news of the world

If you watch, listen to or read the news at the moment it can make for miserable reading. There’s hideous violence committed at individual, community and international levels. There’s devastating poverty that is affecting people, countries and whole regions of the world. There is hideous greed that is making a few rich at the expense of those who can least afford it. Environmental crises are breaking out across the globe with a seeming unwillingness to act from some of those who are most able to make a positive difference, preferring short term economic gain while sticking their fingers in their ears and ignoring the clamour for action. There is blatant racism, sexism and other prejudices that seem to be encouraged or at least not condemned at the highest level.

It’s not likely to lead us to a happy place is it? Even the ‘and finally’ lighthearted items on the news or the plethora of funny cat videos on the internet can’t lift the sense of gloom.

So what can we do?

Have another look at Psalm 23. You probably all know it, or have heard of it. Yes, that’s right: the Shepherd one.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    for ever.


Most of us don’t have a lot of experience of shepherds, especially ancient near-Eastern ones, so what can this ancient piece of poetry do for us today?

First of all, recognise that an ancient near-Eastern shepherd was responsible for protecting the whole flock and providing for them. It wasn’t simply a question of leaving them out in a field, the flock would roam the countryside. And they would follow their shepherd who would go ahead of them (not driving them from behind as in the UK), listening for his voice and trusting him because he had provided for them in the past. No sheepdogs were needed because the shepherd was trusted and known. David, who wrote this psalm, had experience of this as he had been a shepherd, and that was one of the ways in which he experienced God – someone he knew, whom he trusted, whom he was willing to follow, whose voice he knew.

Green pastures are always good places if you are a herbivore. It’s easy food and provides the nutrients that are needed. In the ancient near-East green pastures would have been at a premium, bearing in mind that it was/is a hot climate. Much of the land would be dry scrubland with not so much to eat, so if a sheep found theirself led to a green pasture it was bliss , especially if there was also a source of cool water there. If you have been in the hot Mediterranean sun you would be refreshed and feel restored at such places. When we find ourselves in green pastures or beside still, refreshing waters we should not forget to give thanks to the one who has led us there. We should find ways that our soul is restored – what works for you?

The shepherd would know the local terrain and would know which were the paths to follow. Some might be difficult but they would go to the right destination. Here ‘right paths’ doesn’t just mean those that go to the right places, however, it also refers to ‘righteousness’ or ‘faithfulness’ and means that the flock benefits from the shepherd’s faithfulness. ‘For his name’s sake’ means that God acts consistently with his character. There are many names given to God in the Old Testament and all of them reflect something of his character. Even referring to him as ‘The Lord’ as David does at the beginning of the Psalm is bigger than we imagine. The word in Hebrew is YHWH – the Hebrew word for God that was originally unpronounceable because there were no vowels but is now sometimes pronounced ‘Yahweh’. It derives from the Hebrew for ‘I am’ and reminds us of the eternal nature of God, the existence of God, the constancy of God, the self-sufficiency of God and so much more. That’s the One who’s our shepherd!

Following the shepherd does not mean that we’ll always be in green pastures and beside still waters. There are times when we go through the darkest valley (the valley of the shadow of death). We all know that to be true even though we hate to admit it. The difference for those who follow the shepherd is that they know he is with them as they travel through that dark valley. They may be frightened, worried, anxious or even terrified of what is in the shadows, but they know that the shepherd is there with them and is committed to them. You’re not alone if you don’t want to be.

The psalm abruptly changes from a pastoral metaphor to a banquet scene. There’s a celebration, a meal in our honour, and we will be vindicated in the sight of those who have opposed us. The host is generous to us and honours us. Did you notice too how the language changes from an impersonal third person (‘he’) to a personal second person (‘you’). This is not a theoretical expression of faith, it’s a personal relationship with YHWH. God’s care for us is genuine: not just a story of a shepherd but an experience of love, care, honour and justification.

And there’s an eternal dimension to this that can never be taken away from us.

Add to that what Jesus said about being the Good Shepherd and it becomes spectacular!

None of this changes the news. But it may help us look at it differently knowing that YHWH is leading us, with us, for us and we are his eternally.

Be blessed, be a blessing

A Theology of Humour (part 3)

laughing ladyThis is the third (and in my view the weakest) part of the dissertation. Having established what humour and a sense of it is; and (I hope) that God has a sense of humour and is the source of humour; this section attempts to apply some of that to life in church…

A Theology of Humour – The Punch-Line

“If you’re not allowed to laugh in Heaven, I don’t want to go there.”

We have seen from the Bible that God is a God of humour.   We will attempt to draw certain conclusions from this humour concerning God, our relationship with him, and our relationships with One another within the Church.

God is the source of laughter

This suggests that the ability to perceive humour is part of mankind’s innate being.  If God is the source of laughter, he is the one who gave it to humanity as part of the gift of creation.  On particular occasions his activity leads to the laughter of individuals.  We have concluded that God does have a sense of humour.  If humans are made ‘in his image’, and we too have a sense of humour, it does not take much thought to see where that sense of humour comes from.  If this is so, then we can surmise that before the Fall mankind’s humour was devoid of the destructive elements that it has today.

We have all experienced painful jibes in the guise of humour on various occasions.  Mockery in the hands of men and women can be a weapon that cuts deeper than any blade.   In the hands of God, however, it is not tainted with the desire to hurt or abuse.  It is part of what amuses God to see the efforts of his enemies to frustrate him and his plans.  We must be careful not to attempt to use mockery  in the manner that God uses it, for to do so is to elevate  one’s status above others, contrary to the ‘first shall be  last’ principle that Jesus taught his disciples.

God’s humour teaches and rebukes.

God’s sense of humour educates those who experience it.   The educational experience is not a painful ‘telling off’ but a warm-hearted pointer in the right direction.  It would appear that this is a much more beneficial and positive use of humour than mockery.

