Thursday, March 05, 2009

Fairtrade Future - Kick out the Cowboys

One of the most important and exciting announcements of the week has been that Cadbury's are going to make all of their dairymilk bars out of fairly trade cocoa, with a commitment to transferring the rest of their products when they can. In one fell swoop the amount of fairtrade chocolate sold in the UK will almost double.

This major step raises an enticing prospect. Whilst munching on a gloriously milky bar of chocolate with a newly clean conscience it becomes possible for the first time to realistically imagine a nation where all raw food and cotton products imported are fairly traded.

Time and again you can ask oppressed producers and traders the world over and they will tell you they want not charity, but justice. It is no longer acceptable for us to complicit in trading and working practices that is oppressive just because we can't see them. If cost is an issue I challenge you to reduce the amount you give to 'good causes'. Instead, prioritise buying products that aren't about benevolently distributing philantrophy whilst holding onto power, but that fundamentally shift the way our global society operates - for the better.

Why allow plcs to get away with a few kind words and a little charity around the edges? Why should we put up any longer with bullying companies that grind down peoples' humanity for the sake of a cheap chocolate bar? Such thieves and cowboys should be chased out of town and out of business.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My daughter Abigail

I have a daughter. My daughter is called Abigail. Hello, would you like to meet my daughter? Nope. Sorry, still hasn’t sunk in. Not only do I have a baby in my house, but she’s not going anywhere and she will, God willing, grow up through being a toddler, a child, before herself possibly having children, growing old and dying. I helped start all that - she came from me!

I am relishing the opportunity and responsibility of nurturing her, teaching her and ‘instructing her in the way she should go’, including giving her the context and opportunity to love, worship and relate to God in her own way. I’m very wary of placing any of my expectations on her or recycling my own disappointed hopes onto her, but inevitably dreams and ideas float up and as long as I’m aware of the dangers I don’t necessarily think they’re a bad thing.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I genuinely don’t think I mind whether she’s clever or not. However, overwhelmingly I’d love her to empathise and reach out to the needy, the lonely and the sad particularly as a child and I’ll encourage her to do that from a young age. I really believe that outward looking families with children can be places of great healing for isolated people and that children can have a great impact in their peer group by actively including those that are left out in school and play.

My other desires are a little trivial in comparison:
1. Help her learn to catch well so that she can enjoy outdoor activity and sport (especially with me).
2. Teach her Cantonese from a young age – I can’t think of one other work related skill (other than reading and writing) that she might thank me more for in 15 to 20 years time.
3. Hope that she likes train sets. Because I do. They’re fun.

The heart of the gospel

John 15 is well known for the metaphor of the ‘vine and the branches’– a picture that we can do nothing without being in God. By the time I get to the second half of the chapter (entitled ‘The World Hates his disciples’ in the NIV) I skip through it and nod sagely without really taking it in. Except this time. For some reason I flitted lightly over the first part arriving fresh at the second and to my surprise found not just something different, but the very heart of the gospel.

In this passage (John 15:18-27) Jesus sets out his mission with a startling and uncomfortable clarity:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however they have no excuse for their sin… if I had not done among them what no-one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfil that is written in their law:’They hated me without reason.’

Jesus came to expose and lay bear our sin by bringing the kingdom of the Father onto earth. Laid alongside our miracles and a love that stretches even to death (v13) we have ‘no excuse’ (v22) if we fail to recognise our sin. Jesus adds that He will send the ‘Counsellor’ who will be the Spirit of truth and John 16:8 adds that the Spirit will 'expose the guilt of the world'

This though is only the start. For once I bothered to look up the cross reference for verse 25 which leads to Psalm 69 and the John passage came alive. David starts by crying out ‘I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold… who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head’ before praying ‘in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters.’ (13-14). Just as Jesus promises to us, David is persecuted and mocked because ‘zeal for God’s house consumes me’ (v9).

What David cries out for in hope we see fulfilled in Jesus. By revealing so starkly the sin of humanity Jesus lays the foundation for our rescue – he completes it with an embodiment of love which surpasses sin. Jesus rescues us from the miry pit of the world’s sin as he defeats sin by not succumbing to it – even in the face of death when he had ‘done no wrong’.

The sin from which we are rescued is primarily corporate – our individual sin is a corollary. Those who choose to ‘obey His teachings’(v20) are lifted up and rescued by His Spirit from the sin that engulfs our world which also consumes us. We no longer have to be bound and embroiled by the sin of those around us – when we are hated we do not have to hate, when we are mocked we do not have to retaliate. We do not need to conform to the ways of this world, but can be transformed.

Yet we are still in the world and Jesus ‘chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last’ (v16). We become part of the glorious contagion that is freedom from the despair and hopelessness of sin. Along with the Holy Spirit we reveal the truth and ‘testify about Jesus’ (v26) the rescuer, the Messiah.

The Vine and the Branches is a wonderful hors d’ouevre, but forgive me if next time I turn to John 15 I look forward to the meat that follows.