Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 18 – Tuesday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Of the seven deacons of the early church, it is Stephen and Philip who garner the most ‘column centimetres’ in The Acts of the Apostles. Stephen for his martyrdom and Philip for bringing the gospel to Africa. Oh, and there is also his ability to move around rather quickly. This has led some to wonder if somewhere in Azotus, there lies the undiscovered remains of ‘The First Church of Philip the Flying Evangelist!’
Certainly this ability, suggests he went to a Palestinian campus of ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’. How else was he able to apparate without the presence of a nearby hearth and the liberal application of Floo Powder?
Occasionally, all right quite frequently, in my efforts to be faithful to the call of the Gospel I wish I had his ability. And if I can’t learn to apparate I would pay folding money for Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner so that I could be in two places at once and become a better vicar. However, if I did own one, I suspect, as Hermione found out, using a Time-Turner doesn’t make you a better anything; it just makes you more tired.
Looking long and hard at an always overflowing diary is a bittersweet experience. For the most part the busy-ness is good and godly and (I hope and pray) extends the reign of God in my parish and my life. But I also know that occasionally my diary becomes over-full because of my need to be needed. I somehow seem to think that the will of God cannot prosper unless I have added my ‘three ha’porth’ into the situation. This is proof that I still succumb to the deadly sin of Pride (and probably Envy and even Lust as well) and my faith is still about doing things ‘for God’ rather than realising that God has done everything ‘for me’.
This is one of the reasons why I look forward to this time of Lent. I have the perfect excuse to excuse myself from meetings and appointments at which I do no more than play the part of the fifth wheel. To be able to give apologies for a meeting because it is scheduled for, say, a Lent weekday evening is a precious gift, understood and accepted by others, and is a strategy that could be put to good use at other seasons of the year as well. Who knows perhaps one could even make a habit about not thinking you can be in two or three places at once?
I am notorious for arriving late at a meeting because of a previous engagement and then leaving early in time for a third appointment. The use of a Time-Turner, having the ability to apparate, or even being able to claim Floo Powder as an ‘expense of ministry’, is of no help for this condition. Running around trying to please everyone, but I suspect mostly ourselves, will not make me into a better vicar or any of us into better Christians, it just makes us more tired.
Recently I aimed to meet my Spiritual Director at a coffee shop near the breath-taking Orwell Bridge, she was late but it was a lovely day so I enjoyed the wait. After about half an hour I received a phone call from her wondering why I had not yet arrived for coffee overlooking the picturesque Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds… Realising that we were both attending the same appointment but in different venues, we then arranged to meet on another day in the same place. She finished the phone call with these words of wisdom, ‘Andrew, sometimes the best meetin is a missed meeting’. We went on to each enjoy the rest provided by our ‘missed meeting’ before getting back on to the treadmill of our diaries.
God’s purpose of reconciling the whole world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5.18) will continue with our without our presence. Yes, we are called to be co-workers in this joyful task but running around like Martha of Bethany who was ‘worried and distracted by many things (Luke 10.41) instead of choosing, like her sister Mary, to do ‘only one thing’ (Luke 10.42) in an effort to somehow supplant Jesus as The Saviour of the World only wears us out. If we continue to carry on like this we will damage the Gospel and make a shipwreck of our faith.
Eternal Lord God,
whose servants encounter many difficulties
and temptations in the course of their work,
sustain them in their vocation,
replenish them with the truth of the gospel
and keep them faithful in prayer.
Grant that in the issues of our day
they may lead with courage and wisdom.
Guide them by your Spirit in their ministry
to the diverse needs of your people,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Bishop Dinis Sengulane
Diocese of Lebombo, Mozambique
- Have a look at your diary and see which appointments you
should cancel or defer between now and Easter. This may even include something you have chosen to do for Lent. If it is only making you tired perhaps this Lent is not the best time to persevere with it.
- Occasionally it strengthens faith and grows humility to turn the Sermon on the Mount upside down and ‘hide our light under a bushel basket’ (Matthew 5.15). Without making a fuss try to not be the first to volunteer for the next new activity or event.
My friend Bishop Dinis Sengulane wrote today’s prayer. This video gives a glimpse into his work:
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