God does rebuke us, of that there can be no doubt.  The messages delivered through the prophets were often condemnatory.  But God sometimes seems to use humour to help his people understand him.  At this point we refer back to Jonathan Miller’s sabbatical from reality.  Humour allows us to look at ourselves in a manner that is less painful than being told ‘straight’, but is nonetheless searching.  Jesus used humour in this fashion, and one feels that in the hands of God, humour is a loving form of rebuke.  Thomas Carlyle wrote, “True humour springs not more from the head than from the heart; it is not contempt, its essence is love.”  In the hands of man, it has the potential to have the same effect, but also the potential to be destructive and heartless.  The former use of humour is to be encouraged, particularly in sermons and Christian ‘educational’ material, as a means of communicating truth.  The latter use of humour should be vigorously discouraged, and attempts should be made by all in leadership to eschew the use of humour that harms.

An example might be to mock or mimic someone in the congregation from the pulpit to make a point in the sermon, or worse still to get a cheap laugh.  Such a use of humour not only degrades and humiliates the person, but demonstrates a marked lack of sensitivity and compassion on the part of the preacher who is apparently delivering the ‘Word of God’.  At such times one suspects God is leaving him to it.  The problem is that non-Christians see ministers and vicars in particular as representatives of God and may be offended and put off seeking him.   Furthermore, if the congregation senses an opportunity to entertain others, they may pick up on the ridicule of the individual concerned, or feel that since the preacher did it, it must be all right…

On this subject, Karl Barth wrote the following words.   “As ministers we ought to speak of God.  We are human, however, and so cannot speak of God.  We ought therefore to recognise both our obligation and our inability and by that very recognition give God the glory.  This is our perplexity.  The rest of our task fades into insignificance in comparison.”  Barth in his theological reflections has unearthed the incongruity of preaching, and whilst one does not wish to write much on homiletics, it is worth bearing this incongruity in mind if one intends to preach: the incongruity being the lofty ambition of speaking of God and the inadequacy of our ability to fulfil that ambition unaided.  All that preachers can do is seek God’s assistance, and seek to remove any potential for offence that they might give – the offence of the gospel is surely more than sufficient for the average person!

The playful God

This is one of the most important things we have discerned in the writing of this paper.  God has a sense of fun, of play.  In the later chapters of Job, God seems to be enjoying his Creation for its own sake.  The image of a boring old man in a white robe is dispelled in the face of this revelation; the sorrowful, sombre Christ is seen as inaccurate; the God of wrath and judgement is seen with a pleasant smile on his face.  It would be quite wrong, however, to throw away all these images of God.  He is a God who judges, he is angry at sin and its effects; Jesus was at times sorrowful and sombre, not least during the Passion.  What is needed, and what one hopes has been achieved, is a more balanced picture of a God who is sad when people reject his love, who mourned the death of his Son, yet enjoys the company of mankind, whom he created for that purpose, and has a sense of humour and fun that he is not afraid to enjoy and share with them.

Some may fear that this portrayal of God diminishes his greatness, or is even blasphemous.  This is not so.   Surely a God who is not afraid to enjoy himself is greater than a god who must always remain austere for fear that some might not take him seriously.  God is sufficiently great that he need not fear the opinions of men – that will not diminish his greatness – and he has made us sufficiently in his image that when we see the humorous side of his nature, we are attracted to him.  As William Ingo once said, “I have never understood why it is considered derogatory to the Creator to suppose that he has a sense of humour.”

The Church and God’s humour

We began this paper by suggesting that the presence or absence of the humour of God has implications for his Church.  Now that we have established the presence of his humour, we need to explore the implications further.

We have already mentioned the inappropriate the use of humour in preaching, above, and we must not lose sight of that.  At the same time, we must not be so serious in preaching that we put off even the most lugubrious of people.  Humour is a useful tool for communication of truth: Jesus demonstrated that brilliantly.  It is also a useful tool for exegesis, when used to illustrate truth and challenge with it, rather than using it to explain away the challenge.

Humour should invade the serious and weighty aspects of the Church, bringing a little levity and light.  Of course there are times when humour is probably inappropriate, as it was in the passion of Christ (for example during the celebration of Communion, or Eucharist) but there are equally times when a sombre attitude would be inappropriate (for example during celebrations of the resurrection).  In the same way as our perception of God needs balance, so does our worship of him.  What is being advocated here is not a descent into mirthful disorder, but a recognition of the place of humour in worship.  It is perhaps not surprising that many of the growing churches in this country are those that use contemporary forms of worship, and are generally described as ‘lively’.   Their sense of joy is infectious to those who attend (although they are as prone to falling prey to excesses as the rest of the Church), and one wonders whether they might not be presenting the humorous side of God to the world, albeit unwittingly.

If the Church is truly to be the body of Christ, his representatives on earth, we need to reflect him in our life-styles.  Again one wishes to emphasise that this is not a call to flippancy, but a call to recognise the importance and significance of humour.  It is an anathema to find a Christian who never smiles, and who is never amused, who is never joyful, who has no sense of humour, for that is to deny the presence of the living, laughing, humour-loving God in the person of the Holy Spirit in the life of that Christian.  At the same time, the  ‘happy-clappy’ Christian who never admits to having any  problems denies the serious side of that same presence: to  deliberately misquote Bill Shankly’s cliché about  football: Christianity is not a matter of life and death,  it’s more important than that.

Reinhold Neibuhr suggests that humour has an even more important role than we have previously suggested.  “Humour is, in fact, a prelude to faith, and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”  Niebuhr’s argument behind this startling statement is that faith, like humour, deals in incongruities.  The existence of humour and laughter at it is the starting point on the journey to discovering the greatest incongruity of them all – that God should love those who rejected him, and that he would be prepared to die for them.  If this is correct, the omission of humour from much of the Church’s activities over the last 2,000 years is all the more lamentable.  Not only is humour the prelude to faith, it is a gift for teaching and evangelism, and the absence of it in our faith has the opposite effect.

What this paper has endeavoured to show is that the Church  has missed much of the humour of God for the best part of  twenty centuries, and in so doing it has misinterpreted  and misapplied much Biblical truth and has portrayed an  inaccurate, boring, overly-serious image of that God to  the non-Christian world.  Murray Watts in the introduction to his collection of sketches, ‘Laughter in Heaven’, sums this up perfectly.

