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  • Hallfold 23 September 2007

    Amos 8.4-7   
    Luke 16.1-13
    Country Life Video

    Country Life - pictures and song that reflects some of the pressures of modern country life, with a reminder that if we want to enjoy the countryside we have to ensure that the people who manage the land can afford to do so.

    What’s the price of a bottle of milk? is it fair or fixed. In our churches where have a long history of being involved in campaigning for Fairtrade - this involves ensuring farmers are paid a  fair price, ( i.e cost of production + profit) given long term contracts which protect them against fluctuations in the market price, fair to both sides. But this scheme only involves overseas trade shouldn't the same principles with our own farmers? Taking milk as an example - the price a farmer recieves varies from  16.5p per litre  to 24.05ppl - the production cost is about 21ppl - NFU argue fair price would be 25ppl. Tesco have agreed long term price of 22ppl - but a poor summer has resulted in supply 7% below 5yr average, hence there is  temptation to sell to brokers at higher prices - NFU is warning those who do so that short term gains may not be best in the long run. If you go and buy a bottle of milk  in Tesco the price you will pay is 75ppl - a long way above the 22ppl the farmer receives - but of course all the people taking the milk from the farm gate to your shopping trolley also need to make a living.

    Amos - condemnation of those who can’t wait for holidays and rest days to be over so that they can get back to making money by cheating people with short measures, inflated prices and creative accounting. Central to our relationships with one another - honesty, fairness with a particular concern for the poor, ensuring that the vulnerable are not taken advantage of - if the price of our cheap food is people who can’t make a living - does that leave a sour taste in the mouth? 

    Steward - strange story - is Jesus suggesting that we take as a role model a dishonest steward? and how can the manager commend his misdeeds? - manager recognises that stewards actions have left the manager with a problem, if he cancels the new deals it is the Manager who will lose face and popularity -  generosity is the best investment. He gets himself out of a hole by building social capital - he has friends if he needs them. Jesus is not really talking about economics he is talking about Grace - God’s generous love, squandered on everyone whether they deserve it or not,  - generosity brings rewards - so perhaps we are talking about economics - be generous with our wealth - with our property and others will be generous with us, be generous in our love, our care, our lives and we will earn riches way beyond our bank balance 

    Be fair and everyone benefits, be generous and everyone is enriched - the price of a bottle of milk  may be more than it was - but let us not begrudge people a living wage.

  • Hallfold 9 September 2007

    Deuteronomy 30:15-20
    Luke 14:25-33

    Onesimus stood in the shadows cast by the building corner, just in view as he peeped from his place of safety was home - well the house he used to live in - in servitude, bondage, misery, despair, as one who was useless and made to feel useless in every moment of existence - the house from which he had run - never to return  - and now he stood across the way, building up the courage to return.

    Would a return bring life or bring death? In his pocket was a letter from Paul to his master encouraging Philemon to welcome Onesimus home, no longer useless, now useful and a brother in Christ - yet still a runaway slave and to knock on that door is to invite death. But then is this life as a runaway really life? - always the fear, watching your back, peering around corners, running scared - it is certainly not life in all its fullness, it's not life as Paul had expressed it and Onesimus had imagined it as he learned about the freedom to follow Christ - but surely it is better than no life at all - Yet to be accepted back, to be welcomed in as brother in Christ, to have a useful role, a real purpose in life would be real freedom, that would be life as he imagined, desired, and so he stood across the way - watching, fretting, quaking with fear and with excitement.

    Imagine yourself in Onesimus' shoes, imagine yourself in that doorway - what scares you?, from who or from what do you run? How are you denied life in all its fullness? what are the things you must confront in your own life if you are to choose life?

    or to put it into Jesus' terms. what is the cross that you need to pick up to follow the way of Jesus? and what do you need to put down or give up or be released from? - what is the cost? To choose life has a cost and to be a disciple is to choose life.

    and that is good news! For it is Christ who comes to the lost and the fearful, read on in Luke's gospel and you will see that we are in the preamble for stories about a lost sheep and a lost  coin and two lost sons and their Father who is full of grace and love however lost they may be - and it is the God of grace and love and mercy who is looking out from the other side of the street, waiting to welcome lost ones home.

    Onesimus moved out from his hiding place, and moved across the street. There was a guard at the gate who he did not know - "I have a letter for the Master, for Philemon and I am to wait on his response" - the guard indicated that he should wait, a boy emerged to take the letter, a slave boy - his useless, pathetic servitude ousing out of every resentful movement, Onesimus prepared to run, but could not - he wanted life and this was the cost and so he waited, when the boy returned it was to take him inside the house, into the private entrance, into the Masters presence - Onesimus hardly dared look, but when he did it was to see a smile that could only mean welcome, he was home and now life could begin.