Cheap … and Cheerful? Just Saying …

How do you feel when that £10 telly goes wrong?

You’ve probably heard the saying that if it’s too good to be true … then it probably isn’t true.  Have you found that something you got at a bargain price has proved to be not so useful as you expected, or has needed replacement far earlier than it ought to have done?  Maybe you’ve opted for a bottom of the range model, and later felt dissatisfaction that you could have obtained a much better item if you’d waited, curbing your impatience or saving just a little longer, in order to pay a little more for greater value overall.

Thrown away – the £10 TV that didn’t work

I offer you three more sayings.  “If you pay peanuts, expect monkeys”; “You get what you pay for” and “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.”  That last one came from my father, and was allegedly printed on the cover of his school exercise books; I’ll come back to that later.

Payment is not always in hard currency, of course.  Another basis of trade is barter: ‘I’ll mow your lawn if you let me park my car in your yard’, for example.  To someone who is no longer able to look after a large garden and has no car, that could be ideal, while someone who prefers to play golf instead of gardening, might think it a bad bargain when he comes home from the course to find he can’t get to the garage.

Loyalty is another form of payment.  It was the basis of the Covenant that God set up with His chosen people Israel.  They pledged their loyalty and obedience to Him and in return He would look after them, provide them with a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and help them defeat the present occupants as they settled in.

That was fine until things started to get tough.  Loyalty and obedience began to wear thin.  As a result, although they didn’t understand it, they lost battles they ought to have won.  One thing led to another and they drifted away from God, choosing to worship other gods, copying the ways of the very people they were supposed to have defeated.  What they had done was to pay a lower price for a very inferior product.  Instead of maintaining their loyalty and trusting in their Lord to get them through  the hard times, they looked around for another answer and, time after time, found that the alternative wasn’t so good for them.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is to be found in 1 Kings ch. 18.  As the people had turned from God, and king after king failed to follow His laws, the covenant that He had made with them.  Finally came Ahab, a worse king than all who had gone before (1 Kings 16:33).  The prophet Elijah predicted that, as a punishment for this, there would be a drought.  After some while, things had got no better.  The people had not forsaken the other gods they had been following, hadn’t taken their present problems to God, and it was time for a showdown.  I’ll let you read the story for yourself.

Papering the cracks

Some churches today face the same fate as the ancient Israelites.  They may have a place of prominence in the town, but underneath they’re wondering how they can keep the walls from crumbling, how to meet the bills with their dwindling congregations.  They have become like the impotent organisations that Elijah defeated, having placed their trust in things other than God himself.

They don’t turn to prayer, self-examination, and the correction of attitudes that look after the few who still attend, instead of the needy community around them … many of whom might be former members!  Instead, they focus their attention on ways of solving their present problems, organising jumble sales for the building fund, and so on.

“Whatever is worth doing …,” quoted my father, remembering his schooldays.  And what could be more worth doing than building up the church of our Lord?

As you wonder if there’s anything cheap and tacky around you that could have been better chosen, I’ll leave you with another saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

Dress-down Sunday?

People? … clothes? … what puts you off church?

I haven’t conducted a survey but, over the years, I’ve heard many reasons why people don’t go to church;  Here are three of them.

“I don’t like the vicar/this week’s preacher” … It’s quite natural that not everyone pleases us, but this shouldn’t be allowed to deter us from drawing near to God and His people.  I knew a woman who, realising that she didn’t like the vicar, stopped attending church. priest 2 As soon as a new vicar arrived, she was again seen there every week.  She had missed a whole slice of parish life!  The writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers in “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25).  We should keep going to church despite the people we’ll meet there!

“I’m not good enough to go to church” … Some of us who were brought up on the Book of Common Prayer will remember the service beginning with the plea, ‘O Lord, open Thou our lips’.  The words come from Psalm 51, and have been part of liturgy since before the Reformation.  They remind us all that, of ourselves, none of us is worthy to come before God.  But, during his earthly ministry, Jesus declared, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:12-13).

Isaiah expressed this unworthiness very concisely: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5).  Fortunately we don’t have to suffer the remedy that he reported (see verses 6-7), but can claim the redemption won for us by Jesus on the Cross.

“I haven’t anything decent to wear.” … I blame the Victorians for the tradition of wearing one’s best clothes for church-going.  Many working men would only have two sets of clothes, one that they wore every day for work and the other that was kept for church.  If only they had read more closely the story of Samuel’s selection of David, the shepherd-boy-come-king!  Samuel was told, “Don’t consider his appearance or his height, … people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Many people are put off church by the thought of appearing inferior; I’m very glad that the church I attend welcomes all, whatever their appearance.  I heard an excellent sermon on Good Friday from a minister wearing jeans and a rugby shirt.

If you want to worship in God’s house, don’t be put off by mere people and their misguided traditions!