Fair Trade – “a prophetic resurrection act”.

  • Jon the freelance theologian preached this address at the 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service for Fair Do’s Ltd, Cardiff’s premier fair trade shop, on 4 October 2008.

    A few years ago my friend Nick, who told us why he is thankful for Fair Do’s earlier, was interviewing various people about why they were involved in fair trade. It was for some academic paper; I have to admit I don’t know the details. Having talked to Nick, I wasn’t sure he knew the details either, but I agreed to do an interview.

    So we sat and we chatted about fair trade, and I explained how and why I would identify my faith as an integral reason for being passionate about fair trade. Now I realise not everyone here would identify themselves as a Christian, and if you aren’t thank you for coming and celebrating with us anyway, but for me, and many of us at Fair Do’s our faith and our commitment to fair trade are intertwined.

    Fair trade meshes with the Christian story for many reasons. Nick and I talked a bit about the calls for justice in the Old Testament stories about life in the land of Israel; and about how God takes the side of the marginalised, exploited and oppressed. We talked about how Jesus valued the poor and reversed the power structures of his day by challenging the rich to do something about poverty.

    But chiefly, I believe fair trade is such a powerful example of how the Christian faith should be lived because it is a ‘prophetic act’. It looks forward to how life should be and injects the values of the coming Kingdom of God into the everyday here and now.

    We hold, as Christians, to a future hope of living, as perfect humans, in a world that has been similarly renewed and transformed. We’re told that, in that place, men and women will live in harmony with each other – and with God. The effects of human selfishness and error will no longer be felt. There will be no more poverty; no more war; no more sickness and no more death.

    And if we hold to that future hope, then how we live now is important. The choices we make in the lives we are living in this less-than-perfect world can illustrate the world that is yet to come.

    When we choose to buy fairly traded products we make a prophetic statement that one day exploitation will cease, poverty will no longer exist, and all human beings will live in just and dignified relationships.

    The Apostle Paul said that we, as Christians, can be assured of the reality of our future hope because of Jesus’ resurrection. Because Jesus was raised by God from the dead, we can be assured that we will be raised from the dead, and that assurance of the future affects us now in how we relate to our fellow human beings.

    In the book of Acts, which chronicles what the first followers of Jesus did immediately after Jesus left the scene, there’s a story about the coming of the Holy Spirit, which inspires Jesus’ followers to go out and tell people about Jesus’ resurrection.

    One of these followers was a man called Peter, who spoke to a huge crowd who had gathered and started to outline what had happened to Jesus: his death, his resurrection, and what that meant for the people gathered there.

    Peter told the crowd that Jesus’ death and resurrection had been predicted many years before, by King David. This is what Peter said:

    [Acts chapter 2, verses 31-32]
    “[David] spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”

    When we talk about resurrection, we think of someone coming coming back from the dead. That is what the word means, after all. The Greek word for resurrection is anastasis – it literally means ‘to stand up’. When Jesus raises a young girl from the dead, he says the Aramaic words ‘Talitha Cumi’, which literally means ‘get up’. The image that this gives is that ‘resurrection’ is raising a person to their feet.

    And here in Acts Peter defines ‘resurrection’ in terms of ‘not being abandoned’; not being left for dead; not being left to rot. It’s a powerful metaphor. And, Peter says, it has happened right here and right now. It has changed everything, because in that resurrection is the promise that we too can experience new life.

    So that hope, that promise of resurrection, affects us now. It changes the way we relate to people. It changes our priorities. It has to. If this promise of new life is real, then the new life has to be lived. If the resurrection has changed our future; then surely it has also changed our present.

    We are, in effect, living the resurrection life already. That’s what the apostle Paul, for example, means when he writes about wanting to ‘know the power of the resurrection’ [Philippians chapter 3, verse 10] in his current circumstances.

    Here and now, in our country, in this city, we live lives where we enjoy the luxury of choice. Every single day we make choices – what to wear, what to eat, how to spend our time. But the biggest choice we can make – which actually underpins every other choice we make – is whether we are going to be resurrection people, or people of death.

    When we see people trapped in their circumstances; hemmed in by a grinding global cycle of poverty; we have a choice.

    When we see people on the sharp end of trade injustice; crushed by international institutionalized inequality, we have a choice.

    When we see people who have been oppressed, misled, betrayed and knowingly exploited, we have a choice.

    When we see people who have been forgotten and abandoned in their suffering, we have a choice.

    We can choose not to abandon people. We can reach out to them and raise them to their feet. We can invest them with the dignity of being human. We can recognise their value as fellow flawed creatures that still somehow carry within them the spark that is the image of God.

    When we choose not to abandon our fellow humans to the grave of poverty, of injustice, of unfair trade we are performing a resurrection act.

    Jesus proclaimed himself to be the resurrection and the life. What we have tried to do at Fair Do’s is copy him, to raise up those who have been crushed and broken, those who have been abandoned and forgotten. To bring life… instead of death.

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