#The Price is the reflection for April 26, 2015. What do credit card processing, paying your employees and Jesus the Good Shepherd have in common?  Find out these things and more in “The Price”, the podcast for this week, the 4th Sunday of Easter.  Available on itunes and android.   #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #GoodShepherd #GodTakingCareofIt

For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   4/26/2015 The 4th   Sunday of Easter.

Please pause this audio and read John 10:11-18.

          Dan Price, CEO and owner of Gravity, a credit card processing firm, that committed its philosophy to serve others, recently made headlines because he raised the minimum salary of his employees to $70,000 per year by cutting his own salary. I have included an interview by Fox’s Stuart Varney for you to view to hear the young CEO and owner for himself.

          Price says that the reasons he did this were because:

  1. The income equality gap is something that businesses should take care of before government has to.
  2. That leadership is a responsibility for everyone in the company and not just to the bottom line.
  3. It is good business because his employees will be more productive, more loyal, and he will attract better quality employees and clients.
    1. Which he stated at the end of the video has happened already.
    2. He expects his profits to rise and then raise his salary back to what it was.
  4. It is good business, he says, because it removes all the other competitive values that his workers may have, like home, family, etc. because he is taking care of those needs.
  5. I want to add a fifth reason, studies have shown that one of the single most important advantages that universities, companies, and churches have with the Millennial Generation is when they live out their stated values.

I would love it if Dan Price were a Christian, but even if he isn’t God is still glorified by creating a young man with this kind of wisdom. Did you notice that Stuart Varney wanted to make sure that Dan Price wasn’t acting on his values because of a sense of idealism or faith? Varney wanted to make sure that money was the bottom line. Did you notice that?

          The reason why I mention Price is because his action is just like that of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Jesus, and scripture, use the imagery of the shepherd because shepherding and agriculture were the driving forces of the economy in Palestine of Jesus’ day. Jesus used an economic image to describe himself as the “good CEO” and thus, I remembered Price.

          The Old Testament is filled with passages about shepherding. God says over and over he will send shepherds for Israel. In the Psalms alone there are 11 references. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, all of these prophets and more use the imagery to describe leadership that feeds, protects and knows its followers. The importance of tending to the flock is key because if the flock dies, there is no profit. If the flock is underfed, no profit. If the flock is not protected from wild beasts and robbers, no profit. What is the best way to get a flock to thrive? It is to know the flock of sheep and its needs. It is to feed the flock by going places that are far away and remote—basically where the food is. It is to protect the sheep from any danger. By providing for the basic needs of the flock, the forces of the world that would compete with the end product are reduced: ala Dan Price and Gravity giving its workers $70,000/year salaries    The interesting thing about shepherds in the Bible is that it is very rare indeed to find shepherds that can be hired that will do the same job as the person who owns the sheep. Ezekiel 34 expresses God’s frustration at his calling of shepherds who end up just exploiting the sheep. The shepherds he has called use the sheep, feed off of them, allow wild beasts to devour them, and they build up their own wealth at the expense of the proper care of the sheep. In the end, God says that he will become a shepherd that does right by the people and he will set up a shepherd in David’s line. That Good Shepherd is Jesus and he is declaring to us today that he is both God who will right the state of affairs and he is the Davidic Shepherd. It is not surprising then that the Jewish leaders reject him following this passage because they cannot fathom that Jesus is God.

          We hear Price say in the interview, “I think it is going to be a great return on investment….When you take care of people, they take care of you….” I don’t think it is an accident that when Jesus Christ comes he serves the poor, stands up for the sinners who have been rejected by everyone. Then, he leads the people in a way that views the world differently, with love and respect for others. The harder the authorities, religious and political, try to shut him up, even to the point of killing him, the larger the Christian movement grows. It is no accident that Christianity is huge. It is huge because our Shepherd is the King of kings and Lord of lords who leads people to extend themselves to serve others, just like Dan Price did for his employees.

          I might add that this is not the first time Price has served his people. He extended unlimited vacation time for his employees and guess what? They hardly took advantage of it because they were committed to the mission.

          In this season of Easter, when we see the church growing through the readings presented at worship, we ought to ask ourselves, how can our church grow? How can we increase the flock? We do it by being true to our values and true to our leader, the Good Shepherd.

          I always had one person in every church I have served say to me, “We ought to run the church like a business.” I used to say, “Good. I am the CEO.” Seriously, we ought to run the church like a good business that serves others and serves our stated values. We ought to give our lives and livelihood for the sake of the community, our people, the outcast and poor. We ought to lay down our lives, and in the case of Mr. Price, our salaries, so that our values can take root. Our leadership, pastoral and lay, ought to be servants that find the resources and ways to make good things happen, things that give flesh and bones to our values. It is time that we open up our decision making in our churches so that the wildness and unpredictability of the Holy Spirit has room to breathe. Is it more important that the idea comes from the top, or is it better that the idea came at all?

          In the Benedictine tradition, there are two great injunctions for the abbot: first he should get ideas from the young monks because they are more open to the Holy Spirit and secondly, that obedience is listening well more than doing only what we are told. We are the “body of Christ”, and all the different parts of our body send us messages which we ought to pay attention to if we want to stay on our feet and walk. For us to hear, the head, the leader has to understand that leadership is about laying down his or her life so that the sheep can be known, fed and protected. When they are, then the flock flourishes and the payday will be great at the market.

          In a world where people are killing others in the name of religion, what would happen if we set up systems and used our money, power and privilege to love and serve? What if we lived our values instead became fodder for embarrassing headlines? What if we laid down any ideas of fame, promotion, and greed, in exchange for service and love, which is what we say we believe,? The track record of Jesus and the track record of Gravity and Mr. Dan Price, is that good things will happen. Amen.

Another related article: http://www.christianpost.com/news/gravity-payments-owner-drastically-cuts-1m-salary-and-sets-70000-minimum-wage-for-staff-even-the-clerk-137501/

This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2015.