Critics of Margaret Thatcher frequently referred to her as ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher,’ for, it was under Mrs. T that free school milk for all children was abolished.
Many, of a certain age and beyond, can remember with fondness our ‘daily entitlement’ to a third of a pint of milk distributed in a small glass bottle (what would Health and Safety have to say about this?!) at morning break. At my school, Monkton Combe, we were also given a small plastic packet containing two Lincoln biscuits. Yum!
Milk is used frequently in the Old Testament to depict goodness; the ‘land of milk and honey,’ for example. The Psalms frequently describe the tenderness of the baby suckling at the mother’s breast. In the New Testament milk largely disappears in favor of bread and wine, as our basic spiritual nutrient.
Several weeks ago one of my daily readings (don’t I sound all pious!) was the first few verses of Isaiah 55: ‘Ho (a lovely old fashioned greeting, let’s reclaim it!) everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy wine and milk without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and you labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good and delight yourself in rich food,’ ((Isaiah 55, 1&2).
These verses resonated with me when I read them. They contain all the sacramental language we need, not only in terms of the elements (water, bread, wine, milk) but also the benefits derived from coming to the Lord for feeding: goodness, delight and richness. The prophet majestically combines the sacramental language of both the Old and New Testaments, talking into the entirety of salvation history. It’s fantastic stuff.
But what really strikes me is this: our milk, and the sacraments which symbolize all that God has done for us, and which continue to feed us, come free. We don’t have to make any sort of payment, we are offered, in economic language, a ‘risk free investment.’ God’s offering to us is entirely and theonomically (a made up word but see the p.s. at the end of this blog) asymmetrical. He pays the price, we accrue the benefits. Of course, we are asked to pass the benefits on, to share the ‘good life,’ with others, but we don’t need to make any form of down-payment, or prove our moral worth. As Isaiah reminds us we simply need to ‘come.’
I suspect that in our achievement orientated culture, where worth is always measured on a relative basis this is a mighty hard concept. In Christian circles we frequently talk about God’s grace whilst (and, I am sorry to be critical) jockeying for position within the church, or, by comparing our church with the other ‘successful’ church round the corner. We feel obliged, worse still compelled by others, to prove our worth. This is not what we are asked to do. Our calling is simply to come and to be fed.
In Morning Prayer today we sang Charlotte Elliot’s amazing hymn‘Just As I am…..’
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. (Verse 1)
Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come! (Last verse)
The hymn writer seems to understand the spirit of Isaiah 55. We come just as we are, because He has paid the eternal price! Now that’s what I call grace!
Can you come just as you are? Or, do you, even in Church, feel you need to prove, or justify, your worth?
p.s. Within the next few months Theonomics, a book I have co-edited, will ‘hit the streets.’ If you would like a copy please get in touch.