Over the last thirty years or so a field at Coplow Dale in Derbyshire has become an automotive graveyard. Bought very cheaply by the farmer and his family and run for a while until they became immoveable or unroadworthy, or just acquired for scrap value alone, many of the vehicles were simply left to rust in peace where they died, quite a few with the keys still in the ignition. Ever since that final turn of the crankshaft, Nature has been slowly and silently reclaiming each one of them. Nettles, bushes, trees and lichen now grow where once sat proud and smartly attired new owners, some enjoying perhaps the admiring and even envious gaze of their passengers. All across the field such heights of fashionable desirability have collapsed into the ground and are being taken apart by the impartial processes of rust and weathering, which are singularly incapable of being impressed by former glories. Physics, chemistry and biology take no note of history. Story is a human prerogative.
And what stories could these vehicles tell? What human dramas of joy, sorrow, anger and love have unfolded within them? What moments of passion, pain, delight and despair have they carried or occasioned? On these questions the decaying vehicles are as silent now as they were impassive when new. Such memory is ultimately held by God alone.
Why then do so many of us invest so much of ourselves in such things? Their very transience might cause us to reflect on timescales, values and eternity. Would we rather be remembered for what we have owned or for how we have loved, cared for and encouraged others? Which of these has a more persisting and persuasive value?
A world based on the acquisitive ethics of capitalism is heading for the junk yard of rusting dreams and rotten values. A globally informed and locally enacted concern for People and the Planet surely counts for more than an inventory of possessions and a tick-list of fashionable brands?
How to live a good life is the human conundrum which the Bible seeks to unfold. At the heart of this question is God. Time honoured and impervious to age, weathering, fads or fashions, this divine wisdom both informs and shapes our quest for meaning, value and purpose in life. Consider this passage from Proverbs chapter 2:
Good friend, take to heart what I'm telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life. Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. That's right—if you make Insight your priority, and won't take no for an answer, searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt, believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours; you'll have come upon the Knowledge of God. And here's why: God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He's a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones. So now you can pick out what's true and fair, find all the good trails! Lady Wisdom will be your close friend, and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion. Good Sense will scout ahead for danger, Insight will keep an eye out for you.
This is not hypothetical or speculative. It comes from the very depths of human faith experience and is tried, tested and trusted. Countless human stories testify to the veracity and promise of this ancient wisdom. It is to be treasured. And that is exactly what Jesus does as he teaches his disciples that God’s Kingdom of Heaven is to be discovered and built up in the here and now of our present struggles and delights.
As ever Jesus gets straight to the point. In Matthew 6:19-21 he says: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And where the heart is, love is – and where love is found, there is God. As we treasure one another we discover the treasure that is God’s gift and God’s presence. Right here and now.
And this is one fashionable gift which cannot rust into oblivion.