God on Monday
'To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about
sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough' (Luke 13.20-21).
What on earth am I here for? Welcome to the fourteenth God on Monday reflection!
The consort to a monarch is to be a loving and devoted spouse. But beyond that, the role has no job description. Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Prince Albert was not the first nor last royal consort to discover this. A man of intellect and energy, he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the poor. This fuelled his vision for an industrial Britain, expressed most notably in his staging of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first world trade fair in history. Albert’s strong sense of purpose was driven by his faith: ‘find out the will of God for your day and generation’, he declared, ‘and then, as quickly as possible, get into line’.
As England’s pub gardens open today for the first time in months, one of the beers flowing most freely will be Guinness; over ten million pints are consumed daily worldwide. Prince Albert’s quote - reflecting as it does this wonderfully gracious epitaph to King David: ‘After David had served the purpose of God in his own generation, he died’ (Acts 13.36) - was the favourite saying of Harry Grattan Guinness, grandson to the business’ founder Arthur Guinness (1725-1803). Harry became a leading evangelist in the Great Awakening and is often regarded as the Billy Graham of the nineteenth century. But the Guinness family members running the company were also deeply devout. Indeed, the commercial success and social impact of the Guinness business reflects its leaders’ determination to do God’s will in the way indicated by Albert and Acts.
Take Arthur Guinness. Inspired by his contemporary John Wesley, he strove to serve the neediest in society, not only through philanthropic initiatives but also through the way he ran the company. His employees were rewarded with higher-than-average pay and benefits. And his passion for his highly nutritious, low-alcohol drink reflected his commitment to tackle the chronic social fallout of gin-addiction. Many drinkers still maintain that these qualities mean it is difficult to consume sufficient Guinness to get drunk.
The UK Prime Minister may need to visit a barber but this week he plans to visit his local pub to 'cautiously but irreversibly raise a pint of beer to my lips'. In doing so, should he choose Guinness, he will literally touch the work of Arthur’s hands. For brewing yeast grows as it ferments and can be reused infinitely; the descendent cells of Arthur’s yeast strain are in every glass of Guinness. Such is human work infused with the kingdom of God – it permeates, frees, nourishes and enlivens society, and has everlasting positive effect.
Peter S Heslam, Director of Faith in Business
NB This reflection is not a challenge to teetotalism - Peter is aware of the persistent problems related to alcohol consumption.