Jeremy Clarkson, mushrooms, Acts chapter 5, back stage passes. Its amazing the connections you find sometimes.
Yesterdays challenge was preaching on Acts 5, the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who conspire in secret to buy a good reputation in the early church, forgetting that God sees what we do when we think nobody is looking. Whether it was greed, or desire for the kudos which went with appearing generous whilst trousering some of the proceeds, we don't know. But they sell some property, present what they claim is the full amount to the church, whilst conniving between them to keep some back.
The result is pretty dramatic: God shows Peter the secret scheme, he confronts them with it, and they drop down dead. Be wary of what you put in the collection plate, it should carry a health warning.
Simon Walker has written some excellent leadership books, where he talks about the front and back stage. The front stage is performance, what we let others see. The back stage is private: fears, decisions, research, private crises, the things we normally keep people out of. The election campaign is all front stage: a frenzied attempt to manage what is seen and heard, and an equally frenzied attempt to keep all the 'back stage' stuff out of view. Nobody wants another Gillian Duffy moment. So, David Cameron was in my constituency yesterday, a fact I only discovered on the news later. Why? Because the only people who knew were Conservative supporters and invited journalists. God forbid he should meet a real voter.
Politicians dread the moment when the back stage mess falls through the curtain onto the front stage. Don't we all. It can be very public - Jeremy Clarkson has gone into some of the 'back stage' reasons for his well publicised blow up a few weeks ago. They don't excuse it, but a combination of divorce, bereavement, cancer and a high profile highly scrutinised job probably isn't a recipe for mental calm.
There was a recent food programme which mentioned that mushrooms, if exposed to sunlight for an hour or two, turn from nutritionally useless fungi into a rich source of Vitamin D. Something grown in the dark, when exposed to the light, becomes a health benefit rather than a mould.
Paul writes "you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light". If Ananias and Sapphira had let someone else backstage, had brought the mushrooms out into the sunlight, they might have realised that trying to decieve God was a stupid idea, and thought again. God already knows everything we're trying to keep secret, as we try with varying degrees of anxiety to manage our front and back stages. What a gift to find someone who we can allow back stage, and who treats kindly what they see. What a gift to find someone with the integrity and character to allow some of their back stage to be visible.
The more stage managed the appearance, the more we think 'you must be hiding something'. My draft question for our local hustings next week is 'in your personal life, or in your parties policies, what are you not telling us?' Just because a politician, (or a vicar, or a TV personality, or a friend, or...) doesn't admit to having a back stage, doesn't mean it isn't there. The church should be a place where we are aware of the damage it can do to keep things in the dark, and where we find sufficient trust and grace to bring things out into the light. Put your mushrooms in the sunshine.