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The Rector The Revd Rob Farmer writes:
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I detest shopping. If I want to buy something I like to go to one shop, buy it and then come home. For me, home supermarket deliveries are the best thing since, well, sliced bread. Never ask me to browse! Part of the problem for me is that there seems to be too much choice. We used to go into a shop for a tin of baked beans. Now we go to the supermarket, and yes, we can have baked beans, but do I want value ones, or ones with salt and sugar or without, organic or even with sausages included? Arghhh! The trouble is, it’s not just about food: a little bit of our identity is in that choice - I’m the sort of guy who goes for ones with all the additives.
I suspect that a lot of us have reached an age when we really don’t care. But what of those who are just starting out in the world that is full of choices, choices. Where life is one long supermarket aisle: I shop therefore I am. Britain’s favourite pastime; and every choice, is that little bit of your identity. Do you read Hello or People’s Friend or Just Seventeen? Just how many sizes too big (or small) should you buy your jeans? A mistake either way and you are not part of the “in-crowd”. Which pub? Which club? Which drink, or drug? Which music? Funk, rap, rock, indie, hip-hop, garage - where do you belong? Because belonging is what matters, and these things are the things that define your image - or so we are made to feel. Choices, choices - privilege or pressure? Pain or pleasure?
Which GCSE’s, A Levels or degree? When should you know which option to take? At 13, 16 or 18? We live in a world that is spinning so fast that the only way to stay in the game is to leave your options open. Choose because you have to do it, but never let it be too definite because something better - or at least worth exploring - is almost certainly around the next corner.
The danger is that we are so bombarded with choices great and small that the great ones, those that truly define us, that make us not only what we are today but what we shall be through eternity, are swamped by those smaller choices, the significant alongside the insignificant, and we forget to ask how are our choices made, anyway?
Joshua said to the people of Israel, ‘Choose this day whom you will serve: the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, or, if you don’t want him, then choose a foreign god.’ A nice straightforward choice that went to the root of every other choice. And they said, ‘We will serve the Lord.’ (Joshua 24: 14-18)
It’s the same question today, though I guess young people wouldn’t put it that way. They would see themselves as free, sometimes frighteningly free, not serving anyone; but we are never that free. Something, or someone determines how we make our choices: our friends, our parents, our need to belong, our need to be needed, our physical desires, our hunger, our hunger for power or for love. One of these, or many, can become our god, if God is not our God; one of these, or many, will dictate our choices, will drive us, if God does not lead us. Only when these greater choices are made - choices of values or belief, of who or what controls us - only then can they stop being blown around by every wind of marketing doctrine, by every whim of commercial interest or by the voice that shouts the loudest, and promises - or threatens - the most.
How can we be Joshua, then, and give others that leadership and inspiration to love and serve the Lord? In an age when Coco Cola is the real thing, photos are airbrushed and TV soaps inform our thinking, how can we show others Jesus, who is reality and the truth? In a culture which rejects the institution in favour of the individual, which rejects religion in favour of spirituality, how can we release people, not to be conformed to the image of the Church (perish the thought), but to be transformed into the image of Christ?
We read that the people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders, who had themselves experienced the work of God in their lives.
People need not critics but role models - those who have themselves experienced the work of God and the presence and power of Jesus in their lives. Those who can make Jesus as real as David Beckham or Ed Sheeran, those who can make grace more attractive than greed and the service of God the most perfect of freedoms. St Paul tells us ‘… whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ (1 Corinthians 10:31) We can do no better when making choices than to make the ones that will glorify God and will lead us and others to that perfect life.
Your parish priest and friend,
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