Friday, June 30, 2006

Master and Servant

There liveth at that time a man who though his dwelling and attire be passing well appointed, yet his heart was empty, though he knoweth it not. And there cometh to his door a visitor who desireth to serve and he knocketh on the door, which when it openeth unto him, he saith to the owner "I have come because I desire to minister to you for I can see that your heart is sore. I shall be your servant and you shall be my master and this is my wish." And the owner, touched by the generosity of the offer, inviteth the stranger in and saith "I shall beyour master and you shall be my servant. Welcome."

So the servant taketh his position and looketh after the master and prepareth meals and keepeth the dwelling tidy and in this wise careth for the master. And the master's heart was eased and even strangely warmed for the relationship it was a good one and benefitteth both parties. And it came that the master saith to himself "I have received so much from my servant and it is not right that I give nothing in return." So he calleth the servant and he saith "Look here is a space which shall be yours for you have been faithful and true to your word and the servant is worthy of his hire." And he gaveth the servant to have his own bedroom and study for his comfort. And their relationship grew further harmonious and both prospered.

And the master saith again "I shall pay you, my servant, that you feel worthy and that your apparel may be a sign that you are hardworking and I shall no longer call you servant but butler." And it pleaseth the servant to be so honoured and valued and he was continual diligent. And some looketh on and marvelled.

But the honour given to the butler he felt not to be as great as that which the master possesseth and the butler, though he continue to serve at table, feeleth that he too was needy and he sneaketh sips of wine from the master's cellar when unobserved. And the master realiseth not and yet he wondereth that he had partaken so much. And the butler cometh to the master and saith "I could serve you better yet if you would allow me to do so, but it requires some investment. For in order to study correctly how best I may serve you I need some space and support and several more rooms, even unto the size of four." And the master seeth the logic and constructeth an extension being a whole new wing and an en-suite for the private use of the butler only, even though the cost was considerable and his resources were diminished thereby.

And the butler cometh again and addresseth the master thus "It seems to me that I am now more than a butler to you for I have all your interests at heart, and should I be given a new title?" And the master respondeth "You shall be called estate manager and I shall pay you accordingly for you have all my best interests at heart and whatever costs you have I shall cover them." And yet he goeth away and gaveth off a great sigh. For it seemeth to him that events overtaketh him and the financial burden it groweth larger and larger but his heart now vex him sore from time to time. For the master seeth how the estate manager now finely dresseth himself in comparison; and yet he remembereth all that had been given and he was still grateful
for all the past times. But the relationship between the twain now straineth a tiny bit. And indeed the expenses groweth further and more than the master had projected.

And then the day cometh when the estates manager cometh to the master (for he had become bold in manner) and saith "The costs continue to mount and I need an 8% increase to continue to manage my affairs." And the master taketh down the 12-bore shotgun from above the mantel-piece and he loadeth it and he giveth the estates manager both barrels full in the chest so that he lieth at his feet. And the master saith "There's an end of that", and he throweth the body into the street as a warning for all. And he putteth a sign on the outside of his house which saith


And he liveth many long years more and though he yearneth inwardly yet he never forgetteth the servant who became a butler and finally a manager.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Man in the Grey Suit - a cautionary tale

There was a man who used to wear an old grey suit. One of his friends suggested he could try something different, so he went out and bought a nice blue jacket. But on the first day that he wore it, somebody said they thought it was a bit too bright, and in order not to offend, he put it away for another day.

But that night he died, and some of his friends said it was a pity. Others though said that although it was a loss, they felt it should have happened earlier anyway because he was too conscious of standing out. And they went out and painted a rainbow.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Last Supper

I wonder how it was set out?

Friday, June 23, 2006


A few programmes have made me laugh out loud when on my own:

Men Behaving Badly
Grumpy Old Men
Green Wing

and the daddy of them all:

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

Lots of fun in "One song to the Tune of Another".

This week:
Rob Brydon singing "Killing Me Softly With His Song" to the tune "The Bare Necessities".
Graeme Garden singing "Blowin' in the Wind" to the tune "Daytrip to Bangor"

Sadly no Jeremy Hardy. If you've heard me sing, you'll understand why I appreciate Jeremy so much.

Wish You Were Here

Now there's an ambiguous phrase if you like. Like the Spanish inquisition, every time I think I've counted the number of meanings I get another one. So these are not numbered.

It can be what postcards purport to be - I'm having a really good time and I think you'd like it too - a gift.
One step down: is I'm having a pretty good time, but something is missing, and it's you. Then it would be perfect. Yearning.
Further down is: I'm having a poor time but you would perhaps make it bearable. Alienation and loneliness but could be tinged with (faint) hope.
A bit more sardonic is: I'm having a poor time and you might as well be as miserable as me.
And of course: wish you were here and wish I wasn't. Which can have two versions, depending whether you think the addressee would like it.

