Christ in stranger

You will need to see the previous entry on Woodfest to set this in context.

I referred to the ‘Mushroom Man’ in the context of Luke 7: 11-17 to speak about thresholds, Jesus at the threshold of the town, the Widow at the threshold of life and death with her son.  Jesus touches the edge of the bier and steps into the world of the mourners.  I reflected on the way in which the Mushroom Man always allows people closer to his work, to touch and feel, smell and experience the wood,  get involved in his world.  He invites people to cross a threshold, an invitation which is sadly not given by many other carvers or turners.  It is the simple opening of the door into his world which is so inviting, and yet, just as the funeral party are shocked at what Jesus does and says, so too are people wary of the Mushroom man to begin with.  He is loud, a little brash, wanting to confront and provoke a little, but always with a twinkle in the eye, people soon start to realise he is also prophetic, this is how to enthuse about wood, this is how Jesus brings about the kingdom.  Stepping over thresholds and crossing boundaries that others simply cannot.  Each Sunday I do almost the same service twice in a row.  I forgot my prop after the first, the turned mushroom from the man at the woodfest.  As we began the second service, I wondered how to present such a sermon without the said item, however, right in the middle of the gathering (hymn, prayers, confession) someone arrived with it.  She strode boldly through the church and came right up to my stall and presented it to me, I was so surprised that all I could do was give her a hug, but as I did, she said quietly, ‘there, I’ve crossed another threshold’.  I imagine it was quite daunting to do that as our services are relatively formal affairs.  The reactions of the congregation were mixed, one commented later that he wondered whether he should have been ready to defend me against an attacker!  As I began my sermon the unease was still evident and of course what they had experienced they did not understand.  I had not staged it, I couldn’t have been that clever, but so many words would not have been able to explain the actions of Jesus so well as the sudden arrival of the lady with the wooden mushroom.  Sublime, she was, at least for me at that moment, Christ in stranger.  I hope perhaps others might come to see that as well!


Woodfest again at St. Asaph, don’t miss it! Or try to remember next year… There seem to be a number of different types of people exhibiting or competing. Most working in their field and making a living the way most of us do, wood things being a profitable sideline. There are the commercial firms whose machined products look out of place next to the hand crafted ones. There are also the minority of excellent craftsmen and women making their living solely from their craft, these are the ones one admires the most. Often the craft comes first, financial gain second. They do it for the love of the creating and the pleasure of the wood. I have to say that of all the very good and worthy people showing their skills there is none like the mushroom man, earning a living by turning wooden mushrooms out of Hazel. I imagine one day, he like others, was turning and demonstrating. Made a wooden mushroom and sold it there and then. Then he did another and chatted to those he was making them for as his chisles effortlessly cut away the wood. Where others put up safety screen and sat behind desks, he was stood up outside, nothing to stop the endless waves of wood chippings covering those watching. A few children at the front started to dance in the wood confetti tossing it over their heads in some mock wedding ritual, child meets wood, perhaps touching it for the first time in it’s raw state, ‘feel the wood’ he says ‘it’s wet, isn’t it?’ the youngsters learn this is green wood, straight from the tree, the best for turning, soft and supple it bends to the will of the blade. As the mushroom is finished, complete with ring, furry bits and cone topping, the crowd shifts slightly, those going away clutching a newly carved work of love. For the love of it, and with good humour, is the better path. There are few who can tread the narrow road, but theirs is the path to be travelled!