Sunday 9 June 2024

Will there be a Quiet Place in Heaven?

Will there be a quiet place in heaven?

Not that it would be all bad, the feasting and drinking

And the singing Hallelujahs for ever.

I’m sure that’s all fine, as the countless angels wing their flight

And we join the unending hymn of praise.

But will there be a quiet place in heaven?

When the new heaven and new earth are joined in singing

And the tables are laden with the food of eternity

Will there be a place in the corner of the open-gated city

Where you can just be still as the eternal river trickles by

In the shade of the leaves of the tree of life

And dangle your hands in the cool water as it flows

And maybe pick an apple meant for you before time began

And waiting there for you now time is at end

And wonder how – if time is no more – there are still seasons

And water still runs downhill

And listen for the sound of that still small voice

While the brass bands play downtown?

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Theological Reflection Commemorating the Life of Jürgen Moltmann (1926-2024)

Beaker Folk in hi viz and steel-toed Doctor Martens sadly enter the Moot House

They stomp up to the Worship Focus



They stomp back out of the Moot House

Sunday 2 June 2024

Nativity of Thomas Hardy (1840)

Photograph of Thomas Hardy as a middle-aged man. Balding with a fine Victorian moustache like a literary walrus

First Yokel: It's that Thomas Hardy's birthday then.

Second Yokel: Aye. That it be.

First Yokel: Him'd be 184 if he were still alive then.

Second Yokel: Aye. That a' would.

First Yokel: Hast finished "Jude the Obscure" yet?

Second Yokel: No, too depressing.

First Yokel: Hast finished "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" yet?

Second Yokel: No, too depressing.

First Yokel: Hast finished "The Woodlanders" yet?

Second Yokel: No, too depressing.

First Yokel: Hast finished "The Return of the Native" yet?

Second Yokel: No, too depressing.

First Yokel: Shall us along to the Peter's Finger in Mixen Lane for a pretty drop o' tipple?

Second Yokel: W' all my heart.

First Yokel: Happy heavenly birthday, Thomas Hardy.

Second Yokel: If he's up there he's gonna be feeling a bit stupid.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Manse Life

Condensation is the situation for the habitual viveur in what is known as 
Manse Life 
A quiet life can be avoided if you take the route straight through what is known as 
Manse Life 
Tom's got a droopy roof. He gets intimidated by the macho builders. 
They love a drop o' tea.
Manse Life 
Why's that gatepost dangling? You should cut down on your manse life, mate - get another job.

All the people
So many people
They all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their 
Manse Life

I get up when I want, except on Sundays. And every other day of the week.
Manse Life 
I put my dog collar on, 'ave a cup of tea, and fret about leaving the 'ouse
Manse Life 
I see Miss Pigeon. I also see Miss Sparrow too. It gives them a sense of enormous wellbeing.
Manse Life 
And then it's funerals for the rest of the day. Safe in the knowledge my entire life is devoted to it.

All the people
So many people
They all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their 
Manse Life

It's got nothing to do with your Property Committee ya know.
And it's not about the meetings. Which go round and round and round and round... 

All the people
So many people
They all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their 
Manse Life

Friday 17 May 2024

Gardens II : A Second Choice

In the first of this little series, we considered a simple situation. A man, a woman, a garden, doing the right thing. And we ask ourselves a question - what could possibly go wrong?  And the answer is: everything.

Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane - (c) 2024 Sally Coleman

And back in April, that was a simple situation and if, like us, you're trying to get a wildflower garden to thrive, it was a simpler garden. Primroses and bulbs. With the only complication the slugs eating the flowers. The garden was just awakening - like Eden itself did - and everything was short grass and simplicity.

Now in May, things have changed. Primroses have gone over. But you don't want to cut them just yet as they need to seed. Buttercups spring up and Fox-and-Cubs awaits its chance. But is Fox-and-Cubs an invasive plant? Or pretty in its own right? Forget-me-nots are randomly spread around the place. And round the edge, and springing up just where you might not want it, is keck, or as some know it, cow-parsley. And the great dilemma is, what do you do with keck? It's pretty. It's so good for hoverflies and other nectar-lovers. And yet - it's a right pain, spreading everywhere. I suppose you can just accept its grace for what it is, and thank the good Lord that it's not its big sister, Giant Hogweed. The garden is much more complex. At some point we must mow it to ensure next year's primroses. But when? So many nuances.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:36-46, NIV)

The world was simple - one man, one woman, in a garden. The choice was simple. 

But now - the world has grown old and complicated. A man in a garden. The ones who should be with him in his prayers and decisions are snoring under an olive tree. And the pressures come in from all angles. The man is at the centre of religious disputes. Is he the Messiah? The Son of God? Is he a blasphemer, a heretic, demon-possessed? And then there's the political ones, overlapping. Is he a rival to the authorities? Is he putting himself up against Caesar?  Is a rebellion coming?

The liar in the garden was a snake. Here in the garden, Jesus knows that the liars will be those who bring false accusations.

And what is he going to do? Adam and Eve were told they would be gods. Is Jesus going to use godly powers? Call down a legion of angels to storm the Praetorian? Destroy the Temple and raise it in three days? Create through violence an empire of love instead of the Roman's empire of hatred?

