I saw this church made of scrap at Greenbelt this year. It was built to advertise the URC campaign ‘scrap the church’. It made me think about what is important, especially at times of festivals when we like to put on a ‘good show’. What is it that we hunger and thirst for? Is it the next best meal, or the finest feast of food? In sermon writing perhaps perfection in presentation and preparation? or even aspirations to ameliorate allegorical alliteration? We will always be sorely disappointed when it does not entertain our exacting expectations. Longing for the desires of this life can leave us empty and unsatisfied and leaves us looking for the next spiritual / foodie / techno, insert your favourite high. I came across the poetry of Brian Bilston this last week:
Your relentless pursuit
of the latest devices
is a thing to which
I shall never relate.
I have had it with you
and your gadgets.
sent from my iPhone 8
Everything then becomes a religious pursuit. You can give everything a religious language if you wish to. Insert here most things ending in ism. People believe in all sorts of weird and supposedly wonderful things that offer a comfort or a path to follow. What it really does is numb us from the truth. (I’ll come back to a line from Brian Bilston on this later…) Seeking the desires of the kingdom, suggests Jesus, can bring a deeper satisfaction. Be careful what you seek. The church of God has sharp edges and is not always comforting. I would suggest that we often seek a church with soft edges, the one that offers the warm and fuzzy glow to allow us to feel good for about an hour on a Sunday, especially at the festivals, harvest being no exception. There is nothing wrong with this at all as long as we remember, reading the gospels, the Jesus we find wasn’t particularly religious, there were no soft edges. The apparent soft edges for some were in relation to those who were excluded by others. He had a hunger and a thirst for something different and lived it out, rather a short lifetime if I recall. This story today in John’s Gospel comes on the back of the feeding miracle. The disciples want more, another sign, what’s the next thing you are going to do, show us again how brilliant it was. No, says Jesus, you’ll never stop wanting more, don’t you see that it wasn’t about the bread and the fish, but far more than earthly things. Perhaps they didn’t see. He would have to try something else to show them that the path of life ought to be filled with things of far more value that the next meal. What is it that we hunger and thirst for? A place to be accepted and to be made whole? So the bread of life was not the bagel or baguette, the bannock or bara brith, however religiously they baked it. Nor brioche bun, breadstick or boule not black or brown bread. For Jesus was the bread of life and the new manifesto was to take hold of life and to live it, making sure that everyone else had as much or more opportunity to do the same. We are often looking for more and more, yet as
Brian Bilston – suggest in his poem “Research suggests”
“Research suggests that the average life expectancy is one life each.”
Take hold of that life, take it to the altar and lay it there. It is all that we have to give, and is all that God asks of us at harvest and always.