LETTER FROM A MINISTER
STORIES ARE TOLD OF LIFE IN THE OLD SOVIET UNION, when there were waves of petty theft in factories, as people searched for any way they could to make some extra money.
In a bid to stop these thefts, the authorities placed guards around the factories.
At one timber works in Leningrad, the guard knew the workers in the factory very well, and one in particular who he knew he had to watch: Pyotr Petrovich.
He recalled the night that Petrovich came out of the factory with a wheelbarrow and, on the wheelbarrow, a great bulky sack with a suspicious-looking object inside.
"All right Petrovich," said the guard, "what have you got there?"
"Oh, just sawdust and shavings," Petrovich replied.
"Come on," the guard said, "I wasn't born yesterday. Tip it out." And out came nothing but sawdust and shavings. So, he was allowed to put it all back again and go home.
When the same thing happened every night that week the guard became frustrated, to the point that finally, his curiosity overcame his frustration.
"Petrovich," he said, "I know you. Tell me what you're smuggling out of here, and I'll let you go."
"Wheelbarrows, my friend," said Petrovich, "wheelbarrows."
Let's face it, we're all easily distracted, and when we are, the job we're doing—or meant to be doing—can suffer. But to succeed, we need to stay focused on what's important; to pursue the goals that really matter.
The longer that coronavirus has persisted, it seems it has become easier to fall back into 'the way things were'; for our own needs and concerns to once again trump everything else.
In allowing that to happen, there is a risk that we are distracted from the real need in our communities and neighbourhoods—the isolated and lonely; the sick and vulnerable; those who lost their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic.
I want to encourage you. In the days ahead, may we be people who hold onto the incredible feeling that came from being a community who, quite literally, poured out love and care through the everyday things we did for one another. It felt good didn't it.
I don't believe that's a coincidence. When we show love for one another, we're tapping into the same love that God has for every one of us. Love that the Bible tells us, "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love that never fails."
As life in our community looks forward, let's watch out for the distraction of lives focused only on ourselves, or on the negative. Instead, let's be people characterised by the every day love and positivity we show towards those we live, work and journey alongside.
Revd Steve Wood
Minister of Newport Pagnell Baptist Church