At the end of the line

header_31First shall be last and the last shall be first.  A Bishop always walks last in procession, though that is not quite true, as the Bishop’s chaplain follows  on behind as servant to the servant of all.  Donald Trump who suggested that his secret spy name should be ‘humble.’ Though he once arrived in Scotland by helicopter and announced on a rather windy day, with one hand on his toupee and the other on his kilt that he would be building a new golf course for the people of Scotland.  Not the most humble of images.  I’m sure the people of Scotland were most grateful when he flew off again.  It is a futile attempt at humility to put oneself at the end of the queue.  We could have so much fun with this at the supermarket queue or at traffic lights or even just the ice-cream van.  In fact anywhere there is that lovely British national pastime – The Queue.  You can imagine the scene, you let a good queue build up, then at the last minute turn it around and have those who joined last go first.  Now I have to confess that would indulge my dislike for impatience!  How often I’ve heard groans when a new till opens and someone who was not already waiting gets to the front first!  Of course this also betrays perhaps a little lack of faith in our fellow human nature.  It might seek to address some sense of Justice, however it probably would only lead to further frustrations with as happens with most things, the majority being in the middle and therefore largely unaffected.  There is an art to Queuing of course.  Someone once attempted to explain the Off-Side rule in football with regards to a queue, but I don’t ever recall footballers standing quietly for anything, so it failed of course!  I do remember spending one rather lovely day queuing.  There was a point to it of course, but if you added up the time spent during that day, the majority of it was spent in a queue.  Really what we are doing in a queue is waiting, but we’re not yet at advent, and since that is the season for waiting you’ll have to wait for that!  But rather than poke fun at human folly and our nature for standing quietly in line, I would rather dwell on a practice of sharing resources out that I and fellow members of the Iona Community embark on each year.  One of the five rules of life of the Iona Community is to account to each other for our use of time, money and other resources.  In terms of money, this is done each year at our annual accounting session.  Each member takes it in turn to share with the others what they have earned each year and roughly where they have spent it.  10% of disposable income is then given away partly to the Community itself and to other causes that might be appropriate.  This is a recognition that all our resources belong not to us individually but to each other in community and ultimately to God.  We decide as a community where the donations go, no one member having a greater say than the other, even when the amounts that have been given are not equal.  Our diocese is attempting similar approach to the ‘parish quota’.  Rather than a mysterious formula that favours some and not others, sharing out the finances in the Synod is attempted by mutual agreement.  Each ministry area gave an account of their finances and offered an amount based on a balance between what was required and what they had at their disposal.  It was a good start, but for me, who is used annual accounting, it might be improved if all the figures were open on the table before the meeting.  It would be cynical to suggest, though perhaps reflecting human nature, there was an element of ‘what can we get away with’.  All of this financial moving of paperclips is meaningless of course unless we truly believe that what we have been given belongs first to God and that we hold an equal accountability to each other and to God for our use of those resources.  We are as accountable for our use of our neighbours resources as we are our own.  Entering prayerfully into a spiritual audit or examination of our financial accounts is hard to do because the rest of the world is driven by an economy that favours profit, growth and progress.  Jesus calls the man who comes to him to give up all he has to obtain treasure in heaven.  His riches grieve him deeply.  All that we have is offered for the work of the Kingdom and none of it truly belongs to us at all.    This doesn’t mean that we can blithely spend away without a care, but it does mean that we should head carefully the words that follow the offertory in the old green / red prayer book read:  “All things come of thee, and of thine own do we give thee.”

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