Petrol Parables



At the end of this month I am heading off to the US on 5 week exchange programme with Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Hayes from Grand Rapids in Michigan, and one of the things I have been at pains to explain to him is the colossal price of fuel here… Americans are worried about it being just under $4 a gallon there, whereas it is thought that is may top the equivalent of $13 per gallon here by the end of the summer. So I hope his heart doesn’t give out when he finds that it might cost him as much as $140-150 to fill up my car…
Now for the sake of the planet we could probably do with burning less oil… But the world as we currently know and enjoy it is entirely dependent upon petro-chemicals… And its increasing price is creating huge waves right across society. Airlines are going out of business or putting enormous fuel supplements on pre-booked flights… Lorry drivers are protesting because the rising costs may cripple their industry too… causing knock-on effects at the supermarkets, who have essentially used lorries as rolling warehouses for years now… Then add to that the costs of producing foods… Fishermen across Britain and Europe have also been protesting in recent days, because, apparently over the period that the cost of fuel has gone up 300%, the wholesale price of fish has actually remained static (although my cod supper has almost doubled in price!)… Farmers will feel the pinch too… both in terms of keeping their tractors rolling and the cost of fertilizers, which are made from petro-chemicals…
Then there is the issue of heating homes. It may not be a big problem at the moment, but come the winter, some people are going to have to make a serious choice between little luxuries, like food, or turning on the central heating… whether it be oil, gas or electric… The costs of all of them are going to go up enormously.
The huge escalation in the price of fuel is apparently not purely because of the law of supply and demand, but because some stock market speculators are currently investing heavily in oil futures, while other corporate bodies are buying up fuel for the future. They are banking on the fact that with ever-increasing demand throughout the world, and a rapidly reducing finite resource, their investments will massively grow in value. On Saturday the Independent newspaper claimed that both rich and poor will be affected by the higher fuel prices. But I’m not going to shed too many tears for rich stock brokers, as their big flashy cars may cost more to fill up and their first class flights may be more expensive, but their increased costs will be offset by the profits from their oil portfolios, whilst the poorer shiver and starve in the cold and the dark. As ever, the rich get richer, and the poor pay the price…
What is happening with oil is a small snapshot of the state of a fallen world: where we misuse, abuse and selfishly use up God’s gracious gifts, regardless of the effects on others; whether those others be halfway round the world, down the road in a council estate, or our own great-grand children. Yet we are not owners of this world and the wealth of resources within it… We are stewards and will be called to account for our stewardship.
According to Matthew’s Gospel, towards the end of his ministry on earth Jesus told two stories. In the first one, which we know as the parable of the talents, Jesus seems to admire wheeler dealers, pursuing profit, but next story makes it clear that this is not an endorsement of self-serving capitalism.
In that story people are divided up at the last judgement, like when a shepherd divides sheep and goats, and Jesus makes it clear that the dividing line will be how we relate to the poor and the oppressed.
Taking these two parables together, therefore, we are encouraged to use the gifts God gives us… not leave them buried in the ground… But, we are to use them wisely and compassionately… not for ourselves but for others…
So whatever the price of petrol, we must remember that it is precious… let us use it well, it and all the other precious gifts God gives us…

Originally broadcast in a shorter form on Downtown Radio's dawn Reflections on 1/6/2008



Comments

jools said…
... MI !! I spent all my summers working in a summer camp in MI - few hours north of Grand Rapids - it's called Camp Kinawind, its on Lake Louise in Boyne Falls (great name) which is near Gaylord (even better name) and near Petosky on the other side!
You seriously should sign up owen for a week in camp there if you can - it's a woodscamp - cooking food over fires, swimming in the make every day etc. amazing experience for irish younguns!
jools said…
... hmmmm obviously I meant swimming in the lake ... swimming in a make could be all kinds of fun!
Thanks. Though given the fact that I have had to go fetch Owain early from every camp he ever went on with cubs or scouts I would doubt that it will be a goer!!!

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