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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A reminder of a former life

The soi-disant Archdruid Eileen, former leader of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley, has spent the last four months claiming to be living in a parallel universe, in the 19th century.

But I have my doubts.

Now, as if by magic from her Hardyan idyll, she has published her latest novella, "Moonrise over Crawley Crossing". Apart from the general immorality of the piece, to make matters worse she's made me look like a cold-blooded, unfeeling, inhuman wally. I shall forgive her, but also keep in mind the punishment that surely awaits her.

One Final Postscript

So here it is - the complete Moonrise over Crawley Crossing.

Enjoy.  But if you don't, at least you didn't pay for it.

A pastoral encounter

I was glad to be of pastoral assistance to one of our weaker members today. I'm sure she won't mind me sharing it with you.
Shirley came round, concerned about the concept of salvation. She seems to understand that Our Lord suffered for our transgressions, and that by His stripes we are healed. But wanted to know - does he share in our sorrows?
And I assured her - "Shirley, Shirley, he has born our griefs."

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Voice of the Turtle is heard in our land

I’ve had a longish day , mostly on the phone to Tabitha.  And a strange day as well.

Tabitha, a friend of Kayleigh’s (and Kylie’s) was most concerned to hear about their inclusion in the music group. And apparently Kylie (or possibly Kayleigh) has been telling her all about Simon’s interest in her.
Tabitha demanded to know what I was thinking of, putting her friends on display like that to be ogled by the unbridled manhood of the congregation. Which is an image that has remained with me for the rest of the day, I can tell you. Is it mete, she asked, to meet and treat these girls like meat? And I tried to explain to her that there were no sinister intentions, and that Kayleigh, and for that matter Kylie, was perfectly modestly dressed.

But there was no stopping Tabitha. In her desire to explain the errors of my ways, she resorted to the words of the Good Book. And in her attempt to describe the feelings that young love may call up, she quoted large chunks of the Song of Solomon to me.

And it was just while she was referring to the Lover – “who cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” – that Marjorie happened to indulge in her habit, which she tells me is for my own protection – of listening in from the extension in the lounge.

There was a load more stuff about young does, towers and pomegranates, and then Marjorie requested that Tabitha remove herself from the line.

I’ve explained it was all innocent on my behalf, but I’ve been suffering from the Cold Shoulder all day since.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Sex and Drink and Bad Coffee

There was a little surprise for the users of the Baptibus this morning.

Since the Baptibus people are all, by definition, not inhabitants of Frisby-on-Soar, we rearranged the service without telling them and started it two hours later. And we had our coffee time before the act of formal worship (for surely, drinking coffee in the Lord’s name on the Lord’s day is itself a form of communal worship.  And given the appalling quality of our coffee, drinking it is a kind of sacrifice as well).
The Baptibus arrived towards the end of the coffee time, and the people on it were most surprised to find that we all filed into the chapel at the end of it. However, we had placed a couple of the matrons of the church with the sternest expressions by the door, so the Baptibus guys didn’t leave, and instead followed everybody else into the chapel.

I felt the worship this morning was not overly improved by our new singers, Kayleigh and Kylie. Apparently they are serial failures on the “X Factor”, whatever that is. And they could probably do with some device that automatically brings their voices into tune. But on the plus side, in their shapeless gingham dresses and matching berets, they brought a certain youthful, feminine and yet modest charm to the music group.
After the service I had a chat with a passenger on the Baptibus that I’d never met before – a young man called Simon from Oadby. It turned out he’d had no idea when he set out this morning that he was going to a church service. The other people of the Baptibus community had told him that they’d bring him to Frisby for a cup of coffee, before a motorised pub crawl around the Leicestershire countryside. However he was most taken by Kayleigh – or possibly Kylie, he wasn’t quite sure, and they do look quite similar in those outfits - and was still hoping that Oz might be brought to visit a few pubs on the way home. Indeed, given what he described as this “winning combination”, he promised he’d be back next Sunday.

So a mixture of the desire for alcohol, the sex drive of the young male, and a certain deviousness on my part in re-arranging the service.  And as a result we may have found ourselves a convert of sorts. I am in a slight measure distressed and confused by the way this has come about. And yet I give my thanks accordingly.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The colour of Truth

Once again I have suffered from a lack of sleep as I struggle with a difficult question.

What colour should a Bible be?  And does God have an opinion?

We have a hard-line element here in Frisby on Soar that believes that only a black cover is truly acceptable. For myself, I'm quite fond of my old red-covered Bible, which has really exciting pictures of Jesus - blond, blue-eyed, surrounded by friendly wildlife and beautiful Anglo-Saxon children.  I realise that black is a more spiritual colour, reminding us of deeper and more serious things - death, sin and darkness - but then red is the colour of the blood of the martyrs' blood, while white symbolises purity. And of course brown is the colour that most NIVs seem to come in.

For myself, the colour is not as important as the binding.  My new New International Luxury Study Bible is in distressed fawn skin, with the markings beautifully presented to display the gold-leaf lettering to the best advantage. Simply taking it off the shelf is a spiritual experience. I'm sure that St Paul himself would have enjoyed binding his letters in fawn skin. Indeed, if the Epistle of James had been bound in luxury distressed fawn skin, I'm sure that Luther could have come to love it.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Rapture in Syston

Once again I was out on my missionary travels today, choosing the biggish village or, for those of a less metropolitan aspect, small town of Syston.

And my day was brightened by the appearance of the sun. Surely the blessings of heaven were poured out on me today.

So taking up my position down by the brook, with my new sandwich board and extra-powerful amplification system, I broadcast the Good News to the people coming out of the butcher's and the chip shop.

Now the front of the sandwich board says "Where will you be after the Rapture?"
I like to spell things out clearly in modern English, and what could be plainer and more meaningful to the man, woman or other in the street than that?  But maybe due to a higher level of dyslexia in the town, or maybe to wilful sin, people kept coming up to me asking if I was selling surgical supports. It took a while each time that I wasn't selling solutions to a "Rupture" - that I wasn't warning them against the pain of muscle tears and hernias but against the angry and vengeful appearance of a loving and gracious God. They mostly went away remarking that they'd rather have a rupture than join my church, but a few of them did say they would be investing in hard hats, in case they were raptured indoors and needed to go up to the sky through the roof.

And a few took away copies of the new evangelistic leaflet I received from "Rapturist Trust" the other day. Entitled "Fly on the clouds while your enemies fry on the devastated wasteland where the Earth used to be", its approach is based on two sound principles. People like good news, and people like bad things happening to their enemies.  I'm not going to claim that the latter is necessarily scriptural, but then a good case could be made for claiming it is.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

On right and wrong forms of evangelism

It being my day off, I've been thinking constructively about the music group.

