with the standards of rational ethic. 66

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. … The first step places the disciple in the situation where faith is possible. If he refuses to follow and stays behind, he does not learn how to believe. 66-67”
I am also thinking about the idea of picking up the cross and denying ourselves. We deny ourselves for the sake of Christ. Who knows what is going to happen or where we will be led.

Our mission is to make all grass wet, regardless of the peril it may entail…that is where my thinking went. I am getting old you know…the brain is going! Where, I do not always know!

Another thought. Is our responsibility to the dry grass or is it to God?
Posted by: Leigh on April 22, 2003 08:34 PM

I believe that it is our primary responsibility to God that then makes us responsible for the dry grass– keepers of our brothers and sisters.

At the same time, it is not we who “make all grass wet.” We can witness to the grace, the dampness, and share that which is in our grass; but the rain is God’s to provide. The grass can absorb it as it falls, or not. Free will dampness!
Posted by: Jane Ellen on April 22, 2003 08:50 PM

Jane, you sound practically anabaptist.

It is not water that changes, it is not rite that transforms. Rite and water point the way to the trasformation that faith in Christ has rendered. The element in baptism is not water. The sacramental element is Christ himself.

Perhaps I need to revisit the idea of community as sacrament…With this idea that Brother Menno proclaims, it may be all washed up.
Posted by: Recent Menno Simons Fan on April 30, 2003 07:05 AM

I’ve been called worse. (^_^)

Actually, I discovered a lot of sympathy with the anabaptists since I’ve been here; for one thing, they apparently produce patient teachers– like the one who started this crazy blog!

Posted by: Jane Ellen on April 30, 2003 07:13 PM

a wayward thought I had on the long drive back to Evanston.

How come our society has a role such as ‘Public Defender’, but we don’t have a designated role of ‘Public Offender’?

Posted by: leigh on May 1, 2003 10:36 PM

We don’t need that as a paid position… there are too many volunteers.
Posted by: Jane Ellen on May 2, 2003 06:11 AM

At first I was thinking of the role of a prophet. A person who by his/her statements and actions ‘offends’ the powers that be, the prevailing cultural ethos. Offends by holding up a mirror into which they are called to look.

Today in conversation with someone about this, their suggested example of a public offender in our culture would be someone like Jerry Springer. Certainly offensive.

Now after doing some reading from Budde’s book, The (Magic) Kingdom of God, it seems to me that if we as Christians truly lived into discipleship as he outlines it, we would all be offenders. Offending those who accept and buy into the prevailing practices of the global culture industries. Offending by living out the Gospel message.

Something to aspire to!
Posted by: leigh on May 3, 2003 11:01 PM

Oh, Leigh, I like that! Faithful Christian witness as countercultural standard-bearer. A noble aspiration, indeed.

It’s been a running joke with a friend of mine for some time about what kind of parish we’d start, after we get out of the “liminal space” that is seminary. Bruce has a name all picked out: Our Lady of Perpetual Insurrection. Anybody else want to come play with us, in Jesus’ name?
Posted by: Jane Ellen on May 4, 2003 10:55 AM

I haven’t been fooling with names for churches so much as I have been trying to come up with a name for my blog site…yes, I’m getting closer. Sucked in a little bit more each day.

I was thinking of ‘Rock that boat!’
Any suggestions?
Posted by: leigh on May 4, 2003 11:16 AM

Ooh, I’m in for the “Lady of Perpetual Insurrection” I think insurrection may be a better semantic than “public offender” for me… Maybe we can use haybales in our revolution.
Posted by: Susie on May 7, 2003 11:08 PM

Not only that, Susie, but aren’t pitchforks traditionally used in agrarian revolts? It all ties together… insurrection-pitchfork-hay
Posted by: Si on May 8, 2003 10:29 AM

Oh, my. Wow. Phew. Boggles the mind, it does.

I’m with AKMA. I haven’t had a theological experience like this anywhere else recently. Wonderful stuff.
Posted by: Mark J. on May 8, 2003 09:31 PM


Wait ’til we start going with the tricycle metaphor! Have you heard about that one yet?
Posted by: leigh on May 10, 2003 11:40 AM

jane – all about joining you with whatever! since i’m the farm girl, i can even provide the hay and the forks! (how many tines do you want on yours? and are the different number of tines – 3, 4, 5, or 6 symbolic? though forks with 3 and 4 tines are used for throwing hay whereas 5 and 6 tined forks are used for mucking stalls. i’m sure that this fits back with the church/state hay/straw discussion…)

leigh – you go with your trike!
Posted by: heather on May 11, 2003 01:18 AM

the tricycle thing even goes along with “Everything I learned about life I learned in kindergarten.”

