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Sunday, 26 June 2016

His Face Was Set Towards Jerusalem

 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:51-62)

Two consecutive stories and at first I didn't see the connection. One story seems to be about hospitality and power. The other about commitment.

But I think the connection is the thing that Luke says twice: Jesus's face was set towards Jerusalem.

This was a Samaritan village. So it could mean that they rejected Jesus because they knew he was a pious Jew: if he was on his way to Jerusalem, they wanted nothing to do with him. He was probably on pilgrimage, he'd be wanting to go the Temple. He'd be all fussy knowing that they had the ability to make them unclean.

But I think Luke is being more theological, more literary than that. Luke 9 is the hinge point of the Gospel. Jesus does the great miracle of the feeding of 5,000. Peter declares that Jesus is God's Messiah. He predicts his death. He is transfigured. He predicts his death and again.

And then he sets his towards Jerusalem. From now on in, the Gospel of Luke is heading for the cross.

So I wonder whether the Samaritans are actually being quite cagey. If they sense that Jesus is going to Jerusalem for that confrontation with the authorities that will bring him death - maybe they don't want to be accused later of harbouring a heretic and trouble maker. If his face is set towards Jerusalem - let him go there. We've got two political parties today in the UK, after the EU referendum, where the more  senior members are going to be trying to make sure that they're on the winning side - or at least, that if they're on the losing side, they don't upset the winners too much. Maybe that's where the Samaritans are.

And then in the second story. People come to Jesus and say they want to follow him, one with reservations. One has an ageing father, and wants to stick with him until he dies - then he'll follow. One says he'll follow Jesus anywhere - and Jesus challenges him to realise how hard this is going to be.

You can't plough a furrow straight if you keep looking back - you'll keep misdirecting the ox pulling the plough, and end up all over the place. Same as you can't ride a bike or drive a car if you keep looking over your shoulder. You'll be a hazard to traffic.

Jesus knows if he looks back there's Nazareth, and a loving home. A steady job. Mary making his dinner and asking when he's going to settle down with a nice Jewish girl. If he looks back his path will be all over the place. Ahead there's rejection, pain and a cross. He's got to keep looking ahead so he sets his face towards Jerusalem.

I wonder about the way James and John wanted to blow the village up. They feel offended - and want to strike back. It can make you feel good, blowing up someone else's life - metaphorically - but Jesus tells them off and drags them on. Was that charity on Jesus's part - peacefulness? But also the knowledge that if we start scrabbling and squabbling  with people along the way, we're not looking forward?

If we're called to follow Jesus we're called to look ahead. There may be a cross there - or something like one. And behind us may be all sorts of comforts we wish we could cling onto. But what we're called to ahead, leads to the love of God and loving God, and knowing God forever. Our way is in the footsteps of the King - going forward in hope and love - and not looking over our shoulder.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Beaker Brexit Tent

Introducing the Beaker Brexit Tent.

You can go in, rock gently, and pretend the outside world isn't happening and other people are all like you.

You'll have to put your name down though. There's eight people packed in there. And another 46 in the queue.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

EU Referendum: The Final Opinion Poll

We in the Beaker Folk have stayed out of the Referendum debate up till now. We've never really got over the annexation of Middle Anglia by Mercia, to be honest.

But we did run an EU opinion poll over the last month, planning to reveal its results today. Sure, it's got a margin of error. But it's the most accurate opinion poll conducted in a small religions community in mid Bedfordshire that we're aware of.

How will you vote on the 23 June?
Leave: 42%
Remain: 46%
Liberal because I always do: 12%

Name the major effects of a "Leave" vote?
Hordes of mastadons tearing up Kew Gardens: 17%
The Seraphim dancing on the Jereboam: 19%
A new, more confident UK: 44%
Scottish independence: 35%
Independence for Wales: 18%
Freedom for Tooting: 12%
Runaway global warming causing Leicester to retain the Premiership: 9%

Nigel Farage rhymes with:
Garage: 6%
Barrage: 45%
Pinstriped shyster: 49%

What do you think Boris Johnson's first reaction will be if Leave wins?
"Britain can stand proud." 22%
"We have cast off the shackles of bureaucracy" 38%
"We have regained our place in the world" 4%
"Hurrump! Brrrrrrrr! Wooooor! Groooooo!" 36%

Michael Gove:
Yes: 4%
No: 91%
What?: 5%

How will Germany be regarding the referendum?
With anxiety: 35%
With hope: 41%
Using it as an excuse to invade Czechoslovakia: 24%

The Referendum has resulted in us seeing Tony Blair, Paddy Ashdown, and Michael Heseltine on our TVs. Had you known about these unintended consequences, would you have voted Labour at the last election?
Yes: 1%
No: 1%
We must put off having another election until the earth is a scorched cinder, orbiting the bloated remains of a dying sun. 98%

Managing Decline

The big question at the meeting of the Moot this week was this. Should we actively have a strategy to manage decline?