Currently the "ensemble" consists of Erbert, on his electro-acoustic guitar with no working pickups, Elspeth on Zither and Oswald's energetic young nephew, Jimmy, on drums. Well, I say Jimmy on drums. I make him play in the village hall - keeps the volume about right in the chapel.  But between a nonagenarian guitarist, his toothless wife and a fourteen-year-old, spotty youth in a building on the other side of the village, I feel we're missing a certain joie de vivre about the music. It can be inclined to being pedestrian and, frankly, a little dull.

My conclusion has been that if we had a couple of 18-year-old girls singing in the music group, I feel that worship would be more accessible for young men. I've notice this work in the past. I don't quite understand it, and I wouldn't like to think any lust was involved. But I just get the feeling it might be quite a good evangelism tool. In a holy sort of way.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Gaping Maw of Hell

I've had to deal with yet another complaining parent round today saying their child has been having nightmares since Holiday Club.

It was one of the New Daily Songs that caused all the trouble. Apparently the words of "Don't let Hell's Maw Swallow me Whole" were too terrifying. That and the visual representations of Hell's gate, burning with fire and menace, that were projected in 3D onto the overhead projector.  And the way we switched on all the heating even though it was the middle of summer, to simulate the fiery furnaces - infinitely deep or otherwise.

I tried to explain that this is a serious matter. We're not about providing cheap baby-sitting for a week during the summer holidays so hard-pressed parents can have a rest. That's just the bait. We're luring the kids in because we think that Hell is big and scary and death lasts for a very long time. And we feel we have the duty to warn them.  We've tried the opposite in the past - explaining how Jesus is warm and loving, kind and caring. But they just assumed that Jesus was just pretending, like Tony Blair. So we're sticking with the terror.   It may help get things into a better perspective.

So, don't forget.

Do have nightmares.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Notes from the Doctrine Committee

After prolonged discussion, prayer and Bible study we have come to a conclusion.

Albert Ross believes that Jesus is "divine, but not like God. Like his son - so maybe like a bit less of a god than God is." 

I believe this is a lesson to us all.  Once we start trying to understand the Bible on our own, we can end up down all sorts of strange and unorthodox back-alleyways.  We have found Albert guilty of Arianism. Of course, in these enlightened days we can't go burning people for heresy. So given that Albert won't change his mind, we've recommended that he join the Church of England. We reckon he'll fit in there.

Monday, 23 August 2010

King James, England and St George

I am occasionally accused of trying to have my cake and eat in when it comes to the King James Version of the Bible, and when I claim that it is indeed Authorised by God as his definitive Scripture, in English if not in all languages. And reading the words of the Lollard Translation Society Website has caused me to consider what it is about the King James Version that makes it so very important.

The key phrase, I'm sure you'll agree, is in 2 Tim 3:16 - and note the chapter and verse, by which we realise that this is truly significant. Indeed even the verse numbering of our Bibles reveals the work of a hand that is more than human.  And 2 Tim 3:16 says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

So there you have it.  And if the Bible says that scripture is given by God's inspiration, then you know it must be true - because the Bible says it.

But let us look closer. What does Paul mean when he says "all Scripture"? Does he mean all things that have been called the Bible, including the Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta and the Good News? I hardly think so. For you know how it starts - a variant manuscript here, a dynamic equivalence here, a disagreement among scholars there and the next thing you know, you don't know where you are. One slight nuance in translation, or another scroll dug out of a Palestinian hillside, and interpreting the clear and understandable word of God becomes a maze of sophistry and alternatives, like trying to ask someone for only one route out of Milton Keynes.

Let me take as an example Ex 34:35. If we read God's word, we see that Moses' face "shone".  The next-best (as if there were comparison), the Nearly Inspired Version, says that his face was "radiant" - like a bar fire? Was it giving off heat as well as light?  Already there are alternative meanings to sully our originally clear text. But we move - with a shudder - to the Douai version to discover it claims that Moses had horns on his face.  How did that happen?

No, there can only be one authoritative word of God - for if not, we will collapse into a morass where people claim there is more than one meaning. And then we would be into a world of post-modern "choice" and "alternatives".

So our firm belief is that there can only be one authentic Scripture, and that is the King James Version. Of the Masoretic texts and the Textus Receptus that were used to write the Authorised version, we can say they are of secondary value as leading up to the uniquely inspired word.  And of the New International Version, I will say that I use it occasionally - and as a guide only - to see what the King James may be trying to say in its impenetrable and archaic English.

Which brings me to our new exciting development.  Under Mr Cameron's "Big Society" we are starting to put together plans to create the Eternal Grace Acadamy. I feel we have left it late for this school year, but by next September we plan to have created a school that will be able to offer state-of-the-art Creationist teaching and a syllabus that includes 40% Religious Education. I should say that we will not ignore other faiths such as Hinduism, Islam or the Church of England in our syllabus - indeed, we shall spend a lot of time explaining why they are so wrong. But the point that is currently relevant is that we will be teaching the language of the King James Version by immersion.

This is not the same immersion as the way we shall baptise our charges once we have ensured that they are truly born again. Oh no. We plan to be the only school outside the United States in which all lessons will be conducted in 17th Century English. Once this principle catches on in other schools around the country, we can expect to see a flourishing of the study of the Word of God unseen since the Good Book itself was written. The NIV will no longer be needed. Men will lay down their Not Really Sexist Versions of the Bible, and read the pure words of the only genuine Scripture once more. Who knows, with the blessings that will be poured out by this return to Jacobean values, we might even get the American colonies back.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sermon: The woman with a bent back

On a sunny summer's morning such as this, it can be such a delight - in a chaste and holy way - to notice the young ladies of our congregation coming to chapel.

In their light, summer clothes they are like a bunch of flowers, bouncing into the church full of joy and youth and the life of the summer time. Or, if caught by a summer shower on the way in, those same light clothes flattened and clinging to their... no, sorry. Lost my train of thought there. Centre, Drayton. Centre.

Yet the temptation is there, when girls are pretty and the weather is warm - for them to revel in the fiendish attractions that can cause holy, respectable men who are old enough to be their fathers to lose sleep on hot, sultry nights. Or even get a dig in their ribs from their sharp-elbowed wives for allowing their thoughts and eyes to stray for a moment too long. For be well aware - such a man is not to blame in this. No, he is merely as the one who is held for a moment by witchcraft.

Yes, witchcraft. Let us not mince words. For what else could it be that allows a young slip of a thing, through the application of a summer dress and a temptation of lipstick, to control the thoughts and spirit of an older man who should - who, indeed, does - know better?

And so I tell you, young ladies of the church. Shun the lipstick that Max Factor and his evil friend Lori All try to push upon you. See them as the sticks of damnation that they are. Let your eyes shine as they are, and not with the evil lures of mascara. Do not lift up your heads and reveal your faces to tempt those of weaker faith. Do not lift up your head to see the opportunities around you of advancement - of those things that are beyond your station - even, that we should whisper such a word - of leadership.

