Who is watching you? Who is observing your every move - whether big or small? Who is judging you by even your least significant choices? Nobody? Wrong!! Many are the different people who observe what you do - whether at home, at work, while shopping, when driving a car or riding the bus, as you walk the kids to their bus stop, or as you do the many other different things that you do. The concern is that you may not see who's observing you, or who may be lurking in the shadows watching your every move. Those of you who have driven in Virginia may have noticed this sign along the highways: ‘Speed limit enforced by aircraft.’ I have always wondered where the aircraft may be. I haven't yet seen any aircraft, but the fact that I do not literally see the aircraft doesn’t mean I am not being observed. Someone is watching.
Beginning on Friday evening, the Vestry will be holding a two-day retreat. The first day will be a social time, while the second day will be dedicated to our business. Some of the items on the retreat's agenda will be to evaluate Christ Church's common life over the past year, to set goals for this new year, and to conduct a Mutual Ministry Review with the Rector. This retreat is one of the salient and solemn responsibilities of the Vestry, as the lay leaders of the parish share their thoughts, and those of our parishioners, with the Rector. In turn, the Rector shares his thoughts and concerns with the Vestry, and together we will reflect on the best possible ways to grow together and deepen our common life.
It is an important piece of exercise that falls within the ambit of Socrates’ thoughts that “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That is to say that in order to properly and efficiently serve you - the faithful people of this parish - we have to engage in a moment of self-reflection. And self-reflection is only made possible if someone is observing or paying attention to our every move so we can talk about those actions and make the necessary amendments.
The idea that someone you may know or may not know is watching from the shadows reminds me of a story of a newly ordained Anglican priest who was posted to a small town in the north of England. On his first day, he put on his street clothes and hopped on a bus to explore the town. When he sat down in the back of the bus, he noticed that the driver had given him 50 pence more change than he should have.
His first instinct was to return the extra change, but then on second thought he figured maybe it was a small token blessing from God, with no need to return it. Then again, he thought that this was more change than he was entitled to, and the proper thing to do would be to return it. He also thought of how insignificant 50p was... would the driver really miss it? He proceeded to hold it in his hand throughout his journey.
At the end of his bus ride, he rose from his seat and walked down the aisle to leave the bus. Just before he stepped off, he paused for a moment. Then he turned to the driver and said, "You gave me 50p extra change by accident. Here it is."
The driver took the change, thanked him, and then asked, "You're the new priest, aren't you?"
"Yes I am," the priest said, surprised.
The bus driver smiled and said, "I have been trying to decide whether or not I should come to your church, so I deliberately gave you extra change as a test to see if you would actually act as a Christian should. Since you did just that, I'll see you on Sunday," and with a wink, he shut the bus door after the priest disembarked, and drove away.
The priest collapsed onto a nearby bench, and held his head in his hands for several seconds before lifting his head heavenwards.
"Oh God," he cried. "I almost sold your child for 50 pence!
Yes - 50 pence. I am sure you have heard the adage ‘Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.’ That is called integrity. I’d like to invite you to ponder what the bus driver might have told himself had the priest kept the extra 50p. It likely would've shattered his confidence in the priest, and the church the priest represents; if the priest can take as little as 50 pence, what else is he not capable of taking? Luke comes to mind when he says "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
You may not know who it is that may be watching you, or may be testing to see what you will be doing with the extra 50p that isn’t yours. They may acknowledge that you may not be the best at everything, but they are watching to see if you will return the 50 pence.