Disaster struck in the Parochial House this week, I’ve discovered that houses are like cars, when they’re going well everything is dream. Unfortunately the other side of the coin means when they start going wrong they can break your heart. Many of my predecessors have been lamenting the smell of damp in the house for quite a while. Yet so much water was being lost in the hot water system it was decided the leak couldn’t be in the house because there would be more obvious signs of damage. I had a plumber in looking at another problem in the kitchen and by way of making conversation I mentioned the mystery of the leak and the damp smell on the ground floor. After a few initial investigations, a cursory examination of the house and a look of bewilderment on my face as he tried to explain the more technical elements of the problem I thought nothing of the conversation until the plumber landed one Monday morning and started digging up my hall floor.
He had decided the leak had to be in the hot water system on the ground floor somewhere between the bathroom and the kitchen. His suspicions were confirmed when the first hole was dug and two and a half inches of water was found lying below the floor. Some of the wise cracks suggested the hole was big enough for me to take a bath in and I could use it as a water feature. Subsequently it was discovered there was not one leak but two. Like drilling for oil five holes were dug before we struck it rich.
The ground floor of the house is now like a building site but of course every cloud can have a silver lining. Unfortunately due to the running repairs and the hazardous state of the floor I’m unable to babysit my sister’s dog. It’s not that I’m reneging on a commitment; I have the dog’s best interests and safety at heart. The poor creature could be lost down one of the holes and disappear into the heating system and never be seen again. I suppose I might be able to cope with the dog for one night. During the last couple of weeks a number of dog lovers have been asking about the animal’s welfare. No one asked how I was managing; the sole focus was on the the plight of the dog. In fairness, a number of parishioners have offered to dog sit and even walk the pet. Thankfully if it’s safe to bring the dog over from the Cityside much of the pressure will be taken off my shoulders. In the staffroom of one of the primary schools I had one of those Crocodile Dundee moments. I was explaining the dog situation when one of the classroom assistants said: ‘That’s not a dog, this is a dog’ as she produced a photograph of her Rottweiler on her phone. I must confess I did feel pretty inadequate and was suitably embarrassed. I only thought my sister’s dog was spoilt until I heard how this canine was treated. I mean, it was attended too hand on foot, didn’t even have to get off the sofa to be watered or fed. In fact, the dog even had its own TV programmes including ‘The Simpsons’. I started to laugh but was soon rebuked and told if I looked up ‘You Tube’ I would discover how many Rottweilers were addicted to ‘The Simpsons’. In the face of such scientific proof I crawled into the dog house.
In the midst of the changing circumstances and trouble we encounter in life, where do we place God? Do we keep him hidden away until we really need him and then allow him into our lives when times are tough. Often we use God like an emergency call out, the 999 of last resorts because everything else has failed. In this context we have no real relationship with God; we don’t allow him to intrude too much in our lives, the everyday important issues. Instead we turn to God when all reasonable avenues have been exhausted, when we have no better alternatives and we have nothing to lose. It probably isn’t ‘plan D’ never mind ‘plan B’. In some respects, at a deep level, we understand that everything else changes when we allow God into our lives. We can’t just invite God into our lives on our terms because when we encounter God often he shatters our fragile conceptions of what is real and what is important.
Mark Allan Powell writes, ‘Those who give to God their heart, soul and mind are able to love even their enemies, and to bless those who oppress them. So, give Cæsar his worthless coins, and give God everything that really counts. In many respects he reinforces the sentiments echoed by St Augustine many centuries ago, ‘In the same way as Cæsar looks for his image on a coin, so God looks for his in your soul. But Cæsar’s image is on a coin, whereas God’s image is in you. If the loss of a coin causes you to weep because you have lost Cæsar’s image, would not any damage brought to God’s image in you be for you a cause for tears?’ When we become followers of Jesus Christ there can be no division in our lives between our faith life and the life we live in the world. God has to be the sole ruler of our hearts and minds. Only by allowing God to influence, transform and guide our whole lives can we become his image. The real treasure lies with each one of us, the challenge and task is to help one another realise the true gift we are to one another.