Consumption

The Real Santa Claus and a Homeless Jesus

Old Saint Nick

As I read this reflection on St. Nick in the Common Prayer liturgy the other day, I was stirred at the contrast between the selfless generosity of this saint and the consumerist wish lists we now associate to the modern Santa Claus.

While, there is almost no chance Jesus was born in December and Christmas as a holiday didn’t exist for the first 300+ years after Jesus birth, it is still a holiday worth celebrating.  Let’s just celebrate it in a way that would do the homeless Jesus and the selfless St. Nick honor.

 In their eyes, less is much, much more.

“The original “old Saint Nick” who inspired the tradition of Santa Claus, Nicholas was bishop of Myra in fourth century Turkey. Little is known about his life except that he entrusted himself to Jesus at an early age and, when his parents died, gave all of their possessions to the poor. While serving as bishop, Nicholas learned of three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by their father. Moved to use the church’s wealth to ransom the lives of these little ones, he tossed three bags of gold through the family’s window. We remember this ancient Christmas gift, even as we remember that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year in the global sex trade today.”

Source: http://commonprayer.net/

Stories Behind Our Gifts (Re-Posted)

This is a post I wrote last year around this time.  It seems quite timely on the eve of Black Friday.

This is a great season to allow our values to be reflected in the way we spend our money.  It is so important for those of us who have endless products at our disposal to remember the stories behind the production of each one of them.  I struggle with this and I invite others to come alongside me in this struggle.  May we set aside some of our comforts for the sake of representing the love and provision of Jesus to all humanity.

Some creative ways to consume with integrity this Christmas:

  • Buy from fair trade distributors like Trade as One
  • Pass up buying another product and buy something practical for someone who desperately needs it
  • Donate to that missionary or non-profit that has been on your heart
  • Shop at second hand stores. (Ever heard of up-cycling?  Check it out)
  • Give the gift of an experience rather than a product

More ideas?  Please pass them along in the comments!

3 Reasons Our Consumption has a Kingdom Impact

Golden Hill Farmer's Market

I was recently hired to help manage our local farmer’s market in our neighborhood of Golden Hill.  Living as part of a church community who is taking seriously the task of engaging deeply in our neighborhood and city, I figured this gig had the potential to be a brilliant opportunity.  Not only has it provided some much needed income, it has reaffirmed the Kingdom value of critical consumption.  In a culture of big box stores with products being produced and shipped to us from all corners of the world, working at the farmer’s market has made clear three reasons our consumption has the potential to have a positive Kingdom impact:

1. Builds Community

It’s hard to express the beauty of rolling out of bed (other than the fact than it is 4:45am) and walking three blocks to work.  There’s something sacred about walking past our car and taking a deep breath of fresh air.  As the market opens, the neighborhood begins to roll out of bed, grab their coffee and stroll down to check out the past week’s produce harvest and listen to some live bluegrass.  Between trying to wake up and the contagious buzz of community, no one is in a rush.  By the time the market closes, I have usually been able to see and connect with all of my acquaintances/friends in the neighborhood and met a few more for the first time.  Rather than quickly saying hello to someone in the grocery story check out line, we are able to catch up as we stroll down the street to the smell of fresh waffles and crapes.  Brilliant.

2. Supports the Local Economy

One of my main responsibilities is to work with the local businesses.  No one has been more impacted by the economic recession than small business owners.  Most overworked and full of financial anxiety from the past few years, these owners are exhausted.  Underneath the exhaustion and the anxiety is a spark in each of their eyes…it is their passion for their idea/product that has now been hidden by worry, but still drives them to succeed.  Our Golden Hill market has been a huge success.  As a result, the business owners anxiety has somewhat been peeled away and their passion recovered.  In a climate of financial desperation, employment is one of the most tangible resources we can offer as Kingdom advocates.

