John 15: 1-12
Diary of a Church Mouse by John Betjeman
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes … it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.
Well the days of Christmas and Easter (or Harvest Festival) Christians is long gone. Secularism has shifted the mindsets of people from a legalistic one (I owe God something) to one of licence (who the heck is God, anyway?). As a result, few people out there feel any obligation towards religious observance and many Christians have begun attending services less frequently too.
I wonder if you have listened to the last 15 podcasts on secularism that have gone out with the email that accompanies a link to Day One? One of the mistakes that secularism makes is it believes the world is entirely rational and that people have all the facts before them in order to make good choices. Strangely those choices seem not to involve God, the source of all life and goodness.
CS Lewis, in his book, The Screwtape Letters, has a senior devil giving advice to his young nephew on how to mislead Christians, and points out that one of the most effective things a devil can do is to ensure that people are unaware of the existence of devils.
There are more determined and focussed forces colonising our minds. And spiritually, the West bumbles on naively.
Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 13-25) – describes the character of Jesus
Abiding in the vine (John 15: 1-12) – describes how to assume the character of Jesus
In Philippians 1: 9 – 11 St Paul says
9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
The one quintessential thing that happens as we draw nearer to Jesus and remain close to him, is a change in our character. We become less self-centred and more loving, for love is the essence of who and what God is.
This is well worth remembering as we contemplate Harvest Festival, where we both give thanks for the earth and all that it yields by way of food, and consider how we might align our lives with Christ so that they might yield a harvest of righteousness.
However, in this year when we focus upon sharing the Gospel, it is a good thing that God calls us not simply to enjoy the fruits of harvest, however we might understand that, but to be farmers, producers of the things that make for a harvest. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 9: 38 7Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
God bless you