Roger Waters seems to start in the third one, addressing Syd, but by side two (sorry, habit) is somewhere in the last phase, addressing - who knows. Hopelessness and possible paranoia.

What did you mean last time you used it? And who did you talk to? God?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Working for God

The Methodist Church - and maybe others - majors heavily on the idea of "call". All of us who are preachers have spoken of our call, in private, in public, on various occasions, and maybe on how the call has changed over time. And we love to hear of others' call. Not only preachers, of course.

I think we have missed a trick. Sometimes the appropriate term is not "called" but "sent". This sounds more dangerous than it is, for although it implies distance and separation from God, you find when you get there (and we all feel like Jonah sometimes) that God is waiting for you at the other end. All you have to do is find him/her.

The Man in Black

He is an iconic figure. His presence, his silhouette, his shadow, even the threat of his presence, can dominate a landscape or scene. He is symbolic. He sends a chill down your spine.

He can be a villain but that is mostly too obvious. He is an enigmatic figure for he is an outsider. He is a brooding, mysterious character. Even if he laughs, beware, for it is not always what it may seem. What does he want? Why is he there? Will he disrupt or enhance? Will he stay or go? For he can suddenly disappear, leaving only the ghost, the whisper of his otherness.

But it may be otherwise. Jerome K Jerome eloquently explained how we are what we eat and so we can also be what we wear. Maybe the man in black is driven by his appearance rather than the driver of it. He acts the way he does because of his look and feels a slave to it. Why he did choose to wear black? This is the question that must be answered, for it is key. Understand that to understand all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The man who took off his hat

A man went and bought a new hat to see what it would look like. It was an odd feeling at first and he wasn't sure whether it really fit, and whether he actually liked it, but he persevered and grew to feel comfortable in it. And people began to recognise his new look and eventually to know him by his hat. He felt meanwhile that his hat was part of him and reflected who he was. He certainly noticed that people treated him differently from how they had before he started wearing it - a few didn't like it and wanted him to stop, and a few treated him worse, but on the whole he got on better with those he met.

But he wondered after a while whether folk only saw the hat, although he still felt comfortable in it. And he wondered what would happen if he took his hat off - how would he feel? So one day he took his hat off. It felt distinctly odd, and some folk didn't seem to recognise him any more, but despite all that he felt oddly liberated. He felt excited and confused together and those who knew him sensed it too. Some worried about him, and some encouraged him, and some wanted him to put that hat straight back on, and some didn't know how to advise him (but some did anyway). So he had to have a serious think.

Should he go back to wearing the familiar hat? Would it be the same?
Should he wear it only sometimes? What would people think? Would they recognise him?
Was the hat too old to wear, and should he buy a new one, or simply go without for a bit?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I don't normally race to read it, but for some reason did today. Wow. Bit curious though.

First article starts "If you ask most students about theological College ..." ! - but that's only the hook. And though it purports to be about prayer it seems to be more about sermons. So that one threw me for a loop.

And page 19 (by P. Johnson!) starts about hymn-sandwiches, but finishes about liturgy and read prayers! (a little harshly here and there on the latter). I do agree with him on meditation, though.

OK I know when I'm being got at.

Reflections on alternative worship

I've had a bit of time to think, but these thoughts are still to some extent "work in progress".

I enjoyed the service. That's the only bit here that's meant to be evaluative, but it's worth saying first.

I wonder if I need a bit of practice at getting as much as I can out of this sort of service. Specifically I wonder if I tried to do too much - in that in the time available I tried to go round every station, not necessarily to spend equal time at each but to value each, and I don't think I had enough time at every place. I probably could have spent twice as long at most of them.

In the order I visited:

The hotel room I take to be about loneliness and alienation, but there's something else which I haven't quite verbalised.
I placed myself on the physical map and looked at the old map, wondering at its value. I did write something about this station at the signpost.
At the tent I remembered a gift from God and a place at which it "was received".
The camper van told me about how we treat those who travel, but I think there's more.
At the signpost I read others' messages but can't now remember any - and I think some were helpful. I hope mine was. The signpost is perhaps a bit obvious as a symbol and too familiar (or current) for new reflection.
The cairn was a puzzle. I don't recall clearly what it said. And I had definitely run out of time at the end.

The blues song was good to finish, but I didn't get much from the readings - again perhaps too familiar? Couldn't manage the fresh eyes needed. I was challenged by writing on the tape. I may have taken this one too literally.

I'm still in a place where I'm more comfortable with more input, or maybe a particular form of same. We'll see. Like eating rich food when you're used to simple fare? Or nouvelle cuisine compared with a trencherman's usual?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Introduction Needed

I need to meet someone. No not that sort of someone. It occurs to me that I know a Hope and a Charity, but I need to get to know a Faith to complete the set.

