living with the tension

DSCN1743Over the years loads of my Christian friends have spoken of their desire to see real change in the world and communities, to dream of making it a better, fairer place. From healing divisions in Northern Ireland to campaigning about tax havens to climate change to human rights to homelessness to treating animals better to ____ there are things that push our buttons and make us want to fight against injustice and oppression. I recognise this side in myself as well, a belief that the older generations and other people just don’t get it, have failed and that it is up to me personally to ‘be the change that you want the world to be’. Maybe there is an air of arrogance that I can really change the world.

So I have been wondering a little about this quote from Hans Rookmaaker:-

‘The Christian’s task is not to change the world – wonderful as this would be if it led to better morals, better justice, better management of the world’s resources – but primarily to keep the world from decay and corruption, evil and suppression.
            The Christian lives in tension. On one hand, knowing that man is sinful, he does not expect a Utopia. He accepts the world as it is after the Fall,knowing that it is unnatural, subject to pain and death and crying out for removal of the curse. He knows that only Christ can bring renewal. On the other hand, the Christian can never merely accept this malfunctioning, this pain and suffering. He may never abandon his duty, but is called to follow Christ’s example, to relieve or fight the effects of evil. In this sense the Christian is a protester, but his is a protest in love. It takes wisdom and know when to accept the less than perfect, and when to press on for something better’

The Creative Gift, Hans Rookmaaker

Are we sometimes unrealistic in our dreams of changing the world?  Are we reluctant to accept the less than perfect?
Do we sometimes play down how deeply broken our human hearts are and think that things can be turned around if just do a, b or c?

Or  are Christians generally more guilty of not pressing on for something better?

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made in ____?

This horse meat scandal has shown how hard it is to trace where your food actually came from and where in the world it was actually processed. It is also a classic case of it being not our fault, oh its not our fault it’s their fault, it’s not our fault, we bought it from them, its not our fault, we got it over there, its their fault, we clearly followed the rules, its their fault, etc etc.

When I was a student I spent one summer working night shift at a large pig factory. My job was to power hose the plant after production in preparation for production the next day.
I used to see the Cookstown products clearly labelled and beside those pallets of identical sausages labelled as well known supermarket own label brands. They would lbe labelled as ‘Made in the UK’, somewhere in the UK. I didn’t care too much about these sorts of things in my younger days but I’m not sure if the ‘Made in UK’ label said anything about where the pigs came from. The sausages might have been made in the UK but it said nothing about the pig or the other ingredients.

I’ve a bag of Tesco own label coffee that says ‘Packaged in Belgium’ on it. I’ve tried to track down where this factory might be in Belgium and who actually processes it, but I can’t find that information out. I bought a bag of Co-Op coffee beans last night and they say ‘Packaged in Belgium’ on it. Is this the same factory processing own label coffee beans for Tesco and the Co-Op?

Another smaller example is of Coleraine cheddar which isn’t made in Coleraine, it’s made in another factory.

DSCN9795

Do these things matter?

It could all considered a 1st world problem, a case of we should  just be grateful that we can go into a shop and afford to buy food freely without having to worry about where our next meal comes from and not be so fussy that what is sold as beef might actually horse.

Or you could take it the other way and say that being in such a privileged position should actually make us think about where our food comes from . In our church each week we pray the lines ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ .
Do  we wonder  enough about how God is actually supplying our daily bread or are we happy enough to think that God is using corporations and supermarkets (who are chiefly concerned with profit) to supply our daily bread without bothering to see what is going on behind the scenes?

Should we be thankful that we can buy a chicken for £3.99 in the supermarket and ask no questions or should we start poking behind the scenes a bit to see how the chicken is so cheap?

I know a man who previously worked with the poultry industry here in Ireland and used to visit various farms with the job. During Christmas he told us that he used to tell farmers that if they found the conditions in a chicken shed unbearable and unpleasant then it was unfair to keep chickens in the same conditions. I was surprised at this as I imagined that back 30 or 40yrs ago nobody cared so much about these issue and where more concerned about selling chicken feed.

But enough of that, I won’t rest easy until I find out where this coffee packaging factory in Belgium might be.

 

copper mining and stuff – Mopani Copper Mine, Zambia


Last week I felt compelled (well I believe God told me to do it) to mark the locations of some of the biggest  copper mines  in the world on a Google Map

Today I typed in the words ‘copper’ and ‘corruption’ into Google which led me to the Mopani Copper Mine in Zambia and it’s creepy owners Glencore who according to this video trade on life’s commodities.

As world food prices rising due to poor harvests companies like Glencore who trade  food items like wheat  will be rubbing their hands with glee at the thoughts of healthy profits (as was reported back in August)

And as a Christian I feel like I’m staring right at the beast when I read about this sort of stuff. We pray to God  ‘give us this day our daily bread’ but a company like Glencore wants to be the ones who supply our daily bread for maximum profit to their shareholders.

Watch this priest in this clip as well.

trying to walk the bread line

this morning
I’ve been reminded
(once again)
that we live completely
by the grace of God

as usual that part of the Lord’s Prayer
‘Give us this day our daily bread’
was the spark

each time a believer  we prays those words
they’re asking God to provide their daily nourishment
to give them enough for today
and they’re admitting that our daily bread
is a  gift of God’s grace
something we’re powerless to provide by ourselves
for it is a product of the soil, the rains, the sunlight,
that we can never provide
like manna in the desert

It’s  a reminder to myself
on mornings like this morning
that  when I want to lash out at things
to make my own way in the world
to be strong
to be he-man
to  seize the day
to grab my piece of the pie
that the Kingdom  works on different rules
and that this man should work on different rules as well

not that it’s easy
to trust
being on the bread-line

knowing that although you’ve bread enough for today
that tomorrow is a new day
and the day after that

there will be a lot of faith required down the line
and your faith is weak

each day you will pray
‘Give us this day our daily bread’
in faith and trust

do I have that much faith?