“There is no place for a church which never resounds with the laughter of faith.  Such a church commits a crime against humanity: it has become boring.  There are many serious obstacles to spreading the gospel, but this is one of the worst.  It is no good blaming the world for being blind to the truth, when we are blind to it ourselves.  If we are not free, how can we liberate others?  If we are not faithful to the uniqueness of the Resurrection experience, to the delight and heavenly joy which is ours for eternity, if we are dull, we shortchange our fellow men. …   The laughter born on that Easter morning is a gift  from heaven, which draws us closer to that day,  when ‘God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and  death shall be no more, neither shall there be  mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the  former things have passed away.'”



The books listed appear in the order in which they were quoted in this paper, followed by those which were read but not directly quoted.

Castle (ed.) The Hodder Book of Christian Quotations (Hodder, London, 1982)

Metcalfe (ed.) The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations (Penguin, London, 1986)

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary (W.R. Chambers, Edinburgh, 1985)

Oxford English Dictionary H-K (Oxford University Press, London, 1933, Reprint 1970)

Koestler The Act of Creation (Hutchinson, London, 1964)

Drakeford Humor in Preaching (Zondervan, Michigan, 1986)

Durrant & J. Miller (eds.) Laughing Matters – A serious look at humour (Longman, Harlow, 1988)

The Holy Bible, New International Version (Zondervan, New York, 1978)

W.G. Morrice Joy in the New Testament (Paternoster, Exeter, 1984)

Muir (ed.) The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose (O.U.P., Oxford, 1990)

Good News Bible (Bible Society, London, 1976)

Trueblood The Humor of Christ (Harper Collins, New York, 1964)

Wilcock The Saviour of the World: The Message of Luke’s Gospel (IVP, Leicester, 1979)

Morris The Gospel According to Luke (IVP, London, 1974)

Garrett My Brother Esau is an Hairy Man (Scottish Journal of Theology, (33), pp. 239-256)

Niebuhr Discerning the Signs of the Times (Scribner’s, New York, 1946)

Watts Laughter in Heaven (Minstrel, Eastbourne, 1985)


The Way, Vol. 31, no. 3 (July 1991)

Theology Today, Vol. XLVIII, no. 4 (January 1992)

Y.T. Radday & A. Brenner (eds.) On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible (Almoud Press, Sheffield, 1990)

M. Good Irony in the Old Testament (Almoud Press, Sheffield, 1965)

A Theology of Humour (part 1)

laughingJust over 25 years ago I submitted my degree dissertation about God’s sense of humour. By way of marking that I have decided that I will release it into the wild by posting it in instalments on my blog. Please bear in mind that this is an undergraduate dissertation – if I was to write it today I would definitely change some bits, especially the last section which I feel is definitely the weakest. Maybe one day I will! Please be aware that the footnotes have not carried across with this text so references are inadequate. I apologise to all those I have quoted but I will include the Bibliography at the end.


An attempt to establish whether or not there is humour within the character of God, and whether our response to him should be changed as a consequence.


“Humour distorts nothing, and only false gods are laughed off their earthy pedestals”

In the tradition of the Christian Church, God has been portrayed as a God of wrath and judgement, love and mercy, authority and power, but rarely (if ever) as a God of humour.  This paper will seek to establish whether that is an omission that needs to be corrected, or whether God is a god without humour.  We will examine the structure and content of humour and look at the biblical revelation to establish whether humour is part of the Divine character.   In the final section, we shall seek to draw conclusions from this about Christian theology and practice.

Humour Dissected

“Humor (sic) can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

The problem with humour is that it is not funny once one delves beneath the skin and finds oneself among the academic entrails.  However, the study of humour is an integral part of this paper, even if it is not an in-depth study.  Whilst it is true that a full dissection is not necessary to identify a frog, at least a study of the frog’s anatomy helps in sorting out the frogs from the toads.  In this section of the paper we will attempt to discover the essence of humour, and attempt to identify the various forms of humour.

The essence of humour

The Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary defines humour as “a mental quality which apprehends and delights in the ludicrous and mirthful: that which causes mirth and amusement.”  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it thus: “a. That quality of action, speech, or writing which excites amusement; oddity, jocularity, facetiousness, comicality, fun. b. The faculty of perceiving what is ludicrous or amusing, or of expressing it in speech, writing, or other composition; jocose imagination or treatment of a subject.”  These definitions are dry and tell us very little about the components of humour, concentrating as they do on the funny side of humour.   This must not be played down.  However there is more to humour than merely being something that makes us laugh.   Humour has a darker side to it as well, but both sides share the components of humour: they merely make different uses of them.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition hints at this, by referring to oddity.  It is within the realms of oddity that we find the distinctive components of humour.  Arthur Koestler provides two graphs that help us to see this more easily (see below).  In Fig. 1a we see what happens in a tragedy; Koestler uses Shakespeare’s Othello as an example: the tension increases in the play until the climax when Othello strangles the unfaithful Desdemona; then it ebbs away in a gradual catharsis.

Koestler uses an anecdote to illustrate the difference between this and humour.  In the story a Marquis at the court of Louis XIV entered his wife’s bedroom to find her in the arms of a bishop.  He walked to the window, threw it open and started blessing the people in the street.

“What are you doing?” cried the anguished wife.

“Monseigneur is performing my functions,” replied the Marquis, “so I am performing his.”

In this episode there is also an increase in tension, but it is brought to an abrupt end as the Marquis’ unexpected reaction relieves the tension in an explosion of amusement and even laughter (Fig. 1b).

humour graphs

Koestler was attempting to illustrate what causes laughter, however, in so doing he has put his finger on the essence of humour – it arises from an incongruity.   John Drakeford reaches this conclusion in his book ‘Humor (sic) in Preaching’.  He goes on to list the various types of humour that arise, and we shall examine these below.   Dr Jonathan Miller hints at this when he writes concerning humorous discourse and describes it as like a “sabbatical let-out in one part of the brain and one part of our competence to enable us to put things up for grabs; to reconsider categories and concepts so that we can redesign our relationships to the physical world, to one another, and even to our own notion of what it is to have relationships.”  It is the concept of humour as a sabbatical from reality that is profoundly attractive.   The concept assumes a deviation from reality in order that a sabbatical let-out can be taken from that reality in the brain.  Once again the foundation of humour is the concept of oddity, incongruity or deviation from the norms of reality.  (The concept of humour as a sabbatical from reality is one to which we shall return in chapter three).

