Wednesday 31 July 2019

An Expert on Retail and Christianity Writes: Selfridges and the Decline of Christianity

Ignore the vicious bit at the top of Sarah Vine's article. Indeed, if you can't face the Daily Mail, don't follow the link either. But in amidst her moralizing drivel is a lovely bit of whingeing. I've read it so you don't have to.

First up, complaining that Selfridges are opening their Christmas shop.

Linking that to the crazy golf in Rochester Cathedral. Saying Christianity "seems to be giving up all pretence of a spiritual dimension."

And concluding, "What is it Matthew says in the Bible? ‘Ye cannot serve both God and Mammon.'"

 Well, firstly I don't think Rochester are claiming the golf is is primarily a fund-raising exercise. They are viewing it as mission. Our Lord didn't quite say "go into the world and knock little white balls through windmills" but then he really wasn't very specific about how we should do mission. Cobbling it together from various passages it would seem we should wander around in pairs, without food or extra clothing, shaking the dust off whenever we meet a frosty reception. And there's not many people complaining about the mini-golf actually do that very often. So we can assume the mini-golf is just Vine's way of yanking the chain of assorted all-round reactionaries of this country. Let us put this to one side and look at Selfridges.

Selfridges are opening their Xmas shop. Five months before Xmas.

Same as they did last year.

And the year before.

Now, I know everyone complains that shops start early for Christmas. But it's logistical. I'm sure Sarah Vine yearns for the good old days when rosy-cheeked urchins ran down to the shops on Xmas Eve. But that's not when people want to buy. They want Christmas sorted in November. And that means Christmas stuff starts trickling out to the shops in August. Because you can't invest in the supply chains and storage space to just chuck the whole of Christmas in a week.  And if you have it in the stores you want to sell it.

Moaning that Christmas happens early is the same magical thinking that gave us Graham Brady's "Other arrangements " amendment to the Brexit Bill. That leading right-wing columnists and the Parliamentary dim right-wing don't understand what is actually the most critical industry in our nation, logistics, is unsurprising, given the evidence of Brexit. But it's also terrifying.

But Selfridges are doing it stupidly early, I hear you choking over your cornflakes. And in a sense, yes. But I would like you to consider where Selfridges flagship store is.

Oxford Street.

And I realise that I need at this point I need to step back and explain some things to any of the people whose chain Sarah Vine has been yanking. 

I suspect, if you're the sort of person who's wandered into this blog having typed "Sadiq Khan's Islamic Secret Police" into Google, that you'll have a certain view of London, but won't have been there in a while.

And maybe you believe that, should you ever venture into London, you will be stabbed to death on the platform at Euston before being arrested by Sadiq Khan's Islamic Secret Police and sent to Lewisham to sell crack cocaine to people in retirement homes. 

Now, of course this is true. But somehow, despite this, Oxford Street in London's trendy West End™ carries on just as it ever did. It's a massive tourist destination. And it is currently, across great swathes of the world and UK, the summer holidays.

So of the people that are going into Selfridges, many won't be buying holiday attire because they are already wearing it, having bought it before going on holiday. They don't need summery frocks and sun hats.

But, given this might be their only trip to London this year, they may well be interested in picking up something a bit Christmassy, to give to family members in Baden Baden, Cadiz, Stoke or wherever. Or maybe a nice decoration to hang up in the depths of winter, to remind themselves of the nice time they spent in the town which swings like a pendulum do. What could be nicer, on a drizzly December day in Utrecht or Wrexham, than remembering the place where bobbies go on bicycles two by two?

And if those visitors have come from foreign parts, then thanks to what we must now call the Boris Pound, those mighty Euros and Dollars will be burning holes in their pockets. So Selfridges - whose main offering, by the way, is confusingly not fridges - is doing everything it can to make as much money from these good people as it can. And good luck to it.

Let's go on to Sarah Vine's next non-sequitur. The conflation of Selfridges with Christianity. Apparently their Christmas shop opening in the summer is Christianity giving up all pretence at a spiritual dimension.