That’s my first memory of a tricycle! Riding it along down the hall toting the little wagon behind it filled with milk cartons for snack time.

The tricycle is the good shepherd and the milk cartons are the sheep?!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers, sons and daughters!
Posted by: leigh on May 11, 2003 11:58 AM

Heather: by all means, make mine 3 tines– very trinitarian. Hay flinging as evangelism?!

Ooh– new thought!

Leigh: We could combine the metaphors: The tricycle, instead of milk, could be pulling a little hay wagon. Picture this: one person pedaling along, with another standing on that little step between the back wheels, spreading hay– following God’s command to “Feed my sheep.”
Posted by: Jane Ellen on May 11, 2003 02:57 PM

Satan is often portrayed with a pitchfork. Why is this?

(Trivia – this is the 125th post in this string.)
Posted by: Wes on May 12, 2003 04:40 PM

Wes- thanks for keeping track… I was sort of wondering.

How about a two-tine fork for faith and works? I guess that wouldn’t be so much like a fork…

And, in case you haven’t been over there for a while, Tripp kept quoting Aquinas, saying “All is straw” and AKMA mentioned straw in his sermon at Leigh W’s ordination…
Posted by: Susie on May 14, 2003 05:05 PM

I’m the type who would count – and it amazes Mary that I would bother.

As to forks, I keep thinking about one God, and come up with a one-tine pitchfork. Seems that it would be ineffective, but with God, all things are possible.

Besides, a one-tine fork sounds an awful lot like like a chopstick to me.
Posted by: Wes on May 14, 2003 10:33 PM

Satan with a pitchfork– doesn’t it seem that good tools are often misused to evil purpose in this world? Think of what scripture has been used to justify in the past– and still is, in places!
Posted by: Jane Ellen on May 15, 2003 02:00 PM

has to be 3 tines!

I’m worried about you Wes. (^_^)
Sorry, that’s the best smiley face I could do. Jane, can you help me out here?!
Posted by: leigh on May 15, 2003 10:19 PM

(^_^) is usually my smiley face of choice, Leigh; I don’t know the HTML code for such. Hey, Susie– can you help??
Posted by: Jane Ellen on May 17, 2003 09:05 PM

Um, I’m giving this a shot…

Posted by: Susie on May 20, 2003 05:57 PM

Well, that didn’t work. I don’t think this will take the code? But the tag is img src=”(put the source in here… you can link to websites, if people store their graphics online). I’ll try one more time:

Posted by: Susie on May 20, 2003 06:01 PM

This has been dromant too long… Jane: Instead of having one person on the back step of the tricycle spreading hay, perhaps using that thingie priests use to flick holy water at people? (Can never remember what it’s called.) Thus, instead of spreading more hay, it would be dampening the hay that’s already there. Someone take this and run with it.
Posted by: Si on May 30, 2003 11:54 PM

This has been dormant too long… Jane: Instead of having someone on the back step of the tricycle spreading hay, perhaps using that thingie priests use to flick holy water at people? (I can never remember what it’s called.) Thus, instead of spreading more hay, it would be dampening the hay that’s already there. Someone take this and run with it.
Posted by: Si on May 30, 2003 11:56 PM

but then the hay would be wet. and i’m still about defending that wet hay is helpful… it stinks up the place.
Posted by: Heather on June 1, 2003 08:28 PM

Is the tricylce moving? Because, if it is, then you wouldn’t be able to control where you’re flinging hay and/or water. Are we ready to take whatever we get when it lands?
Posted by: Susie on June 3, 2003 06:29 PM

I’ve heard that the tricycle metaphor was more fully developed in one of the classes – something about scripture being the big wheel. Anyone care to elaborate, or since classes are over, do you want to just ride that tricycle off into the sunset?

Posted by: Wes on June 4, 2003 11:11 PM

I think there has to be a balance between the speed of the tricycle and the flinging. Because we should be aiming but also allowing the Spirit to work through the “random” flinging. Grace comes in from the “mistakes”. When we are centered on careful “driving” and responsive to where we are being led, we will be better bearers of God’s word.
Posted by: heather on June 7, 2003 11:16 AM

2 thoughts on “By Popular Request

  1. Thank you, kind sir. Your theological brilliance and web search abilities pale in comparison to your charity and kindness towards us lowly mortals.

  2. Fortunately not much ink has been spilled over this topic as a result of the location of this discussion. This is fortunate because I am not sure that ink is capable of absorbing the transformative cruciformity of wet hay as it becomes dry. (The more things change, the more they stay the same).

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