This suggestion that humour arises from some form of incongruity or deviation from that which is expected is given substantial weight when one examines the origins of the word.  It arises from its medieval use to describe any of the four cardinal body fluids – blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy (black bile).  It was thought that the relative strengths of these fluids determined an individual’s physical and mental condition.  When any one fluid predominated, then a person’s character would be dominated by that ‘humour’, and that person was said to be in a ‘humour’.  An example would be Molière’s Misanthrope, Alceste, who has a superfluity of melancholy and finds it impossible to see any positive attributes in anyone, even his beloved Celestine.  We would probably call such a person eccentric today, but that does not obscure the fact that the origin of the modern concept of humour clearly has links with incongruity and deviation from the accepted norms of reality.

Now that we have discovered what seems to be the essence of humour, it will be instructive to examine the various forms of humour and see whether they have this essence as part of their essential ingredients.

The various forms of humour

In this section we shall attempt to provide a summary of the main forms of humour that will provide the basis for our exploration into whether God does have a sense of humour and use humour in the revelations of himself that he has given us.  One of the difficulties that we face is that there is no universally accepted list of the main forms of humour.  We shall commence by looking at John  Drakeford’s summary mentioned above.  He prefaces his exploration with these words; “[Humour] is almost impossible to define, but once we are confronted with it, there is an immediate subjective response that makes us say, “Isn’t that funny?”


Drakeford includes incongruity as his key concept.  This includes the absurd, which he illustrates with a story of a little girl in tears looking at a picture of Christians being thrown to the lions.  Her aunt tried to comfort her; “Sad, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” cried the little girl, “there’s a little lion not getting any.”  Here the incongruous perception is so far out of step with reality that it conjures up a situation or image that is humorous.

Bisociative humour

A close relative of the absurd is bisociative humour, in which the concluding section gives an entirely new meaning to the original thought.  For example, a gravestone reads as follows:


Drowned in the Water of Leith



A further example of incongruity is exaggeration or hyperbole.  It can be a form of lying if it is motivated by deception, but it is also a useful tool for enabling one to take a healthy look at oneself.  For example, comedians frequently exaggerate ordinary everyday objects and situations until they take on absurd proportions and enable the audience to laugh at themselves without feeling victimised.  The success of Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean can be attributed in no small part to Atkinson’s uncanny knack of observing everyday behaviour and exaggerating it to humorous proportions.  For example, the audience can  identify with someone who has problems getting a reception  on their television set, when the reception is fine when  one is close to the set, but it goes as soon as one sits  down.  Mr Bean goes to the extreme of trying to fool the television into thinking that he is close to it by taking off his clothes and putting them on a chair next to the television so that it appears that he is still there.

Exaggeration differs from absurdity because it is a distortion of normal behaviour or situations, whereas absurdity is a completely different perception of reality.   It is worth mentioning at this point that hyperbole is one of the principle forms of Semitic humour.


The next form of humour we shall identify is wit.  Mark Twain said of wit that it is “the sudden marriage of ideas which before their marriage were not perceived to have any relationship.”  This often takes the form of a statement that has a punch line that comes with a twist.  Drakeford gives the example of an astronaut who is strangely silent after walking on the moon.  When his companions ask what the matter is he replies, “I saw God.”

“You did!” they exclaimed.  “What’s God like?”

“She’s black!”

The twist comes with the unexpected description of God as being a woman and being black, cutting through the traditional assumptions that God is a white male.

Play on words / pun

This is one of the most widely used forms of humour, and exists within virtually all languages.  An example of this in the Old Testament follows the account of Samson’s slaying of 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey:

Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them”  (Jdg. 15.16, NIV)

This could be translated as ‘With a donkey’s jawbone I have made a heap or two’, since the Hebrew for ‘donkey’ sounds similar to the Hebrew for ‘heap’.  Indeed, there is a further pun in this passage as the place is subsequently called ‘Ramath Lehi’, which means ‘Jawbone Hill’.


Immanuel Kant, the philosopher, wrote that laughter is “the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.”  This seems to match Koestler’s theory (above).  We must  be wary of reading ‘humour’ in place of ‘laughter’, however the two  are linked, since one does not usually find laughter (save for perhaps a nervous giggle, hysteria or induced by physical  stimulation) without having perceived humour, even if that perception  is in the subconscious.  If this is so, then it is more correct to say that laughter may result from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.  The cause of that laughter is humour.

It is perhaps the surprise element of humour that Kant has perceived.  The listener, or observer, is following a sequence of events and anticipating the next one when, suddenly, it moves off in a different direction altogether.  Surprise is perhaps more than one of the different forms of humour, although it can be merely that.   It is also a form of incongruity in itself, and thus may form the basis for other forms of humour, (see for example Wit, above).


This is a darker and less positive form of humour.  It is usually associated with drawing attention to the inadequacies or differences of an individual, or group of individuals.  Also known as mocking, ridicule works because the majority (usually) perceive themselves to be better than the minority, perhaps in physical appearance, or in intellectual ability.  It is a cruel form of humour, and its use often draws attention to inequalities.  That a situation or behaviour is perceived as stupid, however, suggests that the observer (and ridiculer) does not see his or her own behaviour as being ridiculous.   This is a close relative of parody and exaggeration, but is delivered in a less positive manner.


The last form of humour that we shall identify is irony.   This may also be a ‘darker’ form of humour.  The humour is found not in the statement made (spoken or visual) but in the tone of that delivery.  For example, “I really enjoy studying Greek,” can have two meanings, depending on the manner in which it is spoken.  It could mean that the speaker really does enjoy studying the Greek language, or, if it is spoken with sarcasm or irony in the voice, it could mean precisely the opposite.  Of course the problem with irony is that it is difficult to portray in the written word.  It is possible with the use of italics, or with the clever use of language, but it still relies predominantly on the perception of the reader to notice the irony.  Irony may be used in a positive fashion, to draw attention to a particular aspect of the subject matter, but is best used when it is subtle and perhaps not noticed by many people, or when one first encounters it.  In the form of sarcasm, on the other hand, it is always negative, and rarely subtle: often having the same intention and effect as ridicule.