I don't know who the vicar of Selfridges is, or whether they have their own bishop or they're part of the Diocese of London or even a Royal Peculiar. But I suspect the real reason that Selfridges isn't worried about a Christian spiritual dimension is because it is, not to put too fine a point on it, a department store not a world religion.

And finally, rhetorically, Sarah Vine concludes, "What is it Matthew says in the Bible? ‘Ye cannot serve both God and Mammon.'"
Matthew doesn't say it. Jesus does. Matthew quotes him. Very important to know who said what, if you're a journalist.

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Tuesday 30 July 2019

Nativity of Kate Bush

Beaker Folk Assemble on a Wiley, Windy Moor

All: Wiley?

Archdruid: Yeah I know. Go with it. It's atmospheric.

Haunting Piano Music

Cathy: I'm so cold.

Archdruid: It's Young Keith making all that rain. I told him to stop.
Cloudbusting, Daddy

Wilhelm Reich: I still dream of Orgonon.

Archdruid: Get back in your box, Wilhelm.

Ceremony of Running up that Hill

Archdruid: So after that bit of unexpected exercise, let us focus on our breathing. In.... out.... in.... out....

Wilhelm Reich: In.... out...


Druidic Disciplinary Council Convenes

Charlii: Wilhelm Reich, you have been found of being, frankly, a bit pervy and disgusting. We therefore sentence you to...

Archdruid: The Hounds of Love!

The Hounds of Love are set loose. Unfortunately for Reich, one of them is Rosebud the Rottweiler. Who is older but no less vicious. 

Wilhelm Reich: Is this any way to treat a dead, disgraced genius?  It's enough to make me go back to the spirit world!

Archdruid: Don't give up!

**  BANG  **

Archdruid: What was that?

Hnaef (entering) : Another kanga on the bonnet of me van.

Archdruid: Must have escaped from the Safari Park. Bernie, dinner's arrived.

Bernie: Excellent. I'll whip up a sauce.

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.

Lament for Standing Up All the Way to London

(A sequel to the Train Commuter's Psalm)

My heart sinketh within me
And my courage faileth.
My heart is as water, poured away
And my spirit shriveleth like a prune on the beach.
For I have climbed onto this train at Luton Airport Parkway
To find it is already full.
People from Wellinborough stand in the vestibules
The Ketteringites are standing in the aisles
While those from Market Harborough sit smugly.
"Aha," say the tribe of Snotta (that come from the great City of Lace)
"My annual fair may cost more than all the camels of Midian
"But at least I can always get a seat."
Hordes from the back of the train wander to the front
And those from the front to the back
To find a seat. But there is none.
Not even one.
In vain do I look for my reserved seat
But the reservation system is out of order.
I wait for an apology but it does not come
Even the tannoy must be out of order.
How long, O Guard?
How long will we be stuck at a signal just south of Belsize Tunnel?
So shall I lean here on the bar
And rest my weary bones
And avoid that bloke that keeps nudging into me
And try to not get too close to the kid with the snotty nose
And gaze at the trolley
(Which moveth not for all the tribes of Wellingborough and Kettering are in the way).
And reflect it's a bit early for a gin.
Though it may not be by the time we make St Pancras.

Monday 29 July 2019

Scoville Spirituality

And what a great Spirituality of the Chilli we had yesterday.

The heat of chillies, we are told, triggers a pain reaction. In order to deal with the pain, the body floods the brain with endorphins - giving a kind of spiritual experience. In many respects a similar effect to jogging but without the side-effect of enduring smugness.

And, do you know, it works? That gentle prickle of heat on the tongue, the cooling effects of a nice Camden lager, it all combined to give the community a more relaxed, gentler feel. Everybody at peace with the world. And all without anyone needing to use a bodhran.

A lovely closing act of worship as we sang "Light up the Fire and let the Flames Burn".

Though I'm reserving judgement in the case of the "Rees Mogg" chilli that Daphne bred, by crossing a Scotch Bonnet with a Scorpion. With its ill-fitting skin and twisted shape, it appears to be mildly ridiculous. But it tastes bitter and has a terrible effect on the body as it works its way through.

