Towards the end of his life, Thomas Aquinas, one of the great medieval theologians and doctors of the church, is reputed to have said, "The end of my labours has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me." In the face of God, all his wonderful and insightful endeavours were, to him, nothing.
In our ministry, as humans, as Christians, is this a helpful thing on which to reflect?
Churches with mission plans and renewal appeals and directives and initiatives: they are all about (on a good day) the flourishing of a place where the gospel is proclaimed, and (on a bad day) the survival of an institution.
But is it all straw, compared to the God that is to be revealed in, and through, and sometimes despite the church that is 'the Body of Christ' here on earth?
Of course it is. Nothing that we humans can achieve, or even aspire to achieve, can begin to give even a pale glimpse of the God that we worship, revealed in human form in Jesus. It's even rather precocious and arrogant of me to make a statement like that, as if I, somehow, had a deeper knowledge than others on matters divine. This is all straw too.
So, whatever we may achieve, whatever honours and admiration and human achievement we may manage as individuals or as a church, before God it is all straw, it is all nothing.
But we ARE the body of Christ in the world, tasked with living the life that we have been shown in the redacted and revered fragments that come to us in scripture. We search out the straws that are the Christian life, the human life.
Does it matter that they are just so much straw? Of course not - salvation and light into all darkness is already assured, by the cross and the empty tomb. Hope for all humanity is complete. The straw of our lives, ministry and mission is infinitely valuable and wonderful.
But let's not forget that it is still just so much straw...