No. Keep your pretty heads down, and your eyes focussed on the Way that is before you. Strait and narrow as it is, do not let your sight waver from the holy ground on which you stand for a moment. Or you might lift your heads, and lose the path, and gain ideas above your station.

And now I must close, as I see the arrival of the Baptibus outside the chapel. And we sing the 90th Psalm as a reminder that physical attraction and flaxen hair are as dust.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Designer Patriarch

Another correspondent has pointed out to me that the 1990s religious programme whose slogan I quoted, "Women - know your place" was actually a comedy programme by a man called Harry Enfield. And the slogan was "Women - know your limits". None of which makes my point any less valid, in my opinion.

Especially on a day like today. Since last weekend I have been growing my prophetic beard. It is currently at the stage of what some refer to as "designer stubble". And so I had to take refuge from the gardening today because I tired of Mrs Collins repeatedly shouting "Oi! George Michael!" over the fence at me.

I explained to Marjorie about Mrs Collins and my experiences in Coalville. I was expecting some sympathy, but all she did was laugh for half an hour. And then tell me that if I was planning to be such a prophet, I should have foreseen my reception.

One area where I prefer to bow to superiority in women is in the area of driving. All the trouble I had driving came when, in fervour of evangelicalism, I over-estimated the joys of being free from the Law. By the time I had racked up 12 points on my licence in a couple of months, it was finally clear to me that the Law concerned was not a traffic law. It turns out that, free from the stain of sin and oppression of ritual law as I am, I still have to keep below the speed limit. So when it comes to driving, I leave it to Marjorie. Even before I stopped driving, she did a perfectly good job from the passenger seat in any case.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Women - Know your Place

Truly it is when our beliefs are brought face to face with experience that our theology is developed. Not in a study, where cool thoughts on divinity can be held up to the gentle light of a 12W compact incandescent bulb. For when we take those same thoughts out into the light, that is where they are exposed to the hard, clear, blue light of the day. And we find that, though low-energy lights are beloved of the environmental industry and save money, they're not very good if you actually want to see things.

And so I found in Coalville. Of the inhabitants in the round of said town, I will say little. They may well be charming, loving people in whose hearts the Gospel light, should it catch spark, might glow with a warming flame that far outshines a low-energy light bulb.
But of the people that my preaching attracted, I cannot say any of these things.

For as I drew a crowd of angry onlookers, I realised that their presence was offensive to my very text.

I was using a sign which, summarising as it does many Bible passages, comes - I seem to remember - from a religious programme of the 1990s. In that programme, a Mr Cholmondely-Warner used to offer very sound advice on how we should live our lives. I've always thought this slogan was snappy, witty and true to Biblical principles. Based in particular on 1 Tim 2:12, it reads simply "Women - know your place".

There you have it. Simple, godly, easy to remember - the perfect evangelistic slogan. But in Coalville, it would appear, women do not know their place. Maybe it is simply that many of them had to work to help support their families when the mine closed. As a result they have learnt the evils of self-reliance.

But in any case. I had to leave the town swiftly under a hail of Brussels Sprouts. But as I ran, wiping the vegetation from my face, I rejoiced. For so also they treated the prophets.

Sexual Dimorphism and Evolution

This may be from an unreliable scientific source, since it comes from a correspondent in Birmingham.

He suggests that women may have evolved smaller feet than men, in order to stand closer to the kitchen sink.

And in many ways this exposes the myth of Evolution. For in the days when, according to the priests of Evolution, men and women were developing dimorphic podologies, there were no sinks and no washing up. So even under the absurdities of evolutionary theory, the different sizes of men's and women's feet would reveal Intelligent Design.

No, clearly the different size of men's and women's feet are a sign of the wonders of Creation. Maybe the Creator made women's feet shorter to assist with washing up, as my correspondent has suggested. But I prefer to think that He had a second, more important intention - that of enabling men to stand comfortably, balanced on their larger feet, while preaching at the front of churches.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The waters over the earth

The Revd Philip Ritchie accuses me of the sin of liberalness for suggesting that the tops of the mountains were not covered by water as part of the Great Flood. Indeed, he accuses me of trusting in Science and not Scripture.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a firm believer in Science and the One that invented it. And I refer not to Richard Dawkins.  However, it is clearly the case that, if the results of "science" differ with Scripture, then "science" (ie the results of a fallible scientist) is at odds with Science, the revelation of the mind of the Creator. Therefore, for example, the "science" of Evolution is a devilish deceit, and at odds with the true Science of Creation, which merely awaits acceptance of the evidence (i.e. the Book of Genesis) in the same way that Galileo and Copernicus had to wait for the Catholic church to recognise the truth of their theories.

However. I feel I have to explain my view of the dry-mountain theory of the Flood.

It is a simple calculation to derive that, were Everest to have been covered by the Flood, the amount of water required would have been 1.1bn cubic miles*.  It is equally clear that the amount of water on the earth, above the earth and under the earth - is about 332 million cubic miles. So if, as the Good Book has it, the floodgates of heaven were open and the springs of the great deep burst forth, then the maximum depth of all the earth in the world would be far less than the height of Everest.  Otherwise God would have created 1.1 bn cubic miles of water ex nihilo - a miracle unknown since the Creation itself.

Now I'm not saying that God could not have created that much water out of nothingness, and then destroy it again afterwards. For nothing is impossible with God. But - to do that, simply to ensure that he drowned all the Bigfeet and Yetis in the world except 2 each (for I presume they are unclean animals, possessing not cloven feet and chewing not the cud) would seem to be grandstanding in a big way. Far more rational to assume that he merely flooded the world to a reasonable depth, and left the Bigfeet and Yetis in peace.

* for those of a scientific bent, I have assumed a height of 5.5 miles for Everest, and that the earth is a sphere of radius of 4,000 miles. This is approximate, but seems good enough for the purposes of this calculation.

2x2 and 7x7

While I am lurking around trying to grow my beard, I'm not lounging. Indeed no.  What is whispered in the darkness will be shouted from the roof tops. And I am writing up my thoughts on Noah's Ark.

I am working on the genetic implications that every clean animal on the planet descended from 7 of their species, about 5000 years ago. While every unclean animal descended from just 2. Logically this would mean that we would expect more genetic diversity among clean than among unclean. And I think this is what we see. Consider the sheep of the field, for example - the Lonk, the Swaledale, the Red Leicester.  The list goes on and on. And yet the hoopoe is a sadly undifferentiated species. One hoopoe looks much like another. This is exactly as we would expect for its feeble genetic base. Nice bird, though.  Even if it's unclean.

