Thursday, 30 April 2015
Morris Men are, however, a protected species. They may be more boring than atheists, but they're kinder on the environment.
Well, the Wicker Man is ready.
I say "wicker". In fact, in keeping with tradition, it's made from all the pallets we've managed to collect over the last few months, the planks split lengthwise and woven cunningly into an erection that bears more than a passing resemblance to Russell Brand.
The ancient Celts, when they weren't writing slightly stilted, folksy liturgy or wearing hooped green and white shirts, used to burn prisoners-of-war, criminals, career politicians and used car sales people in their Wicker People. The Beaker Folk, being peaceful apart from when slaughtering their neighbours, just used to do it because fires are nice, and the evenings get long at this time of year. And they had no Twitter, so had a lot of time on their hands. So doing a bit of wicker weaving and then dancing around in the ashes after the fire was, in many respects, a bit like the equivalent of making Jobseekers work a fortnight for Tesco.
Whatever. Tonight we walk in the footsteps of the ancestors. We mark another spoke in the great circle of the year. We unite ourselves with the cycles of Mother Earth.
And we bake a load of potatoes.
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
"Did a falling meteor kick start Christianity?" No.
Did Diana have a secret daughter? No.
Is there a bus on the moon? No.
Did this woman's smart trick have dermatologists livid? No.
Did aliens build the pyramids? No.
Can eating radishes extend your life? Probably not. Eventually your flatulence would catch fire.
Are scientists about to cure death?" Not if they understand the concept of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
"Was Jesus a Buddhist?" You're being silly now.
"Has science disprove God?" Contrary to popular belief, it can't even try to.
The only evidence being one bloke who, for no obvious reason, made it all up.
Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Only Bercow was stirring, as short as a mouse;
Leaflets were posted by candidates fraught,
In hopes of obtaining the votes that were sought;
The voters were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Eric Pickles danced in their heads;
David Cameron with port, Nigel Farage with beer,
Were settling down to their spring evening cheer
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the green springtime grass
Showed football shorts tight on a chubby bloke’s bottom
And before my eyes, there arose like a dream,
The complete Labour Party election team
While the bloke wearing shorts, tight as other folks' smalls,
I knew in a moment it must be Ed Balls.
|Ed Balls in Shorts from Daily Mail|
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Yvette! now, Miliband! Umunna and Burnham!
On, Danny! on, Rosie! on Harriet Harman!
Every one now knows that Xmas, Easter, Candlemas etc have Pagan origins. Or at least have read some drivel about it and been unable to apply sufficient critical facilties to smell historical horse manure.
But the one festival that most people don't realise actually is of pagan origin is Ed Balls Day.
Originating in Canaanite folk religion, Ed Baals was the god of over-tight football shorts. On Ed Baals Day, he would climb down the chimneys of mansions, and take 50% of all the owners' possessions. The poor people would cluster towards him, assuming he would redistribute the wealth to them. But instead, Ed Baals would give all the money to the Lords of Peyeff Ai. Who would then let him use their hospitals and schools, as long as he gave them as much again the following year.
Today, we celebrate Ed Balls Day by eating Chocolate Salty Balls and cheese balls. How easy it is to forget that an ancient god, whose festivities could often cost his worshippers an arm and a leg, has been so sanitised.
Then follow this link.
English attendance at church is currently fairly static, as new churches, Pentecostal and Orthodox make up for declining old-fashioned non-conformists. The future of English church looks like being lively, varied, more Bible-believing and more expectant of God's direct action.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
Hnaef: Ed Balls.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
Burton: Ed Balls.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
All: And Ed Balls to you.
— Ed Balls (@edballsmp) April 28, 2011
All: And Ed Balls to you, too.
When the choir wails
When babies cry
When I feel alone
I remember my favourite liturgical things
And I wish I were at home.
Monday, 27 April 2015
Saturday, 25 April 2015
And then there are these critters, finding ways over cattle grids:
Then there were the sheep that learned to roll over cattle grids.
Or this one being rescued from a fence then falling down the hill.
Or the sheep that climbed on a roof, then fell off.....
In fact, I'm starting to think the whole "sheep" analogy is not so bad. That's what humans are like. We put ourselves at risk by being "clever" and end up lost. We choose our own way of doing things. We pay no attention to our environment, just worrying about the thing right in front of our noses - and then we panic.
Jesus's comparison is between a shepherd, and a hired hand. Why does the hired hand run away from the wolf? Well, the hired hand's life is worth more than the sheep's.