Associated aspects of humour

We have already mentioned laughter above, and we need to examine this a little further.  In this section we will look at joy and hilarity, laughter, and finally at the concept of ‘sense of humour’.

Joy and hilarity

Although these two are not strictly aspects of humour, they are closely associated with humour.  They can exist independently of humour, for example, one might feel joyful because of the weather, or because of a pleasing experience, perhaps ‘religious’, although not necessarily.   Joy, like humour has many different forms, which include exultant joy, optimism, gladness, pleasure, courage and hilarity.  These are all positive responses to someone or something.  They may be evidence of the presence of humour, either intended or perceived, but this is not necessarily the case.

Hilarity is often associated with an outburst of laughter.  It is a form of pleasurable excitement that can be caused by physical stimuli, for example tickling, or by a stimulation of perception.  This is not very far removed from the incongruity of humour.

Humour can be joyful, resulting in joy and hilarity, but one must not forget that it can also be ‘black’, causing a  mood of despondency and despair as the incongruity  highlights something in life that is hopeless or helpless.


Laughter can be brought on by physical stimulation, as can hilarity, and may also be brought on by psychological trauma in the form of hysterical laughter.  We shall not be including hysteria in our definition of humour as it is not caused by perceptions of incongruity, rather it is a psychoneurosis, and is caused by physical, emotional or psychological imbalances.  We shall also be excluding laughter caused by physical stimulation as this physiological response is not caused by incongruity.

Laughter in response to humour is frequently involuntary.   It is an explosion of inarticulate sounds of the voice under an outside influence.  It induces a feeling of well-being as endorphins are released in the brain.   Endorphins are opiate-like substances and the release leads to a ‘high’ of emotions.  Laughter is a very positive reflex action, and in its pure (non-hysterical) form is nearly always induced by perception of humour.   The perception may be one’s own, or one may be induced to laughter merely by experiencing the laughter of someone else (who has perceived humour).  The intensity of laughter may indicate the degree of incongruity that one perceives, or it may be due to a particular susceptibility to the effects of endorphins.

Frank Muir, in his introduction to The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose comments: “A joke has a measurable potential of laughter; there are snigger-sized jokes, guffaw-sized jokes, and hearty-laughter-sized jokes.   Humour has no such limitations.  A piece might only give the reader quiet pleasure.  On the other hand if it catches the reader off-guard and in the right mood … its effect can be violent and prolonged, inducing…  uncontrollable surges of laughter, hiccups, and a curious snoring noise in trying to regain breath.”  Hilaire Belloc has a similar explanation about laughter: “Genuine laughter is the physical effect produced in the rational being by what suddenly strikes his immortal soul as being damned funny.”

Laughter is not a barometer of humour.  It may indicate the presence of humour, but not the ‘quality’ of the humour, since the response is subjective.  Absence of laughter, however, does not necessarily indicate an absence of humour, again because the laughter response is a subjective one, and what one person perceives as being humorous enough to laugh may not stimulate the perception of another.  It should also be noted here that laughter may be a form of irony.  Hollow laughter is a means of conveying (mostly negative) ironic intent without having to use words.  Furthermore, we must again remind ourselves that humour is not always funny or amusing, and what is not funny is not likely to induce laughter.

Sense of Humour

This is the faculty of perceiving humour, usually associated with humour that is amusing.  It is commonly seen as a positive attribute, and an absence is usually associated with someone who does not find the same things amusing as one does.  In this paper we shall be looking to see if God has a sense of humour.  We do not mean in the  exclusive ‘does he find the same things funny as I do’  sense; rather we shall be looking to see if God has the faculty of perceiving humour in all its forms, as well as  the faculty of delivering or creating humour.  In other words, does God find things humorous; and does he intentionally create humour?  It must be noted that even if the Biblical revelation of God does not display all the forms of humour that we have identified that does not deny the presence of a sense of humour.

ABC of gratitude

I have written about having an attitude of gratitude before, and I do try to cultivate that personally. I have come up with a new way of doing that which I thought I would share with you today. I am working my way through the Alphabet and giving myself a new letter each day. My challenge is to come up with things to be grateful for beginning with that letter.

It sounded easy but it’s not so simple. Today I am on B and have included ‘balance’ and ‘blogging’, for example. Of course some letters will present a greater challenge than others. I may need to befriend someone called Xavier otherwise I will be restricted to gratitude for xylophones and X-rays!

Something else I am going to try to do is look out for things and people beginning with that letter during the day and add to the thankfulness. And if there’s a person I will tell them why I am grateful for them.

Of course all of this gratitude is good, but it REALLY helps having Someone to whom I can express my gratitude!

Be blessed, be a blessing

the blog I almost wrote

I was about to blog about an issue I have with using up a particular resource when performing one of my favourite magic tricks when I realised that if I did I might well be revealing a bit more about that illusion than I would want to. That could have several unwanted results:

  1. For people who have seen me perform that effect and then read this bloggage the illusion would be weakened.
  2. For people who haven’t seen me perform that effect and then read this bloggage the bloggage would not make much sense.
  3. I could get thrown out of the Magic Circle for revealing too much about the method.

People who perform magical illusions try not to reveal the secrets. This is not because we are maintaining some form of cartel to keep ‘muggles’ ignorant nor because we want to maintain a delusion* of superiority. It’s not even primarily because it would put magicians out of work. It’s first and foremost because the effect and impact of the illusion would be diminished or even destroyed by showing how it is done. Yes the performer may gain some degree of credit or kudos for showing people how clever / dexterous / ingenious they have been but for the audience what was hopefully a moment of amazement, delight and perhaps even awe has been reduced to ‘oh’. The magic has been replaced with an explanation. It’s like deconstructing a joke. The funny is taken out of the joke in the explanation of why it is funny.

I wonder sometimes whether the wonder has been taken out of church in a similar way. We ask questions about God (rightly so) and we try to deepen our understanding of God (a good thing) and in the nonconformist wing of the church in which I find myself most comfortable we have almost made a virtue of simplicity (and ugly buildings) in an effort to show that you don’t need anything special to encounter God (and I don’t disagree with that intention).

