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I’ve spent part of today watching Rob Bell’s dvd “The Gods Aren’t Angry”.  (It’s funny, having just put in that link, I’ve found myself, through Google, looking through a lot of people’s thoughts on Mr Bell.  Goodness, what a controversial figure he is in some quarters.)

It’s been a thought-provoking, challenging ray of sunshine on a wet day in Edinburgh.  Fundamentally, to me, it has spoken of grace, of the world-changing spiritual earthquake there is in knowing we are not caught in a trap of endless offerings to unsatisfiable ‘gods’ (today, perhaps those relentless gods of work, money, family, approval…).  One part that really has made me think is the idea of the rituals that we sometimes use, religious or otherwise, to somehow try to appease those angry gods our minds and hearts can be preoccupied with.  What is a useful, a meaningful ritual?

I can only quote from Rob Bell himself:

What is the point of a ritual?  The point of a ritual is to ground us, to open us up, to remind us, to tap us in to the peace that has already been made at the culmination of the ages, through this Christ who offered himself.  Any ritual that piles on a whole load new weight …[of] the same old guilt…is not a Christian ritual…The only proper Christ-centred ritual is one that reminds you, that refreshes you, that awakens you…that opens you up to the God who has made peace with all things in heaven and earth through this Christ who offered himself.

It’s ridiculously easy to allow ourselves to become trapped by rituals, practices, ways of living, which negate that, as if the reconciliation and restoration Jesus brought was not for all, for all time. 

But I’m a Christian, I know this stuff (even if I don’t always quite manage to live in the reality of it).  This message is for all who are far off, for a world of people who don’t know the story of grace, and have not experienced people like me – like I said, people who know this stuff – bringing grace and love into their lives.

In the dvd Rob told some beautiful stories of grace.  Like the newly single mother of four who lost her home and was facing homelessness with her children until a couple from Rob Bell’s church stepped in, bought her a home (!) and gave it to the family freely.  Or like the family struggling in the economic downturn to put food on their table, so another family committed to buying all the groceries they might need until things got better (and spent $900 on the first grocery shop!).  Or like the friend who spent time with Rob himself a few years back when he had become caught in a spiral of ever-working, ever-proving himself to the detriment of much else, and sat with Rob telling him with great love and persistence “You don’t have to live like this, you don’t have to live like this, you don’t have to live like this…” until Rob finally heard him. 

I would like to be a grace-bringer to the lives of others, and this reminder of the source of the grace extended to us all has been timely.

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight now – from 23rd February to 8th March.

Fair trade products and practices have been an area of interest – passion? – for me for a good while now.  We buy fairly traded produce at home where we can, and the origins of what we buy has become more important for us as the years have gone by.  I was given pause for thought by Fourth Space the other day when he hinted that (and I might be extrapolating here so forgive me if this is a bit of a misinterpretation) the origins of our food is a middle class concern – and perhaps even a middle class luxury.  He’s got a point in terms of the accessibility and affordability of food which is local, organic, and yes even fair trade – all of these factors can make an item more expensive.  In the case of fair trade it almost inevitably will, surely?  Because low prices for the consumer will mean less than a living wage for the original grower or maker.

So why do I think fair trade is important?  I read God 360 last night and it reflected on Proverbs 31: 8 & 9

Speak up for the people who have no voice,

for the rights of all the down-and-outers.

Speak out for justice!

Stand up for the poor and destitute”

(from “The Message” paraphrase by Eugene Paterson)

God 360 went on to reflect on the voiceless nature of the world’s working poor, and connected them with the fairtrade movement and how this enables them to form trade unions to barter for better working conditions and to get a fair price for their work.  So for me, and for so many other, fair trade is not just an ethical concern, it’s a spiritual one.  As Rob Bell says, everything is spiritual.

August 2017
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