Sunday, 15 September 2019

All We, Like Sheep

Luke 15: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Friend of mine moved out to a village. He was one of these tele-commuters. And he figured this village - not a highland Scottish village, or Northern England or Wales one - just an hour from London and set between decent sized towns - he thought this village would be full of similar minded people. You know, he an architect and his wife with her line in high-end sculpture. So they joined the local Facebook group to find out where the best coffee was to be sourced and where they all hang out for a sociable time with free wi-fi. First posting on the page: "Does anybody know whose sheep has its head stuck in the railings by the park?"
Spot the Lost Sheep
 Yep. 21st Century in Dibley. Turns out sheep still matter.

In Northamptonshire, the sheep farmers are suffering terribly. There are people rounding up sheep, slaughtering them in their fields, and then stealing the meat. The sheep farmers are reported to be "devastated". And with good reason. It's not like having some shirts nicked from a clothes shop. The lives of shepherds are tied up to those of the sheep. They're in it with the sheep - in all weather. Out lambing in some of the darkest, coldest - sometimes snowiest - days. Helping struggling ewes to give birth. Keeping them off the wrong plants. Removing them when they get their heads stuck in fences. Worry they'll work out how to get over cattle grids. Making sure they're all the right way up - because there's no end of ways a sheep can bring itself to danger. Remember Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd? When his daft dog drives his flock of sheep over a cliff, Gabriel has lost his livelihood. He's also lost his trade: because which farmer would hire a shepherd whose last sheep farm was his own? The shepherd's life is tied to the flock.

In using the parable of a shepherd, Jesus tells us a couple of very important things about God's relationship to us. He's adopting that Old Testament imagery of God as the good shepherd who cares for the sheep, whereas all the bad rulers are just in it to fleece them. But it's also about the closeness of God to God's people. God is in it with us - in the mud and dag and blood and dark and fears.

Compare it to today's other parable of God finding the lost coin. The woman loses a coin. She searches for that lost coin, and celebrates when she finds it, but the others are nice and safe in the house.

Is it me ewe're looking for?

Whereas this tale of the shepherd.  Wouldn't you all, asks Jesus, leave 99 sheep out in the field, and go and find the other one? To which I suspect the answer might be, we don't know. Because the Judean uplands in the 1st Century weren't Dunstable Downs. The wolves and lions on Dunstable Downs are safely caged away in Whipsnade zoo. Whereas the Judean uplands have wild animals wandering around. Things with teeth and muscle. Are you going out in the day time, Shepherd? Or the night? How many ravines and places where wild things can hide are you planning to go through?

David went around with his sling in case he met a wolf, or a gigantic Philistine. What are you going to meet, O rather Lacksadaisical Shepherd, and what do you have to protect you as you try and find that last woolly-minded member of your flock? And how many are you going to lose of the ones you've left behind?  What's so special about the lost one when all the good ones are stood there nervous wondering what time you'll be back?

But that's what God is like, Jesus tells his audience. God's not happy to take the 99 that are already safe - like contestants on Bullseye in the 1970s knowing the money's safe to take home but do they want to try and win a motor boat? God's going to take a chance and go and get the other one. The one who is - remember - not rebellious, not evil, just.... lost.

Remember that, O safe sheepy friends, as you enjoy your safeness on this heavenly ewelease, field or downs according to your locality and tradition. As we sing our songs of our heavenly sheepfold and how much we love the Shepherd - and isn't it great to have such a loving Shepherd - the Shepherd knows there's other sheep need finding and bringing home. And we're not to judge them and decide they're goats. We're to love them and accept them into our woolly flock.

So the Shepherd comes to earth, and gathers the lost ones, and they know his name and follow him. And then he turns to the place that should be the best of all fields - where the grass is juiciest - where God's Presence has been enthroned among the cherubim - on and off - since the people of Israel first came across the Jordan. And there, where he should find other shepherds, instead - in the palaces - he finds foxes and wolves. And he is taken outside the walls and crucified.

And there, he finds two more last lost sheep. One who is nailed to the cross next to his is told he'll be with him today in Paradise. And one, a Roman soldier - one of the army that keeps the Jews under oppression. One of the ones who slung him up there.  Who turns out to be a lost sheep in wolf's clothing. Who looks up at him and realises who he is. And Jesus calls him home too.