In terms of pure Scoville units consumed, Young Keith and Hnaef were clear winners after that Naga-eating competition. They should be the most spiritual people in the Community. But we'll only find out when they emerge from their respective en-suites. That howling some people heard in the night wasn't, as some claimed, the Wild Hunt passing overhead. It was Hnaef having a thoroughly un-spiritual experience.

Sunday 28 July 2019

Games in the Nave

Great wailing and gnashing of teeth (assuming the usual suspects still have teeth, what with all the gnashing they do) over the announcement that Rochester Cathedral is launching a crazy golf course in the nave for the summer holidays. Incidentally, the course only has 17 holes. Boris Johnson promised a "Garden Bridge" hole but it hasn't arrived.

These people have short memories, is all I can say. As it's well known that places of worship have been used for sporting activities since the earliest time. And that's even if we ignore that in the Napoleonic Wars, church towers were used to store weapons ready for if Boney's men arrived on the South Coast. Not a sport. But then what is sport, but a proxy war? And who could angered by choir boys playing leapfrog in the cloisters? Or....
  • Climbing up Salisbury Cathedral spire
  • Badminton and table tennis in modern estate churches, when you've pushed the chairs back.
  • Easter egg hunts in churches all over the country.
  • The time they put an indoor ice rink into Southwark cathedral, the year the Thames failed to freeze over.
  • Vicar-baiting
  • The use of St Paul's as an alternative location when the third day of a particularly important Ashes test was suspended due to smog at The Oval. Although the game ended with a "6 and out" after somebody put the ball through a stained glass window.
  • St Albans Cathedral hosting a cross-country event after heavy rains caused the River Ver to break its banks. 
  • Pinging hazelnuts at Mother Julian's nose.
  • Flooding Glastonbury Abbey for the 2012 Olympic water polo.
  • Bingo!
  • The impromptu "Rollerball" in Westminster Cathedral, after which 6 monks were suspended.
  • The pole vault in Peterborough Cathedral, which had to be stopped after one of the poles got stuck in a heating grate and the vaulter went straight into a pillar.
  • Rugby union at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral.
  • The 200m Umbrage-taking.
  • Racing from Chester.
  • The tradition Trinity Sunday "just a minute" sermon trying to avoid deviation, hesitation or Manicheism. 
  • Fox hunting in Ripon, after the fox went to earth in the crypt.
  • Boxing in churches on Boxing Day throughout the Middle Ages.
  • The "Ely Grand Prix". 
  • Paper darts in the choir

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.

Kermit's Hermits

You know, sometimes I start to think that maybe, just maybe, the entire Beaker community are a bunch of muppets.

The latest wave of religious enthusiasm to roll over us is the "New Eremetism". This idea is being promulgated by Hnaef. In fact, he's really just making a virtue out of a necessity. Daphne threw him out for playing Messiaen at 2am after a few glasses of port, and now he's living in the Doily Shed till she'll take him back in.

But the trouble is, he's cutting such a romantic figure, with his windblown hair, tatty hiking boots and bits of doily chad in his hair. And he's started encouraging the others to follow his example.

Like Ranwulf. Who is now living up a tree in the Orchard, and eating nothing but the mushrooms of the field. Which is a bad idea with the mushrooms in that field, where Young Keith planted those "special spores" many years ago to give him something to take his mind off sermons. Ranwulf is currently soaking wet, holding onto the branch in what looks to be quite a fresh breeze, and screaming that a badger is climbing up after him.

I originally put the badger down as a hallucination caused by the mushrooms, but we've been to check and yes, there's a badger. And obviously it's not very good at climbing tree trunks, with those big clumsy paws. But who knew they were so good at using ladders?

Then take Gredley. He said he was going to live in a cave. And we pointed out that we don't have any caves. So he said what about the tunnel that, they say, leads from the Great House to Woburn Abbey? So we let him live down there.