I also consider the extent of the flood. Clearly when the Good Book says that the flood covered the whole of the earth, it was speaking figuratively about that area which Noah knew. My belief is that the tops of the really high mountains of the Himalayas and the Andes were not in fact covered.  And while I hear the cries of "Liberal!" from some, again my argument is based on sound scientific reasoning.
After all, if the really tall mountains of America and Asia were flooded as well, where did Bigfoot and the Yeti  survive?  They can't have been on the Ark, as an almighty fight would have broken out. Stands to reason, really.
(hoopoe from Wikipedia commons)

A prophet in his own land

This prophet thing is not really happening that quickly.  Three days, and so far just a light stubble. So I'm not so much looking prophetic as slightly scruffy.

I have cancelled today's pastoral visits in order to concentrate on eating raw steak and other such masculine food products, in the hope of rushing on the pastoral gift. Oddly, despite phoning seven people to tell them I wouldn't be round, I didn't detect in their voices any sense of desperation at missing the chance to see their pastor. I am glad to see that I am breeding in the Baptists of Frisby a sense of reliance on God alone, and not just on some unnecessary intermediary. And yet, I'm still disappointed that nobody begged me to come round,

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Protest(ant) the Pope

I rarely visit the Guardian's "Comment is Free" section. Too often, it appears to me, things that are free are not valued, and this would go for many of the valueless comments in this section.

It seems that, after a day's gnawing the carpet, the average follower of Comment is Free likes nothing better than to express hatred of somebody they disagree with, before going off to find another carpet to gnaw. I suppose you have to have a hobby, but it makes even train spotting - of which I have frequently repented with many a salty tear of regret - appear a useful redemption of your time.

However. I broke my habit to read the Church Mouse's article on the "Protest the Pope" meeting in Richmond.  And the first thing I suppose I should feel is gratitude that there are still libraries in Richmond at all. It is a surprise to hear they have not been declared "elitist", biased towards the literate, and closed.But I expect that the King James Version of the Bible is unavailable there, as it is in so many of our public facilities.

And yet I feel there are good reasons not to agree with the Pope - to be a Protestant, in the truest sense of the world. He does not appear to believe in faith alone for redemption, nor in Scripture as the sole source of religious belief. He appears to think that wearing "vestments" is in some way necessary and not damaging to the Faith. As far as I am aware he has never quoted Spurgeon. Nor does he reject the heretical orders of Priests and Bishops.  And he agrees with infant baptism.

It is time to ignore the fripperies of foaming-mouthed Guardian-reading atheists and get to the heart of the matter. Let us protest the Pope because he does not use the Redemption Hymnal or an overhead projector. Then we will be dealing with matters of substance.

The Prophetic Call

It's been a while, and I've been praying this over and considering it deeply.

And I've asked a couple of people for their advice, and they've been generally supportive.

I may be feeling the prophetic call.  I really can see that side of my ministry developing.  So there's only one thing for it.

I'm going to have to grow a beard.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Even Later Baptibus

I find it hard to believe this.

The Baptibus arrived late today.
It was late last week.  We always knew that Oz would have to drive like Elijah's chariot of fire to get here on time.
But at least last week it was late for the morning worship.
Today it arrived late for the evening worship.

Leon explained it all to me, when he could string a coherent sentence together. He said by the time they had collected everyone it was nearly lunchtime.  So they'd had to drop Elspeth back home in Oadby.
And then they all stopped off and had a "refreshment break", in what Leon tried to claim was a cafe. A strange cafe, since they realised that it had the Liverpool-Arsenal game on the big screen later, so they stuck around to watch that. By which time it was 6pm. So "without further ado" they drove the twelve miles up here to join our 6pm service, and interrupted our time of spontaneous prayer with a fairly unpleasant song about one of the Liverpool players.
I had the stewards remove them from the premises, but they discovered that Oz had departed without them, presumably desperate to get home after a day at the mercy of these inebriates. And so the rest of the service was interrupted by wailing and, I would not be surprised, gnashing of teeth as they stood at the door and knocked but we told them we did not know them.

So stuck with 8 waifs and strays from various parts of the county, all in a state of inebriation, what could I do?
I did the only thing that, in Christian charity, I could. I stuck a hi-viz vest on each of them and told them they could walk.  We will deal with the acts of penitence later.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

An all-night sermon session

Looks like being an all-nighter.

As well as tomorrow morning's service, for which I've had to produce an emergency sermon due to Reverend Bob's sudden departure, I've been working on my talk for tomorrow evening, session 2 in my series on 1 Timothy.

But Marjorie's read through it and told me I really ought to re-write it.  She says I've not emphasised the theme of male headship enough.

Bob the Baptist Bows Out

I just received a call from Bob the Baptist. He sounded a little dazed and confused.  Due, I'm sure, to the spiritual elation of doing holy work, although it sounds like the intoxication of the unredeemed.

He tells me that, after he left our late-night prayer evening about 8.30 yesterday, he felt a calling to evangelize the lost at the Weatherspoons in Leicester. There seems to have been some confusion involved, and he ended up spending the night in the cells.  After a discussion with the constabulary this morning, he has been let out, but the suggestion was made that he leave the country as soon as possible.  He is therefore heading to Gatwick as I write.

In so many ways this reminds me of the story of Paul! Constantly emerging victorious from prison, shaking the dust off his feet and moving on in his pilgrimage.

So I was going to take Bob on a trip round the landfill sites of Rutland today, prior to his preaching a farewell sermon tomorrow. But instead I shall weed the leek patch, throw Mrs Collins' cat over the fence one more time, and then get down to the emergency writing of tomorrow's sermon.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Chaos in Kibworth

After last Friday's debacle I suspected that Joseph might be following me around, spreading his heresy of the infinitely deep furnace in an infinitely deep pit and trying to steal my converts on my weekly evangelism trips. So today as I stood by the side of that King's Highway of a thoroughfare, the A6 in Kibworth, I was unsurprised to hear the sound of his flip-flops shuffling into place behind me. Truly his flip-flops have the strength of many, for the noise of the A6 reacheth up even to the heavens.

Truly Joseph had his reward today. As he stood behind me, shouting his heresy through his ungodly amplification system, he suddenly had a look of alarm on his face as he heard the sound of fifty pairs of small, stamping feet.
And there they were. The children from the Holiday club, full of the evangelistic fire with which Bob the Baptist had filled them and seized with zeal for the True Light.  A dozen of them picked Joseph up,  carried him down the main road, and were last seen heading for the Golf Club with determined looks on their faces.  I gathered from their cheery cries that they planned to bury him up to his neck in a bunker, as a warning to all heretics.