More rejoicing, says Jesus, over one that is found than over 99 that were never lost. But the ones that were never lost - they were always lucky. Always by the side of the Shepherd. Always in green pastures, by still waters. And the ones that are found - we are blessed. We never knew where our true home was. Never knew where our Shepherd was. Scraped around for the blessings we could find. But now our Shepherd has found us, we're safe with the flock - we've finally found our way home.


 "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Liturgy for the First Day of Meteorological Autumn

Hymn: Last Day of Summer (MacColl)

Archdruid: Behold! The first day of Meteorological Autumn!

All: But isn't that a bit arbitrary?

Archdruid: Yeah. Obviously the Autumn actually starts at the Equinox...

All: So why do meteorologists say it's today?

Archdruid: Well, it's the first of the month...

All: And we base a serious weather phenomenon on an arbitrary date?

Archdruid: It's easier to calculate when it's whole months...

All: So this whole "Meteorological Autumn" thing is just because weather forecasters aren't very good at spreadsheets?

Archdruid: See you in three weeks or so?

All: Okey Dokey, Eileen.

Archdruid: Nights are drawing in.

All: Soon be Xmas.

Hymn: Forever Autumn


A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Not Green Belt - Morning 2

And the good news, we're starting the day with poetry from Melissa Sparrow. A lovely one called "The Festival is Nearly Over - on the Feast of St Bartholomew"

The Festival is two days through
And as, excited, we awake
to see what joys are brought today
we know that Time will, greedy, take

the minutes sweet we share today
the resting, glad, in sun-kissed leys
the thoughts, the hopes, the gladdening dreams
soon darkness falls, the daylight flees

and only two days are there left.
For half of one, we'll pack away
the tents, the cooking stoves and pans,
so only one day left,  I'd say.

You've from Kettering or Poole
from Edinburgh or from Dover
but never mind how far you've come
this festival will soon be over.

Even a long weekend goes by
then next week, dull September calls
and children will go back to school
and watch outside as harsh rain falls.

Then Autumn circles like a wolf
as leaves go brown and woodlice creep
we'll shuffle through the dreary rain
instead of watching fields of sheep.

So make the most of what you have
and as you think of dark and damp
November morns, enjoy the sun.
Before forever taking down your camp.

Death death death
Death death death
Death death
Death.



"A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Not Green Belt - Morning 1

The sun has staggered up over the dew-sodden Midsomershire grass of the #NotGB19 campsite. And once again we ask ourselves - if they must hold this event on a farm, why not one which deals in sheep rather than sewage?

It was, as ever, a fractured night. But then we are all fractured people. Mostly after the disturbances when the contingent from the Norbertine Monks fraternity had a food fight with the Vegan Cheese Collective. There's no better whey to settle an argument.

Burton Dasset has woken to discover that the dew soaked through the blanket that he was so optimistically using as a ground sheet. I think we was inspired by Bill Jo Spiers. But then, Billy Jo had someone to keep her warm, unlike poor Burton. So his tent is flapping on a branch, alongside the Young Adults group after their night asleep under it.  They're hoping that by tonight, they'll have drunk enough WKD to be able to sleep in the car.

There's going to be a few good items today. The "We Are All Broken People" stand for instance. Where some straight fundamentalists will be explaining that we're all broken, but they're broken in more acceptable ways. I've heard that they've invited Ann Widdecombe - the poster-person of the "We Are All Broken" movement - to come along and scream about why only weird people love her. But not in that way.

Then "Chesney's Screaming Jelly Babies". The Chesney Hawks tribute band that got fed up just playing the same song over and over. So they migrated to death metal, then Christian Death Metal (better known as the Tuba Mirum Spargens from Berlioz's Requiem). Then ambient trip-jazz, and now they just sing Ralph McTell numbers while throwing jelly babies into liquid nitrogen. It's a gas. Actually, it's not initially. But it ends up as a gas.

But for now, I'm drinking additive-free soy-milk latte from a cup that's so environmental it's already composting in my hand. And munching this fake-bacon organic gluten-free breakfast bap with ethical tomato sauce. Over the hazy hills of Midsomer I can hear the terror of adulterous landlords being murdered by creepy vicars. It's good to be back.


 "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Art, Life, Theology, and Badgers #NotGB19

Every year, the Beaker Folk make a special trip, to a virtual field in Midsomershire, to attend the annual Not Greenbelt festival, run in aid of the Big Issue Foundation by the wonderful Graham Hartland.

