corny joke

I hope that you had a good Christmas. I hope that you found what you were hoping for – not just in a stocking, pillow case or under a tree, but in the friendships, family relationships and your relationship with God.

other makes of corned beef are available

A man went on a camping trip with his wife. He had been left to do the catering and had only brought three cans of corned beef. She was a bit miffed, but decided to let it lie. The first evening they sat down to eat and his wife was intrigued to see him get out his multi-function penknife, open out the can opener tool, and proceed to open the can with the can opener. Again, she let it lie and they ate the corned beef.

The next evening he got out the second can of corned beef, and once again opened it using his can opener tool from his penknife. His wife almost said something, but decided against it as they were having such a good time away. They ate the corned beef in silence, though.

The third night the man got out the third tin of corned beef and started to open the can opener from his penknife. His wife couldn’t resist any longer.

“Honey,” she asked gently, playing the innocent, “What’s that key on the top of the can for?”

“Silly you,” patronised the man, “That’s for people who don’t have a penknife with a can opener attachment.”

If you are one of the male of the species about now is when you will have to consider consulting the instruction manuals that came with the gadgets and presents you were given because we all know that they are like the key on a can of corned beef – just there for people who can’t work it out on their own.

But when we do consult the instructions (or more likely download them) we find that they are actually quite useful. We find out what that button actually does, you know – the one that we thought didn’t do anything. We find out about how to get the best out of the present. We find out what it can really do.

Perhaps in 2016 we should treat our Bibles less like a bloke treats an instruction manual and find out how much more God has for us…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

a little joke on a day off

A mother was struggling to keep her wriggly child quiet in church. She tried bribing the child with a promise of sweets but the child ignored her. She tried threatening the child with the naughty step when they got home but the child ignored her. In the end she tried reasoning and asked the child, “Why do you think you should be quiet in church?”
The child thought for a moment: “So you don’t wake people up.”
Be blessed, be a blessing

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lol, rotfl, or jars?*

pubI went into a pub at lunchtime recently and was rather surprised when I went in there was nobody else there. The place was empty.

I looked around and saw an old fashioned Space Invaders machine in the corner. I couldn’t resist so put the coins in and started defending the earth from the relentless slowly advancing aliens.

Suddenly I heard a voice: “I don’t know why you are bothering to play this game, you’re rubbish!”

I looked around but there was still nobody there.

I carried on and the voice spoke again: “You’ve just wasted your money. You might as well give up now.”

There was still nobody visible and it sounded like the speech was coming from inside the machine.

I continued and the voice spoke a third time: “Give up slaphead!”

I was so thrown by this that I forgot to watch for the missiles from above and lost my last life.

Rather upset and perturbed by this abuse I headed towards the bar, looking for some bar staff. There was nobody around but there were some peanuts in a bowl on the counter. I reached out to take a few when another voice spoke from nowhere: “Hello, it’s nice to see someone who is looking so smart come in here.”

I looked all over the pub and there was nobody around. As I reached for the peanuts again I heard the voice: “We don’t often get someone of your calibre in here.”

There was still nobody around and I started to get worried that I was losing my mind, while at the same time feeling better after the verbal mauling by the Space Invaders machine.

Suddenly, as if by magic, a barmaid appeared behind the bar. I went over to her and explained about  the abuse from the video game and the nice things the nuts seemed to be saying.

“Oh yes,” she said knowingly. “You see the nuts are complimentary, but the machine’s out of order.”

Be blessed, be a blessing

*lol = laughing out loud; rotfl = rolling on the floor, laughing; jars = just about raising a smile (a new one I have just created)

light content

I am feeling levitatious (in need of levity) and my funny bone is feeling ticklish. So today I offer you a joke. I have told it before, but it’s a good one, especially if you can put yourself into the story…

A young girl was writing an essay for school and asked her father for help, “Dad, what is the difference between annoyance, anger and exasperation?”

The father picked up the telephone and dialled a number at random. A man who answered the phone and the father said, “Hello, is Melvin there?”

The man answered, “There is no one living here named Melvin. You’ve got the wrong number.”

The father said to his daughter, “That man was not happy with my call. I annoyed him. Now watch…”

The father hit the redial button. “Hello, is Melvin there?”