He's not having a great time down there. I forgot to mention that my brother is still down there. And he's not happy. Well, you can't blame him. You'd be grumpy too, if your sister locked you into a maze of tunnels in 1994 to stop you claiming your inheritance. So Gredley's not happy either. My brother's been living on the broccoli and Stilton quiches we drop down to him, and the sight of fresh meat seems to have awakened his appetite. We reckon Gredley's all right, because every now and then we hear footsteps and screaming. I suppose we'll have to let him out should he get anywhere near the grating.

And then there's Riddli. Who's declared his intention to be a pillar saint. But so enthusiastic was he about the new role, he couldn't wait to build a decent pillar. So he's sitting on the door step. Which is neither particularly hermit-like, since we walk past him every few minutes, nor all that impressive. And it's raining. And the porch leaks. So he sits there with his umbrella, saying hello as we walk past, and muttering passages from Ecclesiastes under his breath.

Still, I think we can honestly say all three of them have learned wisdom. And they wisdom they've learned is, don't be so bloody stupid.

Want to support this blog? 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, there's "Writes of the Church".  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

Saturday 27 July 2019

Jesus and the Ammonite

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:9-12)
Do you like my lovely ammonite?

Not one of the tribes of Canaan, whom Joshua set out to slaughter. Least, I assume not. Cos that would have been a completely different narrative in the early books of the Bible. "And then Gideon smashed the shell of the ammonite, which lay there all wriggly and squiddy on the floor." Not the same at all.

No, this one, It's lovely innit? Just 3.5 centimetres across but such exquisite detail. I found it with Melissa Sparrow on that holiday in Somerset. The one where she spent the whole evening in Pebbles Tavern,  trying to imagine what it was like to be dead for 200 million years, and concluded that we'd find out in time. And then speculated on her favourite forms of body disposal. Suffice it to say that I agreed to her request that we shoot her cremated remains, compressed into a small, dense pellet, from a trebuchet into the sea at low tide. I have no idea how we're going to get the trebuchet down the beach. We may have to float it out from the harbour or something.

Still, Melissa's funerary instructions aren't really the subject here. I'm really thinking about the ammonite itself. The sheer detail of it. The growth lines so beautifully etched into the stone. It's like the Creator sat down one day and chiselled it out of the rock. I mean, that's not literally what happened. God has tools far more subtle than a chisel. In God's workshop, the ammonite was gradually filled in and surrounded by a matrix of stone, that preserved the shape of its shell. The calcium carbonate that made up its shell was transformed into calcite. That little creature then sat there down the aeons, through climate change and extinctions, through dinosaurs and deserts, down to when the first Beaker Folk were parked up on Glastonbury, through empires and rulers and then one day was washed out of a rock by the sea and left there for me to find. Makes you wonder doesn't it? I mean wonder in the sense that your mind goes - wow.

Our faith says that, before anything came into being, God is, in a loving union of three persons. One who brooded over that space where the world came into being. One who spoke the Word of creation. And one who is that Word of creation.

Because that God creates everything, holds everything, sustains everything - that God is the supreme ruler in the way no worldly king or ruler could ever be. Everything depends on God. The Pharaohs tried to get their bodies to last forever, but they look a bit sad today - after just a few thousand years - tatty and grinning uncertainly through their bandages. The Kim family of North Korea lay in their atheist mausoleum in their glass coffins. They won't make it past the next war or revolution. But my little ammonite, without even trying, sat there through its millennia looking so beautiful.

Of course, I've given that little ammonite a new lease of death by picking it up. Its mates are already getting smashed on that beach. Which reminds me when you see the sea - particularly on the days when it smashes into the beach - you see the power of God. I have always loved the words of Ps 107: "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep."

And our faith makes a stunning claim - a claim so big it dwarfs even the skies on a gray day in the Bristol Channel. A claim so odd that when the early Church made it you either had to say it was a heresy against the Jewish faith, or utter foolishness to Greek philosophy - or else, against all sense, it was true. They said that the God who is the Word of creation, was revealed in a human being in a particular time and place. That the Jewish man called Jesus of Nazareth was in fact the one in whom all the fullness of God was revealed. Which means that all the power of  God, all the authority of God's name, has been given to a man who was arrested on cobbled-together charges and executed at the order of an empire.

