At the tail end of the lunch break, as I was preparing for the afternoon, she came into my room with a serious expression on her face. Shutting the door carefully behind her, ensuring no-one could overhear, she faced me and said “I’ve had the call – they’re coming tomorrow morning”.
I smiled and said “oh – OK then. Thanks for letting me know. How late will the building be open this evening? Let me know if I can help any of the others in any way.”
Afterwards, she told me she was worried that I’d go to pieces, as I’d expressed concern more than once that I didn’t know what was expected of me when this happened (I’d never worked in this context before). What actually happened was that, as a musician, without even thinking I went into Performance Mode.
Once the day of a concert arrives, once you are standing in the wings waiting to go on stage, there’s nothing more you can do. You will sink or swim, receive applause or boos (or more like, an embarrassed silence as most audiences in my world are reasonably kind), according to the preparation you have done.
At least, with a concert performance, you know well in advance (usually – although I have sometimes been asked to stand in at very short notice for an advanced exam accompaniment) when and what you will be playing.
In this case, I’d had no idea when – just that it was long overdue and would happen, as turned out to be the case, with just overnight notice. I didn’t even know what I’d be required to do – I’d been told there was every chance I wouldn’t be observed at all, but I couldn’t bank on that so as I’m a bit obsessive about such things, I’d ensured that my record-keeping was always up to date and my room always tidy at the end of each day. As for the following day – I’d prepared material which fitted with the current theme and saw no reason to change it at all. Either I’d done enough or I hadn’t – it was time to draw a deep breath and get on with it.
In the event, I was observed twice – once with a Year 5 class and once with the whole-school assembly. I asked for feedback – there were some “constructively critical” comments which I happily took on board – but there were also phrases such as “spine-tingling” used, which did rather gladden the heart. Even more unexpectedly, my department got a positive 7-word mention in the official report even though it’s a non-core-curriculum subject and therefore not usually mentioned at all. I wasn’t perfect, but it was OK.
Have you worked out the context yet? I bet Graham Hartland got it after the first paragraph!
Once again, in this bible reading, we have “Jesus the Ofsted inspector”. The day and time of coming isn’t known in advance – but we do know what the reckoning will be about. It will be about the extent to which we have remained faithful in building the kingdom.
One thing which isn’t in this passage but is in the commentary is the wider context. If this passage were all we had, we’d live in fear of making the wrong choice, doing the wrong thing, or missing the right thing to do. Too many Christians live in fear, looking over their shoulder all the time, thinking of God as the angry, retributive householder. He isn’t. There is no wrath in God. He is unchangeable and loving. He doesn’t have mood swings, isn’t subject to emotional outbursts. Let us read this passage in the light of Jesus’ fish BBQ on the beach with Peter after the resurrection.
“Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, I love you” (thinks… although you probably hate me… I seriously blew it back there in Jerusalem…)
“then get on with building the kingdom”
And I’d bet my last penny that throughout that exchange, Jesus looked Peter in the eye with love and tenderness and compassion, smiled gently and used a reassuring tone of voice.
So live free of fear.
Make the best choices you can with the information you have.
And know that at the day of reckoning, you will be judged as Peter was judged – you will find that there is no wrath in God.