As usual, due to a race memory going back to the real Greenbelt in 1985, we are already here. This gives us the chance to set up our tents, get in some early reading the Bible and looking serious, and - most importantly - release the dozen badgers we've brought with us specially to liven up the event.

Early signs are good. All the Beaker Folk, being assorted kinds of stereotype by definition, have fitted neatly into their allotted grooves. To wit:

Burton Dasset's tent has already blown away in a gentle breeze, and he has had to chase it across three barbed wire fences and two fields until it came to rest in a tree.

The Young Adults Group have packed so much alcohol into their borrowed people carrier that they had no room for a tent or food, and are currently begging for a few carrier bags to give them overnight shelter.

Charlii and Young Keith have already spent so much time trying to stop Celestine wandering off, that they've put their dog's satellite tracker on her dungarees strap and connected her to a tree by a length of elastic to be on the safe side.

We've had a row with the First Church of Trump the Redeemer next door, and won the battle by throwing tins of corned beef at them.

The Hnaef family have arrived in their Winnebago, planted a vineyard, built a patio, installed a Jacuzzi and started renting out Internet bandwidth.

Drayton Parslow has come along "for the atmosphere". Made it clear that he will not be attending any events or concerts, as he is merely to be "salt and light" for all the other, inferior, Christians.

Three mates who tagged along, who have no interest in spirituality or art, have been accidentally converted to the Elim Pentecostal tradition and have started an all-night prayer session.

Ranulf and Gerbriza have established a second tent for their larder, and are currently cooking themselves a selection of dim sum and a Mongolian barbecue.

Grinkle has got her guitar well and truly out of tune, ready for singing "Kum By Ah" at 3 am.

 And me? Personally, I have been sitting around, looking thoughtful and jotting down some observations in the manner of Adrian Plass. Like I say, we've all very much hit our stereotypes already.

So get over to NotGB19 and support it!


Want to support this blog? Want a good laugh? (or to shudder at death at any rate? Then here's two ways you can keep the Archdruid in doilies...
If you want someone to share the terrors of death while making you laugh, we have "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Ritual of Shooting Stars and Hedgehogs

Archdruid: I saw two shooting stars last night.

All: I wished on them. But they were only satellites.

Archdruid: It's wrong to wish on space hardware.

Burton Dasset: I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
Archdruid: I'm sorry, Burton. But I don't. You're a soulless get with the interest quotient of a slug.

Burton: One of those nice slugs? Or one of those boring gray ones?

Archdruid: Did we see the wonders of the heavens last night?

All: No, for it was too cloudy.

Archdruid: And shall we wonder at the sight of the heavens tonight?

All: No. We'll all be too tired after last night.

Archdruid: But do you not wonder that a shooting star, born in the furnace of the Big Bang, drawn from the icy womb of its comet by the warmth of the sun, should die screaming in its own heat as it crashes into the atmosphere that blankets our earth?

All: If a meteor burns up above a blanket of cloud, does it really burn up?

Archdruid: This isn't Zen, you post-modern numpties. This is science. Yes. It does. Of course it does. It indubitable does.

All: Did you see it?

Archdruid: OK. I'm off to get the flamethrower. If nobody sees the Beaker Folk burn up, is it really murder at the hands of a heartless religious leader?

All: Ah, yes...

Archdruid: I rest my case. What about the hedgehogs then?

All: No hedgehogs.

Archdruid: All eaten by badgers?

All: We reckon.

Archdruid. OK. Bring me the model badger and giant pins...


All: This is a bit dark for a light-hearted skit on post-modern religion isn't?

Archdruid: You're right. Bring me a very real badger and the flame-thrower.

All: Eileen, you're scaring us.

Archdruid: Then get out there and wonder at the shooting stars.

All: Right you are. It's still light, but we shall wonder at the miracles of the creation in the daylight....


Archdruid: I EXPECT TO SEE PHOTOS


Want to support this blog? Want a good laugh? (or to shudder at death at any rate? Then here's two ways you can keep the Archdruid in doilies...
If you want someone to share the terrors of death while making you laugh, we have "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Assumption of Mary


I blow out the light before the icon of Our Lady, and wonder.