Which side is God on? The temptation is always to be fair between an oppressor and the oppressed. To give both sides an equal hearing. But God is always on the side of the poor, the victim of injustice - whether legal or economic. God is on the side of the slaves and the wage slaves and the dispossessed. Because God is one of them. A member of a conquered race. A convicted criminal. A man who suffered a slave's death. If we are to be on God's side, we are to be on the side of the ones he sides with.

But Jesus didn't just die a noble death, as a good example to us all about how we should struggle against oppression. It might be worthy of notice if he did, but utterly useless in the long run. Just another failed hero. But he died and was raised from the dead.

I'd like to go back to my lovely ammonite, if I may. It lay buried under a sea bed. The sea bed was raised up to become a hill. The hill was worn away to become a cliff. And the sea's action, overwhelming that coast as it does twice a day, brought the ammonite back to the light of day.

In baptism, we plunge into water, and are dragged back to the surface. In the resurrection Jesus, having plunged into the darkness - into the waters of death - is brought back to birth from the ground, back into the daylight. Paul says, we were circumcised with Christ - brought into his tribe, his family - when we were buried with him in baptism, and then were raised with him in his resurrection. Through those actions, we are filled with God's fullness, which is poured out by God's Spirit from Jesus Christ, in whom is all the fullness of the Deity.

In his resurrection, the full power of empire is defied and shown for what it is. The Roman empire that sentenced him to death is long gone. But Jesus is alive. Since that day empires have risen and fallen. But Jesus is alive. Our own civilisation faces some of its greatest challenged - globalisation, climate change, mass migration, populism - and Jesus is still alive. One day the human race will vanish from this planet - and Jesus will be alive. One day the universe will end - and Jesus will still be alive. Because he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end - the one who holds all things in his hand.

And we are alive with him. And though one day we will be as dead to this earth as my ammonite - yet because his fullness is in us - and all the fullness of God lives in him - we will not pass from God's mind, we will not be forgotten by the God of the living. We will live, and we will rise from the dead - however that happens - and we will be like him, and live with him, forever.

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.

Friday 26 July 2019

After Thor-t

Great excitement in the Community after the thunder this morning.

Some say it is God's wrath poured out on Middle England because of our sins in allowing Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister. And, I admit, they have a point.

Incidentally, according to the Jacob Rees-Mogg Style Guide, I should not have put that comma after "And" at the start of that last sentence. But Jacob Rees-Mogg is the living embodiment of Roderick Spode, so who cares. But I digress.

Others say it's Thunor's warning that we haven't got out of Europe fast enough. We should not tarry, but destroy our economy so we can once again, freely and with no interference from Brussels, cower terrified in primal forest and develop webbed feet in the fens. But at least, as we die from curable diseases for lack of supply chain at Dover (clue to Dominic Raab - it's bottom-right. A bit like the current Tory party) we can console ourselves that the depths of our graves will be measured in barleycorns and groats.

But I say, a storm is just a storm. Storms happen.

Storms don't often happen after the temperature has once again gone up to 38C (100F or, after Brexit, "quite hot but I've had to use the mercury to treat Doreen's condition"). It's not the storm that's the problem. It's the heat. It's getting hotter, and it's getting hotter more often.

And I know that the whole plan with Brexit is to destroy our economy and restore all those trees, so we can counter global warming by turning the UK into a Carbon sink. But we're only a small country, and we can't generate enough poverty all on our own to solve the problem.

We really need some of the bigger power houses in the world - the EU or America or China - to do a lot of the heavy lifting. And we need to remember that simply outsourcing our production to China may look like we're being good on paper in reducing emissions - but we're only really shifting our impact offshore.

Well, it's time I went and drove the Beaker Folk into Aspley Heath to pick up some more brushwood. It may help prevent forest fires. And we can light fires in the autumn to ward off the dark and cold. And, more pertinently, it gives us something to boil the water and heat the Community after Halloween.