Why does the shepherd not run away? Because the sheep are the shepherd's life. He is defined, as much as they are, by their relationship. He can't run away. He is their shepherd. Even if that means laying his life down for them.
Today in the lowlands of England, the shepherd's not so bad. I've seen shepherds near Towcester rounding up sheep with quad-bikes. The land is - mostly - gentle and the weather is - mostly - mild. And there are no wolves. But up in the highlands, the story isn't so gentle. As we come to the end of the lambing season the Dales and Fells are still at risk of snow. The inter-dependence of the shepherd and the sheep is immense. The shepherd's living is dependent on the sheep - and the lives themselves of the lambing ewes are often reliant on the skill of the shepherd. The winter and spring can be bitter, the weather treacherous, dangerous for the humans and the sheep.
Jesus says to us, there's danger in this world. There's physical dangers, sure - the danger, if you are a Christian in the wrong place, of death at the hands of those who hate the Cross. But the one we follow faced those dangers himself - and laid down his life for the sheep. There are worse dangers, too. The danger that we turn from God. The idea that we can be dependent on ourselves. That individual sheep strike out on their own. That's another thing about sheep. The smart ones, that live in Cumbria, they are "hefted". They know their own patch of land - they know their homes and they stick there. Stupid, lowland sheep - if one finds an exciting new thing, a gap in a hedge or a gate left open, they can all wander off. Just a view of what looks like greener grass across the other road, and given the chance, they're all off. Next thing you know there are sheep all over the road.
The dangers if we wander away are far greater than mere physical pain, mockery or even death. Because in the world of Jesus' parables, if you aren't sticking by the shepherd - if you strike out on your own - you're lost. And if, when the shepherd comes looking for you, you're determined to stay lost, you'll get away in the end. Your choice.
But the rewards for staying by the shepherd are far greater than human reward. The Good Shepherd tells us that he'll bring us into a place where we will be safe forever. He knows that we don't need to fear the wolf that will destroy - because he's faced that wolf. In dying, and descending to hell, he's fought that wolf. In rising to new life, he's killed it. Death is now a short-term pain - as Paul says in Romans 8: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us. For the creation is eagerly awaiting the revelation of God’s children."
|Image from Christianity Today|
When we have passed through death, we'll know the Good Shepherd as that one who died for us, and for all the others. We'll share his love with him, and one another, in a way that we grasp at now - but can never achieve. We'll know that he has brought us, and all the other scattered flocks that are his, home - back to a place which we, like a hefted sheep, will recognise as home. We'll give him glory and we'll be his flock. Forever.
But it's easy to get confused. The campaign trail takes it out of you. Many UKIP candidates can unexpectedly say racist things, while people in Tower Hamlets can do completely out-of-character things like say God wants people to vote for them. So we are happy to help David Cameron set the record straight. We asked him to tell us, in his opinion, what would be his best-ever Aston Villa team, made up from the all-time greatest players in each position. And this is what he told us.
Oh. Hang on.
As a result of our construction of a Yellow Brick Road from the Moot House to the Lower Holy Well, we have discovered a thin place just below the bramble patch in Lower Meadow.
We've put red and white tape round it, and Hnaef is down there with gauges and a spirit level, trying to ascertain just how thin it is. But we reckon ir's at least a Grade 3, as we can hear chanting.
So until we've got any hard data, please avoid the area. Particularly thin places can be very hazardous. We wouldn't want anyone to end up in Narnia.
Thursday, 23 April 2015
Archdruid: And so on this St George's Day we raise St George's cross...
All: Bit UKIP-y?
Archdruid: And we celebrate the patron saint of England.
All: You trying to upset the Scots Nats?
Archdruid: The red cross...
Burton: Isn't that a crusader's cross? You encouraging ISIS?
Archdruid: ...stained, it is said, by his martyr's blood, on his warrior's shield....
All: A soldier? What, freedom fighter?
Archdruid: No. Roman soldier.
Hnaef: Imperialist as well. This ain't getting better.
Archdruid: He killed a dragon.
All: Did he reason with it first?
Stacey Bushes: Did he try to discuss maybe some kind of peace treaty - bring in a neutral third party to facilitate negotiations? Intelligent creatures, dragons. We've seen The Hobbit. They've got to have some rights.
Archdruid: No! He had to save a helpless maiden.....
Edith Weston: What a sexist. You saying her sex life - or lack of it - was the determinant in whether she was saved or not?
Archdruid: I'm sorry?