Today, the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Or, as good Catholics put it, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And I believe in the Virgin Birth. Not because it suits any particular agenda of mine. I don't believe the God-Bearer is eternally virgin. Nor do I deny it. I don't want to say I don't care - because her relationship with Joseph was important to her, and her body was - well, hers. But it's an impertinence for me to demand anything of her - even to think of it. The Bible says she was a virgin when Jesus was born. I don't think that is critical to his being God or not. And because it is not critical - why shouldn't I believe it? But beyond that - that's her affair.

But today belongs to the other side of her pilgrimage. The girl who brought God into the world is now an old woman. She knows this place won't hold her any longer. But that doesn't worry her. Because she has seen beyond the Here and Today. Her womb has encompassed the universe. She has heard the carols of the angels that sang before Time. She has seen Life put to death - held Life's broken body - and then seen Death destroyed as Life broke back into the light.

She has carried the Word, given birth to the Word, held the Word and been filled by his Spirit.

And now, as her breath ebbs away, she sees. The sword that pierced her heart is finally withdrawn. As the apostles wonder, she fails. And, as she does, arms are held out. And she, who held him as a baby, she who held him broken at Golgotha - this time she is held in his arms. She falls, but is held up. She plunges into death, but soars upwards. She breaks through the waters of death, and she is safe on Jordan's shore.

And the arms that were stretched on a cross hold her. The one to whom she gave life, breathes life into her.

And the girl that was born to a broken race, is the Queen of Heaven.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Liturgy in Celebration of a Brexit 50p

This experimental liturgy has now been issued to the Beaker Liturgical Commission, who, after suitable consideration and a period of trial, will recommend it to the Liturgical Synod who may, or may not, recommend alterations and another period of consideration and a trial, before recommending it to the Bardic Bench who may, or may not, recommend alterations and another period of consideration and a trial, before recommending it to the Druidical Council. If all goes well, we may get it authorised before the countries that were formerly the United Kingdom rejoin the European Union.

Hymn: Buddy can you spare a dime? (about 11p at current rates)

Confession: We've no idea what the point of this coin is. 

Reading: The story of when Jesus needed 50p to pay the Temple Tax but Peter wasn't allowed to catch a fish because it was in British waters.

Archdruid: Behold! This shiniest of things! The Brexit 50p!

Younger Beaker Folk: What's a 50p?

Archdruid: It's a coin.

Younger Beaker Folk: What's a coin?

Archdruid: It's like contactless, only made of metal...

Younger Beaker Folk: Why?

Archdruid: Why what?

Younger Beaker Folk: Just why?

Drayton Parslow: It is the reversal of the dark times! The hands of friendship of the 1973 coin are now the clenched fists of Brexiters at foreigners and the V-signs of the Conservative Party towards their own people! Rejoice! Rejoice! Truly the fogs of righteousness will sweep down upon the Channel and cut off the Continent! And the song of the turtle will be heard in the land! (Except, since turtles* are foreign, they will have to earn at least £36K per year to sing in the land.) Let us cast off the bonds of friendship and rejoice in loathing and blame-mongering!

Younger Beaker Folk: Isn't friendship a good thing?

Drayton Parslow: This is not about friendship! We are free from the Whore of Babylon - the evil empire with its seat in Rome.

Archdruid: Erm, Brussels?

Drayton Parslow: Good point.

Younger Beaker Folk: What is 1973?

Archdruid:  Well, basically, we're going to be given a coin to reverse the message of a coint that nobody under the age of 50 can even remember, and it's all for....

Drayton Parslow: Freedom! Remember our great withdrawal from Europe at Dunkirk!  Remember Agincourt! Remember Bannockburn!

Archdruid: Wasn't that a great victory for Scottish independence from England?

Drayton Parslow: Ye may take away my false view of history. But ye cannot take away my freedom!

Younger Beaker Folk: Can you eat freedom?

Drayton Parslow: You cannot measure freedom by its monetary worth. Brexit is the substance of things hoped for and the consistency of porridge.

Younger Beaker Folk: Well, what's a 50p coin worth?

Archdruid: About €0.40.

Offertory: Contactless and notes only. No vulgar silver coins.

Hymn: I fought Delors. And Delors (and all his successors) won

Beaker Folk file out to stockpile Brie


*Yes. We know it's not that kind of turtle.


Want to support this blog? Want a good laugh? (or to shudder at death at any rate? Then here's two ways you can keep the Archdruid in doilies...
If you want someone to share the terrors of death while making you laugh, we have "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.