the times, they are a changin’

I have a visit to the Dentist this morning. This is to repair a filling that has fallen out. The filling was under guarantee. I find that incredible – that a filling is guaranteed for a year. I would like to think it should last longer than a year, but it is mainly the thought that something like having a filling now needs to come with a guarantee. In the good old days they never used to offer a guarantee. Fillings would last. End of story. The offer of a guarantee is supposed to reassure me, I know, but it seems to suggest to me that there is an expectation that it might fail.

And then there are the banks. No, I am not going to have a go at bonuses or dodgy loans. Butsome of them had January Sales. What? Does this mean that we will be able to withdraw £30 but it will only cost us £25? I don’t think so. From what I can gather it just means that they will charge us a bit less on the money we borrow. That does not seem like a sale to me. It’s a discounted rate at best.

Please do not misunderstand me. I don’t think I am turning into a grumpy old man just yet. I am not really complaining. I am simply observing some of the changes in the culture in which I exist. And that’s the point. We need to be observers and analysts of the culture in which we live in order that we can be able to ‘discern the times’.

Jesus was brilliant at reading his culture (well he would be, wouldn’t he). But look at the stories he told,. They were all culturally relevant. He helped people understand faith because he could relate it to the world in which they lived.

So what might it mean that dentists are offering a guarantee on their fillings and that banks are having sales? I am not sure. I think there is something there about the permanence of the change God brings about in us – he does not fill in the gaps caused by decay, he renews and restores. I think there is something about God’s generosity – he offers us free forgiveness having paid the cost entirely…

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. 

(Mat 16:1-4)

This story may have been better in my recent post about transfer windows, but it’s here because it’s about how well we know things…

The Search Committee had invited a young preacher to come over to their church for the interview. The committee chairman asked, “Son, do you know the Bible pretty well?” 

The young minister said, “Yes, pretty well.” 

The chairman asked, “Which part do you know best?” He responded saying, “I know the New Testament best.” 

“Which part of the New Testament do you know best,” asked the chairman. 

The young minister said, “Several parts.” 

The chairman said, “Well, why don’t you tell us the story of the Prodigal Son.” 

The young man said, “Fine. There was a man of the Pharisees name Nicodemus, who went down to Jericho by night and he fell upon stony ground and the thorns choked him half to death. 

“The next morning Solomon and his wife, Gomorrah, came by, and carried him down to the ark for Moses to take care of. But, as he was going through the Eastern Gate into the Ark, he caught his hair in a limb and he hung there forty days and forty nights and he afterwards did hunger. And, the ravens came and fed him.

“The next day, the three wise men came and carried him down to the boat dock and he caught a ship to Ninevah. And when he got there he found Delilah sitting on the wall. He said, “Chunk her down, boys, chunk her down.” And, they said, “How many times shall we chunk her down, till seven time seven?” And he said, “Nay, but seventy times seven.” And they chucked her down four hundred and ninety times.

“And, she burst asunder in their midst. And they picked up twelve baskets of the leftovers. And, in the resurrection whose wife shall she be?”

The Committee chairman suddenly interrupted the young minister and said to the remainder of the committee, “I think we ought to ask the church to call him as our minister.

He is awfully young, but he sure does know his Bible.”

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