By Julian Ould
When I was in full-time ministry, I was ever conscious of the need not to get bogged down in money matters. Every church building required restoration; I never had one that didn’t! Also, it was a duty to ensure the Common Fund was paid and encourage good stewardship of our finances. Where was God in all of this? I would ask myself. To be fair, it is important to provide proper worship facilities that are safe, as well as preserving our heritage in most cases, and in the same way, it is important to pay our bills, which includes Common Fund. However, if we consider these things ahead of our worship and fellowship, then we are missing something.
There is a wonderful old comedy film called ‘The Bishop’s Wife’, staring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven which focuses on the idea of what matters. The thought of David Niven as a bishop is funny enough, but when Cary Grant is cast as an angel, we really do step into the realms of fantasy, though the message of the film is clear enough and not really funny at all. The bishop (David Niven) has become obsessed with the need to raise funds to build a new cathedral to the detriment of everything else, even his wife (Loretta Young) and daughter. When all seems lost up pops Dudley the angel (Cary Grant) who in what is a very good comedy, brings joy to everyone and enables the bishop to see the error of his ways. Certainly, the building matters, but not at the expense of everything else, and whilst the film doesn’t specifically say so, at the expense of God.
It was with these thoughts I was reminded of a story about a class of school pupils who were asked to draw up a list of what they thought were the present ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. What followed did have some disagreement, but in the end, they settled on: Egypt’s Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Great Wall of China. Amidst all of this the teacher noticed one pupil who clearly seemed to be struggling and on enquiry discovered that the problem was that there were so many wonders she couldn’t make up her mind, but nevertheless did have a list. So what did the pupil have? With some hesitation she began: to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to feel, to laugh and perhaps most importantly, to love. This list was met with complete silence. You could have heard a pin drop.
This is a story that puts into perspective the things that really are wonders and yet so often we fail to take note of them and just accept them. Material wonders have their place, but nothing we make can surpass the gifts of life, and yes the greatest of these is to love.
Jesus, at the end of John’s Gospel tells his disciples that he has a new commandment for them, that they should love one another, as he has loved them. We are currently in the Church looking at our grasp of Living in Love and Faith. This commandment should perhaps stand at the heart of these discussions, for this, as Christians, is what we are called to do.
To finish I would share with you a quote from Winnie the Pooh. ‘What day is it, Piglet’, said Pooh. ‘It’s today’, squeaked Piglet. ‘My favourite day’, said Pooh.
Let us hold dear each day. Let us really see the true wonders of our world and so live them to the full.