we had that those verses
from Matthew six
about not worrying about tomorrow
or the clothes you will wear
or what you will eat
and considering the birds
who neither sow nor reap
and to seek first the Kingdom
and his righteousness
read to us on our wedding day

it is a command of the way we should go

yet  seeking the kingdom
and his justice
in this economy is hard
so hard

writing and topping up your cv
seems to me to be like
playing ‘Top Trumps’
against your neighbour
and at his expense

if it’s true that we receive our daily bread by grace
(like we pray as Christians)
how does this competing for daily bread
(that seems to be the way the economy is designed to work)
come into it?

how do you walk the bread line?

it’s not about making money
it’s about making a living
yet it feels so hard to make a living
in this economy and culture
without engaging that culture and economy
on it’s terms and by it’s rules

led us not into temptation (except when you lead us into temptation?)?)

There are two verses in the Bible that have been playing on my mind recently.
First up this verse from Matthew Chapter 4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil.

and then this familiar verse a few chapters on from The Lord’s Prayer

And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one

I’m not sure why that struck except it seems that even though Jesus tells us to pray that we will not be led into temptation Jesus himself is led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the Devil.
In fact it sounds as if the Spirit has led Jesus into the wilderness where he will be tempted by the devil.

So I’m not really sure what to make of that.
That is all..

give us this day our daily energy.And forgive us our trespasses?

Can energy sources be counted as daily bread/essentials? And if so do we need to repent for being greedy with it?
The bit in this video where Rob Hopkins says that one bottle of oil has the energy equivalent of 35 men coming around to your house to do a day’s manual labour blow’s my mind.

give us this day our daily (Fairtrade) salad?

I’ve been challenged the last few days by soya beans, NT Wright, The Lord’s Prayer and few Facebook friends.

Sitting by myself  in St George’s Market like a Billy-no-Mates  (Mrs Canal Ways is being cultured in Paris until Wednesday) I scribbled all over my notepad(and when I say notepad I mean paper and pen like in the old days, not fancy pants electronic tablet device with WiFi blah-de-blah), and drew thought bubbles here and there, and tried to work out what was going on…

Anyway, after a bit of mind judo and looking ‘intellectual’ I think my thoughts revolve around  words Christian’s pray regularly and what those words actually mean

‘..Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses…’

Firstly, what does the phrase ‘give us this day our daily bread‘ mean?

Is is it just the essentials like basic food, basic clothes, basic shelter, water etc?
Like should we be praying every day for chocolate cake?
Does that count as daily bread?

It would be a messy discussion for church to have but my feeling is we loose sight of the essentials all too easily and confuse ‘wants’ with ‘needs’. For example a family may say we need a large people carry to bring the kids from A to B and comply with EU laws. Maybe that is a need in our culture and society.But is a people carrier for our family daily bread? What are we going to do when families in China and India for examply want to eat the same people carrier daily bread? Are we going to say ‘Er no, because the earths resources won’t take the strain..?”

And secondly would the God who Christians proclaim is loving and just, the Jesus who is Lord and we make a big fuss about on Sunday mornings provide our ‘daily bread’ by exploiting our neighbours around the world?

Obviously once again these matters are complicated and the world is messy (for want of a better word) but do we just leave it at that and say something like ‘I’ve got to live my life, I can’t worry about everything going on in the world sad though it is…oh well,what can you do.?’

Do you ever notice that sometimes when people are slagging off the church  some evangelical book writers or speaker will say ‘Ah, yes, but what about William Wilberforce?He helped abolish slavery you know..
Now abolishing slavery is obviously good except for the inconvient fact that slavery still  goes on and  needs abolished. As this video shows they’re not just working the sugar plantations anymore, they’re working in the salad farms in Southern Spain to supply us here in Lisburn and Dublin with our out of season salads and tomatoes.

If a tomato is  essential daily bread(and we do need to eat) has God somehow given us that tomato using slave labour?
Because hard though it is for us to get our heads and disembodied bodies around that tomato wasn’t just plucked out of a pallet from thin air at the LIDL/ASDA/Tesco distribution cente.

It’s interesting the gentleman at the end of the film says

‘People just don’t want to hear.Everyone knows this system exists. It’s slavery in Europe.At the door to Europe there’s slavery as if we were in the 16th century.Let’s speak out together. No! Everybody can say it. No! You can say that if you continue like that, I’m not going to buy your products. Why do we not say this?’

He’s right. We often don’t want to hear.
Yet (and this is the point where I go into a self-righteous, hypocritical rant writing my blog) we hip, cutting edge Christians seem very adept at hearing that Rob Bell’s latest book is theologically unsound and then having endless theological discussions/fights/tweets/blogs around the reaction to that, or _______.
All the while there are areas of life that we don’t even begin to peak into because they’re too complicated or you need to be an expert  they say you need to be an expert to understand and we’ve more important things to be getting on with.
Eurovision is on!
Man Utd are playing Barca!
iPad2 is out and Steve Jobs is doing a launch!

But how can  we (and especially a Christian ‘we’) have become so used to not looking  into where our daily bread comes from or how it actually got there on our plates?
How can we pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ and not wonder how God supplied it?
Is it unreasonable?Have I just got a bee in my bonnet about something and ‘oh well, what can you do,life goes on?’

All those ingredients in your stock cube that we don’t even know how to pronounce come from somewhere on planet earth. They where not supplied out of thin air in some magic portal out the back of Tesco. Perhaps it was grown in Brazil by slave labour. But who cares eh?

Meanwhile our daily salad or tomatoes most likely has been supplied by slave labour in Southern Spain. Forgive us our trespasses?