Polishing Floors (and People)

St Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

Many of you will be aware that our Parish Hall has been undergoing a fair amount of upgrading and refurbishing in recent months. You will find out in the current edition of “Gateway” just how impressed one Easter visitor was by the improvements which have been made – and, by the time you read this, we hope the long-awaited dishwasher may have been installed in the kitchen!

In all that has been done, one of the most fascinating processes has been the refurbishing of the lovely parquet floors. There’s no getting away from the fact that, with so much activity taking place in the hall, the floors do get a “hammering”.

This is a good and healthy sign: it shows that the place is alive and well-used and it also shows that we are happy for it to be so. There is nothing more discouraging or depressing than buildings (especially church halls) which are treated like mausoleums and where signs appear on every wall or surface with commands which begin “Don’t touch this…” “Never do that…” and so on. God can be glorified in the messy, the noisy and the spontaneous – even if it does involve a little bit of clearing away afterwards!

But back to the floors: innumerable layers of polish which had built up over the years were stripped down and the sanding process then brought out the beauty of the natural wood which had probably not been seen for a very long time.

And then there was the change in the surface texture as the different grades of sanding took place: coarse, medium and smooth. Finally, several coats of seal were applied: each one in turn enhancing the beauty and colour of the wood.

“So what?” you may say. Well, it made me reflect on how things are in life generally. If we wrap ourselves up in cotton wool, as it were; if we refuse to engage in the realities of life – which often are messy, noisy or generally unpleasant, then we’re unlikely to grow in stature, experience or understanding. It is the “daily round, the common” task which moulds us into the people we are – and this includes all the mess, the sadness and the disappointment which life, in all its fullness, often brings.

When I was first ordained there were still a significant number of folk around who had lived through and could remember two World Wars. Now I don’t want to suggest for a moment that war is a good thing, but the hardships, the deprivations and the disasters which these sad times brought undoubtedly led to the tenacity and strength of character which so many of these people possessed. They had, in a sense, been “hammered” a bit like our Parish Hall floor – but they had survived and often had become stronger, more responsible and wiser people as a result.

In the eyes of those who knew them and, surely, in the eyes of God, they had become beautiful people, with a shine and a lustre born of trial and not a little worry.

I am reminded of the words of the 17th century hymn writer, Richard Baxter:

“Christ leads me through no darker rooms
than he went through before;
he that into God’s kingdom comes
must enter by this door.”

As the Church prepares to celebrate the Ascension of Christ and then the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we would do well to remember Christ’s words:

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Whatever life throws at us, we deal with it in the light of Christ’s victory – and his abiding presence. Through God’s good grace we will become stronger in faith (smoothed and more polished by experience) and equal to our task as Christians in his world.

With every blessing,

            Paul.

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