the old joke I almost used on Sunday morning…*

golf holeA Minister decided he needed a day off (no, that’s not the joke). He woke up one morning, looked out on a beautiful day, and decided to play a round of golf (some of you are already at the punchline now). The only problem was that it was a Sunday.

He phoned his Church Secretary and pretended to have lost his voice. He croaked that he would not be able to take the service and received the sympathy of his Secretary. Then he put the phone down, picked up his clubs, put them in the car and joyfully drove off to the golf course.

Meanwhile, from above, two angels were watching. One, a novice, was seriously indignant: “Did you see that?” he blurted. “That Minister lied to his Church and is now off to play golf on a Sunday. We need to stop him!”

“Don’t worry,” said the other angel, a Wing Commander. “It will be sorted.”

The Minister arrived at the golf course and set himself up on the first tee. He swung at the ball, sliced it and it shot off to the right. It careened into a tree, rebounded onto the course and trundled happily up the fairway.

“Did you see that!” shouted the novice angel. “He lied to his Church, is playing golf on a Sunday, and now he’s hitting fluke shots.”

“Don’t worry,” said the Wing Commander. “It will be sorted.”

The Minister chipped onto the green and then sank a 15 foot putt for a birdie.

“Did you see that!” screamed the novice angel. “He lied to his Church, is playing golf on a Sunday, he’s hitting fluke shots and now he’s got a birdie!”

“Don’t worry,” said the Wing Commander. “It will be sorted.”

The next hole was a par three. The Minister lined up his tee shot, swung, and for once made a perfect connection. The ball sailed into the air, straight and true, and landed on the bottom tier of the green. It bounced a couple of times and then rolled up the slope towards the hole and stopped right on the very edge of the cup. Then, after a brief pause, the ball dropped into the hole for a hole in one.

“Did you see that!” fumed the novice angel, forgetting all about the serenity of heaven. “He lied to his Church, is playing golf on a Sunday, he’s hitting fluke shots to get a birdie, and now he’s hit a hole in one! He’s having the round of his life! He should not be getting away with this!”

“Don’t worry, it’s sorted” said the Wing Commander. “He may be having the round of his life, and he may have hit a hole in one, but who can he tell?”

Most of you got to the punch line well before you read it. And I get the feeling that this happens a lot with Christians. Not so much with jokes but with sermons and Bible Studies and the like. We know that the answer will be often one or more of ‘follow Jesus, share your faith, pray, and / or read the Bible’. That may be true at a superficial level, but in my experience it’s as I do those things that I find new experiences every time. Sometimes God takes the familiar things and applies them in new ways. Sometimes I need to be reminded about the familiar things and reapply them to my life. And then there are the ‘wow’ moments when I discover something new or am reminded of something I had forgotten.

If that joke was familiar to you the chances are you would not have remembered it until I told it. If it was new to you the chances are you would not have come across it anywhere else today. It may seem mundane to say ‘follow Jesus, share your faith, pray, and / or read the Bible’ but in doing those things we find the amazing, the exciting, the surprising.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*I decided against telling the joke on Sunday, but I like it so much that I thought you deserved to read it today!

the parable of the pray-ers

A man sat down to pray. He tried to imagine what God was like. He thought of God’s creativity: he considered the vastness of the Universe and the tiniest sub-atomic particles. He thought of God’s love: he considered Easter and what that says about the depth of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. He considered things what make God smile: a child learning to walk and an old man struggling to his feet to give his seat up on the tube for a pregnant woman. He pondered these and other things for a long time.

A woman got up in the morning. “Good morning Lord, what are we going to do today?” she asked as she hurried along the street to catch the bus to work.

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAA young child sat at the dinner table looking despondently at the broccoli and cabbage alongside a piece of pie. She did not like much on what was on her plate. She prayed with feeling: “For what we are about to receive may the Lord MAKE US truly thankful. Amen.”

A cleaner had been working all day in the hospital. She had cleaned thoroughly under beds, in hard-to-reach corners, on top of cabinets and in the less pleasant areas of the hospital. As she cleaned she hummed songs and hymns that she had sung in church recently.

A young woman was checking out websites of charities that were working with people who had suffered injustice. It moved her deeply to read of the plight of people who were trafficked, enslaved, kept in poverty, unable to express their beliefs and so much more. “Why do people do this to one another?” she thought.

A man was playing golf with his friends. He was not having a good day. His fourth golf ball seemed to be as repelled by the greens and attracted to the rough as his previous (lost) three. He smiled as finally he hit a shot that went straight and landed on the green. “Hallelujah!” he muttered just loud enough for his friends to hear.

A man wept.

A woman was in her own little world. It was not by choice. Her illness had robbed her of the ability to recall people, events, precious memories and so much more. Yet when she gathered with the others in the nursing home for their weekly ‘service’ she could recall and sing some of the hymns she had sung throughout her life and for a moment the veil was lifted.

Which of these was a proper prayer and which do you think was most effective? Which one did God hear?

If you feel that those are not valid questions, I agree with you. So how do you pray?

Be blessed, be a blessing