Charlii: Would he have saved her if she'd been a single mother, or other non-conformer to patriarchal ideals? I suppose if she'd been a childless woman making a living as the chief exec of a pottery company he'd have left her to roast.
Archdruid: I don't know. I'm not aware he had that option. She was a helpless maiden.....
Daphne: What was so helpless about her? Why did it take a man to reinforce his role as protector - while simultaneously endorsing an unholy alliance between religion and the military/industrial complex - to kill an innocent dragon? Surely the maiden herself could have killed the dragon, were she not trapped in the stereotypical role of "helpless"?
Archdruid: So we cry "God, King Harry and St George for England! "
All: That's right, upset the French....
Wednesday, 22 April 2015
Apologies for the chaos on the Marston Vale line this morning.
As part of their induction to Beaker Life, Burton Dasset took the Church Growth consultants I've hired from Tesco for a guided tour of Ridgmont Station.
Unfortunately he got them a viewing of the signal box. At which point they pulled all the available levers. Turns out that's not always such a good strategy.
I've had some Beaker Folk complaining about the new strategy document, "Shut up and do What you are told - How Confirmation Bias Can Drive Church Growth".
Apparently my decision to adopt a bunch of theories based on my personal preferences is "undemocratic". Well, that's what we call a "category error". Inasmuch as this seems to imply that they think the Beaker Folk are a democracy.
Let's get this straight. We tried democracy in the 80s. And what it proved is, you can't trust people to make decisions. Or rather, you can't trust all of them. I know what I'm doing, obviously. Today, in Russia, the European Union and the Middle East, we're seeing the rolling-back of the failed democratic experiment, in favour of people doing what they're told, or else.
Now to the implementation of my new growth strategy. I've brought in a bunch of advisers from Tesco, who have unexpectedly become available at decent rates. They'll help us to develop a go ahead, commercial, consumer orientated growth plan. You can trust them. They've got experience of the real world.
Now can Beaker Folk please stop whining, and just follow. Frankly, if people keep not following me, it's gonna look like I'm not a very good leader,
Monday, 20 April 2015
"Helen of Troy?"
"Joan of Arc?"
"Her too. "
"We'd never play Liverpool again."
"Not really a sympathetic heroine."
"Put her down as a strong maybe."
"Catherine the Great?"
"Not tragic enough."
"OK. Long shot.... Kerry Catona."
"You just hit electro pop gold, Mr McCluskey."
Sunday, 19 April 2015
Saturday, 18 April 2015
You could argue his reasoning is sound. Increasingly, the country that has kept its clerics under control is China - oh boy, have they kept their clerics under control - and they're not half doing well economically.
On the other hand, you could figure that somebody who depends for trade on people coming into his establishment might do better than to insult something which has inspired altruism, the arts, great spiritual insight, and arguably the whole basis of democracy and human rights. Sure, there are places where religion causes trouble. But then, North Korea's not got a great record on human rights and it's banned there. The USSR had much the same attitudes.. So maybe the problem is people using religion, not religion itself.
How does Mr Martin plan to reduce God's representatives to secondary status? Will he add special corners for vicars, like their children's areas? Will he only sell Christians beer beer made by Carlsberg? It's not made clear, but I reckon it's safer if I avoid the 'Spoons in Bedford and Milton Keynes in future. The thought of having to wear a special badge, or put on a special hat or something, is not appealing.
Thanks, Mr Martin. My God, as Dave Allen might amusingly say, will go with me. To the Wellie Arms, not the Pilgrim's Progress, next time I visit Bedford. The beer's better there, as well.
MISSION COMMITTEE REPORT - XXXXXXXX Church
David is keen on Mission, but the terms of his restraining order prevent him coming within five miles of the church hall, which is problematic.Somebody also suggested Ethelberta, but she does not like to go out after 4pm. And we thought it would be more inclusive to allow people who work, or care for children, to be able to attend. We did discuss maybe having two committees - one for people who go out in the day and one for people who go out at night. But that would require permission from the Church Committee. So we put forward that suggestion to the Committee.
- A Mission Week, with a tent in the churchyard, barbecues, a Youth Band, invited speaker and twelve-week Alpha Course - Too ambitious.
- Putting nicely printed cards saying "Come to Church" on the tables at Tuesday lunches - Too pushy, likely to put people off coming for lunches.
- Leafleting the town for Easter - Too tiring, and too many of our congregation are too old. Though we did think maybe Dora could do it.
- An additional Jumble Sale - We already have 9 a year, and we're now down to just buying back our own junk every six weeks. And Dora really can't organise anymore as she's already missing days as a lay chaplain at the Prison to run the ones she does.
