Friday, 20 February 2009

Attractive Effort?

remains of old tractor

To put it mildly, this tractor has seen better days. One can imagine its story. Once it was shiny, brightly painted and brand new. It gleamed in the sunlight and was the farmer's pride. Its tractive effort was a revelation and heralded a revolution in agricultural practice. Year in, year out it toiled in the fields and pastures.

Then it was superceded. Newer models were bigger, more powerful, more efficient and did the job better. This one was life-expired and redundant. Without ceremony it was quietly abandoned. It is going nowhere now. Its tractive effort is forever zero. Rust released atoms are slowly being reclaimed by the earth into which the forlorn chassis is sinking.

The tractor rots into the ground like the bleached skeleton of an extinct dinosaur. Finally it is nothing more than an archaeological curiosity.

Of what does this remind you?

The visual metaphor can apply to so many things. Not surprisingly, as we approach Lent the question it begs in my mind is this: what is the faith equivalent of 'Tractive Effort'?

As a non-engineer I can risk paraphrasing this term as 'raw pulling power'. What happens if we don't have much or any Tractive Effort?

If the life of Faith is crucially about our connecting with divine energy, this is a vital question. In particular, might it be the case that without an openness to divine energy we are in danger of resembling nothing more than the dead tractor? A church which depends on the living presence of the Holy Spirit and which trusts itself to resurrection as  a contemporary truth of our shared experience surely has raw pulling power? It is truly able to do the work of God in its community. In this respect its effort could be said to be attractive. And this energy is known just as much in the gentle holding of another's hand as it is in the sweat and toil of starting up a new project.

The Bible encourages us to believe that this has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with outlook and expectation. And closeness to God. How does the picture of the tractor speak to you?

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