Foul-cankering rust the hidden treasure frets, But gold that’s put to use more gold begets.
From “Venus and Adonis” by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare echoes the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) which shows gold becoming fertile in its own way, and also languishing useless underground. This happened to treasure that my brothers and I hid once when on holiday in Wales. Perhaps we felt that this hidden treasure was a sacrifice that would draw us back to the little resort where we had enjoyed a week of happiness with both our parents available. Our treasure was a hoard of beer bottle tops from the Border Brewery, which came in different colours according to the brew in each bottle, and carried a picture of a Welsh dragon. Our source was not our Dad’s empties, but a nearby pub’s backyard. We thought we’d marked the spot where we’d hidden them, 12 inches from the telegraph pole near the holiday house, but the next year we failed to find it.
If only we’d had a metal detector! I think the spot is covered by the North Wales Expressway now, so we can forget about looking for our treasure, and decades later, the tops will surely be fretted away, though I do know someone who would be very grateful for a set of tops from a long defunct brewery.
A more generally exciting buried treasure was discovered in Staffordshire a few years ago. Being largely of gold, it has survived, though battered at the time of burial and in the 13 or 14 centuries since. If you have an hour between trains in Birmingham, you should be able to get to the museum and admire what’s on show – if you can get yourself past the Pre-Raphaelite paintings and the other treasures there.
The processional crosses and other liturgical objects were saved from destruction, but whoever hid them may have been killed in battle before retrieving them, or like us boys, may have misremembered the clues. We can admire the art while regretting that this gold will never again be put to its original use. Not that that should stop us from offering a silent prayer of wonder and gratitude. These gloriously playful designs speak of artists at ease in their faith, bringing their joyfulness to their work, as Hopkins did in his poetry.
Last winter I went down to my native town, where I found the streets much narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, inhabited by a new race of people, to whom I was very little known. My play-fellows were grown old, and forced me to suspect that I was no longer young. My only remaining friend has changed his principles, and was become the tool of the predominant faction. My daughter-in-law, from whom I expected most, and whom I met with sincere benevolence, has lost the beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained much of the wisdom of age. I wandered about for five days, and took the first convenient opportunity of returning to a place, where, if there is not much happiness, there is, at least, such a diversity of good and evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the heart. I think in a few weeks to try another excursion; though to what end?
Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765 by James Boswell
Here speaks the melancholic Samuel Johnson, tired of life but not of London, even if there is not much happiness there.
Rugeley is a former mining town in Staffordshire, which used to have two coal-fired power stations; the second one closed in June 2017. One step towards cleaner air for the country and the planet.
Rugeley is also where Janet and I married, on this day, more than a few years ago in the Church of Saints Joseph and Etheldreda. One step forward together, and we’re still finding our way.
Unlike Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, but not the father of her child; and unlike Etheldreda (or Audrey) who was a Saxon Princess, Queen and Abbess, we got married in order to be and remain fully married and to accept the blessings of children.
Etheldreda was twice married for political reasons, but in each case she lived as a nun despite her married status – with her kingly husband’s consent each time. Except that her second husband eventually changed his mind.
Etheldreda did not change hers and ran first to Saint Ebba, whose monastery was just north of Berwick, across what is now the Scottish border, and thence to Ely, surrounded by marshes which hindered pursuit enough for her husband to turn back to Northumberland.
Ely Abbey – for women and men, like Hilda’s Whitby – flourished under her leadership.
Let’s pray for the gift to hear what God is saying in our own hearts and the grace to follow his word.
And let’s pray that today’s church leaders will recognise the leadership gifts that many women have been given; and that innovative communities may flourish.