Key Word:- LOVE
Title:- Of Chocolatiering Shepherds
Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I have a confession to make today. I need to testify, I need to unburden myself, I need to make a declaration a shocking statement and maybe, I’m not sure but maybe, my journey to recovery shall begin. You see I am friends……. a Chocoholic.
Today in 1916, one of my favourite authors was born. A Welshman, Mr Roald Dahl. In WWII, Dahl was an R.A.F. fighter pilot flying missions in Syria, Greece and Libya, being shot down and seriously wounded in the Libyan Desert. Indeed, he kept a piece of his femur which had been removed in an operation, on his desk as a paper weight!
Though Dahl came from a tragic and abusive background he went on to write some of our most famous (even infamous) children's literature, writing world renowned books and screenplays as diverse as 'The Twits', 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' and even a ‘James Bond’ film, 'Live and Let Die'. Yet I would still suggest, that his most well known and best loved work is 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', or the film of the book entitled 'Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' where the main character, Charlie Bucket, a poor young boy living not far from and in sight of 'Wonka's Chocolate Factory', spends all his money buying these delicious chocolate bars in the hope of finding one of five golden tickets which will 'change the lives of those who find them.' Imagine that! Living and being in sight of your desire and eagerly seeking a simple 'golden ticket' which will give you access to life-changing experiences, a 'golden ticket' which will remove you from poverty and despair into, well into who knows what? Certainly everything that chocolate (rich, dark and plain..Mmmm) gives you a taste of.
Now some of you will think I am being flippant today. Yet even John Bunyan that most famous of Puritan spiritual writers has his characters of 'Christian and Hopeful' come to the Shepherds who are called 'KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE, WATCHFUL, and SINCERE' for instruction. These shepherds, wonderfully, tend to their flocks in a place called the 'Delectable Mountains'. Now this was obviously a place of chocolate! And while we are on the subject, yes indeed, I often wonder if the tree of knowledge of good and evil was in fact a cocoa tree? (I am pretty sure my Hebrew professor indicated that...maybe.....)
Bunyan describes these delectable objects as mountains which belong to the Lord of the hill and are full of “Gardens and orchards, vineyards and fountains of water; where also they drank, and washed themselves, and did freely eat.” I would suggest Bunyan is trying to describe the gathering of the local church. No, it doesn't describe mine either. Yet imagine, dream if you will, what if it did describe our churches? Someone on a Sunday might just see that chocolate smile on our face and ask, “Where are you going this Sunday Morning?” “Oh, I'm off to the Delectable Mountains. Do you want to come?”
Delectable mountains. How wonderful. Here the shepherd's job is to feed men with the delights of God and not to be forgetful to entertain strangers. Though it is also their duty to teach and to caution those on the journey, after that, it is their very special delight to take pilgrims aside and through a telescope, make their distant destination fill their eyes and their hearts with gladness! Bunyan reports that with fear and trembling 'Christian' and 'Hopeful' would hold the shaking eye glass and with the help of the shepherds to behold the welcoming and glorious gates of their only true home. The Golden Celestial City. (The streets no doubt actually paved with golden chocolate wrappers!)
I wonder if every lottery ticket, every shot of whiskey consumed by worn out men and every rolled dice of desperation is in fact the search for that seemingly elusive golden ticket? Every bet placed on a running horse, every popped pill, dark injection, forbidden but exciting sexual encounter, every gasp for satisfaction, every grasp for glory, is but a reaching for that golden ticket? Some delectable and soothing satisfaction that will, at last, deliver desperate men from darkness and make their lives changed for the good, changed for the better, changed for ever and ever, amen! I wonder.
O Churches of God, O dear friends, O shepherds of the Lord of this celestial highway, please, please take us to the pastures of the Lord of this hill; deliver us to the delectable mountains and give us a glimpse of heaven, give us golden tickets. I speak to you shepherds today, give us golden tickets by walking us amongst the delectable mountains and giving us glimpses of the glory yet to be revealed!
Experienced and experiencing, knowledgeable and sincere shepherds will always give their sheep rich, dark chocolate, all wrapped in golden entrance tickets. Tell me, what kind of chocolatiering shepherd are you?
Listen:- Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21
Pray:- Jesus, joy of man’s desiring, Holy wisdom, love most bright; Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring, soar to uncreated light. Word of God, our flesh that fashioned, with the fire of life impassioned, striving still to truth unknown, soaring, and dying round Thy throne. Through the way where hope is guiding, hark, what peaceful music rings; where the flock, in Thee confiding, drink of joy from deathless springs. Their’s is beauty’s fairest pleasure; theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure. Thou dost ever lead Thine own in the love of joys unknown. Amen.