I just spent a day at Birmingham Children’s Hospital hanging out with the chaplaincy team. There were some pretty intense, occasionally awful, but also strangely beautiful moments – seeing the resilience of the human soul even in the darkest times.
One of the patients we visited was a small baby who was waiting for a liver transplant. The poor little lad was full of tubes, and a strange shade of yellow. As we walked into the room his parents jokingly asked what blood type I was – to see if I would share a piece of my liver! And this set me thinking… why not?
The sermon at church last Sunday was based on Luke 3, and mainly focussed on Jesus’ baptism. But when the passage was being read out a different verse caught my attention:
“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none,and the one who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
The people had come to John to be baptised, and in repentance asked “What should we do?” (vs. 10) – and this was el Baptisto’s response. Hardcore. I can already hear you (and my own freaked out mind) saying: of course, he probably didn’t mean it literally… probably no-one took him seriously even then… and now things are different – it’s just not that simple anymore… Probably?
I just counted in my cupboard. Tunics: zero. However, t-shirts: thirteen. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have any t-shirts – or do I? Here we find the blessing and the curse of our times – the world wide web and other practically instant communications technologies now mean that I cannot plead ignorance of poverty and exploitation in the ‘3rd World’. There is only one world now, and we must carefully consider what Christian faith has to say about citizenship in this worldwide community. We have learned to be consumers – often at others’ expense. I would like to this of myself as an ‘ethical’ consumer: I try to buy Fairtrade whenever there is an option, and three of my thirteen t-shirts are Fairtrade cotton and/or production. Somehow though I don’t think that would satisfy J-man Baptist’s requirement. Can you picture him saying: “Oh it’s Fairtrade? Have as many as you want then! You don’t have to worry about that other dude. It’s probably his own fault, or market pressures or something so you couldn’t do much to change things even if you tried.” ? No? Me neither. What about the little boy waiting for a liver? Or the thousands of other people waiting for organs that the majority of us would be pretty much fine without (or with less of than we have now)? Do I need kidney no.2 (except as some weird kind of body insurance)? Do I need a whole liver (except to facilitate my consumption of alcoholic beverages)?
Where does this leave me now? Well, until everyone has at least one of each I would appear to have some spare t-shirts! And a kidney, some liver…