Friday, 2 July 2004

July Blog

I recently came across this delightful story written by Malcolm Muggeridge when he was in India in 1926. It gripped my heart in a special way, and spoke to me so clearly about two ways of church.

Read it now for yourself.

“His chest is sunken, his face is vacant and his eyes are dull, yet he drives his geese skillfully; and believe me or not as you 1ike, he speaks to them in the soft, caressing voice a mother uses to a very little baby. He carries no stick to assist him in keeping order amongst them, but only a large leaf, which he waves slowly to and fro; and one might easily imagine that his speech was nothing but the noise of the wind through this, so like is it to the sound of a forest when, in the evening, a light wind blows. With this he keeps his charges as a compact, disciplined company, not stupidly military in their orderliness, yet not by any means a rabble; rather they remind one of a band of pilgrims, or of workers working voluntarily together. They seem to be not so much numbered and uniformed as to make a harmony of which he is the conductor: not so much to march in step as to dance with perfect understanding of each other’s movements. I realized how supremely successful he was at his work when, one day when perhaps he was ill, I saw another boy at it. This other boy was a bouncing, bumptious fellow, who carried a switch like a sergeant-major, and who shouted at the geese as sahibs shout when they want something. The result was that they spread over the road in a screaming, cackling mob—some getting left behind; some getting run over by a passing motor; all of them lost and bewildered. And the more he shouted and beat them the more hopeless the position got.”

The poor handicapped goose-herd with his voice as gentle as the wind keeps the herd steadily going in the direction he wants them to: In that I saw the Church as guided by the Holy Spirit, the wind-voice of her Master and Saviour. The picture of the other herder and the results of his authoritarian methods and loud voice is that of the churches organised and shepherded by men and the resulting confusion, disorder and lack of unified direction. The geese did not have a choice, but we do.

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