Lord Jeremy Clarkson of Chipping Norton was writing about such things as photographs and the like in his book “How Hard Can it Be” (2006), and reflected on the advent of digital photography and how value-less our photographs seem to have become. I must sympathise with his prophetic words, in this regard and in others that I too have commented upon. In a recent post, I spoke of the way we spend so little time on things that demand so little time (see the post here). He muses on the times when we would go on holiday with our one roll of 24 exposure camera film, carefully pay the dividend for them to be developed and posted back, then to be enjoyed and filed in an album. Nowadays, he continues, we shoot thousands of images, keep them all and rarely look at them a second time (and, he continues, bore the rest of the world by putting them on Facebook before abandoning them for an eternity).
He assigns a simple cause: “And without a cost it has no value”. Now, even a cynic like me would have to draw a line. Some things in life are free and become of exceptional value. I was sat with some lovely clergy this morning talking about baptism (or ‘christening’, if you thought there was a difference) and having only read Lord Clarkson last night, pondered on why it is that so many people present little Johnny or Janine for a dunking only for them to vanish like the snow in summer afterwards. In fact, the invisibility cloak of baptism and confirmation was once the meat of a opening joke in one of my boss’s sermon – and he is right in so many cases. Perhaps a christening is one of those ‘must do’ things, like the conferring of an amulet to prolong life and health, I don’t know. The thing is, churches do not (quite rightly) charge for baptisms, and neither do we demand a cost in other things such as behaviour. Easy come, easy go?
There is probably something of this in every stewardship campaign too. It is funny how the collecting plate has an amplifying effect on our cash. I remember a man once explain how ‘small’ a fiver was in a supermarket when we pop in for a bottle of wine, and how ‘big’ it becomes when being dangled over a collecting plate. I remember preaching on a number of occasions on the biblical phrase ‘where your treasure is your heart is also’, and I wonder how much motivation towards the church in question would ascend if its life and needs became a substantial call on the spare cash (rather than the present time when many use the collecting plate as an opportunity to rid themselves of brass pocket-wrecking shrapnel). There has to be a direct correlation between cost and worth. Indeed, in the former life, I would note that when certain things became too cheap, they would stop selling, believe it or not.
This not a post with an answer, but I ponder this a lot. Church feels at times like a disposable habit, demanding less per hour than a cheap cinema but offering so much more than the latest CGI.