“Now look here!” came the heated reply. “You just called this number, and I told you that there is no Melvin here!” The receiver was slammed down hard.

The father turned to his daughter and said, “You see, that was anger. Now I’ll show you what exasperation is.”

He redialled the number, and a violent voice roared, “WHAT?”

The father calmly said, “Hello, this is Melvin. Have there been any calls for me?”

Be blessed, be a blessing and try not to exasperate anyone 🙂

theology from a joke?

Ravenel Bridge CharlestonA while ago the website Ship of Fools ran a competition to find the funniest religious joke. This was the winner, from comedian Emo Philips:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. 

I said, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”

He said, “A Christian.” 

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” 

He said, “Protestant.” 

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” 

He said, “Baptist.” 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” 

He said, “Northern Baptist.” 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” 

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” 

I said, “Me, too!” 

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” 

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

In case you are experiencing deja vu, yes I have mentioned this before on the blog – here. I retold this joke recently to some friends in our church and it got a great response. But subsequent pondering made me wonder why it is that it is so funny. I think that there are several reasons. One is that it draws you in with the ever-deepening coincidence of shared experience. Another is that the shared experience seems to get more and more contrived. A third is the humour of the ridiculousness of how fractured and splintered the church has become – dividing over more and more issues. And then, just when we are wondering how many more coincidences there can be Emo Philips hits us with the unexpected punchline about heresy and his over the top response to it and our laughter reflex is triggered in an explosion of surprise and shock at the outcome and the jettisoning of all that was common.

There are, however, a couple of problems:

The first problem is that while this joke is funny for all those reasons (and many more), having dissected it as I just have may have killed the joke for you.

The second problem is that while this is a funny joke it is rooted in reality. As well as laughing at the joke we should take a good long hard look at ourselves through the lens of the joke. What things divide us from others? Do we spend more time focusing on those things and less focusing on what unites us?

By definition if I believe something to be true I must consider someone who holds a different view to be wrong. They are a heretic. Two contradictory things cannot be simultaneously right. The laws of physics and logic say that they can’t be. And this approach to theology has fractured and splintered churches throughout its history and caused immense hurt.

  • If an understanding of the Bible leads someone to believe that women should not be in leadership of a church they also believe that those who believe that women should be in leadership are wrong*.
  • If an understanding of the Bible leads someone to believe that it is right to baptise infants they also believe that those who believe that only those who are believers should be baptised are wrong*.
  • If an understanding of the Bible leads someone to believe that all clergy should be celibate they also believe that those who believe that they do not need to be celibate are wrong*.

*These do not represent my theological understanding. They are being used to illustrate my point. You can interchange them for any issue on which Christians are divided – church structures, sexuality, divorce, euthanasia, and (sadly) much much more. Because we hold a particular view about issues (especially those we hold strongly) by definition we infer that those who hold opposing views must be wrong.

Now I have three more problems, which are probably aspects of one single problem – intolerance of tolerance and tolerance of intolerance.

One is that I don’t accept that because I believe something to be true and there are others who hold a different view it means that I have to brand those who think differently as heretics and get pushed off bridges. I hope I hold my beliefs through considered prayerful study, experience and reflection (for the most part – some may be because I have uncritically adopted someone else’s view because I liked the sound of it and I need to be aware of that). What sort of person am I if I decide that someone else who holds a different view reached through considered prayerful study, experience and reflection must be condemned and I can have nothing to do with them? I could be wrong: even if I don’t think I am I surely have to have sufficient humility to accept that I could be: I have changed my views on theological issues through my life – the ‘previous’ me would regard the ‘current’ me as a heretic!

The second is that I don’t accept that two contradictory positions mean that one must be wrong. Both could be wrong. But what if both are right? Can that be possible? The laws of physics and logic say that it is not. But what if those laws are the wrong ones to be applying here:

God is simultaneously comprehensible and logical (so we can understand him) and beyond human comprehension and understanding.

He has established the laws of physics and logic and all that makes our Universe how it is and at the same time he breaks those laws (we call them miracles).

Jesus was both fully human and fully God – simultaneously.

God is all powerful and yet he chooses to limit his power by giving us free will and the option to choose to go against his will.