Please don't misunderstand my intentions here.  I didn't want to leave him, unregenerate backslider that he is, undeserving of Grace as we all are. I would have gone to help him. But I had to deal with the  the other children.  They were supposed to stick around near me and sing evangelistic choruses. But in the light of this morning's teaching, they were off and running round the Kibworths.  And together with the other leaders I had to try to get them all back together before they caused any more devastation.

It didn't help that the subject today had been Ananias and Sapphira. Nor that there had been a lot of coloured candy-covered chocolates handed around.  The middle-class denizens of the Kibworths Beauchamp and Harcourt are a flinty-hearted bunch with necks as of brass. If I were on my own I wouldn't reckon on much in the way of blessing. And yet there's something disconcerting about a gap-toothed little blonde moppet of seven looking up at you. Especially when she says "Give me some money or God will kill you." So little Epangelia did very well, raking in nearly a hundred pounds in donations that I really wasn't looking for, as well as five or six people who agreed to say the "Sinners' Prayer" if her little brother would stop crying.

A bunch of the kids picketed the local licensed establishments, asking people if they were sacrificing the well-being of their own children to pay for their loathsome drinking habits.  While a group of nine or ten stamped down the street, shouting "Sell your house and give the money to Mr Parslow".  I had some quick talking to do, to try to persuade the local constable that I wasn't some kind of middle-England religious Fagin.

The kids came back for the post-Holiday Club ice cream in a fine mood, convinced they had made a major breakthrough against the Gates of Hell. And the people of Kibworth were able to take the boards down from their windows and get on with their lives.

It's Wrong to Wish on Space hardware

It's great to welcome you back to this last day of our Holiday Club!  And what a great week we've had

Now I know this is an exciting time of year astronomically. The sight of shooting stars alerts us to the beauties of God's creation. We can sigh, with the Psalmist - when I consider the wonders of your heavens, the works of your hands - What is Man?

But a word of caution. When looking for shooting stars it is easy for the total astronomical idiot to confuse them with the International Space Station.

So our motto for today is - "Don't forget, kids - it's wrong to wish on space hardware".

It is also, of course, idolatry to wish on a shooting star, and madness to attempt to catch one and put it in your pocket.

So let's get ready to Praise the Lord, and build a New England!


* With thanks to @rosamundi and @robinsons

Thursday, 12 August 2010

An offence against nature

There are some things in life we know should never be.
Some things that were never meant to exist, even in the fallen world in which we live.
And even though it was my day off, I knew that I had to confirm my suspicions. See the abomination in our midst.  Understand the horror we had to deal with.

So I've just been up to the chapel, and checked. 

I've counted three times, and re-counted, and then I dragged Oswald out of his house.  And it's true.

The church notice board had enough drawing pins in it.  We had put every single poster up on it, each with four drawing pins - one at each corner. Without any of the posters having to share a drawing pin. Without any overlapping posters.

It was monstrous, and a scandal amongst church notice boards. There was nothing for it.  I've spent the last hour removing sufficient drawing pins that the posters have to share, and adding sufficient extraneous information that at least a third of every poster is now obscured by another one.

It's a labour of love, but I've now done this to every church notice board I've ever come across. If you find that your notice board doesn't have quite enough drawing pins for the posters, even though logic says that surely somebody must have bought enough in the first place - I've been there too.

Holiday Club Day 4 - No more Herods

Thursday is my day off. And so it is my day off today, even in Holiday Club week. I have spent the day prowling the house in a lather of suspense, causing Marjorie repeatedly to ask why I don't go out.

Eventually I had to ask her to drive me around the Leicester ring road for a while to calm me down.

It was the sound, audible all the way from Salem chapel, of the disgusted cries of the children. I'd seen Bob's planned material for today - the demise of King Herod - and had suggested to him that the graphic details of being eaten by worms might be a bit much.

Not to mention the illustrations, involving real worms. I really didn't think some of the gentler souls would have wanted to carry them around in their hands in the way Bob was planning.

So all in all I hope we get all the young people back tomorrow. Between the broken bones and accidental triggering of allergies, we were already dwindling. But I hope the promise of a new King James Bible for anyone that makes it to all five days may keep them hanging on.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Holiday Club - Day 3

Today's Holiday Club theme was Lot's wife, and the way she ended up turned to a pillar of salt after looking back at the destruction of the Cities of the Plain. And what a great new song -  "Don't look back in Admah".

There's been a discernible change to the attitude of the children as the week goes by. Early on they were quite bubbly and excitable, but as we've gone through the sticky ends that the various evil-doers came to, they're increasingly quiet. I'd like to say they're thoughtful and reflective, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it may actually be fear.

A strange dream

I ate some cheese I found in the back of the fridge last night. I am a frugal person, and know from the Good Book that we can handle snakes and drink poison and even eat odd bits of old cheese if we but have the faith.  But maybe my faith was lacking, for as a result of the cheese I had a strange dream.

I was transported into a twilight world - into the Internet itself - and it was revealed unto me that I could hear the noise that the electrons of the Internet made as they swam in and out of the various sites. And the sounds of tweets from the BBC had all the happiness and woes of the world of news, and the squeaking excitement of the sports world. While Bad Vestments sounded like a snigger, followed by a deep sigh of woe.

And then was revealed the sound of Twitter as the stream of tweets came in, and went back out unto all the corners of the world.  And at first I thought the sound was just the squeaking of mice.

But gradually the sound became more recognisable. And I realised that the sound of Twitter is "Me... Me.... Me.... Me...."

And I awoke from my strange dream, and I was afraid.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Holiday Club - Day 2

And so we came to Sisera. A rousing story with plenty of God's work being done.

I was however of the opinion that the "splitting headache" joke was done an awful lot of times. Especially as I'd always thought, at the time I preached on the story of Jael and Sisera, that I was being so original.

The adaptation of the children's song to "Is that a tent-peg in your eye" was quite amusing, however.

But I'm suffering some regrets over the choice of story, in retrospect. After all, not only was Jael a woman, but Deborah, the judge of Israel at the time, was as well. So the Lord's work was being done by strong, active women in leadership roles.  What on earth were we teaching the children - and especially the young girls - there?

I mentioned my thoughts to Marjorie this afternoon, and she agrees with me that although in Old Testament emergencies it was acceptable for women to take the lead, under the New Testament's guidance this is no longer required. As long as young men see visions and old men dream dreams, we're fine without the female instruction.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Double booking

I'm afraid that this evening's half-night of prayer for the Holiday Club was a wash out. It turns out that the Property committee had double-booked us in the Church Hall with Frisby Amateur Dramatic Society's performance of "When we are married".

What's really embarrassing is that it took us twenty minutes to realise our mistake. I thought the spontaneous prayers were a little off the topic, but then not much more than usual.

Holiday Club - Day 1

Holiday Club! I'm writing in a "fun" colour today to celebrate our day of fun and songs.