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 24 July 2019

A Hint of Death in the Morning Air

To celebrate the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, we are proud to announce that our friend Melissa Sparrow (Mrs) from the Trim Valley has released her debut book of poems, "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" on Kindle.

Now at an introductory price of a quid, what have you got to lose? 97 poems of doom, despair and the love of nature. With passing references to religion, science, the end of the Universe and those name plates they put on benches in country park. Mostly just ending in tragedy, but occasionally some real hope and insight.

And it supports this blog. And that's got to be a good thing hasn't it?

Go on, give us a quid....

And also...

Want to support this blog?
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Ceremony for the Installation of a Floppy-Haired Old Etonian

Archdruid: Let us pray for our country.

All: It needs it.

Drayton Parslow: Before we just start moaning about Boris Johnson, let us remember that St Paul said we should submit to, and pray for, those in authority. And the emperor in his time was Nero. A privileged, Latin-speaking liar with ambitious parents, and an unstable personal life, with a rule destined for chaos and disaster.

Archdruid: And Nero had his problems as well.

Reading: Farage from the Madding Crowd

Archdruid: Let us consider the source of the quotation that the Floppy-Haired One used of leaving the 
EU. "Do or Die". From the poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade".

All: An utter disaster caused by the incompetence of the elite, causing suffering and the deaths of innocent people.

Archdruid: And the Charge of the Light Brigade was a mistake, as well.

Young Keith: Let us now light a tea light to offer up each of our fears for the country for the next few years.

Charlii: If you need any more, we're selling multi-packs in the Beaker Bazaar.

Archdruid: And now let us pray for the new Prime Minister, his family and all his children. Both those known to Wikipedia and those known only to Boris himself.

Charlii: Go into the world and try not to despair.

All: We'll do our best.

If you've enjoyed this blog, why not have a look at the new Kindle book from the Beaker Folk stable, 

"A Hint of Death in the Morning Air". 97 poems of doom and despair, and all for the introductory offer price of just one shiny virtual UK pound. Or, as it will be by the time Boris Johnson has finished his Cabinet reshuffle, one Euro on the Amazon France site. Or one Dollar on  Every purchase goes towards another tea light.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Morning Worship - a Clarification

Bit of a confusion on this morning's rota. When we advertised "Morning Worship" we meant "worship in the morning".

So Gradnok's unexpected service in honour of the goddess Aurora was a shock. He promises it won't happen again.

On the same theme - can people please note that "Family Worship" is a form of worship suitable to all members of the family. Or possibly about the family of the Church. Or something. Whatever it is, it very definitely is not a chance to deify the concept of the Nuclear family. At least, it probably shouldn't be.

Obviously when we move onto "Modern Worship", that's exactly what we mean.

Now it was kind of Revd Drayton Parslow to come over from his Funambulist Baptist Church the other week and lead a Revival Service. OK, we didn't have a revival. But then he's been holding the same concept in his chapel this last ten years, and it still hasn't happened for him either. Some of those Funambulist Baptists are now so old they keep falling off the tightrope.

And lastly today, let us remember all those who have been ordained in the Church of England over the last few weeks, including several of my friends. We know they will be going out into the world to struggle with structural inequalities and an oppressive system. At least, they will in some parishes. If they try and get involved in the wider community, goodness knows what they'll find out there.

Want to support this blog?
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Sunday 7 July 2019

In God's Family

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Gal 6: 7-10)
A nice rounding off towards the end of the book of Galatians. Paul has spent five chapters telling them off for reverting from a faith-based religion to a works-based one. And now he neatly flips it back round. So we are saved by God's grace - God's free love - which we receive from God through faith, not works. But it turns out, what you do in faith brings a reward.

So - though we are saved from Hell through God's grace -  our future reward will be a harvest of the good we've sown. Maybe the reward is like this - when you've sown the seed of love on earth, in the light of heaven it will grow to a plant that bears fruit forever. Gardeners know that reward - of seeing hard work and the planting of one seed producing a plant - after weeks or years - that's really growing and producing the way it can. Not me.  I never weed anything.  Bindweed everywhere. But still. Moving on.