20140217_130518But are we also in danger of losing the awe, the wonder, the mystery of God? I was talking with someone recently about Canterbury Cathedral (above) and one of the things it does for you when you enter the vast space and see the height of the vaulted ceiling is that it takes your breath away. I think that was the intention of the designers. Not so that people would go, “Wow, what a building!” but “Wow, how amazing God must be to inspire people to create a place like this in order to worship him!”

But it’s not just buildings that can do this.

Ideally we followers of Jesus should have such God-refined character that when people look at us they say, “Wow, how amazing God must be when you look at his followers!” And Jesus had something to say about that (my paraphrase): “If you love one another in the same way that God loves people then when people look at you it will be blindingly obvious that you are my followers.”

Is it?

Be blessed, be a blessing

*yes, I meant to write that


Rather belatedly, “Happy New Year!”

Why is it that we celebrated new years? After all it’s just another 360 degree rotation of the planet on our orbit of the sun, just like any other. The fact that we have decided to number and name dates does not make them any more special than any other. Even though fireworks were let off and ‘Auld lang syne’ was sung nothing marked 1st January 2017 as any different to 31st December 2016.diary

(In fact 31st December 2016 was more remarkable because it had an extra second in it to take account of the fact that the earth is almost imperceptibly slowing down.)

And yet we mark special dates – new years, birthdays, anniversaries, and so on. I believe it is part of what makes us human. If you think about it no other created being on this planet has an awareness of dates. Other creatures may be aware of time (the dawn chorus is an example) but they do not have a sense of dates, and they certainly don’t attach any significance to any particular dates. So why do we do it?

I think it is part of our self-awareness and our consciousness. Marking special dates is a way of establishing our relationship with other people, with time and even with ourselves – which is perhaps why we like being with those we love on significant dates, or at least why we like to receive greetings from them by sending messages on cardboard or social media.

I think it’s also an indication that we recognise (albeit subconsciously) that we are mortal. We are on this planet for a limited amount of time and marking special dates is one way in which we remind ourselves of that. And perhaps, when we pause and consider our mortality, we also pause and consider whether immortality is possible – is there more to life than this?

Maybe 2017 is a year to explore that?



Be blessed, be a blessing

possibly the most difficult service of the year

virgin and childIn the UK this Sunday is marked as Mothering Sunday. And, when you are a local church Minister, it is one of those Sundays that takes a disproportionate amount of thought and preparation. It is a day when, when I have got it ‘wrong’, I have had more complaints than any other in the calendar year! Allow me to let you in on some of the things that have to be considered and how I have not got it right on occasions…

Gifts – do we give a gift on Mothering Sunday? If we do it should probably go to all women so that nobody feels excluded. Will a small posy of flowers be a blessing, or is it just a token? Will some women feel patronised by being included? Can we afford that number of posies of flowers? Who will organise getting the flowers and sorting them? Who will give them out? When in the service will they be given out? Are there any alternatives to flowers?

Inclusivity – not all women are mothers. Some would desperately love to be a mother and others would rather not. Some mothers no longer have their children with them – they might have moved away, they may have lost contact, some may have died prematurely. Some people did not get on well with their own mothers and would rather not be reminded of them. Some people are mothers and find it a joy, others find it a struggle. How can we prepare a service in which we take account of and include all of those different emotional needs and circumstances?

History – Mothering Sunday was not originally about mothers. It emerged in the era when the wealthy had lots of domestic servants in their homes who worked all hours and (if allowed out on a Sunday) attended the same church as their master/mistress. This was one Sunday in the year in which they were released from the obligation to attend that church and could go back to their Mother church and also visit their home. That’s a tradition that is no longer observed due to changed cultural and social structures. Mothering Sunday has now become about Mums. But if we focus on the historical roots of the day it could become a ‘Back to Church Sunday’, yet my experience in local church is that this would not be something that many would appreciate.

Language – It used to be ‘Mothering Sunday’, now it is ‘Mothers’ Day’. That change of language reflects the change of purpose of the day. But if it was a day to think about mothering it would be different from thinking about mothers. We could sensitively reflect on mothering as a positive concept and perhaps avoid upsetting some people by reminding them of past hurt or current pain.

Bible – linked to ‘language’, the Bible constantly talks about God as Father. Far less frequently is God referred to as ‘mother’ or even in the feminine, although there are a few passages – you can find a good summary of them here. I was in the congregation of a service on one occasion when the person leading opened with a prayer that began: “Mother God…” Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that we have paid insufficient attention to the femaleness of God, and that we have ‘maleified’ Genesis 1:27 when the Bible talks about male and female being made in God’s image: if both genders are made in God’s image, what does that say about God? And I don’t actually think that to talk to God as our Mother is disrespectful, blasphemous or wrong. But to begin with those words upset almost everyone in the church (male and female) because it came without explanation or warning. I don’t think many people remembered anything about the service after those two words. There is still a lot of patriarchy in our theology and practice in church and Mothering Sunday has the potential to run aground on the rocks of that prejudice.

Tradition – I have found to my cost that if you try to change the way that Mothering Sunday has been done before you will get criticism. There is something important for people (which I have underestimated) about tradition (and that’s coming from a non-conformist branch of the church). One year I took the decision not to give out flowers but said that we would use the money instead to give to a charity working with bereaved mothers. I had not asked many people about this, I had not sought approval from the leadership team for this, I acted out of good motives but rashly and unilaterally. I naively thought that this would receive universal assent and affirmation as a new way of doing things. Nope. Cue lots of unhappy people (men and women) because I had changed from the traditional way we had done things. I’m not having a go at those people – their upset was genuine and I had not taken their feelings and thoughts into account. I’m just illustrating how deeply tradition is felt and how not to go about changing it.

Commercialisation – I do struggle with the way in which Mothers’ Day (Mothering Sunday) has been hijacked commercially. Cards have to be sent, gifts have to be bought, meals with the family in restaurants are booked (when usually people spend the time differently). Again, don’t misunderstand me. I am not against showing people that you love them by sending cards and gifts. It’s just that it sits uneasily with me, especially when there are people (identified above) for whom this is a difficult time and everywhere they go there will be reminders.