So, on the promise of cheap baby-sitting and a couple of hours' peace each day for their parents, we are entrusted with the spiritual welfare of a fair proportion of Frisby's children. It gives you a sense of terrible responsibility.


All in all, we had quite an encouraging day. Only two of the young people had to be taken to hospital - one broken arm and one allergic reaction to eating seven chocolate bars. And it was only two hours after hearing the story of Ham and his curse that some of the older boys stopped laughing.


But Baptist Bob's "epilogue" seemed to really hit the spot. He asked the young people if they wanted to go to heaven - and needless to say they all stuck their hands up in the air.  Then he told them that, as things stood, none of them would.  God was a loving God - but that they would all be damned to burn in Hell unless they started loving him back. Some of the younger ones were moved to genuine tears of repentance, and I'm sure not fear as one of the mothers claimed. Unless it was the godly fear of the righteous.  


Two of them even offered to clean the chapel if it would make God love them better. So I was delighted to explain to them that salvation is by grace, and through faith, and that they didn't need to work for God to love them.  Although I still let them clean the chapel, to show the fruits of repentance.


All in all, a great day. I can't wait for tomorrow!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The least in the Kingdom

I'm quite intrigued by Reverend Robert's sermon today.
Based on Luke 12, he took the reference to sell what you have "and give alms" and applied it to his own church. He explained how, thanks to the Biblically-inspired giving, sacrificial generosity and souvenir sales of the 15th Hallelujah Church of Glory, he can be sent to spread the Light in the darkness of this green and forsaken land. And in the process go Business class and stay in nice hotels. Whereas if I accept the offer to preach to the Bude Unlikely Grace fellowship in the autumn, I'll be staying in a tent at the "Atlantic Gales" campsite.
What kind of church is it, asked Bob, that allows its pastor to stay in a tent while the pagans are in air-conditioned motor caravans? A fellowship that truly believed the Gospel would be able to send its pastor first-class in the knowledge that, by doing so, they would be declaring the glory of God and their own transparent holiness.

So by giving graciously, they'd be sending a message about what good Christians they are. And yet simultaneously they'd be working for the Kingdom.  And I might have a comfy week in Cornwall into the bargain.

As Archdruid Eileen used to say, in those days when I struggled to keep the Beaker Folk somewhere in contact with Fundamentalist Christianity - this needs some unpacking.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Conundrum

I've been sitting here all evening worrying about this.

My principles of biblical interpretation say that the commandments of the Old Testament, while important as examples, are not for the instruction of the church. Set free from the tyranny of the Law, we live in the light of the New Testament - which is why we can still ban the things we really disagree with.

But I've a problem.  According to Acts Chapter 10, all foods are right to eat.  But Acts 15 says to abstain from blood.

So you tell me - can I eat Black Pudding or can't I?

The Evil of the Motor Car

It's not that I can't drive.  But I've never been comfortable with driving. To drive seems lazy when God has given me two perfectly good feet. Why, just because it's pouring with rain and it's five miles to the superstore, would I give myself up to the comfort and idleness of leather seats and air-conditioning?

So today was an unusual day in the Parslow household as two cars appeared, for different reasons.

First was the hire car of my friend the Reverend Robert, just off the plane. For a man who should have been suffering from jet-lag he was incredibly ebullient. Ran around the garden telling me that his garden back in the states is bigger than Leicestershire, shared a joke with Mrs Collins next door - something about her cat, which sits around my redcurrant bushes and leeks. I didn't get it.
He sketched out his plans for the week's activities, based on our outline programme.  And he told me his sermon for tomorrow will be about an hour and a half.  Which was a relief, because when he preached in the old days he used to go on a bit.
I had offered to put Bob up at the manse, but he told me that he thought it might be a little smaller than he's used to. So he's booked a suite at Melton Mowbray's top hotel. Melton Mowbray!  I shudder when I hear the name. I just hope the inhabitants are too busy with their normal pursuit of eating pork pies and Stilton cheese to break off and mug him.
Then he gave my hand a bone-crushing shake, and he'd gone.  Off to find what he called a "Great English Breakfast." I hope he didn't try Melton Mowbray.  They'd just give him a slice of pork pie.

And just after Bob disappeared, Marjorie turned up in her new convertible. She tells me the rent we're earning from the other house is sufficient to cover the repayments, so it's not strictly speaking an unnecessary luxury.  And she took me for a spin with the soft-top down.

We took in all the local landmarks - the Stilton cheese farm, Ratcliffe power station and the Wanlip sewage works. For a while, it was a lovely reminder of the early days, when we would go on site-seeing tours of the Black Country.  But I had to bring such idle fripperies to an end while I got back in the garden.
I've put a set of pallets together to form a compost heap, and I spent a blessed and hard-working few hours loading all the organic matter from my last couple of week's efforts in.  And then I went into the garage to get the lawn mower.

Now, I don't blame Marjorie. She probably didn't think of it. Or maybe she was going to warn me. But in any event, she'd hung the hard-top of the convertible in the garage for the summer. Just inside the door.  At about five feet 10 inches in height. A significant measurement, as that meant it was just above my eye-line, but level with the top of my head.

Needless to say I smacked my head into the car roof, and fell, momentarily dazed, back onto the drive.
And equally needless to say, as I lay there semi-conscious, Maud and Elsie wandered past on their way to the shops.
"At it again," remarked Maud.
"Yes" responded Elsie, "he can count his lucky stars he's saved".

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Church in the Market Place

It being Friday, I cleared the decks today for a return visit to Market Harborough.  Anywhere that is that deeply steeped in sin needs help.
This time I steered well clear of any Liberty Bodices, and restricted myself to standing outside Weatherspoons armed with the portable evangelism assistance device.

As is often my way, I confined myself to a message that I believed would bring instant recognition from my auditors.  A feeling of shared experience and common purpose that would lead us move forward in our common spiritual quest, is how I would describe it if in fact I wasn't bringing the Gospel Light into the darkened hearts of those who are profoundly lost and spiritually blind.
But every time I tried to get over my message - based on the story of the Locusts in Joel - I found I was being interrupted. Joseph had appeared, equipped with an amplification system that must have been twice as powerful.

Joseph's message - "Don't listen to him! He believes in a floating furnace in the infinitely deep pit!" didn't win him any converts, either. But he certainly wrecked my hopes.

When it was time to get the bus home, in my haste to pack up I dropped the car battery of ny amplifier on my foot and as a result fell over. Just as I was staggering to my feet, I head Joseph telling the driver: "You don't want to pick him up, mate. His condition is like unto that of the newt". At which the bus, complete with Joseph, moved off and left me sprawled on the pavement.

So yet another long walk home. But my heart is still full of the joy of those who labour in season and out of season, doing the work of an evangelist. How lovely on the Charnwood hills are the blisters of those who bring good news!