I also know a Grace and a Verity, and a Joy. Perhaps a Makepeace?

I know an Angel and at least one Michael, so a Gabriel would be good. Or a Raphael.

At College I know David and Jonathan.

I could probably do with a Patience and a Prudence, too.


This is a story about a man who used to take stones and use them to make little cairns. He spent quite some time learning and practising and became quite good at it. People used to admire his little cairns, for they were carefully constructed, and even sometimes they made special trips to see them. He even taught other people to construct them and they became quite good too, for he could explain the techniques involved. And lots of people liked the cairns even though they were so numerous.

But he became aware that the cairns were at heart all the same even though they could be painted differently. So he enquired and discovered that there were other shapes that could be made. Someone showed him how to make a pyramid, and then a wall, and someone else showed him smaller versions and finally he saw that you could make attractive patterns out of the stones without all the complications of building. And suddenly he didn't want to make any more cairns. But that was what he was good at. So what did he do?

Friday, June 16, 2006

From Paul's letter to the new professionals

.... The team is a unit, though it is made up of many parts. If the central defender should say, "Because I am not a holding midfield, I do not need to work for the team" it would not for that reason not have to work for the team. And if the striker should say "Because I am not an attacking midfield, I do not have to beat a man", it would not for that reason have the right to complain when it gets substituted. If the whole team were a central midfield pretending to be a back four then it would struggle to beat Trinidad and Tobago. In fact Sven has arranged the parts of the team but somehow the message has not come through and the team likes to go its own way and play 4-5-1 hit and hope rather than diamond formation. Some of the members of the team are given special glory and the rest of the team have to accept that and work a bit harder rather than shooting from 35 yards out. There should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other for if one part suffers the team gets stuffed by the first decent opposition it encounters. If one part is honoured you all get to ride on the bus with him. Eagerly desire the greater gifts of passing, running, beating a man and getting to the byeline .

Now I will show you the more excellent way. Argentina 6 Serbia and Montenegro 0 ...."

Here ends the lesson.

Another Prayer Answered

I now have a CD of "Hard Rock Hallelujah", courtesy of Virgin Megastore. Played it all the way home.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today's discussion point

I'm back to talking about church rather than God I'm afraid, but it wasn't my choice.

The question posed today in the presentation about Fresh Expressions was "What is a church?"

I fear I may be at variance with mainstream thinking, so before I reveal my answer (or lack of one) I wondered if anyone else would like to kick off?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shoop to the King

OK, I wasn't going to do this, as I intended this prayer as an ephemeral experience, but there seems to be some interest. This is "Shoop to the King" as delivered yesterday. I don't think it's as good on paper as performed live but at least it's something. Gary suggested an audio file but I think there would be a copyright issue. It was performed to Guru's instrumental version of "Shoop" - track 5 on my CD. Details below.

Now I'm gonna tell you all 'bout a man I know,
I know He died for me and I owe him so
He's the best, he's the King, rules on high, he's the Lord of Lords
I gotta give him the glory with all my words
Words, words are not enough to strut all his stuff so
I tell you stories his glory the more is -
Where to begin? It begins with him this creation would not be
Beautifully given to you and to me the flower and the tree
And all the creatures features preachers need to see
How many ways we are blessed greatly caressed given rest
So look around the world use your ears and eyes
Think about the man what he's done for you
Give him the praise that is truly due
Seraphim and cherubim they sing he is holy holy
Wholly present where we are in his name no shame no blame
I wanna shoop

Shoop shoop ba-doop
Shoop ba-doop
Shoop ba-doop ba-doop ba-doop
Shoop ba-doop
Shoop ba-doop ba-doop ba-doop

Now you all know Him yes I know you do
So join in the shoop with me and you can bless him too
He hears our prayer and he knows our minds
We don't need words and we don't need rhymes
We bless him now and all the time in all we say and do
He's here right now for he said he would be
Just like in those days when he walked ate slept wept kept
obedient to the task we ask can we be the same spread his fame
All across the world to boys and girls women and men and then
His kingdom grows sometimes slow it flows against the tide
But the vict'ry's won it's gonna come just like the sun
Scatters the dark of night brings light fight the good fight it's right
To wanna shoop shoop shoop

Shoop ba-doop

So let me get back to the subject look at the text what's next
He was walking by and Johnny said
The Lamb of God who will save the dead
By grace and love and his almighty power
But the power's not in guns and not in fear it's in love
Strength and humility last shall be first suffering servant
On your mark get set go let's go let's shoop
To all God's child'n we pray and praise
Tell of the truth and hope in the Gospel story
Feed his lambs tend his sheep and keep them safe in peace
Lie down by the pool that's still and clear it's clear
There's a better way for lives to go no drugs no show
It's simple all you need to do is shoop
To shoop shoop shoop

Shoop ba-doop

There's more to this story than can ever be told
He gave us his Spirit so we don't get cold
We have to wake up be like Smyrna a learner fire burner
Brand that is blazing setting fire lift the cross higher
Put the lamp on the stand so it can be seen
Now I ask you do you know what I mean
When I say I wanna shoop?