If we try to apply physical laws to them something has to give, but with God they are not contradictions they are paradoxes. Somehow God is able to hold in creative tension things that we would see as contradictory. Can’t we seek the grace to do that too?

And that leads me to the third problem. Why do some Christians (who have experienced Grace and Love and seek to follow the most perfect Example of both, Jesus of Nazareth) feel it is necessary to exclude and condemn those who have a different interpretation of the Bible or a different theological view? At this point in discussion with others they often introduce the ‘slippery slope’ – if we say that we accept one thing, where will it end: it’s a slippery slope. So, to be facetious to make the point, if we say that Christians who sincerely hold the view that churches should have only pews when our church only has chairs genuinely are Christians then before we know it won’t we be on a slippery slope that leads towards us saying that all people who sincerely believe something, even those who sincerely hold the view that there is no God, are Christians?

Erm. No. I think that  if there is a genuine slippery slope we can define a point on the slope beyond which we will not slide. It’s very difficult to say that you are a Christian if you don’t believe in God. Ah, you say, but you said we could hold contradictory positions in creative tension.

True, but even God has his limits. He is absolute love, but he is not also absolute hate. (NB The thing the Bible says he hates above all is religious hypocrisy!)

There are limits. And for each of us those limits may be different. But does that mean that we should unleash venomous bile and condemnation on those who believe the limits are in a different place to us? Does that sound like Grace and Love? Perhaps it is easier if we accept that we all exist on slippery slopes and need the grace to accept those who are slipping and sliding around with us. 

I recognise that I could be accused of being inconsistent – I am being less tolerant of those who unleash bile and condemnation. That brings me back to what I have just been saying. There are limits. But surely those limits could be limited to the core of what we believe and surely we should be careful about making that core bigger than Jesus would.

What is the core? The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which “confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

The WCC seeks to be a space “in which [Christians] can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other. As members of this fellowship, WCC member churches:

  • are called to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship;
  • promote their common witness in work for mission and evangelism;
  • engage in Christian service by serving human need, breaking down barriers between people, seeking justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation; and
  • foster renewal in unity, worship, mission and service.”

Sounds like a good place to start.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Sunday morning’s postponed joke

I usually begin my sermons with a joke. If nothing else it means people might be awake at the start of the sermon!

This Sunday morning I had a joke ready but felt as we were going through the service that I should not start with a joke. So I didn’t.

This is the postponed joke. It should be stressed that this is an entirely fictional story!

A reporter met with the millionaire entrepreneur Deborah Meaden from Dragon’s Den. In the interview he asked her what her leadership philosophy was. She says that it was to surround herself with intelligent people. The man asked how she knew if they were intelligent.

“I ask them the right questions,” said Deborah Meaden. “Allow me to demonstrate.”

She phoned her secretary and asked, “Gill, please answer this question: Your mother has a child, and your father has a child, and this child is not your brother or sister. Who is it?
There was a pause and the secretary replied, “It’s me, Mrs Meaden.”

“Correct. Thank you and goodbye,” said Deborah Meaden. She turned to the reporter, “Did you get that?”

“Yes,” said the reporter. “Thank you.” When he got back to the newspaper he decided to try out the test.

He called the Editor and said, “I wonder if you can answer a question for me.” The editor agreed.

“Your mother has a child, and your father has a child, and this child is not your brother or sister. Who is it?”

The editor was silent and finally asked, “Can I think about it and get The editor immediately called the rest of the staff together, and they puzzled over the question for several hours, but nobody had an answer.

Finally, in desperation, the editor called the Archbishop of Canterbury and explained his problem. “Your mother has a child, And your father has a child, and this child is not your brother or sister. Who is it?”

The Archbishop of Canterbury answered immediately, “It’s me, of course.”

Much relieved, the editor rushed back to call the reporter and exclaims. “I know the answer! I know who it is! It’s The Archbishop of Canterbury!! The reporter replied in disgust, “Wrong, it’s Deborah Meaden’s secretary.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

And before pedants get hold of me, it is possible that the meeting was for just one procrastinator. Or you can get a life and stop worrying about rogue apostrophe’s.