Baptist Bob

I'm pleased to announce that our special guest leader of next week's Holiday Club is a good friend of mine. He's my former pastor at the mega-chapel in the US I attended when I worked at Baltimore Balling Bearings for a couple of years in the 90s.  So tomorrow we'll be delighted to welcome Revd Robert B Van Polkinghorne.  Or, as he likes to be called on children's missions, "Baptist Bob".

The last person of any fame at all to visit Frisby was the Viking, Halbrik the Vermillion, so everyone I meet is really excited about this. It's all I hear anyone talk about. Admittedly this is a selective experience, as generally the only people I actually talk to in Frisby are other members of the chapel, but this is still quite an achievement.

To mark Baptist Bob's week-long stay we've produced a select list of high-quality souvenirs. I hope you'll all be able to find just the keep-sake for your to remember our exciting week.

Baptist Bubble Bath (not to be used for baptisms) - £1.75


Baptist Minister Doll (preaches 300 1-hour sermons) £212 - Batteries not included


"Bob the Baptist" Candles £2.50 - does not light, as a stern rebuke to these inclinations towards Popery


"I've seen Bob the Baptist" T-shirts £20


"Bapdar" - Ideal for the Godly Lonely, this clever device detects Baptists at a range of 400 yards, by identifying the cleanliness of their souls £345 - warning - do not use near Anglicans

"I've seen Bob the Baptist" choir-robes  £120 - Baptists not included

"Bunyan and Bob" - two-doll set in which our favourite American visitor debates doctrine with Bedfordshire's greatest (and possibly only) Baptist - £300

"Pilgrim's Progress" Hiking Boots - £60 - Play "He who would valiant be"

"Anna the Baptist" - the holy counterblast to Dora the Explorer. Watch little Anna as she wanders round the forest, telling the talking animals they must be demons and all the colourful locals that they're damned.

"2012 - they'll think it's all over" T-shirts - £20.12 (remaindered from the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley)

Baptist Blankets - woven with a picture of John Bunyan or Charles Spurgeon. You can go to bed truly covered with glory. £50

So hurry and get your perfect souvenir of a perfect summer week! But don't worry, due to Oswald's end-of-the-world fixation, we've got 2012 of each of them.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Day off

Once again it is my day off.

I really don't like days off. I know that the Sabbath is a commandment, and I know that I work on the Sabbath. Although not as hard as Oz, who has two rather impressive circuits of Leicester to accomplish every Sunday, and is living in fear of the day I ask him to do another two laps collecting a congregation for Evening Worship. But that is to digress. I feel I should be redeeming every hour. And yet I know that I have a duty to indulge myself in rest and recuperation once a week. So I work as hard at resting as I can.

For a start, I adopt a change in the tunes I hum to myself as I go about my daily tasks. On other days, I tend to hum metrical psalm tunes, or those modern songs that have passed the Doctrine committee. But on Thursdays I relax a little and hum some suitable hymns - but only the manly ones. From Greenland's Icy Mountains, or Alas and did my Saviour Bleed. I particularly like the latter. I find that the contrast between my former worm-like condition, and my new status where I am "happy all the day", rings particularly true.

I also like to adopt a more  relaxed expression. During the working week I adopt one of two facial expressions - either that of concerned spiritual interest, or one of inner light welling up into facial gladness. When I had to switch between the two very rapidly yesterday, it caused Marjorie to ask if I'd developed a tic. (She's changed a lot since I met her. At the time, I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. But that's another story.)

Anyway. On Thursdays, I adopt the facial gentle spiritual beam of resting in the Lord. Almost Moses-like, as if I'd just been in the back garden enjoying a face-to-face encounter with the Almighty.  And instead of the kind-but-commanding voice I use during the working week, I go for gentle-but-redeemed as a tone of voice. 

I also adopt a different dress policy. Instead of my formal-yet-modern working dress of corduroys, shirt and tie, with the tie replaced with a dog collar for Sabbath-day preaching, on Thursdays I sometimes undo the top bottom. I may even go without my braces or - if it's very hot - my cardigan or blazer.  But not both. One would not want to excite unsuitable emotions in any ladies one met. Especially on a Thursday.

I find it's in these little ways that I can enjoy my day off to the greatest extent, while still projecting a holy image.  But as I say, it's hard work.

London 2012 - A Vision

Worry is a sin. Whenever someone comes to me and tells me that they are worried, I tell them that their worry shows a lack of faith. They should go away and repent, and their faith will see them through. I believe this to be very good advice in practice, as well as soundly Biblical.  Indeed, I have never had anyone come back to me later to say they are still worried.

However, I am worried today. Call it a prophet's vision. I see the year 2012. I envisage the quadrennial world-wide athletic festival that is to be held in London - I will not give it its more traditional name, pagan in origin as it is.  I imagine the great influx of young female athletes into our capital city for the events. And a still small voice whispers to me - "Beware Boris".

I can see how it will be. Boris Johnson will be 48 years of age. The type of age when you take stock of what you've achieved in your life. And you look around and see that, while you've the Mayor of a reasonably-sized city in Southern England, other people you went to University with are touring the world annoying foreigners, or writing satirical Baptist websites. And you wonder whether you still have the vision and the vim and energy you had as a floppy-haired young man.

And then you suddenly realise that thousands of young ladies have been flown specially to the city of which you are mayor. Thousands of ladies who are - in the modern parlance - "fit". And that many will have significant amounts of "downtime" after their events are completed.

I tell you, I worry that we could see the Old Etonian equivalent of a ram being let loose in a field of ewes in the Autumn.

I fear for an outbreak of floppy hair and braying vowel sounds spread across the world in a way not seen since the height of the British Empire. Not to mention the physical strain on Mr Johnson himself, which might surpass that on a triathlete running his event on a hot day in Deptford.

But I have a plan. My intention is that, at every event Boris attends at the 2012 games, a member of our congregation will be there in the crowd, carrying not just our normal "John 3:16" banner, but also another one. The precise wording will have to be agreed by the Banners Sub-Committee, but I am tending towards "Give it a Break, Boris".

Today being my day of rest, I will have to leave further preparations. However on Sunday I will be launching our "London 2012" appeal, to raise enough money to enable one member of the congregation to stay in London and attend all significant events.  We have yet to identify who this person should be.  But since other members of the congregation are working, and their wives will have the important jobs of making their tea for when they get in, I feel I may be called to this worthy, Godly and prophetic sacrifice myself.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Twitter Communion

I read with interest the furore regarding the Twitter Communion that Revd Tim Ross was contemplating leading.  And I am led to conclude that, however you look at it, it's not a service I could in all good conscience lead myself.
I've checked out how Twitter works, and as far as I can tell there's no mechanism for taking the collection.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Women's Ministry

Now that Marjorie is here to lead it, I'm pleased to announce that the Women's Group will be meeting at 12.00 every Thursday for two hours of godly worship and Bible study.

