Paul’s first letter to the Confusions

[This is an extract of a letter that was recently found down the back of a sofa and which I have ‘translated’. Its authenticity has yet to be established.]

To the Christians in Confusia

Gravy and peas to you all. [The exact translation of this sentence is unclear].

I’m writing to you because it has come to my attention that there’s a lot of misunderstanding among you about some things I’ve written to other churches and some of the things Jesus said. So let’s ignore what I said about churches being a temple of the Holy Spirit or the Body of Christ. And ignore what Jesus said about being salt and light. Those have clearly not resonated with you. Here’s a new metaphor for you.

You are the fortress of God. You should pull up the drawbridge and prepare for a siege. Get ready to lob lots of steaming [the precise translation of the next word is uncertain] from behind your high walls at the people who come into range. Expect some retaliation from them but don’t worry: that should just confirm to you that you’re doing church right.

Occasionally you should organise raiding parties to go out into the surrounding area and see who you can capture. Once you’ve dragged them back inside the walls of your castle make sure you indoctrinate them well.

When going on raids put on your armour, sit on high horses and denounce anyone you meet from up on your high horses. Don’t forget to disinfect thoroughly at the end of the raid and measure your success by the amount of negative feedback you generated: the more the better.

It’s a good idea to create your own language so that people outside won’t understand you. If they don’t know what you’re saying you can’t be blamed if they misunderstand you.

Even though some of you may have to live or work outside the walls of the fortress on no account should those people try to engage with the people around them on their own. Safety in numbers! Don’t let anyone know you belong to the fortress.

If some of the more misguided of you feel that you really ought to be engaged with the wider community then focus your efforts on being nice people rather than actually talking to them about how much God loves them and who Jesus is. Polish your Spiritual armour (see the letter I wrote to the Ephesians for more about that) and work on the basis that people will want to join the fortress because of how shiny you are. Keep the sword of the Spirit well-hidden when outside.

In conclusion, my dear Confusions, keep your defences up and your heads down. That way you won’t be bothered too much by the people around you.

Yours entirely ironically


what’s going on?

schrodingers balls swf showWhat do you think is going on in this picture?

It’s a photo taken during the show I put on with my friend, Richard Jones. I was performing an illusion with some balls in such a way that my volunteer (Peter) had no idea what was going on, but everyone else did. I did feel a bit mean about it, but thankfully I know Peter well enough to think that he did not take it personally and at the end I did show him what had been going on too.

Do you ever have the feeling that everyone else around you knows something you don’t? They all seem to have worked out the answers and you haven’t even realised that there is a question!

It can happen to me sometimes when I am driving along within the speed limit through some roadworks and people are speeding past me. I wonder whether I have missed the end of the speed restriction.

And it can happen to me sometimes when I am on a train that pulls into a station before the one at which I am due to disembark and everyone else in my section of the carriage gets off. I wonder whether I have missed an announcement about the train terminating at that station because of [insert excuse here] to be replaced by a bus service. (Why do train companies think that a replacement bus service is an adequate replacement for a train? If I had wanted to go by bus I would have bought a bus ticket. (Yes I know they do it because the train can’t go any further, but bear with me I am having a little rant)).

It has happened to me in churches where everyone else seems to know what to do and I don’t. You can be left standing / sitting / kneeling while everyone else has moved on if you don’t have your wits about you. The worst experience of that I had was when I was preaching in an unfamiliar church where there was a lot of standing / sitting / kneeling (not usual in a Baptist Church) and as I was the preacher they had put me on the front pew. That meant treble trouble: not only did I not know what to do, and not only did I not have anyone to copy, but because I was at the front it would be very obvious to everyone else when I got it wrong! My peripheral vision worked overtime that morning.

It bothers me that we have made church so unusual an experience that people who don’t usually attend might struggle to know what to do and for those brave souls who do venture in the feeling of not knowing is multiplied by everyone else knowing what to do. Can we make it any more awkward (that’s a rhetorical question, not a challenge!)?

It bothers me that we being a Christian is so unusual that people think it is weird, when actually it is ‘normal’ (in the sense that God designed us to be in a relationship with him so not being in that sort of relationship is ‘not normal’).

What’s the answer? I come back to the answer I have given on many occasions. It’s recapturing the essence of following Jesus as the priority. Not a priority. The priority. And as Christians do that and become less bothered about traditions, rituals, preferences and all of the extra bits we have added to following Jesus to turn a relationship into a religion, so we will be better free samples of Jesus to those around us.

Be blessed, be a blessing.