Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 25 – Wednesday after 4th Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5.12)
Give me that ‘Old Time Religion’! Why can’t we, instead of trying to be relevant, informed, contemporary, modern, down-with-the-kids, overflowing with ‘Fresh Expressions’, simply settle for the service straight from the Book of Common Prayer? Surely, if it was good enough for the Apostle Paul it should be good enough for the Church of England! I am tired of being dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th, I mean 21st Century J
There is much that is good and wholesome and helpful about a ‘simple religion’ where you don’t have worries about saying ‘thee and thine’ instead of ‘you and yours’ and you do not find your tongue following your memory and getting the words for the Lord’s Prayer wrong again. When did religion become so complicated? What is wrong with letting our ‘Yes’ be yes and our ‘No’ be no? Little wonder that more experienced Christians – we are not elderly we have just been young for a very long time – appear to be congenitally grumpy.
What is it with so many pieces of paper in church? And even if the vicar has done her work and produced a complete liturgy (including lections) for the service you can guarantee that someone will slip you an advert for a concert, an appeal for the local dogs home (or other deserving cause) and a Gift Aid envelope to make your journey to the pew an exercise in digesting information instead of simple preparation for worship. By the way I understand that belonging to a church that uses projector screens for the words for worship does not, contrary to expectation relieve us of the apparent duty of sacrificing at least one tree for every act of worship.
Why is this? Why can’t we learn to ‘live simply that others may simply live?’ Why do church leaders – and I ask this as someone who makes a point of having the first word every Sunday even if I am not leading the service – insist on being noticed in the ‘notices’?
Surely our faith is simpler than this? Surely the Gospel does need so much information and explanation to get the message across? In the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles thousands at a time chose to follow the Way of the Lord and gave all that they had to the most needy, and that without a pewsheet, invitation to a study course, or leaflet from the Children’s Society/Christian Aid/Mission to Seafarers in sight. We seem to have taken the simple Gospel of ‘Go, sell, give, follow’ (Mark 10.21) and handed it over to marketing gurus instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to do her gentle work of conviction to lead us into all truth (John 16.1-15).
Perhaps one of the reasons why we need so many pieces of paper in our hands when we gather for worship is that we want our attention to distracted? Like Martha in her kitchen at Bethany we ‘are worried and distracted by many things’ (Luke 10.42) and find it difficult to sit at Our Beloved’s feet like our sister Mary and drink in His message of love for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Sometimes, I think we hold on to pieces of paper, be they a favourite old Prayer Book, the latest liturgy from Church House, or worship song from Spring Harvest, because we are frightened of holding on to Him. I know I am frightened of the loving gaze of The One Who Loves us Best. I know if I for one minute I let go of all the minutiae with which I surround myself I am lost in love forever. I long to be consumed by God’s love but it frightens me. I know it will cost me everything, and am willing to pay that price, but when I come to the brink of surrender I hold on to ‘The service begins on page 104 and the Lord’s Prayer is found on page 127’ instead of taking a leap of faith.
I know the deep truth of John Donne’s famous Holy Sonnet:
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. (Holy Sonnet 14)
With every fibre of my being I cry out ‘Come, Lord Jesus’, yet Sunday by Sunday I go home grasping hold of the pew leaflet instead of this precious eternal life-giving love.
In the end it is all about control. Deciding who has first call on my life is a daily question that I do not want to answer and so I choose diversionary tactics, even if I am irritated by a plethora of service sheets, hand bills, and giving envelopes, I can pretend that I am safe there and can tell Jesus I am busy.
Sad really, as all it means is that I find myself, yet again, one Sunday further away from the love of my life…
May the power of your love, Lord Christ,
fiery and sweet as honey,
so absorb our hearts
as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven.
Grant that we may be ready
to die for love of your love,
as you died for love of our love. (Francis of Assisi)
- Try to not read any of the information or handbills you are given on entering church until the end of the service. Put your mind on worship first, after which everything else may more easily fall in place.
- Spend a time in quiet prayer giving over at least one of the things that stop you from being focussed on God in worship -rotas, notices, church busy-ness. When that prayer has been answered go back and give up more…
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017