Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 30 – Tuesday after 5th Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! (Matthew 23.23-24)
I would just like to put it on record that I have nothing against biscuits in church. Especially digestive biscuits covered in dark chocolate. In fact my curate, because she cares deeply about the sustenance of her training incumbent, placed two on my table before yesterday’s Annual Meeting. Sadly, or perhaps not, the meeting proceeded so smoothly and quickly that I did not have the time to consume them. But worry not, that particular ‘sin of omission’ was repented of over afternoon coffee in the New Vicarage!
However I think even my caring curate would be concerned if the only thing about which I had any interest in church was stocktaking the parochial biscuit tin. She may not go as far as calling me a ‘blind guide’, after all she has to put up with me for at least two more years, but because she cares I suspect (I would expect even) that some words may be whispered into an archidiaconal ear.
All work, and no biscuits makes the church a dull place, but arguing over who ate the last Hob Nob whilst neglecting the care of the church fabric, the stewardship of its resources, or the health of relationships between its parishioners is devilish! When this happens we find that it is not only the scribes and Pharisees who have, ‘neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith’ but ourselves as well.
Of the three sins of omission that Jesus excuses his critics of the one that echoes most in my experience is the neglect of mercy by church members for others. It seems that, once secure in our own faith and salvation, it is easy to give in to the temptation to become the merciless judge of others. We need frequent reminders that;
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2.10)
Perhaps we focus on empty biscuit tins instead of ‘the weightier matters of the law’ because at least we can point the finger at serial biscuit-pilferers? (There is only ever one culprit in the Parish of Felixstowe and you may already have guessed his name).
Who do we blame and how do we cope with an infestation of death-watch beetle? When the church has been broken into and the Elizabethan church plate is being passed around amongst fine art ‘collectors’, what do we do with our victimhood? When we have not been caring enough about the needs of our sisters and brothers as an organist and a churchwarden, a vicar and a chorister leave without notice it is like a body blow to the Body of Christ? Give me problems with Custard Creams and Bourbon biscuits any day!
Amy Grant, regular readers will know her music has sustained me through 30 years in Holy Orders, speaks of how we can easily become ‘Fat Little Babies’ in the faith. We focus on petty things and sings of someone for whom the size of his King James Bible is the most important thing about his churchgoing, but ‘doctrine leaves him cold as ice’. Tackling the ‘weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith’ is hard work but it is what the Gospel is about and the preservation of our common life demands.
A surprising amount of growth happens in congregations and communities that have to ‘rally around’ to stop the roof from falling in. It is amazing how members learn about care of possessions and each other after a theft. And if you are blessed enough to be a community with ever open hearts (a former parish of mine was known as ‘the Elastoplast church’ – people came there to find healing) then, if an organist and a churchwarden, or a vicar and a chorister, need to move elsewhere they go with the blessing of those with whom they have worshipped and wept and grown in Christ.
I would just like to put it on record that I have nothing against biscuits in church… but they are never more important than the health of the Body of Christ.
O Great God and watcher of the people’s struggle,
O Lord, let every step follow the path you’ve made
till tomorrow’s light shall have dawned upon us all.
(Rodolfo Vera, Asian Institute of Liturgy and Music)
- Get involved in caring for the fabric or the fittings of your church.
- Be an ‘Elastoplast Christian’. Someone who looks at the health of other members of the Body of Christ around them and is always ready to offer healing for them.
Amy Grant’s song, ‘Fat Baby’ may be found here:
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Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
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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