Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life….Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God.
--1 Peter 2:4a, 5 (The Message)
We’re already more than a quarter of the way through the 2008; in fact, as I write this column, I am struck by the fact that 104 days have come and gone in this not-so-new year. For me that means 104 days of purchasing nothing new, and I’m pleased to report that so far it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I’d anticipated. Sure, there have been plenty of temptations. Even a rare trip to Target for shampoo, moisturizer, and sale-priced herb tea means walking past aisle upon aisle of colorful, attractively presented goods.
One way I’ve fought the “urge to splurge” is to walk right up to an item that catches my eye—in this case a bright spring shirt—and take a closer look at it. Thorough examination reveals that it’s not particularly well-made, and it was produced in a country known for poor working conditions and human rights abuses. It is easy to hang the shirt back on the rack, and it no longer looks as bright and beckoning. Part of being a careful consumer and good steward involves considering all aspects of a purchase.
So far this year I have purchased at secondhand stores one pair of jeans, two shirts, and a fleece vest — total cost under $25. However, I’ve also pared down my closet and drawers, filling six shopping bags full of good, usable items for our local Relay for Life Rummage Sale.
Are you wondering what this has to do with presenting ourselves as living stones? On initial glance it may not seem like very much, but if you think about it, how we consume has everything to do with “offering Christ-approved lives up to God.”
Every choice we make has impact on others. We are not isolated beings floating around aimlessly on the sea of life. If anything, in North America, we might be compared with bumper cars at the fair, banging indiscriminately into others just for the pleasure of it.
How in the world can one $24.99 purchase make a difference in the grand scheme of things, you might ask? It’s simple. Multiply that purchase times the number of people in the United States and you get some idea of the kind of impact we have. Rationalizing that one person’s purchasing behavior will not make an impact doesn’t let us off the hook, either.
We have to start somewhere, and that somewhere begins with each and every one of us. To offer Christ-approved lives up to God means following Jesus’ teachings, including the command to love our neighbor. In our global existence that means everyone is our neighbor. The choices we make in North America have an affect on our neighbors in Chad, in China, and in Chile.
This coming week many congregations will celebrate Earth Sunday and make a concerted effort to focus on stewardship of creation. With food shortages and crude oil prices occupying much of the news, I can think of no better time to begin or renew a focus on our individual consumption and purchasing decisions. Won’t you consider beginning or renewing a focus on the consumer decisions you make in your daily life? If enough “living stones” gather together, perhaps we can stem the tide of thoughtless consumption and show appropriate care and concern for all of God’s good creation.
2008, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Lucas is a parish pastor serving the Sheyenne-Oberon Area Ministry, a four-point cooperative ministry in the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. She is the mother of two wonderful daughters.