good humour

Two goldfish are in a tank. One says to the other, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

Two budgies are sitting on a perch. One says to the other, “Can you smell fish?”

I love these two jokes – not because they are rib-ticklingly funny (although they make me smile) but because they are clever and because they illustrate good humour – the change in use of the word from the expected use takes us to an unexpected conclusion.

Jesus was good at that – the unexpected conclusion…

The Samaritan (boo, hiss) turns out to be the hero.

The profligate son who wished his father dead (boo, hiss) turns out to be welcome and forgiven.

The prudent servant who kept his master’s money safe (hooray!) turns out to have failed.

And the person who has rebelled against God and followed selfish ways turns out to be forgiven while the perfect Son of God dies.

Did you see that one coming? It’s the ultimate punch-line, but God has the last laugh three days later!

status updates

I have some posh invitation cards on my desk at the moment. One is to attend a Military Operational Presentation with the 16 Air Assault Brigade in Colchester. I’m not sure what one of those is, but I am going to go and find out.

The second is an invitation for me (and a plus one) to attend the Vice Chancellor’s Summer Reception at Essex University. I am planning to go to that too. I am not open to bids for my ‘plus one’.

Both of this invitations have come to me by virtue of my status. It’s nothing to do with me as an individual or my personalityOne is because I am a Minister at Colchester Baptist Church and ‘community leaders’ have been invited to watch the soldiers do their thing. The other is because I am the Baptist Chaplain at Essex University

It’s nice to be invited to these special events, but I reckon that personal invitations to parties, meals, watching films and so on are much better because you have been invited because of who you are not what you are.

Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom of God make the same point. We are all invited to participate because of who we are – people loved by God. The moment we start to make it about what we are we have lost it.

Unspoken (or worse spoken rules) about what you should wear, how you should look, how much you should earn, where you should sit, how you should sing, what language you should (or shouldn’t) use, what you have done in the past, how much you know about Jesus, where you can park, and so on are all about what you are, not who you are.

There is no place for them in the Kingdom of God.

The rules, that is, not the people!

A new soldier was on sentry duty at the main gate. His orders were clear. No car was to enter unless it had a special sticker on the windscreen. A big Army staff car came up with a general seated in the back. The sentry said, “Halt, who goes there?”

The chauffeur, a corporal, says, “General Wheeler.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t let you through. You’ve got to have a sticker on the windscreen.”

The general said, “Drive on!”

The sentry said, “Hold it! You really can’t come through. I have orders to shoot if you try driving in without a sticker.”

The general repeated, “I’m telling you, son, drive on!”

The sentry walked up to the rear window and said, “General, I’m new at this. Do I shoot you or the the driver?”

computer users – a parable?

Apparently there are three types of computer users:

Novice user – this is someone who is terrified of pressing a key in case they break something.
Intermediate user – this is someone who doesn’t know how to fix the computer after they pressed a key.
Expert user – this is someone who knows how to break other people’s computers.

I reckon that this could be a parable. For computer user, insert ‘Christian’, and for ‘pressing a key’ insert ‘putting their faith into action’.

Sometimes we are novices and we are afraid to take a step of faith and do what God wants because we are worried we will do the wrong thing, we won’t be good enough, we might upset someone, we might look silly.

Sometimes we are intermediates and we worry about whether we have done the wrong thing, said the wrong thing, look silly…

Sometimes we think we are experts and tell other people what to do in order to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, look silly…

The issue here is not whether we are like Jonah (we don’t want to do it because it sounds too difficult), Peter (wanting to do the right thing but likely to mess it up) or even Paul (full of good advice but not concerned about ruffling a few feathers). The issue is that God invites us all to participate in him and to put our faith in him regardless of the probability that we will get it wrong at times.

When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh he knew Jonah would be scared. But maybe he knew that the people of Nineveh would be curious to listen to someone who smelt of fish vomit. When Jesus invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water he knew that Peter would get distracted. But maybe he knew that this would be a (soggy) baby-step on Peter’s journey of faith. When Jesus startled Paul on the road to Damascus he knew that Paul would be regarded with suspicion and have a lot of difficult church meetings ahead of him. But maybe he knew that it would take someone who is single-minded and doesn’t care what other people think of them to establish and nurture fledgling churches.

