People who have never lived in Cornwall are mostly unaware that there is traditionally, a ‘proper’ way to prepare a scone ready for eating, west of the River Tamar. It’s jam first with clotted cream on top when in Cornwall, which is the reverse order of how a Devon cream tea is traditionally presented! When the National Trust mistakenly used a photograph of a cream tea prepared in the Devon way to advertise Lanhydrock House’s Mother’s Day Cream Tea promotion, the organisation came in for some criticism. Indeed, some Cornish Trust Members were said to be threatening to resign over the unfortunate oversight! Of course, if the views of NT members who live north of Bristol were canvassed, I’m sure that most of them would be amazed that so much bad feeling could be generated by such a ‘small’ error. Indeed there would be some suggesting that the taste will be very similar while the stomach is unlikely to care whether it is the cream or jam which arrives first!
The ‘Cornish Cream Tea’ debate is perhaps a good illustration of the ongoing debate about the relative importance of ‘journeys’ and ‘destinations’ in life. In one view, the destination is viewed as being all-important with the belief that it does not really matter how you get there as long as you do reach your desired destination. Such an outlook was arguably often reinforced at school with an emphasis on getting the right answer to the Maths or Science question, rather than using the textbook process of getting there. At first glance, one of Jesus’ parables – The Two Sons’ [Mt. 21: 28-31] – seems to show approval for the son who did eventually reach the requested destination [his father’s vineyard], despite initially refusing to go. Yet does the end always justify the means? Is the destination more important than the journey to it?
Winning a Test Match Cricket series against the hosts in South Africa is clearly the dream scenario for any visiting Test team captain. Yet the world of cricket has been stunned to learn that the Australian cricket team leadership sanctioned ball-tampering in order to try and gain an unfair advantage in the third Test Match in Cape Town. Certain sports like cycling and athletics and some team coaches are constantly under scrutiny because of some competitors allegedly cheating through using performance enhancing drugs. From Jacob and King David of old, through to Zacchaeus, who met with Jesus, the pages of Scripture refer to many people involved in different types of cheating to gain success, happiness or wealth.
When working as a minister in my previous Circuit, I recall visiting a lady who asked me to pray that she might be taken by God as she slept, on that very same night. Although initially annoyed that her request was declined, she listened while I explained my reasoning to her. I told her that although it was fine to look forward to an eternity in God’s Presence in Heaven, where she would then be free from her current troubles … it was up to God to decide when her tasks and role in this life, were complete. Over the centuries, Christians severely suffering from persecution or in other ways, have understandably tended to focus on their ultimate destination and all the positives spoken about this future life in Scripture [eg Mt. 25: 34-40; Rev. 21: 1-7; 22: 1-6].
It is my firm view that human beings only have one life on this earth [Heb. 9: 27] and although the destination chosen, through our response to God’s Love and offer of divine forgiveness, is important … so too is our journey of life before getting there! We should never underestimate the huge effect that our words, attitudes, actions and example can have
on other people. The true disciple of Christ will, with God’s Help, endeavour and aim to live a God-pleasing life which inspires and encourages others to live in a similarly caring way.
At one level, it does not really matter how our Cornish cream tea is served up. Yet if one way tends to annoy while the other preferred way is appreciated … why not avoid the risk of needless criticism? This certainly reflects St. Paul’s pragmatic approach, as 1 Cor. 9: 19-23 and Rom. 14: 19-22 make clear in terms of how Christians can best influence other people. If through our more careful choice of words, actions and attitudes, others can see something of God’s Love for them … this should surely be our incentive for living in such a divinely-approved and God-honouring way as befits a disciple of Christ. My contention is that the way Christians conduct themselves on the journey is almost as important as having the right destination in view … irrespective of how we might prefer cream teas to be presented!
Your Friend - Martyn