- A youth service - would only appeal to young people.
- A "Songs of Praise" service - would only appeal to old people.
- Saturday night football - Too strenuous.
- Film club - Too expensive to pay the licence.
- Inviting a famous footballer to attend - They often play football on Sundays. So this would be too complicated.
- Prayer Spaces - Too trendy
- Opening the Church during the week - Too risky
- Messy Church - Too messy.
- Brass Rubbing Club - Too silly.
- Clown Church - Too scary. We have had no children in church since the last one.
- Facebook - Too modern. We had a lovely debate about how dangerous Social Media is.
- Getting involved with other churches to stage an event - Too complicated. And how would we know how to divide up all the converts?
It is also true to say that we have suffered from the repeated absence of our Chair. Sadly, she clearly does not have the time to care about Mission.
Friday, 17 April 2015
Contrary to popular opinion, Science and Religion go quite well together. Many religious ministers have been qualified in other subjects before their call. Often in sciences or medicine. But which other qualifications are most useful in a religious minister?
The "Ministers' Academic Usefulness Scale" is here to help you discover. Based on to what degree (ho, ho) the Minister's academic background helps or hinders the life of the Church....
1. Degree in Engineering - Invaluable if the boiler breaks down
2. A Level in Geography - If you're wandering round town in a dog collar, people are more likely to ask you for directions. Or tell you where to go. Useful either way.
3 Masters in Organic Chemistry - Handy if you need to "accidentally" melt down some pews. Or make your own wine or tea lights.
4. D Phil in Astrophysics - At evening prayer, you can look up through where the lead used to be on the roof and tell people what the stars are called.
5. O Level/GCSE in Art - You can make nice displays with hazelnuts and ferns, to help people express their inner spirituality.
6. PE2 in Accountancy - So you can keep an eye on the treasurer.
7. A Level in Needlework - Those lovely clothes are not going to repair themselves.
8. BSc in Medicine - Useful for slow-starting congregations on cold mornings.
9 MA in Music - Your knowing it all in music will be an asset, as long as you reserve the exercise of your skill to singing in the bath. Do not show the organist the improved tricks you picked up while an organ scholar at "The House".
10. MBA - Not much use in the real world. Not much use in the Church world.
11. Economics BSc - Like Accountancy, useful for checking things like your church's contribution to central funds. But if you're a passionate believer in Keynsian economics, you're in for a nasty shock. Although you can advocate it in sermons for the country, you won't get away with it when you need a new spire. Find the minister with an art O Level, and get her to paint a big thermometer.
12. BA Theology - OK for your own reflections, but try not to use it in Church stuff. It only scares people if you start talking about God.
13. MA Quantum Chemistry - Yes, the wave/particle duality theory is a nice analogy for the Incarnation, in that nobody understands either. Why didn't you do Organic? The drains need unblocking.
Thursday, 16 April 2015
Archdruid: The spring has sprung.
All: The great Watcher in the Sky has appeared above us.
Moon Gibbon Folk: Errk! The Moon Gibbon! Spare us, O Great Primate, from thy steely fangs! (They rush off into the woods)
Archdruid: No! We were just poetically referring to the International Space Station....
(Moon Gibbon Folk slink back)
Hnaef: And the Dragon ship that is following it....
(Moon Gibbon Folk run back into the woods)
Archdruid: And as the meadows swarm with butterflies, the grass grows long, the birds are mating and the whole of Mother Nature's family exalts in the fruitfulness of the land....
(Beaker Fertility Folk rush off into the woods)
Archdruid: For crying out loud. Is there anybody left?
Socks 'n' Sandals People: We are here.
Archdruid: And who are you?
Socks 'n' Sandals People: We are the Socks 'n' Sandals People. We celebrate the new warmth of Spring, but sensibly. We want to allow the air to our toes. But not too much. Come, for the day is now and our socks are grey! We shall run into the meadow and do the Solemn Spring Dance of the Socks 'n' Sandal People!
Archdruid: Won't there be dew on the grass?
Socks 'n' Sandal People: Good point. We'll go to the car park instead.
Socks 'n' Sandal People depart for the Car Park
Archdruid: So there's just you few left.
Remaining Beaker Folk: But where would we go?
Archdruid: You mean I have the words of eternal life?
Remaining Beaker Folk: No. You confiscated our car keys so we had to work in the Doily Shed.
Archdruid: Oh yeah. Well, blow this for a game of soldiers. Peace be with you, and keep your boots on.