And me? I guess knows stuff about me that he can use for his mission and ministry – whether I think I am a novice, an intermediate or even when I am presumptuous enough to consider myself an expert!

Be blessed

does not do exactly what it says on the screen

A while ago I blogged about my lovely new phone that thought it was an iphone but wasn’t. When I ordered it my phone company told me I had 30 days in which to change my mind. “Ha!” I thought (for my thoughts are sometimes little). “I will never want to exchange this phone-sized handful of gorgeousness. I will never tire of the lovely touch screen. The colours and sounds are too lovely to even contemplate getting rid of.”

So today I phoned my phone company and arranged to exchange the phone (26 days after delivery).

I still can’t quite believe it.

The problem is that while it looks gorgeous and has some wonderful features, it does not do all that it says it will. The blurb and even the manual talk glowingly about how it synchronises with Outlook’s Calendar. That is one of the prime functions I want. However the software that comes with the phone and synchronises it with the computer simply says that this function will be available “soon”. No suggestion of when “soon” will be. And then there’s the failure of the system to send and receive emails, even though every single setting is correct.

I have had enough and am migrating to a Blackberry. It promises all of the functions I need and while it does not have a gorgeous touch screen it will be a much more useful gadget.BlackBerry® Curve 8520

Substance wins over style. Eventually.

I wonder if this is a modern parable. The parable of the foolish technophile. He was seduced by the good looks and wonderful promises of a phone that ultimately did not deliver and realised (just in time) that he was better off with a more reliable and less glamorous phone. So it is with our faith. Sometimes other lifestyles (and perhaps even other faiths) can look more attractive. But ultimately they will not deliver what they promise and it is only good old Jesus on whom we can rely. The grass may look greener on the other side, but in reality we will find that it is artificial turf!
Bernard, who is noted for his gracious manners, was awakened one morning at four forty four a.m. by his ringing telephone. . .

“Your dog’s barking, and it’s keeping me awake,” said an angry voice.

Bernard thanked the caller and politely asked his name and number before hanging up.

The next morning at precisely four forty four a.m., Bernard called his neighbour back.

“Good morning, Mr. Williams…. Just called to say that I don’t have a dog.”

Stew the Rabbit

I have just come from telling a story to the toddlers and parents of our Bright Sparks group. I say that I told the story, actually it was a story that was told with the help of my assistant – Stew the Rabbit (see photo). He tries to be helpful (and usually fails) but is loved by most people who meet him and keeps the attention of children and adults alike.

Stew has been a regular companion of mine for many years (he ages better than me) – going into schools, taking assemblies and helping me in all age services at church. From the reaction he gets I am fairly confident that he is more popular than me. I don’t mind being upstaged by a bunny so long as the message gets across. Occasionally a child says, “He’s just a puppet!”

My response always flummoxes them, “Yes, but he’s a real puppet!”

Today he showed us a car that he loved but had lost. It was found by someone else and put into a charity shop where Stew saw it but had to buy it back. He gladly did so because he loved his car so much. This was intended to be a modern parable. I am not sure how well it worked. Only time will tell!

Parables are on my mind at the moment as Lynsey and I are planning to explore some of Jesus’ parables at our church holiday soon. Today we will attempt to decide which ones we will explore. While there are the famous ones like the Good Samaritan and the Lost (Prodigal) Son I am tempted to go for some of the less well-known ones…

At this stage I do not know whether Stew will be coming to help me. He’s keen, but then so are Afor Ape and Christopher Peter Duck (Chris P Duck for short).

A ventriloquist was doing his act at a comedy club and was making fun of one particular member of the audience who was wearing a baseball cap. The ventriloquist kept making comments suggesting that the baseball cap-wearing member of the audience was below standard intelligence because…

he was wearing a hat inside to keep the sun out of his eyes

he was in the wrong place if he wanted to play baseball

he was only wearing the hat to make everyone think he wasn’t bald

he had misunderstood when his girlfriend asked for a cappucino and was wearing a cap and chinos

As you will have noticed the jokes were not good and all they succeeded in doing was wind up the cap-wearer.

Finally the cap-wearer had enough. He stood up and shouted: “I’ve had enough!” (see, I told you he’d had enough). “I am fed up with you making comments about how stupid you think I am just because I am wearing a cap inside.”

The ventriloquist started to apologise when the cap-wearer interrupted him.

“Shut up, mate! I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the little fella on your knee.”