Well first up, there's the undeniable fact that, for literary reasons, there are always roughly 50 adult Beaker Folk. I realise there's been about 600 different Beaker Folk named over the last 10 years. But there's always roughly 50 Beaker Folk at any one time. So in one sense, I have no decline to manage.

But the thing about managing decline. Sure, it's not a Gospel thing. The Kingdom of God is yeast in a loaf; a seed growing into a tree. It's described in terms of growth, expansion, tying up the burglar. It's about winning.

Sure it has risks. You could see failure. If you look for growth you could fail. Could shrink or, doing something risky, collapse.

Whereas managing decline, there's certainty. You'll get smaller, but slowly. You'll never burst into life, but then you'll never collapse like a red giant going supernova. You'll just quietly fold away, patting the hands of the old faithfuls in reassurance, until you're all dead.

And there's freedom there. Why worry about doing radical stuff? Why worry if people outside the church are attracted, appalled or alarmed? You can just do your own stuff, in your own way, till there's nobody left to do it.

And winning is just another word for triumphalism, ain't it?

So yeah. Managing decline sounds good to me. As long as there's still fifty of us.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Liturgy for the Evening After Summer Solstice

Archdruid: Nights are drawing in

All: Soon be Christmas.

Solstice sunrise over Cranfield

Lament for a Solstice With Broken Cloud

I love that moment on a solstice sunrise. The expectation, floating like croutons on the chill in the air. The silence, broken only by the birds song, traffic on the M1, and the realisation you're on the Luton flight path again.

And then scanning the horizon for a break in the cloud. And, as the mystic orb rises above the horizon and the clouds melt, we see our shadows, marking the dewy grass between us and the noble railway sleepers that make up the Great Trilithon of ancient (2009) Duckhenge.

And that's when we realised we were all facing the wrong way again. Same as every year. By the time we'd reassembled on  the southwest side of the duck pond, the moment was lost.

Another half hour and we expect the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Herne the Hunter and assorted dryads and wood elves to turn up. They do struggle with British Summer Time.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Summer Solstice Rescheduled

I'd like to apologise to all those Beaker Folk who got up for the Summer Solstice at 4am today.

In particular I believe there was a certain amount of trouble with the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, who threw his pipes in the brook in disgust and beat up a couple of woodwosen.

In fact although the Solstice is today, it's not till nearly 11pm. So we're celebrating the Solstice Cocktail evening tonight - "Strawberry Moonbeams" - with the Solstice Sunrise tomorrow morning. Followed shortly after by the Grand Liturgy of the Nights Drawing In.

I hope that's clear.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Jumping Naked Over the Solstice Bonfire: Revised Arrangements

The Beaker Fertility Folk aren't as young as they were.

In years gone by, they would leap naked over a bonfire on Solstice Eve. But Anno Domini has slowed them down. And, more to the point, reduced their ability to jump.

After last year's "Great Singeing", this year they'll be jumping over a tea light in the barn. Safer all round.

The End of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Good news from our traditional Fathering Sunday mythical creatures hunt. For the first time in Beaker history, we have managed to capture an invisible unicorn.

The mythical creatures hunt was the result of a lot of agonising. Obviously we wanted to reproduce the angst that everybody gets on Mothering Sunday - the preacher not wanting to offend anyone, the treading on eggshells. But we didn't want to dwell on it too long. So we needed something male-friendly. And what could be more male-friendly than something task-based (ie looking for something) and totally futile (looking for imaginary creatures).

But this year we've hit the jackpot. We managed to find an invisible unicorn while it was feasting on the remains of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The bad news being that there's a whole bunch of colander-wearing geeks who now aren't just terrible disappointments to their fathers, but they don't have anything to make them think they're philosophical comic geniuses. Fathers' Day is totally ruined for them. But then this particular class of individual has probably been wrecking Fathers' Day for years, buying their dads The God Delusion or Richard Dawkins: The Flight of the Honeybee when frankly they really just wanted beer or football compilation DVDs featuring Richard Hammond or whatever.

If anyone wants to know how you know you've found an invisible unicorn, the answer is obvious. Black matt paint. Though unfortunately we only managed one coat, and it's dried streaky and we're in the most almighty row with Woburn Safari Park. They think we've customised a zebra.