Thought of the week
August 29th 2020
Are you one of those people who sleeps through the night without ever remembering a dream or do you have the occasional dream that is so vivid that it stays with you through the day and even through years? I have a few like that and even some that I believe were prompts from God.
I had a strange dream last night. I dreamt that Chancellor Merkel and President Macron came to dinner. They are both leaders whom I admire, particularly the former, so I was anxious to please and was concerned that I had kept them waiting on the doorstep, for the visit was unexpected. But what should I give them? The French have the reputation of producing some of the best menus in the world. German cooking is different, but hearty and full of taste. Should I try to replicate one or blend both or should I stick to the Welsh cookery that I know best?
When Angels dropped in on Abraham unexpectedly, he stuck to the cooking he knew. Since it went all the way from butchery, it must have been a pretty lengthy process. (The nearest I can produce in photography is a Middle Eastern lady doing some outdoor jam making.) Clearly the Angels were not in a hurry.
But Chancellor Merkel and President Macron are very busy people. Would they have time to wait while I went to buy a leg of Welsh lamb, roasted it, scraped Pembrokeshire new potatoes, prepared vegetables from the Farmers’ Market and cooked them? Perhaps there would only be time to give them what was already in the house. If that was so, they would have to accept bacon, egg and mushrooms with a tomato from the greenhouse. But they would have a good sweet to follow for I have been making blackberry pies.
The slower pace of lockdown has allowed me to do things that I have not done since childhood. When, on one of my walks, I noticed that the blackberries were beginning to ripen, I decided that, on the first sunny afternoon, I would go blackberrying. I had not done this since my Grandfather died in 1959. He used to take me and we would pick pounds of luscious fruit that would be turned into pies and crumbles and bramble jelly.
Once, I spotted a huge bunch of large berries just out of reach. Grandpa, who was a portly man, puffed as he used his walking stick to pull the branch down. He got it very low and, as we were about to pick, my spaniel bounded up, opened her mouth wide and, in one gulp, ate all the fruit.
This time, I was not accompanied by a lovable but greedy dog, but I did remember Grandpa’s example and take a stick to pull down high branches. As a result, I picked more than I had expected. I had enough to bake one large and one small pie. I really enjoyed the small one and had every confidence that my important guests would enjoy the large one. Bacon and eggs are popular in Germany. I am not too sure about France. But, knowing that they were not expected and that there had been no time to make special preparations, I was satisfied that they would be pleased.
Since the time of Abraham, people have been aware that God might drop in and the question has been asked, would we make as careful preparations for Him as we would for such important people as my two dream visitors? The problem is that His visits are often as unexpected as theirs.
Some years ago, I received a rather panicky telephone call from an infants school in which I was due to lead an assembly. The inspectors were coming in. Could I try to make this a really impressive assembly? I had already decided to tell the story of Zacchaeus and decided to stay with it. We heard how unpopular Zacchaeus was. A little boy, playing his part, went round threatening others in order to get more taxes from them. He swindled and cheated. Then came the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jericho. Other children, acting the crowd, closed ranks to stop Zacchaeus seeing. He ran ahead to a chair maskerading as a sycamore tree and climbed it. Jesus came along, called him down and invited Himself to stay.
The inspectors were very complimentary and, since it was and is a good school, it passed the inspection with flying colours. Later, the children drew a picture for me with the words of the song that had ended the assembly.
The assembly had been fun and impressed the inspectors but had it given a lesson in living to the children and, for that matter, the teachers, the inspectors and the minister who was leading it?
Zacchaeus came down from the tree. Jesus explained that God offers His love even to the unlovable. Zacchaeus was pleased to have Jesus as his guest. As a rich man, no doubt he could offer a very comfortable bed and a first rate meal. His house could not be criticised, but he realised that there was something wrong. The house may be clean, tidy and ready, but he was not. He was brimming over with sin. In the presence of such goodness, it overwhelmed him. He blurted out all manner of promises to make amends. I am sure he meant them, but sometimes I wonder how many of them he managed to keep. How many New Year’s resolutions last through to December 31st?
Jesus is no fool. He understands human weakness and how even those with the very best of intentions can so easily fall into sin. But He accepted Zacchaeus’ promises in the spirit in which they were made. Zacchaeus was offering Him all he could and that was sufficient to open the gates of Divine Grace. Zacchaeus was saved.
Unexpected visitors are few and far between in these strange days, but even so, most of us like to keep at least part of the house in a state that would not shame us in front of our neighbours. Jesus is a guest who can visit at any time. He is not worried about the state of our house. It is our heart that He is visiting. He is so kind that He will wait while, like Zacchaeus, we rush round tidying and cleaning up. But, how much better, if, when He comes calling, there is enough in the larder of our hearts to, at least, offer Him a good dish of bacon and eggs and a sweet blackberry pie.
May the Lord bless you and keep you through this week and perhaps even give you the simple pleasure of picking and eating blackberries.