All of this may lead you to think that I am against Mothering Sunday. No. Not at all. It’s just that it’s so difficult to prepare for when you have to take all of the above into account, and that’s alongside the intention to prepare a service in which people can worship and encounter God, and a sermon through which God can speak. The beauty is that when I have got it right, it has been a very special time. For me it starts with preparing a service in which people can worship and encounter God and a sermon through which God can speak. But then it’s entirely right to take into consideration the issues I have mentioned above.

I think it is important that we encourage people to be who they are in church, not putting on a pretend, happy face when inside we are weeping. It is important that we bring all of our lives and experiences with us into church and seek God’s Spirit to minister to them, not leaving the difficult items at the door to be collected (unchanged) on the way out. Prayers can be inclusive, allowing time and space for the pain and hurt to be expressed to God alongside the thankfulness. If I was doing it again I would probably still want to make a gift to a charity working to support bereaved parents, but it would be alongside not instead of existing traditions if they were helpful to people.

Exploring the nature of God (including in the feminine) is something worth doing, and worth doing well. One of the moments that I think worked well was when we got some people up to have a ‘dandling’ competition using some of the dolls from the crèche, coming from this image in Isaiah 66:12-13:

‘I will extend peace to her like a river,
    and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will feed and be carried on her arm
    and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
    so will I comfort you;
    and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.’

(If you don’t know, dandling is playfully bouncing a child up and down on your knee.) The congregation voted for the best dandling and then we explored what it meant that God’s people (Israel in the Old Testament) are described as dandling – playful, secure, comforting, loving… and how that might be true of us.

I hope that, whatever Mothering Sunday means to you, it will also bring with it a greater awareness of God’s love, compassion, protection, joy, pride, enthusiasm and, yes, dandling into your life.

Be blessed, be a blessing.


Black Friday deal


Great news. I’m pleased to be able to announce an incredible Black Friday deal. You won’t be able to find a better one!

You can get a fresh start in life, forgiveness for the past, a relationship with God, a helper who is always with you, live life in all its fullness, a global family of billions, the sting of death drawn so you can experience eternity in God’s presence, and a promise that it won’t be easy.

And for one day only you can get all of this ABSOLUTELY FREE.

That’s right, it won’t cost you a penny. The price has already been paid (see Good Friday).

Terms and conditions apply – you need to be willing to allow God’s Spirit to change you, admit past failings and turn away from them, acknowledge that your fresh start in life is a gift from God made possible by Jesus and live your life accordingly.

This offer has previously been available at any of God’s outlets (aka churches) on any day of the year at the same price.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Ten good reasons not to believe in God

I think it is about time we were honest. So this Baptist Minister is giving you ten good reasons why you should not believe in God* and risking being burnt at the stake or excommunicated. Perhaps your reasons are in here somewhere…

Hand Count 101. It’s old fashioned – believing in God is not really a 21st century thing to do, is it? It’s like believing in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy and we have grown out of it, haven’t we? It’s as old fashioned as breathing.

2. Christians – yes Christians can sometimes be a good reason not to believe in God. They can be annoying. They can be overzealous. They can be hypocritical. And they can do things and say things that hurt us and put us off God. And haven’t Christians been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history – Crusades, Inquisitions…? Surely when you believe in God you become perfect don’t you?

3. Church – it can be a bit, well, churchy. Nobody likes being preached at. And sometimes it comes across as rather traditional and boring while at other times it seems to be trying too hard to be cool (and nobody says ‘cool’ any more). I wonder sometimes whether God doesn’t feel like going to some of our churches either. And while churches do lots of good things (we can’t deny that) so do lots of other charity organisations. Going to church is like looking at a stained glass window, it looks nice but it’s out of date and not very practical.

4. Bad stuff happens – this is surely one of God’s weaknesses (if he exists). How come he lets bad stuff happen? That’s not very nice, warm, loving and fluffy – not the sort of gentle Jesus meek and mild I was told about in Sunday School. God is supposed to be “in light in accessible, hid from our eyes” (as the hymnwriter puts it) – blindingly perfect. What sort of God would give people complete free will and risk them ignoring or hating him and doing bad stuff? What sort of love is that?

5. Bad stuff happens that is not anyone’s fault – you know, earthquakes, famines, tsunamis and the like. You can’t pin that on free will being exercised can you? If there is a God and he made this planet how come he made it with all of this hideousness as well? He can’t exist and if he did he’s some sort of monster. Car manufacturers put safety features in to stop them having accidents so why couldn’t God do the same? Admittedly the cars become less safe and more accident prone when you put a human behind the wheel and they decide not to obey the rules…

6. He’s anonymous – if there’s a God, how come we can’t see him? Why does he have to be silent, invisible and remote? If he was that interested in us surely he would let us know about himself, give us some clues, leave some fingerprints or DNA around the place from which we could at least deduce his existence? Surely he would show us how we can get to know him?

7. Science has disproved him – we humans are clever. We know how so much of this planet works, we have worked out the complicated maths behind so much of the Universe. We know so much of what happened from the fraction of a sliver of a tiny nanosecond after the Big Bang. We know about DNA and how it mutates and changes through the reproductive processes. From the smallest particle to the largest expanse of the Universe we know about it all. Yes, there are some bits that we don’t know yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time before we know how everything works. And ‘how’ is the most important question isn’t it?

8. Aliens – alien life forms disprove God don’t they? The Bible doesn’t mention aliens. What about Roswell, Area 57 and all of the evidence about alien life forms? Ha, God, get out of that one. The evidence for aliens is all around us. Everyone knows that.

9. The Bible is iffy – there are so many discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible. It’s been made up by people who wanted to try to explain why things happen – people who didn’t know about science. I’m sure we can all name hundreds.. maybe five… at least one inconsistency in the Bible.

10. If God is so nice, why does he send people to hell? That doesn’t sound very nice does it? Even if we can understand some of the horrible things that happen now, surely God wants everyone to be with him in heaven, so why does he send some people to hell? That’s not nice. If I invite people to a party what sort of host am I if I troll those who don’t want to come?

So let’s stop worrying about God and get on with not believing in him. If we say we don’t believe in him then he won’t exist. Will he?