Far away, across the car park, the sounds of the Floral Dance and shuffling of gravel reveal the Socks 'n' Sandal Folk are performing their ancient, solemn dance. Frogs revel in the new sun, and thank their froggy god that she never expected them to wear socks.
Wednesday, 15 April 2015
You know, that article of the Daily Mail I quoted this morning really tells you everything you need to know about that paper's attitude.
In the Mail's view of the world, the fact that Fr Richard Coles once did something wrong means he can't be trusted to pronounce on something now. In other words, the Mail allows nobody the ability to learn. Nobody can repent. No-one can be redeemed.
It's fundamentally the story the paper re-tells, over and over. We, the innocent nice ones, must be protected. (I presume I'm in that camp, being white, middle-class and without a criminal record). Them over there are alien, criminal, poor, disabled, unemployed. Different.
We must never think that anyone could move from one group to the other. For if a benefits scrounger gets a job, or a migrant works hard and makes a fortune, or a drug taker becomes a vicar - that will destroy the myth of unchanging order we have sold ourselves. So in challenging the ideas of the party of the establishment, Richard Coles is that most awful of things - an imposter. It must be shown that he has a Past. So things can go back to normal. Because if others can change for the better, we or our circumstances could change for the worse.
In the Mail's schema, only one thing must change. Pretty young girls must become pretty young women, so they can be displayed on the right-hand-side of the web page, for the delectation of middle-aged letches. But by remarking that these young women are 'all grown up", the paper will be able to reassure their readers that they have nothing in common with the paedophile who has just been revealed in another article.
Maybe this is why the Mail is so obsessed with health. Because, in a Mail world where nothing must ever change - what could be worse than illness? It turns working people into benefits claimants, able-bodied people into ones who get reserved car parking spaces, pilots into mass-murderers. No, we must take our vitamins, drink filtered water, eat this week's recommended set of healthy foods and not the ones we told you to eat last week, which will give you cancer. Follow our diet tips and live forever! Or, at least, till next week, when we tell you you've just poisoned yourself.
It's a vile creed. A world without change, growth, redemption or hope. A world where we are always good and right, and they are always evil, weird and dangerous. A world where you can live forever - or, at least, for an extra few weeks - without ever having to admit you were wrong.
No wonder it's so popular.
Curious piece by the Daily Mail, apparently saying Revd Richard Coles can't criticise the Tories' ridiculous and un-Conservative plan to steal homes from Housing Associations to buy votes from people who want a quick win, because he used to have sex in lay-bys. Having a go at Fr Richard for his drug-taking past seems a bit rich, given the Mail's readers must be constantly off their heads on Victory V's and gin to accept the constant fear-health-scare-sexism-immigrants diet they are fed without realising it's all drivel. Indeed, if they believed the Mail's tales of benefits-stealing, scantily-dressed, disease-ridden celebrity asylum seekers, it's a wonder they can get out their doors without a stiff amyl nitrate.
But it does strike me, reading about Fr Richard's 'grace and favour" mansion (I presume the Mail thinks he does no work except on Sundays. This is really not true) that, looked at in one sense, the property portfolios of the churches of our country make the Church a confederation of Housing Associations. So I have a suggestion.
The churches should start charging a peppercorn rent for their parsonages, so that, in effect, the religious ministers of this country are sitting tenants. This means that surely, on Tory logic, they must have a right to buy. Even today, some vicarages are nice bits of real estate with development potential. And the ministers will be able, by flogging off their new acquisitions, to buy themselves a decent pension, thus saving them having to form dodgy alliances with undertakers during their retirements. And the church property departments, having released a nice slab of cash from the mortgage companies and the Government subsidy, will be able to buy nice new manses.
Which the ministers will have the right to buy.
The churches could even rent the old manses back from the ministers they've sold them to, then let them live there. After all, they still need somewhere for their clergy to live. I reckon, if the churches play it right, they can get the Government to subsidise the whole of British Religion. I'm off to get my application in now.
Ah, there's nothing like worshipping in a proper, authentic tradition. In this case the Methodist Revival Service last night.
Out in the field, singing hymns with 16 verses each. A two-hour sermon threatening Hell to those that won't accept true path, and a route to perfection for those that will.
And by the end we had had three schisms, and six new denominations had been founded. I can't wait for this evening's "Worship in a 1980s Ecumenical Style", so we can put them all back together again.
Monday, 13 April 2015
Step 1: Throw three darts at this board.
Step 3: Make up any old drivel to express your personality.
