Sunday, 22 January 2012

Churches Together Sunday

Oh boy, what a morning.

So I've so had to just walk out of Drayton Parslow's service this morning before I lost it. I know Eileen's always hitting him with stuff - cricket bats, mostly - and I'm starting to see why.

It was Eileen's fault. She knows Drayton doesn't do "Churches together" stuff. Drayton's idea of Christian unity is that everyone becomes a Fundamentalist Baptist. His kind of Fundamentalist Baptist. And Eileen doesn't do it either. Her post-modernism says that whatever other people want to do is fine by her, but we have decent coffee so she's not going to join with other Christians who have worse coffee.

But she wanted me to see the dark side of religion. So she talked Drayton into preaching on "Holiness, Grace and Justice" as a special favour, for me to hear it. And also preached on the same subject herself. So I got Eileen from 9 till 9.10, and the Drayton from 10 till 12 - at which point I feigned illness. He offered to rush forward and lay on hands, but I told him it was "somewhere you wouldn't want to lay on hands". At least, I hoped he wouldn't. So he looked horrified and I ran out before he could find someone who did.

So the "Holiness, Grace and Justice" comparison. If Drayton is swayed towards Justice, then it's fair to say Eileen sways towards Grace. Or, to be more accurate - if Drayton sways towards Vengeance, then Eileen tends towards Indulgence. Our readings for the day were Lev 11 (clean and unclean animals - so we had some concept of "Holiness") and Luke 15:11-32 (Prodigal Son) - so we had some idea of Grace and Vengeance. I've linked to the King James Version here, as it's the version that Drayton uses - while frankly it's pretty irrelevant what version Eileen uses as long as it's gender-neutral. The two headings below are those that strike me as the salient points of difference. They may not be what Eileen or Drayton thought they were talking about.

Does God love fluffy bunnies because they're cute, or because he loves everything?

Eileen thinks God loves bunnies, and that was the main part of her sermon all round. In fact, the whole concept of Vengeance and Grace came down to a fairly long digression on who God loves better when a fox chases a rabbit (a rabbit, because it's cuter) - and how that can be applied to fox hunting (God loves the fox better, because it's cuter than a hunter and doesn't vote Conservative). But Eileen's wishful thinking seems to be ignoring the Earless Beaker Bunny, who's so vicious that we have to equip her keepers with small bells on their turn-ups, so she's not surprised into savaging them when they come to clean her out. The Bunny, that is - not Eileen. Eileen also assured us that God loves everything else on the list, no matter how vile - because God's like that. But especially God loves cute things.

Drayton reminded us, in passing as he also savaged every other unclean animal, that bunnies in Old Testament times were unclean before the Lord, and puts this down to their love of sex. He still treats them with suspicion, although that may be due to the day that Eileen put the Beaker Bunny in through his kitchen window and it ate Marjory's slippers and then bit his leg. On poor etymology and worse folklore and religious history, Drayton associates rabbits with the goddess Eostre and thinks they are therefore pagan and accursed. I did want to point out to him that our only (and slim) source for Eostre is St Bede, who was a Catholic, but you're not supposed to butt in during Drayton's sermons. Of course, to confuse the issue the "rabbit" is actually a "hare" in the King James Version of the Bible, and so Drayton doesn't really believe that rabbits exist at all. Unlike unicorns.

Why did the Prodigal Father run to his son?

So let's move onto Grace and Justice. And the tale of the Prodigal Son revealed a new, softer side in Drayton. He's much taken with the story, and reckons he can understand how the son felt. The older son, that is. How, asks Drayton, can the father forgive the younger one and ignore the obedience of the older, better behaved one? Drayton's conclusion is that, once the party's over, the younger son gets to work digging out the drains under the instruction of theolder one - a part of the story that, to be fair, he accepts isn't in the Bible but follows logically. Why does the father run out to the son?

Eileen's idea is that it shows the graciousness of God - in that the father is doing something relatively humiliating in running out after his son. This seems a lot of reasoning on not much basis to me - but probably not compared to Drayton's suggestion that the father was out for a job, and so naturally carried on running and naturally was pleased to see his son. Eileen's main concern in the whole thing is the fatted calf - as she points out, the Eldest still lives at home, the Youngest is back in the bosom of his family - the only one that loses out is the fatted calf. He's the one not rejoicing. Apart from, presumably, Mrs Prodigal - who's going to be doing some serious cooking - and the servants, who'll probably have to wash up.

Eileen's conclusion to the whole thing was that God loves everything, and it's best to just skip over the idea of Justice and vengeance and right and wrong - light a tea light and hope it'll all be over in the end. Drayton's is something to do with fire, and lots of it. I'll like to tell you more, but it was at this point that I realised I was going to miss my dinner. I'll catch up with Kayleigh and Kylie later, and hopefully get more informed. But I suspect, whatever it is, I'm not going to like it.

So, I'm off to put the Flump suit back on. This afternoon is Flump Day for the Little Pebbles. Very hip and happening for today's kids, is a TV programme they produced in 1976. I wonder whether Flumps would be clean or unclean to eat?

1 comment :

  1. I’ve always had some sympathy for the Older Son – or was it empathy? Hard to tell these days now that psychiatrists have gotten into the act.

    I mean the poor guy got the short end of the stick, right? All that hard work and slaving on the family farm and not even a kid to celebrate with his friends. Of course he probably didn’t have many real friends anyway. Being a working heir doesn’t lend itself to that. Ask Paris Hilton.

    But I’m wondering if the wrong message was being sent and Our Lord was just having a bad day…?

    Then there’s that bit about “more joy in heaven over one sinner doing penance…” What are we to make of that? Eat drink and be merry, for on Saturday we can go to confession? Virtue is its own reward? You reap even if you don’t sow? A bird in the hand is worth…what?

    Scripture can be so confusing. Maybe that’s why we need an interpreter?


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