This is based on "Shoop" by Salt'n'Pepa and I owe a debt to Salt not only for the lyrics I borrowed but for general inspiration.
"Shoop" is written by Sparks, James , Denton and Roberts, and is copyright London Records 1993. My copy is on ffrrr and the number is FCD219.
It is also available on the album "Very Necessary".

I should record here my general appreciation of Salt'n'Pepa (and Spinderella). As a rule, I have no time for rap and these three young ladies are actually the only hip-hop artistes I rate and certainly the only ones I have bought. But I do rate them very highly, not least for their sense of humour, and I have all their albums and the vast majority of singles. (I may have missed the odd one.) They have given me many hours of listening pleasure. Check them out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Great Myths of Our Time

As promised a few to go on with.

1. The Seventies were The Decade that Taste Forgot (that would be the Eighties).

2. Dr Who is a children's programme (that would be Star Trek).

3. England have a team of world-class players. (Not really fair - there is enough material for a separate list of Great Football Myths of which this is merely the leading contender. Maybe even of Great English Football Myths.)


I wanna shoop.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Ritual of Preaching

Not technically exact, but hey. After a quarter off, I remind myself today of the excitement of THE NEW PLAN. The ritual goes:

1. Get Plan. Rip envelope open.
Next steps muxt be done immediately regardless of context.
2. Scan hurriedly for name.
3. Scan in detail for name and ring all occurrences of same. Count. Double check (vital - once I didn't do it).
4. Transcribe immediately into diary.
5. Check no problem with dates.

Steps 4 and 5 are equally as vital as 3.

As Tutor there is an extra section:
6. Check for all Preachers in training, putting star by names on Plan.

(By this point, there are nearly more additions than original.)

7. Reflect, work out logistics (8 appointments!?), decide when sermons will be written. Have 4 ideas (all of which will mercifully be forgotten within days). Begin to consider contacting preachers to hear trainees. (Forget and redo in panic in three weeks.)

It's good to talk.


Sample conversation:

Q: What are you going to be doing on (random date)?
P: Watching the World Cup
Q: I didn't think England were playing on (that date)?
P: They aren't
Q: So why is it important?
P: It's the WORLD CUP.

Well, it's as accurate as the report of the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus.

So far I've seen the whole of the first four games and at least half of each of the next four. This is low by normal standards. IT'S THE WORLD CUP. All right, I'll stop shouting. But how many times do you get to see Poland play Ecuador? Not many. So I'm watching the World Cup. Usually I cancel my social life for a month; it's more difficult to arrange this time. Even though it's the World Cup.

Shouldn't you be spending time with God? I bet he's watching too (and without foreknowledge - ruins a game). Who does He support? Well if He's unlucky He supports England too - but I doubt it. As a supporter of the beautiful, probably Italy or Portugal - and if England can't win it, then one of these two will do fine.

But while we're waiting for the result, I might be a bit distracted. If I appear so, I'm probably wondering how Spain are getting on against the Ukraine, or whether South Korea can surprise France. Or whether Sven can get his tactics right. Or calculating how many points we want Italy to get so that they don't meet England in the quarter-finals. Or just dreaming ...

Friday, June 02, 2006

It's good to talk

.... and it's even better to have friends who will listen and respond, and are not afraid to offer suggestions and constructive criticism.

I am especially blessed in having several of these. No names, because you know who you are.

Accept this generalised thank-you in lieu of all the times I forget to say it directly.

(Curious counterpoint to the previous post, eh?)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Being Quiet

Contrary to some people's opinion, I don't have any trouble being quiet on occasion. But what I desire from others when I'm quiet varies. Sometimes I'm quiet to loud music, and I mean loud. Sometimes I'm quiet to music that's not so loud - though rarely quiet music, if you get my meaning.

Words are more tricky. An impetus can be valuable. Silence can be helpful. What is less useful to thought is being given the answers all neatly wrapped up. It leaves you nothing to do. (If you're not then going to act immediately, anyway.)

So when you've got me started, then consider stopping yourself. We can comfortably co-exist in a shared silence.

And of course if you've got nothing to say, then don't say it. I remember the definition of circumlocution:

Circumlocution: A literary device by which the writer with nothing to say breaks this news gently to the reader. (Ambrose Bierce.)