The apostrophe in ‘apostrophe’s’ was deliberately put there to increase the ‘aaaargh’ for pedant’s.

Oops, done it again.



photo (c) Paul Mata, used by permission from

photo (c) Paul Mata, used by permission from

When I was growing up there was a man who was famous for fighting oil rig fires. His name was Red Adair. On one occasion an oil well in Kuwait burst into flame and the alert went out: “Get Red Adair!”

But Red Adair was fighting a fire in Texas and couldn’t help. The oil company chairman was frantic. Without the famous Red Adair they were in real trouble.

“Why not try Orange Adair?” Suggested the oilfield manager. The oil company chairman had never heard of him but as the flames grew higher and higher he thought, “Why not?”

Orange Adair was contacted and offered £1 million to do the job. Within a few hours the oil engineers were amazed and delighted to see a large air transport land in the desert. They gasped as the nose of the aircraft lifted up and a truck, with Orange Adair and his crew on board, hurtled out of the aircraft towards the fire. They watched in astonishment as the truck approached the wall of flames and disappeared into the heart of the blaze.

As they watched they could see Orange Adair and his men leaping about, jumping and stamping out the fire with their feet. Finally, coughing, singed and blackened they emerged from the smoke to the cheers of the incredulous admirers.

There was a large media presence at the scene and as Orange Adair staggered away from the charred embers a reporter asked him, “What will you do with the million pounds?”

“The first thing I’ll do,” coughed Orange Adair, “will be to get the brakes fixed in the truck.”

I first heard that joke years ago and only recently rediscovered it. The point I want to make is that we can never be sure that assumptions we make about somebody’s motivation are correct. Appearances can indeed be deceptive. Assumptions can be wrong. I have discovered through experience that it is usually better to ask than assume, even if the asking can sometimes seem awkward or clumsy. Jesus had the ability to know what people are thinking. Since I lack that ability (my mind-reading is an illusion) it is better for me to ask. That way if there is something I need to address I can do so and if there isn’t I can relax.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

to be read as a voice-over from a classic detective movie

Hot and Cold 2[Sounds of a city at night echo in the background. Gentle saxophone music drifts atmospherically. Cue voice over in phony American accent.]

My name is Nuke. Nuke Lear.

it was late in the evening and I was already in bed. It was pouring down outside. There was a tap on the door. I turned it off and it stopped pouring. As I went to the door my dog made a bolt for it.

“Clever pooch,” I said as I slid back the bolt.

I opened the door in my pyjamas. Funny place to have a door, I thought. Standing in front of me was a dame with legs that were just the right length to reach the ground. As I looked at them I noticed a ladder in her stockings.

“That must make walking difficult,” I said to myself.

She threw me a furtive glance. I caught it single-handed.

“Nice catch,” she said. “Nuke, I’d like you to look at my case.”

Looking at her I thought that it would not be an ordinary case. I was right. It was large, covered with fur, with purple spots.

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes at me. They were beautiful eyes. I picked them up and rolled them back. I asked her name.

“It’s not important.” She said. “I’ve come here to spill the beans.”

Before I could stop her she did. All over the carpet. What a mess. She had a funny look on her face. Maybe it was the red nose and clown make-up. She threw me another furtive glance. I hadn’t seen that one coming and it hit the side of my head.

“You have to help me, Nuke,” said Miss Not Important, “I’m being framed.”

It was a nice polished wooden frame with gold trim.

“Can you give me a name?” I asked, trying not to stare at the frame.

“What’s wrong with the one you’ve got?” she asked, looking puzzled. “The problem is my church!”

“What is it?” I asked anxiously.

“It’s a large Victorian building in the middle of Colchester, but that’s not important now,” she replied. “Surely you can help me.”

I smiled a reassuring smile. [Grimace]

“I think I can help you,” I said, “but please don’t call me Shirley.”

Miss Not Important told me that it was a problem of long-standing in her church.

“Are the pews that uncomfortable?” I asked.

“No, you don’t understand,” she said. “The church doesn’t take the ministers seriously.”

“Well, what can I do to help?” I asked, smiling another reassuring smile. [Worse grimace]

Then she said the words that have haunted me ever since.

“Nick, stop telling such awful jokes.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.