Thought for the Month (October 2016)
Are you a collector? Do you have a passion for amassing lots of things of a particular type? Things such as antiques, books, porcelain figurines, cigarette cards, autographs, DVDs, CDs, train numbers – the list of items that some people collect goes on and on. Some people collect the most bizarre or unlikely items – beer mats, lawn mowers, motor cars, and so on.
What is it in people – not everyone, admittedly, but so many of us – that makes us want to spend time and money – not to mention space in our homes or gardens – building up collections of things that, in many cases, we're never going to use and, in some instances, few if any people are going to want when we've finished with them? I don't know the answer to that, but the "collecting bug", if you succumb to it, is very strong, and does indeed seem to be a very human characteristic.
I have to admit to having been a collector for most of my life. As a boy I collected bus numbers (even more nerdy than collecting train numbers!), and since my early teens music has been my major collecting habit – firstly on vinyl, subsequently on CD; I haven't been able to bring myself to downloading, as I much prefer to have the physical objects in my hands and on my shelves. I know a lot of other folk – perhaps not the younger generation – who feel the same. As well as CDs, I also have large numbers of books (no Kindle for me!) and DVDs. The biggest problem I face is trying to find the time to read the books, watch the films and listen to the music. The plan was that, when I retired from work I would have plenty of time to do all three, as well as doing jigsaw puzzles of which I also have a large pile in our spare bedroom! No such luck – as I think many retirees have found, I seem to be busier now than I ever was – or is it just that as I get older it takes me longer to do things (not to mention the problems caused by nodding off just when I could be fully and happily engaged in one of my chosen leisure pursuits!).
To the dedicated, committed collector, the one item he or she doesn't have can take on a much, much greater importance than, in the extreme, virtually the whole of their collection. It is the pursuit of the "missing" item to make up a set, or to "complete" a collection (although which collection can ever be said to be truly complete?) that fuels their passion and keeps them collecting. I've even heard of an overly obsessive collector selling their whole collection in order to be able to purchase that elusive, missing piece! Surely that defeats the object, though?
But why am I writing about collecting in a Pastoral Letter? Well, it occurs to me that Jesus was also a collector – a collector of disciples and followers. Perhaps his collecting – although of much greater importance than the sort of collecting we humans get enthralled by – can be construed as a facet of his humanity? Something that he has in common with us? But does the fact that Jesus was, in a sense, a collector, diminish the other side of his personality, the divine? I don't see why it should. If we look at the parable of the lost sheep (Luke, Chapter 15), we can even see that Jesus appeared to understood the impulse to obtain that one, last, outstanding piece to complete the set – or flock in this case! The shepherd in the parable left ninety-nine sheep behind in order to track down the last one to complete his flock of a hundred.
So, I think that, not only can we consider Jesus to have been a collector during his earthly life, but we can also acknowledge that he continues even now to build up an essential collection every day – a collection of believers. And those believers he brings to his Father, our Lord, to add to His collection of souls. As believers and Christians, then, we can surely feel blessed to be a part of God's collection – not only now, while we live on Earth, but for all eternity. And if it should be that Jesus has been calling to us over and over again for a long time before we hear and accept his call and come to him, then isn't that just what we would expect from a dedicated collector? Jesus's collection cannot be complete until it includes each and every one of us.
But hang on, you might say, doesn't Satan also collect souls as well? Indeed, he does, but his collecting impulse is deeply flawed. Satan's reason for collecting souls is not to save and keep them for himself, but to deny them to the Lord – that is, it's a negative impulse, whereas God's collecting is driven by His desire to save the souls He collects and to bring them into the safety of His Holy Kingdom to be forever with Him and his Son; God's collecting is a positive thing.
So let us celebrate that we can, each one of us, become safe and secure as a part of the Lord's eternal collection, simply by acknowledging Jesus as our King and following his road to salvation.
Derek Fickling (Group Preaching Plan Secretary)
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