Step 5: Sack the Quire for refusing to respect your authority.
listen to my prayer.
Listen to me, you who sit among the angels
who shine more brightly than even the top of my head
in the brightness of a spring sunrise.
Do not let the youths laugh at my balding head
do not let them mock my thinning locks
or if they do,
remember how you upheld Elisha in the same circumstances.
I'm not asking for a swarm of bears
maybe just the one?
That would do.
I'm not being greedy.
I wouldn't like them to suffer too much
maybe just a light mauling.
And Lord, remember my vulnerability to the weather.
For you make the rain to fall on the hipster and the baldy alike
and rain's OK. Because it dries off quick once you're in the dry
when you're as bald as I.
But don't let me be caught in the wind
when I've left the bobble hat at home.
And don't let the sun beat down on my unlotioned head
(for it's hard to apply sun tan lotion to a scalp that's not totally bald.
If only someone would invent Factor 50 Brylcream.
Perhaps you could inspire some devout chemist who works for L'Oreal?
And most of all, O Lord my protector,
keep me from the hail that bounces off my bony bonce.
Do you have any idea how much that hurts?
And so, Lord, protect me from overhanging branches
and stillicidal drips
and overflying birds.
Surely I shall be on the safe side
and wear a hoody all the days of my life.
takes 10 years off you, that does.
So thank you Lord for hoodies,
flat caps and trilbies
bobble hats and bicycle helmets
but not fedoras.
Unless you're Terry Pratchett, they make you look like a prat.
This idea that you've got to show your passport to get NHS treatment worries me.
So for maternity wards - how do unborn babies apply? If their parents apply for the passport, do they leave name, sex and date of birth blank? Do they have ultrasounds instead of photos? And at precisely what point are they requested to show the passport to be allowed to be born?
And if, when they're born, it turns out they're illegally in the maternity ward, how are they gonna be sent back?
It's gonna be a logistical nightmare, this one.
Sunday, 12 April 2015
|The minister has just asked for volunteers to take the children's group this week.|
|This is believed to be one of the few verifiable examples of religious phenomena that cannot be disproved by science. As it is the only sound of this level that can be heard, and has the effect of a blow around the head.
Unless the minister has received a blow round the head, in which case the volume is irrelevant.
|First 10 seconds after minister announces the plan to move the tea light stand|
|Sweat running down back|
|Empty chapel on a quiet day|
|Murmur of doves on a sunny day|
|Closeness to God|
|Morning prayer when only the vicar turns up|
|Vicar wakes up 3 hours later with edge of pew indented in forehead|
|Agreed volume the bass player in the music group is allowed to play "so as not to upset the older people"|
|Causes sulky looks and frustration.|
|Child in the play corner, when asked to be very quiet because something holy is going on.|
|Congregation's glasses steam up, loud tutting, vicious looks, child does not go to church any more.|
|Church bells, heard through an open window in the new estate on the other side of the village.|
|Complaints to the council, police and Queen by the new couple who just moved in from Hampstead. Letters to the council. Scurrilous headlines in the local paper. Nasty looks at the husband when he tries to go for a quiet pint in the local.|
|Vicar's Moped at 25 feet|
|Causes complete lack of attention in motorists|
|Mrs Cholmondeley in the Quire|
|Probable hearing damage over 1 hour exposure. Mr Cholmondeley has used this as an excuse for years.|
|Thunderstorm during a service|
|Unexpected need to visit toilet, repentance, awkward questions about the minister's beliefs and sex life.|
|Committee has had 10 seconds to digest the plan to move the tea light stand|
|People arriving to set up for the next service, trying to be quiet outside while the early service is still going on.|
|Disorientation, confusion, skipping of prayers.|
Saturday, 11 April 2015
|The future that you anticipated has been cancelled|
There's lovely introductory intro lyrics, on the first track of English Electric, "Please remain seated..." - which is effectively set in an airport waiting lounge....
"May I have your attention please.Which is kind of apt for John's account of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. Because that's where the disciples are. Whatever future they were anticipating, was cancelled. I presume John and James could see a future where, as Jesus ruled the Jewish empire from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, they sat next to him as princelings, holding the power of life and death over their subjects. Hot-headed Peter - maybe he was dreaming of battles way beyond just cutting one ear off one High Priest's servant. Mary Magdalene - maybe the silly archaeologists and silly novelists are right to a degree, and maybe she was dreaming of becoming Mrs Jesus of Nazareth. And perhaps Mary the Lord's mother was dreaming her son would come home, pick up Joseph's tools, and get on with the safe job of being a carpenter.
