Sermon for Sunday before Lent: A pound called Sterling.

Published on Tue, 13 Feb 2018 14:14

A pound called Sterling.

Giles Goddard. 

11th February 2018

Once upon a time there was a pound coin. He was quite a young pound coin: he was bright, and shiny, and enthusiastic, and didn’t know much about the world, for he had just been released from the bank where he was born. His name was Sterling.

He was at that age where you want to discover what you’re alive for. He’d moved around a lot, as a baby pound: he started in the pocket of a footballer, who had spent him on an energy drink. That was one way to live, he thought – to help people have energy – but it didn’t quite feel as though that was his destiny. Then he was in the dark for a while, in a newsagent’s till, until someone bought a Lottery Ticket and he was given as change.  ‘What now?’ he thought. ‘This is exciting! Here I am in a pocket, and who knows where I’m going?’

He went down the road to Boots, where he was given in payment for some Paracetamol.  ‘OK,’ he thought, ‘I’m helping to make someone well – I’m like a doctor! That’s a good thing!’  But then he was in the dark again, in a till, and he began to think being a pound was quite boring.

Then, after a long time, he was taken out of the till in change for someone who had bought some chocolate. ‘Bad,’ said Sterling to himself, ‘chocolate has sugar in it and makes you unfit.’ But he was glad to find himself back in a pocket. It was the pocket of an office worker called Rita, who was careful with her money and didn’t spend much; so he stayed in that pocket for a while.

One morning, Rita put on her jeans and went off to church, taking Sterling with her.  Sterling had never been to church before. He’d never really heard of church; pound coins don’t have R E as a core subject in their education, and he wasn’t old enough to have lived through a Christmas.

 So he sat quietly in Rita’s pocket and listened to what was happening. There was a bit of singing, and a bit of praying.  He liked the singing, and he quite liked the praying, although he didn’t really see the point of it. Then there were some readings. One was about a chariot, and a whirlwind, and a person called Elisha; and the other about some people up a mountain and something to do with clothes so white that washing powder or bleach couldn’t make them whiter. ‘Oh,’ he thought, ‘is church like a supermarket and is this an advert?’

But he felt good, as he was nestling in the pocket of Rita. He thought, ‘I like church! It’s quite warm and friendly. A bit weird, but it feels OK to me! I wonder if I can stay here for a bit? It feels better than being in a cold till in a shop.’

Just after the sermon and the prayers, there was a loud hymn, and during the hymn Rita’s hand came into her pocket and grasped Sterling by the head. The Queen’s head. And suddenly he flew through the air and landed, thump, in a wide green basket. 

After he’d got over the shock, he looked around him. And he saw all sorts of other  kinds of pound. He saw some two pound coins, giving themselves airs because they were bigger than him. But he also saw some £5 notes-  and even a £10 note – and, wonder of wonders, a £20!!    The notes were very superior and hardly looked at Sterling; but he didn’t care, because he was too excited looking around at all the bright shiny things which were in the church – the cups and the plates and the candles and the bells, all made of shiny brass and silver like he was, and listening to all the music.

Well, to cut a long story short, after church he was taken along with all the other pounds and fives and tens and (wonder of wonders) twenties into the vestry, where he was counted, along with all the others, and put into a big bag.

And that’s where the fun really started. Because once Sterling was in the bag, with all the others, they were put into the safe and left there; and while they were in the safe, the real conversations began. And at last, Sterling began to understand why he’d been born. He really began to feel that he was here for a reason.

It started with a rather handsome £10 note, who spoke first.

‘Well, you lot,’ he said: ‘have you decided what you want to pay for yet? Because I’m feeling rather harmonious, so I’m going to put first dibs on paying for the music in church. Do you know, he said, it costs over £8,000/year to provide the music on Sundays?’

‘Very good,’ said a fiver, who was a bit rough round the edges. ‘I’m blue with cold, though; so I’m going to pay for the heating.  Did you know it costs £6.000/year to heat the church?’

‘Pah,’ said a £2 coin, a bit fed up with all the others.  ‘You wouldn’t get far without the bread and the wine. I’m going to pay for that. It costs £5,000 per year just to keep the services ticking over! I think that’s the most essential thing!’

Sterling kept quiet, because he was a new pound and didn’t want to make a fool of himself. But then another £10 note spoke up.   She spoke very carefully, with an elegant voice and a well turned phrase.

‘I wonder,’ she said, ‘if you are aware of what a fine and significant anniversary we have celebrated this last week. And if you are able to understand why I, as the first note to feature a Lady, am intending to pay for the work the church does empowering women and others in need? I am going to go to the Bridge at Waterloo, which helps train people for employment.  Because that is the best way to carry on the worthy legacy of the suffragettes.’

And Sterling, who by this time was aching to speak, piped up at last.

‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘It sounds very expensive, being  a church. I’m not surprised that you’re all here, in this bag, waiting to go to the bank. But it all feels a bit self-centred! Do all of you only pay for the church? Don’t you ever think of anybody else?’   

‘Of course we do,’ said the £10 note who was remembering the suffragettes. ’10 per cent of what comes in goes to other charities, like USPG and projects in Uganda!’  And then, Sterling knew what he wanted to do.

‘Can I do that?’  he cried! ‘Can I go to USPG? Or the Woodland Trust? Or to pay for projects in Uganda?’

All the other coins and notes smiled. Sterling was young, and enthusiastic, and they liked young enthusiastic pounds. ‘Of course you can, Sterling dear,’ said the £10 note, and the face of Jane Austen smiled at him. ‘And we wish you well.’

And so the conversation in the safe came to an end, and all the coins and the notes settled down to wait for their trip to the bank. Some of them, who were old hands, were excited; because they knew that when they went to the bank and got paid in, they’d be put in the church’s bank account and join all the other pounds which had been given by standing order or Gift Aid, and they knew that then, there would be a huge party in the bank account.

But above all they were happy because, at the end of the day, they knew that what they were doing was the right thing. They were being worthwhile.

And Sterling, who had started the day wondering quite what the point of being  a pound was, nestled up against the friendly £10 note who had given him permission to go to charity.

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I think I might be going on a journey to Uganda, to work on a farm or help build a Sunday School!’

‘It’s my great pleasure,’ said the £10 note. ‘I’m sure you’ll have a very productive time there. I wish you a very good trip. I hope you’re glad you came to St John’s.’

‘Oh, I am,’ said Sterling. ‘And I hope for the sake of all the pounds in the world that the congregation give LOTS to St John’s. It makes me glad I’m alive!’ 

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