Reader Writes, August 2017
“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon). One of the joys of a holiday where you can hide in the shade and read in peace was the “purr, purr” of a distant turtle dove; they were shy and hard to see, fleetingly diving like arrows from pine tree above to a dark oak below. In the evening I even heard the strange wrrrrrrr-urrrrrrr of nightjars, close by but never seen. Large butterflies flew, settled, flew frustratingly rapidly. Was it a swallow-tail? Yes, or something equally glorious!
And so to the reading; among other things, Justine Welby's Dethroning Mammon. What a wonderful man. He goes straight to the heart of so much of our distraction and discomfort. We worship, without wanting to admit it, that god of money and possessions that Jesus called Mammon. From daily news and newspapers all the way to the heart of Brexit, we worship and appraise what we can measure and count. We all know it is an unbalanced and misleading valuation of our lives, but that is how conventional economics measure things. All of us value well-being, friendship, love, creativity, community but find ourselves driven by the other things we can count and measure. We know that Mammon is a false god, yet we continue to worship him; we know that he glitters and lies, yet we remain devoted and attentive.
The life of Jesus shows time and again that God sees people and the world in an entirely different apparently upside down way. As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man heard that he was passing and called out urgently “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those around him told him to shut up; why should a useless beggar interrupt the spectacle? But Jesus heard his call; his heart must have lurched. He stopped and called him over. There in the dust and the heat, the busy world of Mammon's values was made to hold its breath while the Son of God spoke to the blind beggar. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. The blind man replied “Lord, I want to see.” And through his faith his sight was restored, there and then. The one discarded by the world that counted a blind man a burden was valued by God. What beautiful irony that the blind man could see more clearly than all those milling around him clamouring to get the measure of this Jesus.
I must thank a cardinal for the idea that God might have faults! And this one is his “ludicrous over-generosity”. Never mind our economic countable value. Never mind even our moral worth. God values us for who we are irrespective of what we have done or failed to do. This overwhelms the false economics of Mammon. God is ridiculously generous, filling us to over-flowing with his grace. When the world is heavy-laden with fruitfulness, and almost ceases to spin on its slow and beautiful axis, a wren starts to sing with startling energy, loud and wondrously intricate; as suddenly he disappears again into the gooseberries where hours of weeding could be counted but the joys of picking fruit are without measure!