Be blessed, be a blessing

*This bloggage is incomplete without understanding the irony. Because irony is not obvious in the written word I wonder if some of you missed it or need the irony above explaining a bit, so if you need them here are some further explanations to what I have written above.

1. I imagine you haven’t decided that breathing is unnecessary, so why ignore the possibility that there is someone who is beyond and within time who gives us that breath?

2. Christians are not always the best free samples of Jesus. We are human, we are flawed, we are ‘works in progress’. If God used angels or any beings other than humans to tell others about him it would be very difficult for people not to believe in him because we will have seen the evidence of the supernatural so he takes the risk that Christians will mess things up in order not to compromise the free choice he wants all of us to have. I don’t excuse the hideous things that Christians have done in the name of Jesus, but atheists are no saints: Holocaust, Stalin, Mao…? I am not saying that you can excuse one atrocity if you excuse the other. But let’s not throw stones if we live in glass houses.

3. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And if you want to see the best of a stained glass window you have to go inside the church to experience the light streaming through it – it’s the same with church and being a Christian. You can’t fully experience it looking from the outside. But do you trust your friends who are Christians? And people who are not ‘church’ doing good things doesn’t mean there isn’t a God, it could be evidence of his goodness at work beyond the church.

4. The existence of light mean there is also likely to be shadow? There is a ‘shadow’ to our world. Suffering can have a purpose – pain signals to our brain tell us that there is something wrong or to take our hand out of a fire. Sometimes people’s greed means that others suffer – why are shanty towns built in vulnerable areas: because the rich people have the good land. Sometimes we humans have to take responsibility for our own failings.You can’t give people complete free will without risking that they will ignore you and cause bad stuff to happen. And you can’t give people complete free will without allowing bad stuff to happen because if you intervened they would have no choice but to believe in you. Because if you built a perfect sentient robot with self-awareness and the ability to think for itself you couldn’t make some rules about it having to love you.

5. Yes, there is suffering in the world that makes no sense and has no human cause. But free will (if it is genuinely free) risks rebellion and that rebellion is at large in the world. You can call it evil, the devil or whatever you like, but this world is not as God intended it because it is at odds with him, just as a malfunctioning robot might destroy the environment in which it is based. The robot designer did not intend it to malfunction. And if there is a malevolent force around doesn’t it make sense that it would exist in the shadows of this world and try to point us away from God by making us blame him for the bad stuff that happens? Bad stuff happening is evidence of a malevolent force in the world. Wouldn’t it make sense for a loving God to be trying to sort that out for us?

6. Read one of the gospels and then ask if God is anonymous. And take a look around you. The Universe we inhabit is astonishing isn’t it? Isn’t it possible that it has a Designer? Why is that less plausible than that it happened purely by chance?

7. Science tells us how things happen. It doesn’t tell us why. Science can tell us how God put things together but it can’t say why. It can tell us about the patterns and laws and rules and maths behind everything, but it can’t say why those patterns and laws and rules and maths are so perfectly balanced to allow for this Universe (other than to hypothesise an infinite number of Universes so that this one can exist and sustain life).

8. You can believe in aliens but not in God? The ‘evidence’ for alien life forms is somewhat sketchy at best. And even if they did exist, why does that disprove God? Bearing in mind when the Bible was written, wouldn’t it have rather freaked out those people to have been told about beings on other planets?

9. The manuscripts of the Bible exist in many fragments found in many different places and they are in harmony with each other in 98.5% of the all of the manuscripts. The 1.5% were caused by mistakes in copying (no photocopiers or scanners, it was all hand written); explanations added in the margins and then incorporated; and some words changed to try to make it easier to understand. None of these differences make a difference to any of the major themes of the BIble. Did you know that 24 carat gold is 99.9% pure gold, but 18 carat gold is 75% and 9 carat gold is 38%. The Bible is almost 24 carat gold!

10. I don’t believe that God sends anyone to hell (whatever your view of ‘hell’ is). If he is consistent he will always respect our choices because he respects our free will. He won’t force anyone to be with him who doesn’t want to be with him. ‘Judgment’ (whatever that is) is about God (sadly, perhaps even reluctantly) accepting our decision whether or not we want to be with him. Whatever you think hell may or may not be, it at least is an absence of God: he respects our decision – if we want to be with him we are with him, if we don’t we aren’t. Whatever you choose, he will respect.

You may not believe in God, but he believes in you.

recycled bloggage

Da dada da da da daaaah!

Dear bloggists, apologies to any of you who are Ministers within the Eastern Baptist Association as you will have received this from me in an email last week but I am recycling it for bloggists who are either Ministers in the Association but haven’t read it or aren’t and won’t have received it… and maybe it won’t hurt to be reminded of it if you have read it before…

I love the opening bars to Also Sprach Zarathustra, otherwise known as the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey. It starts with a long ominous tone… on top of which the horn section boldly plays a series of ascending notes that finish with a flurry.

Baaaarr, Baaaarr, Baaaaaaaarr, Baraaarr!

The timpani drums start to sound

Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam

The drums seem to herald the repeat of the horns, which finish on a higher note

Baaaarr, Baaaarr, Baaaaaaaarr, Baraaarr!

Back come the timpani

Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam

And the horns take us on the same ascending journey, but this time rising to a powerful higher crescendo that then leads into a triumphant fanfare.

Baaaarr, Baaaarr, Baaaaaaaar, Baraaar! Bar, bar bar, bar, bar bar bar, bar bar bar, baaar, baaar, baaaaaar!

Or something like that! Whether or not you know the music my attempt to describe it is rather lacking. It may give you a sense of what is happening but it does not give you the full experience that the music itself gives when you listen to it with the volume turned up to 11!

I think that piece of music should play automatically when we start to read Genesis 1:1-5:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.

Those opening sentences of the Bible are a bit like my attempt to describe Also Sprach Zarathustra. They clearly do not do the cosmic events justice. But they do give us a sense of what was happening. And most of all they tell us that “In the beginning God…” May you know that at the beginning of a new year for you and your church / ministry: in the beginning God. Before all else and above all else, God. Before sermons and Church Meeting agendas and Deacons and plans and time management and joys and sorrows and all that life entails, God.

May all your beginnings begin with God.

Be blessed, be a blessing