Or go with the ancient prophecy, made in this world's mythical spring-time:  "He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel"? The prophecy that his mother half-fulfilled 33 years ago when she said "yes" to God's call to her.

Adam and Eve had to make one, simple decision. This man - one complex one. But let us arise - here comes the betrayer.

Jesus Calls Mary - (c) 2024 Sally Coleman

It is over.

The decision was made. A battle took place. In a garden dedicated to the dead, in the quiet of the dawn, there is no whisper of the trouble that has been taking place in Hell this weekend. Just the birds, maybe the rustle of a fleeing guard.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:11-18, NIV)

It's just like it was in the beginning. A man, and a woman, in the garden, at the beginning of the world. On the First Day, after God has rested.

And Mary thinks that he's the gardener. Which is logical - in a garden. And in a sense, she's right. He is the gardener. He was the one through whom this world was planned and made. It's only through him that this garden - let alone this world, this universe - exist. He sets the rules of physics that bring the sun's rays from heaven, and defines the biology that means the plants grow.

In the beginning, God said "let there be light". And now God's Word says just one thing - "Mary". And she sees. And she believes. And the decision made, back in our race's mythical morning, is superseded. The one who planted the Tree of Life has, through a Tree of Death, changed everything. And the world starts to be remade.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

The Leaking Roof of Dreams

 I blame this edition of The Sportsman

It was them calling Old Trafford a "cathedral of Sport" that caused the issue. Due to a misunderstanding and a clerical error, it was accidentally redesignated as coming under Church of England faculty rules and the Manchester United board was constituted as a PCC.

And now the roof has sprung a leak.

Old Trafford Sign - "Welcome to the Theatre of Dreams"

The request to fix the roof went in to the Archdeacon. Who after consultation discovered that the required changes weren't like-for-like and it had to go to Faculty.

Historic England asked why the supporters couldn't just stand in the rain like the old days. While the Victorian Society said they'd object to the development unless Dennis Irwin was brought back into the back 4. Which, to be fair, would probably improve the current defence.

Then after a couple of years of consultation, and design changes - some people asked whether the roof could be painted green and gold - the Faculty papers finally went to the Church Warden, Doris. Who promptly forgot to put them up on the notice board.

Two years on, the recommendation from the DAC has expired. And it's all got to go round again.

Except now there are plans to move Old Trafford to a new purpose-built mega-church. So the PCC is hopelessly split. Nobody thinks the Rector is going to last much longer in this post, and they're hoping to get a new incumbent from Holy Trinity Brompton.

Goodness knows, they need the prayers.

Saturday 4 May 2024

The Plague of Ladybirds

 And Moses saith unto Pharaoh another plague shall ye endure. For the land will crawl with harlequin ladybirds. They shall creep across every surface, and die on thy hard surfaces and the inside of they windows. And still Pharaoh would not let the people go.

But Moses' aim was out that date. And the plague arrived thirty hundred years later, in the land that is called Ingerland.

And they mostly got stuck in old churches. For they had flourished late in the warm autumn and winter, and awakening in cold churches did they search for the holes through which they had crawled to hibernate.

And vergers, wardens, and clergies throughout the land did wax woeful. And cry out against the little shiny invaders which dropped dead on all their altars, and crawled across their memorial tablets, and clung against the windows seeking the light.

And some saith, it is like unto the year 1976. When we had another plague of ladybirds. And they did crunch under our feet, like unto the rock that is sold in Skegness if thou bash it on a table.

And some saith, they are an alien species from an alien place. And must die to save our native two-spotted and seven-spotted ladybirds.

And others saith, doth the Good Book not tell us to protect the alien? Who thinkest thou that thou art?

And the church cleaners did sweep them up in bushels, and throw them into the darkness that lurkest under the yews in the churchyards.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Moot Update: Re-definition of the Planet Skaro

 We've always been a welcoming community. But we're struggling with the increasing numbers of Thals that have taken refuge. They're nice enough. But having them wandering around all day, telling us how violence is bad, can be a bit aggravating when you want to get out and at the more recalcitrant Beaker Folk with a cricket bat.

We had to take action. So the Moot this evening has declared that from now on, Skaro is a safe planet.
And if the Moot says it's safe, it's safe. Mr Davros assures me it's very welcoming.

Monday 22 April 2024

The Slaying of St George

In common with other great moral and educational institutions, and Magdalen College Oxford, we shall not be celebrating St George’s Day here at the Beaker Folk.

We consider St George to be “stale, pale, male”, the archetypal Englishman who would rather stab a maiden-eating dragon to death with a spear than get it round the table to see whether it can find a compromise – eg only eating old people or something.

As part of our cosmopolitan, forward-looking, eclectic religious oecumenicalism we shall tomorrow instead be celebrating the traditional Catalan feast, La Diada da Sant Jordi. This will feature vegetarian bullfighting,  a procession of roses, and a free bottle of San Miguel with a slice of lime in the neck for every Beaker Person.

I know some people will be fuming about this. The St George’s Day dinner is a tradition that goes all the way back to 2018. But you have to move with the times. And the times say goodbye St George. And Hola, Sant Jordi!