The future that you anticipated has been cancelled.
Please remain seated and wait for further instructions."
Well, that was all gone now. The future they anticipated has been cancelled. They remain seated - apparently around that same table, in that same room in John Mark's house where, just a few days earlier, Jesus had broken bread. And they're reeling from a whole series of odd events.
The Resurrection stories in the different Gospels don't quite hang together. There's different details, different narratives, different viewpoints. A young man in a white outfit for Mark becomes an angel in Matthew - two in Luke.
And the truth comes in from many angles - as well as several angels. Mary and the women see the empty tomb. John runs to the door - Peter into the tomb. But it's when it's quiet after the two action men have gone back to bed, that Mary sees Jesus. He appears - in Luke - to the two on the road to Emmaus. He appears to the disciples there in that upper room. And, a week later - on this Sunday - he appears again, this time to Thomas.
We can see Thomas as someone special, special - the doubting one, the one left over - we can focus on his leap to faith as if it's something individual. But in fact, it's not. It's actually part of that whole community of love that Jesus had created before his death, coming to know the truth of the resurrection. Thomas isn't being saved all alone as he realises what has happened. Let's face it, for all his scientific "show me the holes in his side" - if he'd seen Jesus all alone, by the following day he would, quite rationally, be asking himself - "did I really do that?" What was I on last night?
No, the first Church has been built up over that week. The apostles, the women, the two going to Emmaus, Thomas - each have seen their own sights, had their own experiences of the living Jesus. This isn't about individuals coming to faith - it's a community, each with their different roles, coming to a dawning realisation - and each, with their own experience and reflection, contributing to the community's worship and belief. Thomas has become properly part of that faith community - in the way God made us to be. You'll notice that even a great Evangelical, right at the Englightenment, like John Wesley, still set up "classses", where his Methodists could be together, learn together. He didn't just give them each a copy of his Sermons and tell them to go home and work it out for themselves.
And what Thomas gets to do, is put the words that are needed, to describe the experience his friends have all been having over the last, rather odd week. He takes Mary's "Rabboni", and raises it all the way to "My Lord, and my God." It's his insight, but it's what they have all been realising gradually. He's brought it all together, and summed up the Church's witness for the Age to come.
When we come to Church, some are smart and some are dim. Many are old, but hopefully some are young. Some have amazing spiritual insights. Some speak with tongues of angels. Some just like the hymns, though they may be a dab hand with the Pledge when it comes to polishing the furniture. But collectively we make up the Body of Christ.
We have a habit of saying that when we come together, Christ is there in the midst of us. Of course he is - but then he's God's Word. He is the rules of love that make up the universe. He's always and everywhere here with us. But when we come together - as the disciples did - and each brings their insight, each brings their personality and their gifts - he is among us and, like Thomas on that Sunday, we recognise him. We see him in each other, we see him in the words of Scripture, we recognise him at the breaking of bread. He is here, and we know it.
When the disciples were together, Thomas was with them. And when he saw Jesus, he made their understanding complete. The future they anticpated had been cancelled. One they didn't expect had kicked in. One where death need no longer be feared, Jesus was with all of them, and joy was to be found in that. That future they got, is the one we're living as well. Jesus is still alive, the Kingdom is near us and working through us, and because one person has been raised from the dead, we can believe we all will.
"Their crew will be almost a kilo per rower lighter than that of Cambridge on Saturday as they race an hour earlier than the men"I'm presuming that Cambridge are less affected by the relativistic effects of the speed they're travelling at? Otherwise how could their respective weights be so drastically affected by the time dimension?
Ah me. As Peter Cook would say, you shouldn't say two things together like that. It could confuse a stupid person.
He said, “Yes.”
And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying,
“What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself." (Matt 17:24-27)
Friday, 10 April 2015
Thursday, 9 April 2015
"And as we discuss the possible repeal of the Hunting Ban, we have somebody who hates all posh people, and a man who likes dissolving live foxes in nitric acid."
"Should we extend the High Speed 2 line to Glasgow? We speak to a Glaswegian who is allergic to trains, and the Chair of the "Rebuild Hadrian's Wall, a Mile High" Society."
"What now for the polar bears? We've a man who wants to put the Arctic into a massive refrigerator, and a woman with a large spear and a hungry look."
"The patent fraudster who claims to have found the tomb of Jesus, and the person who keeps setting fire to his trousers on the grounds he's a heretic. We'll be standing between them with a bucket of water, while they scream abuse at each other."
