the parable of the lost zeros

In 2007 I was in Ghana for a meeting of the Baptist World Alliance. I changed a small amount of currency into the Ghanaian currency, cedi. I was impressed by the ‘wodge’ of notes that I got, especially with all the 000’s.DSCF0907 I felt wealthy. (And when I saw how some people lived I realised I really was, but that’s another story).

Then, while I was in Ghana, the currency was devalued. Essentially they knocked off lots of zeros from the value of each note. The old notes were suddenly worth a lot less and after six months would no longer be legal tender and would be worthless. It felt strange paying for things that were worth a couple of cedis with notes that had thousands of cedis on written them but were in fact worth only a few cedis!

Because the notes were worth so much less I brought a couple back home with me and gave them to my children as souvenirs. They ‘filed’ them in their bedrooms…

…Just recently a couple of these thousand cedi notes re-emerged and the children looked up their value on the internet. They did not know that they were no longer legal tender and were rather excited to think that they had banknotes worth thousands of pounds. The excitement diminished somewhat when I told them that they were worthless.

That’s a lesson that Jesus tried to teach us. In his parable about a wealthy farmer who kept building bigger barns to store his increasing crops. He planned to build a big enough nest egg on which to retire and then…

…let’s just say he experienced an unexpected devaluation in his currency.

Jesus described him as a fool for focusing on what wouldn’t last.

Be blessed, be a blessing

thinking outside the blue sky

Yesterday I attended a roadshow that was telling us about the forthcoming changes to Baptist Ministers’ pensions. It was well-presented and clearly explained, and I was impressed with the depth of knowledge of those who were sharing this with us. I think the changes are needed, prudent and wise. I won’t attempt to try to explain in detail what is happening, suffice to say that there is a £60million black hole in the existing pension scheme that means it is unsustainable in its current form.


That’s a big black hole.

We’d need to win the Euromillions Lottery on a mega rollover week in order to fill the hole. Now there’s an idea. Why not use the existing fund to buy tickets that cover every possible permutation, then we would guarantee winning the top prize and fill the hole. Except that there’s no guarantee we would be the only winners. And it’s supporting the lottery, which is not something that we would want to do as an organisation.

But it’s thinking outside the box. It’s blue sky thinking. It’s looking in unlikely places for the answers.Box

By the way, where is this box: outside of which thinking is to be encouraged? Can we only come up with good ideas on cloudless days? That precludes us from thinking much in the summer in this country…[Thinks for a moment. Lightbulb goes on] aaaha! That’s why we all go on holiday in the summer: our brains are less imaginative because the sky is overcast or it is raining!

At our last Deacons’ Meeting we were challenged by these verses:

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3, NIV)

The question was asked, “What can you imagine?” And the rejoinder was offered: “God can do immeasurably more than that!” One person said that they could imagine that the church would be full on Sundays within a year. With what I can only attribute to his grace laced with his sense of humour, last Sunday God filled the place as we were visited by over 30 students from the University who are looking at different churches around Colchester! But if that verse is true, why couldn’t God do that?

I was challenged to consider whether sometimes I am thinking in a dark corner of a small box on a rainy day when it comes to what I hope and imagine God will do. I have not heard a promise from him that he will fill the church within a year, but I have heard promises of his faithful presence, his power and encouragement, his joy and his peace, his strength and his compassion. If we are all free samples of that to the world God may yet fill the church – and every other church!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Three clergymen split on a lottery ticket and they won the grand prize of a million pounds. The first one, an Anglican Vicar says “this is a blessing, but how much do we keep for ourselves and how much should we give to God”?

After a few minutes he said “I know we’ll draw a circle and throw the money up in the air,whatever lands out of the circle we’ll keep and whatever lands in the circle we’ll give to God.”

The Catholic Priest pipes up and says, “You know it’s a little windy, I think we should throw the money up in the air and whatever lands inside the circle we keep and whatever lands outside of the circle we give to God.”

They then turn to the Baptist Minister and ask his opinion, and the minister thinks for a moment and says: “I think we should throw the money up in the air and and whatever God wants he can keep and his generosity he will allow the rest to fall to the ground for us.”

Money, money money

I have been collecting spare change for a while now. I have a money box shaped like the Trotters’ Yellow Three-wheeler van from Only Fools and Horses and any penny or two penny coins that I have had at the end of the day have gone in there. It is now very heavy.

When does change become ‘spare change’. At what point does the money in my pocket become surplus to requirements? When does it stop being useful money? Is it that the coins which are relatively worthless weigh a lot for little value and it’s therefore easier to decant them to another place rather than have them wear a hole in my pocket or cause my trousers to fall down? Or is it that I have so much money that I discard any that I do not think I need? While I might prefer the first explanation it has made me think about my relative wealth that I can even have the concept of ‘spare change’ at all. There are many people in Colchester, never mind across the world, whose circumstances are such that no money ever becomes spare. I sense a heavy donation to Christian Aid coming on.

How would the money feel about being considered ‘spare’? Would it resent the idea that I consider it relatively worthless? Would it point out that on its own it may not be very useful but that with lots of its friends it is very effective? (is that a parable?)


A fifty pence piece, a five pound note and a twenty pound note were discussing their lives. The fifty pence said that it seemed to have spent most of its life being bounced from pocket and purse into offering bags in churches. The five pound note said that it too had spent some time in church offering bags but seemed to spend longer in wallets and purses. The twenty pound note paused.

“What’s a church?”