Or maybe it's about practice. I went to see the B52s in concert last week. An awesome yet sad occasion as it's their last (they say) European tour. And the three remaining members are such a brilliant team. They work together so well. But then, they've been in the same band for 40 years. They've had a lot of practice. Maybe if we practice working for other people's good now, we'll be good at it in the life to come.

And I think the way Paul describes his expectation of how people should live is so important. It's not about individuals. He says don't let us collectively grow weary in doing right. Let us work for the good of all. And he tells us it is important that we do this in the family of faith. and I think talking about a household of faith is important as an illustration.

You can go to extremes in your view of the Christian religion. In case you'd never noticed. You can decide to be too strict on your body - or that you're free from hell and you can just have a good time. Personally I think you should take reasonable care of your body. OK, it's going to get a major overhaul on the last day. But after that it's going to have to last you an eternity. And there's no gyms in heaven. I mean, how could there be?

Or you can think religion is all about the individual. Whereas God has made us to be in community - family, friendship, societies, local communities - from the very beginning. But we can easily forget that. You can decide it's all about your salvation, your little soul, getting your salvation from your personal God. And you end up in a church where there are no children, and everybody's sad there's no children - but you wouldn't want children actually in the service, as they might disturb you when you're up the front receiving your communion. You'd really like some spiritualised children from the 1930s who know their places, don't have runny noses, don't cry and never run around the place and fall flat on their faces. Yes, they can make one endearing quip that the vicar can use in years to come as a moderately amusing anecdote. But let them then relapse into beatific silence. This is your communion after all.

Or you can go to the opposite end - and decide that the institution of the Church is important. That it's all about the organisation, the hierarchy, the structure. This leads to a different kind of problem. If it means you think the functioning, or the good name of the organisation is more important than the well-being of some of the people in it.... well, we know where that leads. In times gone by to persecution of those that might want other ways to believe. Or to over-deference to the clerics. To Father knowing best. Even when Father doesn't. And in the extremes - to what we've seen over and over again, the last few years, where those who've abused children and the vulnerable have got away with it for decades because the Church wanted to keep itself looking good, rather than doing good. Because in some cases it was more important that the vicar was respected, than that children should be protected. And the Church should repent - we all should - for the way the church as a whole allowed it to happen.

But Paul places how the Church should be right in the middle of that - in a household. In a family. A place where there are strains and arguments and people are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. But where - in a good household - everyone pulls in the same direction. Where you are all important because you are - when all is said and done - family. And this is not to say that all families are good. Some are terrible, some parents are dreadful. But it's what a family should be like. At the very start of Paul's letter to the Galatians, he sets out  his greetings through God the Father, his son Jesus, and addresses all his brothers (and, let's say, in our modern way, sisters as well). So it's a family with the sort of parent that good parents should be. With all God's people as brothers and sisters. An equality in the church, and the expectation that we should look after each other. It's a family that gathers to eat around a table, and the head of the table is Jesus Christ. Whoever might be doing the passing-round on his behalf.

So, Paul says, at the end of this book which has been all about salvation by faith, not works. Let's do good things. Let's start with the household of God - because where else would anyone start doing good but in their own family - and let's expand that out to everyone else as well.

And that seems pretty unfair. Because quite often it's so much harder to show love to people you know. After all, you know them so much better than people you don't. You know, I can support a charity like Christian Aid, safe in the knowledge that those that I help are very unlikely to be people who disagreed with me seventeen years ago about whether the service should start at 9.45 or 10 o'clock. It's easy to fill in a Direct Debit for the Big Issue trust. After all, a homeless young person is not going to be the one who's coveting my Saturday on the flower rota. If you send a few jars of Ambrosia Rice to the food bank, chances are it's not the person three pews down who sings flat that will eat them.

Although they might.

