mad

Today has been an interestingly eclectic one. It started with a visit to our church by Year 5 children from a local school, where we tried to explain what happened in the building and what was distinctive about Baptist Christians. From there it was straight to Costa Coffee for a meeting with Susan, our Children and Families Coordinator, to consider some of the possibilities, opportunities and possible difficulties we face in the coming months and years. Finally I came back home to work on Sunday evening’s sermon.

That’s where it has got really strange. We are exploring what happened to David between when he was anointed as Kingand when he became King. And (Goliath aside) it was a pretty stressful experience. Saul, the incumbent king, got jealous of him (perhaps also paranoid in its technical sense) and tried many times to kill him. Just before we get to the passage we are considering on Sunday (1 Samuel 23) David went to Goliath’s home town and tried to find sanctuary with the Philistines (my enemy’s enemy is my friend?).

When the king of Gath saw David as a threat David pretended to be mad so that he was dismissed as an irrelevant irritant. Is that a strategy that God would like us all to adopt? I sense a new module in Baptist Ministerial Training – feigning madness to get out of tricky situations.

  • When people complain about your sermon, start doing monkey impressions – they will soon leave you alone.
  • If your Deacons are ganging up on you, put Fairy Liquid in your mouth – you will start foaming at the mouth and making unintelligible ‘yuck’ sounds and they will consider that you are in need of a rest.
  • If your Regional Minister unexpectedly calls around and says that he has received some phone calls that he wants to discuss with you stick some underpants on your head, a pencil up each nostril and say, “Wibble.”* He or she will soon put you on the ‘moving list’ to get you moved to a church in a new Association.
  • When the BUGB Ministry Department invite you in for a ‘chat’, answer all of the questions with, “So’s your face!” You will soon find that you are placed on indefinite leave.

Please don’t think I am making fun of mental illness. It is a genuinely distressing problem for people and can strike anyone in the same way that anyone can catch a cold. We need to lose the stigma that is wrongly attached to it while exercising maximum compassion and grace.

But David feigned madness to escape from a tricky situation. Was that morally acceptable? Did God sanction it? Did he approve of it? I can’t bring myself to believe that God was pleased that David acted so strangely (dribbling, graffiti on the walls and ‘acting like a madman’). But the outcome from the subterfuge / acting was that David, God’s anointed king-in-waiting, lived to fight another day.

The ends do not always justify the means and God certainly moves in mysterious ways** (facetious thought alert, don’t follow the ** if you think you may be upset by a daft comment about God). But to pretend to be mad…? Surely we should act rationally…

What if we are experiencing unfair opposition we try to act with grace and generosity instead of hostility and anger?

What if when we receive complaints we sift them to see if there is any truth in them and anything we can learn from them?

What if when we receive a critical email we don’t fire off an immediate rebuttal but wait on God for a day or so first?

What if when Church Meetings don’t go the way we expect we don’t go off in a sulk but accept that we don’t have the monopoly on discerning God’s will (surely the foundational basis for our ecclesiology and theology of Congregational Governance)?

What if, when someone says something untrue about us we pause and consider what is making them act in that way?

You’d have to be mad!

Wouldn’t you?

Would you?

Could you?

Can you?

Will you?

*Thanks to Blackadder Goes Fourth for that one

** I can almost bring myself to consider a ‘Ministry of Divine Funny Walks’ – perhaps we need a sub-Department of the Ministry Department at Baptist House!

synchronicity?

Pig in mud 2Sunday night was horrible. I went to bed at the normal time and fell asleep as normal. But at 1am I awoke with my brain buzzing about different things I need to do. I have a pad and pen beside my bed just for that reason. Not so I can doodle, but so I can write down what my brain is thinking about so I won’t forget it in the morning. I have found that this enables me to relax again because I know I won’t forget it.

The problem on Sunday night was that every time I wrote something down my brain started thinking about something else. Grrr. All my body wanted to do was sleep. All my brain wanted to do was to think. Why were they so far out of synch?

Eventually my body won and my brain gave up. Some may say that it has not resumed thinking since. On Sunday morning we concluded our series looking at the Fruit of the Spirit. One of the things I was saying was that we need to be in synch with the Spirit. Paul writes of keeping “in step with the Spirit”. The image that came to me was of running a distance race. We should not go off so fast that we burn out, but we should not go so slowly that we lose touch. We should keep pace with the Spirit of God.

How do we do that? Well the answer is predictable but one we often ignore. Frequently be in conversation with God by reading the Bible, praying, worshipping… Listen as well as speak in our prayers. Find companions in the faith to encourage and help you.

It’s not rocket science. But if you feel out of synch with the Spirit and you are aware that he is not bearing spiritual fruit in you at the moment I reckon you can start your analysis of the problem with a look at how close you are to him. Are you keeping pace?
Not sure what the link is to this joke, but I like it!

Two guys are bungee-jumping one day. The first guy says to the second, “You know, we could make a lot of money running our own bungee-jumping service in Medico.” The second guy thinks this is a great idea, so the two pool their money and buy everything they’ll need – a tower, an elastic cord, insurance, etc. 

They travel to Mexico and begin to set up on the square. As they are constructing the tower, a crowd begins to assemble. Slowly, more and more people gather to watch them at work.

The first guy jumps. He bounces at the end of the cord, but when he comes back up, the second guy notices that he has a few cuts and scratches. Unfortunately, the second guy isn’t able to catch him. He falls again, bounces, and comes back up again. This time he is bruised and bleeding. 

Again, the second guy misses him. The first guy falls again and bounces back up. This time, he comes back pretty messed up – he’s got a couple of broken bones and is almost unconscious. Luckily, the second guy finally catches him this time and says, “What happened? Was the cord too long?” 

The first guy says, “No, the cord was fine, but what is a pinata?”

I wish to register a complaint…

Quick postage today.

I recently sent an old phone off to one of these companies that offers you a fortune for them. Got an email back confirming it had been received and saying they would only pay 50% of the original quote. I phoned them to be told that the screen had some ‘shading’ on it. It wasn’t there when I sent it! Grrr. Now I have to try to persuade Royal Mail’s Special Delivery peeps to reimburse the difference. Not convinced I will be successful.

Don’t Complain department joke[I have just realised that there is a pun in the opening sentence when read with the second paragraph, which was entirely unintentional.]

Anyhoo. The point is that when things and people do not live up to our expectations we have some choices:

We can sulk. (won’t get us anywhere)
We can complain. (may get some results if there is a genuine grievance, otherwise see answer to sulking)
We can keep quiet about it. (will avoid conflict but unlikely to avoid future occurrences)
We can decide to do things differently next time. (assumes we have some control)
We can point out the problems and seek a better solution. (may be helpful to all involved so long as other party is willing to receive constructive help)
We can pray about it. (you were waiting for that one! This may not lead to a change of outcome but may lead to a change of our attitude)
We can try to work out what Jesus would do and do that. (not so easy when it’s a problem with postage)
We can call down some bears from a nearby wood (see 2 Kings 2:23-24, with which I have a certain affinity)
We can do some or all of the above.

For me the key questions are: ‘what is just?’ and ‘what is loving?’ These seem to be the main themes behind how Jesus dealt with people. If there is a conflict between the two, err on the side of love.