3. Honors God’s Creation

I once heard the quote, “Our treatment of Creation is a direct reflection of what we think about our Creator.”  Our consumption has a huge impact on the Creation that God has so graciously entrusted to our stewardship.  There is a divine rhythm to God’s Creation that revolves around the seasons.  When we consume locally grown produce, we have the opportunity to step into that rhythm rather than distort it.  When we buy our tomatoes out of season (which means they are being shipped here from hundreds or thousands of miles away), we miss out of God’s plan for Creation.  After all, we trust that what he has created is “good.”

I primarily wrote this post to myself.  It is good for me to evaluate my uncritical consumption and celebrate the ways I can step more in line with what God is doing in my community and in all of creation. Here is a search for local farmer’s markets near you.  Also, consider joining a CSA for your produce and meat.

 

Stories Behind our Gifts

This is a great season to allow our values to be reflected in the way we spend our money.  It is so important for those of us who have endless products at our disposal to remember the stories behind the production of each one of them.  I struggle with this and I invite others to come alongside me in this struggle.  May we set aside some of our comforts for the sake of representing the love and provision of Jesus to all humanity.

Some creative ways to consume with integrity this Christmas:

  • Buy from fair trade distributors like Trade as One
  • Pass up buying another product and buy something practical for someone who desperately needs it
  • Donate to that missionary or non-profit that has been on your heart
  • Shop at second hand stores. (Ever heard of up-cycling?  Check it out)
  • Give the gift of an experience rather than a product

More ideas?  Please pass them along in the comments!

Embracing the Clear Sky of Thanksgiving in the Dense Fog of Wal Mart

As I conclude a Thanksgiving weekend full of the joys of family and friends, it is a time for me to process how much I have to be thankful for.  Every year, this weekend is a bitter-sweet paradox for me.  On Thursday, I embrace the clear sky of family, gratitude and a celebration feast.  On Friday, the thick fog of consumption roles in and Wal Mart workers get stopped to death by Black Friday mobs.  What is up with this paradox?  A post from earlier this year served has a healthy reminder for me, so I thought I would re-post.

I recently listened to a great sermon on finances from Nathan George, founder of Trade as One. He began by asking how many of us had had a shower in the last week. He said that those of us who had are rich and that 4 of the 6 billion people on earth hadn’t been so fortunate. I got up late for work yesterday and didn’t get my DAILY shower. I felt gross all day and my hair was kinda sticking up like Alfalfa…

Last semester I took a class @ Fuller Seminary titled, Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. My professor, Daniel Kirk(who wrote this book)had us read PLENTY of commentary on the Synoptic Gospels(Matt., Mark, Luke)outside of class, but in his lectures he never picked one up. He read straight out of the Greek Bible and translated to us as naturally as I read the english versions. The humanity of Jesus came alive and the Kingdom He inaugurated took a hauntingly (maybe I’ll explain why I use that word later) tangible form. So much of the WORDS and DEEDS of Jesus centered around His interaction and justice for the “least of these (Matt. 25).” Jesus’ face was illumined in the face of the stranger, the hungry, the prisoner and the homeless. Yes, Jesus spent alot of time preaching this Kingdom to the wealthy and highly religious, but He embodied this Kingdom through His deeds and interactions with those who inhabited it…the poor(Luke 6).

I can live a life with multiple degrees of separation from these inhabitants of the Kingdom of God. I sleep in a warm bed with a heating blanket, they sleep under a tarp with a newspaper. I eat fresh produce, they eat my leftovers. My possessions rest in cabinets and closets, theirs rests on their backs. It’s a strange tension…should I feel bad for having what I do. No, I think I should feel thankful, but in order to be fully thankful, I am finding I must have an understanding and heart for those who don’t. Not just a “oh that sucks for them” kind of understanding, but a “how can I learn from your story and be part of its healing” understanding. It is often my “blessings” in the form of material excess that sometimes keep me from full participation in the Kingdom of God(Matt.19:24)…

So by serving, learning from and hanging out with these Kingdom Inhabitants, does the Gospel Jesus came to proclaim through WORD and DEED come to life?

Jesus, in order for us to fully be grateful for what/who we have in our lives this Thanksgiving, we must not forget the stories of those who have so little.  May we stand in solidarity with your Kingdom inhabitants this season and for the rest of our lives.

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