So I reckon Paul knows what he's doing here. We show love - especially within the family of believers - because that's where we will probably find it hardest. It's good practice. Some churches have a Sharing of the Peace. Others of course have an Unnecessarily Over-Friendly Hug of Peace. Some have a "Will you please leave my Personal Space Immediately" of Peace. But the whole point is - you've got to look people in the eye and wish them peace, individually, even if you don't like them. Even grudgingly.

And from that we've got to  do work for each other's good on a long-term basis. Now I know this is one case where we've come a long way. To Paul, working for someone else's good would be ensuring they weren't hungry. Looking after their kids. Giving a hand with the garden, maybe. 2,000 years on we've managed to get to the spiritual essence of working to other people's good. Back-stabbing, telling them horrible things "in love", arguing  over whose pew it is.

But maybe it's when we do what Paul says, on a regular basis - just working for each other's good - that the Church does become a properly -functioning household of faith. And when that happens - when the members of a Church start actually caring about even the people they don't much like - maybe that's when it becomes an attractive family - one that people want to join. And maybe, when we've done the hard practice of actually loving one another, that's when we start to be able to really, as a family, love those that aren't part of the family yet.

 So let's, whenever we can, work for the good of all.  And especially for the members of God's family. Because let's face it -  it's good training for loving everybody else. They're much easier. We don't know them.

Want to support this blog?
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Monday 1 July 2019

Husborne Crawley Tory Hustings

Wild old time at the Husborne Crawley hustings for the Conservative Party leadership election. Afraid we had to call a halt to proceedings after Jeremy Hunt attached his own tongue to the wall with a staple gun to prove how prepared he was for a no-deal Brexit. But here are the answers to the questions we managed to get through.

Q: You both state you are prepared for the damage that a no-deal Brexit will inflict on the United Kingdom. But how much of British business are you prepared to lose to deliver it?

BJ: All of it. I am happy for every shop in Britain to close as long as we leave the European Union.

JH: This is the sort of liberalism we expect from a Tory wet. I for one am ready to burn down every warehouse in Warwickshire to ensure we move into a brave new world, free of business and profit.

Q: Is it important for a future Prime Minister to show moral integrity and be trustworthy?

BJ: I would like at this point to refer to some of the great PMs of the past. Winston Churchill never got past teatime sober. Lloyd George was like a Jack Russell in the spring if there were women around. And John Major had an affair with Mrs Currie. I am determined to follow in their footsteps. Apart from John Major's.

JH: I am nailing my own earlobes to the floorboards to prove how tough I am.

Q: The Chancellor appears to have warned that the "war chest" he has built up will only be available for discretionary spending in the event of a deal with the EU. If there's no-deal, it will be necessary to use the money to prop up the British economy. Yet you have made some fairly extravagant promises around public spending. How do you justify this?

B: We currently spend £350 Million per week on the EU. We could spend this on giving soup to the hard-working British public instead.

JH: I'm so hard, I've got a Geordie tap-dancing team on my chest wearing running spikes.

Q: But the Conservative party has traditionally been seen as a pro-business, financially-responsible part of government. And you seem to be throwing money randomly around at a time when your pursuit of a destructive EU policy means the country will be in a terrible financial state.

BJ: I paint buses. I love to paint buses. But after I've painted them, I burn them. So nobody ever sees them.

JH: You looking at me? You looking at me?

Q: Mrs May was accused of kicking the can down the road on the deadline. But you're both saying that you are going to deliver Brexit before 31 October. So just when will you decide a deal will not be happening?

BJ: October 31.

JH: September 30.

BJ: March last year.

JH: 1943.

Q: How will you solve the problem of the Irish Border?

BJ: Free potatoes!

JH: Wishful thinking and magic. Both of which are technologies that already exist and are being used. Mostly by the Conservative Party.

Q: You  are both bigging up your no-deal credentials. But you are both wealthy men. And Liz Truss has gone on record as supporting "entreprenuers". Just how prepared are you to share in the pain of a no-deal Brexit?

BJ: Hardship? I've been sleeping on a lilo the last 2 weeks. What more hardship do you want? It's like being at Eton.

JH: Pass me that staple gun.