For those married women unable to attend because they work, there will be a Ministry of Repentance on Tuesday evenings at 8.30.

O'Vienna Syndrome

Rob comments on my occasional habit, when moved by strong emotion, to express myself in the language of the 1980s synth-disco-post-punk band "Human League".

I'm afraid that it's true that I suffer from O'Vienna Syndrome. The symptoms are that you inadvertently quote New Romantic lyrics, you're constantly hungry like the wolf, and you suffer from a painful Visage.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Schism

I gather from the leaflet that has just dropped through the letter-box that a new church has been formed. The "Frisby Baptist Church of the Infinitely Deep Furnace" will be holding its meetings in the Primary School at 9am on Sundays. Clearly Joseph has moved quickly.

Under the tyranny of Rome, where two or three disagreed over principles of interpretation one would be told to shut up because the other was a priest (or bishop, or Pope, according to the situation).
In the Methodist or Anglican Church, this kind of theological debate would result in the formation of various committees that would investigate the rights and wrongs, issue the occasional report, and then either come up with a compromise, or decree that everyone was right,  or fall into disuse after no-one could remember what it was all about.
But in an Independent Baptist Church, when this kind of disagreement occurs, somebody simply goes off and founds another congregation.

It makes me proud to be a Protestant.

Marjorie

When I saw her getting  off the bus, it  seemed to wipe away the years. Her face was older, just a little rough - but her eyes were still so clear.
Marjorie has returned to me, and I am indescribably happy! It was so important that the household knew a woman's touch.
And she left no time in applying that woman's touch to the house. The front lounge is now already laminated, I've painted the back parlour, and she has ordered new tiles for the bathroom. My back is in agony, my fingers pierced with splinters of laminate - and yet I am so incredibly happy.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Heresy

I'm sorry, there's no two ways about it. Joseph has been de-fellowshipped for heresy.

I've done my best to get him to change his mind. But we've been discussing this since the debate broke out over coffee after this evening's worship, and I really feel there is nowhere to go.  The argument was over the interpretation of Rev 9 that I gave in the sermon.


 1And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
 2And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.


Now the disagreement was quite simply this - that if there was smoke "as of a great furnace" coming out of the bottomless pit, then in my view clearly the furnace was floating in mid-air within the bottomless pit, at a measurable distance from the surface. Otherwise how could the smoke have got to the top by now?

But Joseph's contention is that this is being overly literal. In Joseph's view, the furnace is actually at the infinitely-deep hypothetical bottom of the bottomless pit, and the smoke has been rising for ever, which is why it's just reached the top of the bottomless pit.

To which I point out, if the pit's bottomless, it's bottomless. It is not that the pit has a bottom that is infinitely far down - the bottom doesn't exist at all.

But Joseph replies that here he stands - at the theoretical bottom of a bottomless pit - and he can do no other.

For the meantime, Joseph is suspended and de-fellowshipped, while the Doctrine committee considers under precisely which part of Biblical interpretation he has fallen.

I can see already that it's going to be a bad summer for heresy.

The BaptiBus is Landed

Apparently there has been an outbreak of resurfacing on local roads. As a result of which the BaptiBus  pulled in shortly after the end of the service.

They turned down my offer to re-preach my sermon, insisting it would be too much trouble for me. Instead they each grabbed a doughnut and a cup of coffee, and then left remarking that it had been the best service they attended in a while.

I must away to pray. Who would have thought that successful evangelism would have been so unsuccessful?

The Rich Fool

And what a reminder that great Parable of the Rich Fool is to us, of the importance of the way we use money.

I reminder when I first came for my interview with the Church Meeting, and to preach with a view to ministry, that I was informed that this was a church which believed in the biblical principle of tithing. I am therefore sad to report that, based on the discussions I have had with Mr Saunders, our Treasurer, the average member of this congregation earns around £27 per week.
I must admit I am shocked. Shocked by the obvious level of poverty by which I am surrounded. Who could have believed that, behind the net curtains of the executive 5-bedroom homes of Grebe Way, people struggle to live on such small incomes? I feel that by drawing my ministerial salary I am letting you all down. Maybe I should go back out to work in my former role as a ball-bearing salesman in the roller-skate industry, in the hope that I can, through giving my own tithe, support you all.

We must look closely at the story of the Rich Fool. For it is a story of priorities.
The Rich Fool had a large harvest. He could have used it to the glory of God - donating a tenth - or even more, for the Law was but a fence around sin, not a wall around goodness. Had he given his share to the synagogue, a rabbi might have been freed to spend more time in study of the Scriptures - in the process coming closer to God.
Or had he given it to the temple - the priests would have been freed to spend more time in prayer, purifying themselves in that Divine Fire for the service which they gave.
Or were the Rich Fool an independent Baptist - he could have granted his share to the minister, who thus  would be able to buy an iPad like all the Anglican priests, or a proper lap-top, instead of having to publish his sermons on Blogger by texting it into his £30 Nokia mobile telephone. And could have spent less time shovelling shire-horse droppings in the back garden, thence to grow vegetables with which to prop up his meagre ministerial income.
Not that I do not enjoy tending my garden, you understand. There is nothing I like better than to spend a long Saturday digging manure into garden beds followed by wasting God's beautiful cleansing water on a half-hour long shower to remove the rather ripe smell I acquire. I am truly working in God's vineyard - even if I am struggling to produce non-alcholic and godly grape-juice.

I should explain, in case you do not know the arrangements - I am unlike the ministers of the Church of England.  They are on a fixed stipend - and therefore earn the same regardless of whether they take any services or marry thousands, whether they save 100 lost souls or none. Where is their incentive? Unless they truly believe the Gospel, why would they work in the holy vineyards when they could sit around all day on Mr Twitter's time-wasting device?

Whereas I am paid - on top of a frugal base salary - a share of all giving. I have incentive to produce fruit that will last. I work every hour that I may gain the lost - and in the process, maybe enough left over to buy a tin of Ambrosia Cream Rice. Which goes very nicely with fruit that lasts, as it happens. I become all things to all men, that by all possible means I might save enough for a holiday.

But I am rambling, and maybe giving the impression that I perform my ministry for the love of filthy lucre, that rots or is stolen. If I build barns to hold my wages - then they would be fairly empty. And even if they were full, the Lord would still say to me - "You fool! This very day your life will be demanded of you!"

Faced with a threat like what else can we do but give graciously - give biblically - give generously - give till a great heap-offering of love is given for the work of the Church and the ministry of its minister. Given until all that is left in our pockets is lint.  For you do not muzzle the ox while it is treading grain, and the workman is worthy of his wages - meagre as they are.

And now we have our hymn - during which we will take an offering. "Silver and gold have I none".