"EU border controls - we've got Mr Al Baghdadi, who says remove them all. But a woman with a pillow case on her head and an interest in burning crosses isn't so sure."
|Do we need to sack everybody at the Highways Agency? |
Or is it a message from an alien intelligence? Coming up after the break.
"Could there be life on Saturn's moons? We've got someone who's in telepathic contact with a fish on Tethys, and a fundamentalist who's convinced God has painted the planets on the dome of the sky in luminous paint."
"Women in the Church - should we ban all men? Or see women priests for the evil castration cult they clearly are?"
"Peace in the Middle East - an evangelical from the US says the sooner they're gathered at Megiddo the better. While an experimental scientist with no job, degrees or published papers tells us his plans to float Jerusalem out onto the Dead Sea on a massive swimming float."
"Nativity Plays - should they be compulsory in every school, or are they the child-brain-washing tools of an evil zombie death cult? We've found people to back both views. And you wouldn't want to meet them in the street."
To raise money towards the rewiring of the beautiful St Michael's, Camden, a group are walking to every St Michael's in London over 4 days.
As I write, they're halfway between St Michael's Highgate and home base in Camden. Although Burton Dasset's comment was he probably would spend all afternoon in the Flask Inn, before wobbling down Highgate Hill towards St Pancras on his bike.
We ignore him. The church is well worth helping. And St Michael wouldn't look out of place in Helm's Deep. Link's below.
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
according to thy pledge.
For mine eyes have seen thy taxation.
Which thou art prepared
to impose on all income-maximising people;
To be a tax to burden the nations
and the downfall of the London property market.
"If God comes in overalls, there'll be some sulking faces in Church." - Compo Simmonite, Last of the Summer WineThat's always been my stereotype of English religion. God on the side of the middle classes. Everybody in their suits (or hipster jeans these days), putting on the Ritz for the King of Kings while the poor stay in bed of a Sunday morning.
Monday, 6 April 2015
Ezra the Scribe
And the answer is, simply, hiding.
They really can't manage Holy Week. The hard decisions, rejection, pain, blood, death and so on. It's not a part of the Beaker self-image. Beaker Folk stand for joy, delight, low-grade liturgical dancing, hippy music and meaningless ceremony.
And the bit they can't cope with most of all is Easter Day. They like to inhabit the land of myth, and the demands of Easter Day to be treated as a historical fact mess with their heads. I try to put it like this to soften the blow. Easter is a myth, but one that is written in historical form. The resurrection of Jesus is written across the new leaves on the trees, the sprouts of bluebells, the rising sun, Isis and Osiris, Woden hanging on a tree to gain wisdom - a thousand fragments of a myth of beauty and wisdom gained through death and resurrection, all gathered up into one myth that happens to have been written, once, in a historical context.
And they look at me and shudder. They like me dragging in the Egyptian stuff and astronomy and Woden and all that - but they really don't trust the historical bit. If one man can be resurrected, they say, that means everybody can. And if that's a real thing in history, then what we do matters. And that's not a good message for a post-critical religion.
And I give up, and let them go home until Easter Monday. They like this afternoon's Liturgy of Egg throwing. As the eggs sail over the Moot House or, for beginners, the Great Trilithon, they represent the sun rising in strength. As they fall gently, they represent the sun returning to rest. And as they smash onto the would-be catchers' faces, they represent the myth of the politician who has a row with a brewery and thereby increases its sales.
They can grasp this. It's mythic, it's natural, and it has no effect on their daily lives. It's just the sort of religion they like.
Sunday, 5 April 2015
And when we come to Church, is it to hide ourselves away? It would be cool there at the tomb. The spices are aromatic. It's peaceful, here in the cemetery garden. Just Mary and the other women and their lost dreams, shut away from a world where the Romans have once again proved who's in charge. Where the money-sellers will be back at their stalls in the temple, like they'd not been thrown from the place a week ago. Doves will be sold and killed, the priests will get their share, the Pharisees will take the most respected seats at dinner parties, and the people will render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. But though the world has not changed on the surface, at its fundamentals everything has changed. Jesus is alive. The power of Rome and the Jewish state and the oppression of religion have been shown for the short-term shells that they are. Everyone who dies for Jesus will know that Jesus has conquered death. Every believer's tomb is a short-term stop, not a final resting place. And Jesus tells her - don't cling on here. Get out - tell my brothers. Tell them I'm on the move, and they need to be too. Church is not for hiding in buidlings and tombs - or at least, not as a long-term strategy. Jesus is risen - the rest is open before us.