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Resisting the Prowling Lion – Day 35

Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape

Day 35 – Monday in Holy Week

To Read:

From The Screwtape Letters:

Screwtape, a senior demon, is offering advice to Wormwood his nephew, an apprentice demon.  The language he uses is ‘upside down’ referring to God as ‘the Enemy’ and the devil as ‘Our Father Below’.


The Enemy loves platitudes.   Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous?   Is it prudent?   Is it possible?   Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time?   Is it progressive or reactionary?   Is this the way that History is going?’  They will neglect the relevant questions.   And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make.   As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on.   And great work has already been done.   Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent.   We have largely removed this knowledge.   For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant’.

Your affectionate uncle


To Reflect:

Political correctness can be a severe trial.  Though when it comes to presumptions about the way in which we view various groups of people in a diverse society it is helpful to be gently reminded that some languages and behaviours, which may be seen as in accordance with the general movement of our time are in fact fossils of past prejudice.  Some things are ‘past due’ to have been grown out of!

One thing that has saddened me more in modern political and community life, especially in the United Kingdom, is not so much political correctness but policies which are driven solely by Opinion Polls and the desire for re-election.  In public life with amazing, and saddening, regularity, policy, practice and the law of the land, changes in response to circumstances and the whim of the media barons instead of having a constant unchanging direction towards righteousness.  It seems as if we have government by those with most to profit from it, the wealthiest, and those who shout loudest…

But this is not simply a challenge for the public realm.  I remain ashamed of the many times I chose not to do what was ‘right’ because I wanted to do what was ‘popular’.  Something that beset my teenage-hood I had hoped that it would have burnt itself out now I am in my sixtieth decade, but sadly I still recognise within myself the temptation to ‘go with the flow’instead of build on the foundation which is Christ.

It happens in many ways.  The one I recognise most is the desire to use the non-committal phrase ‘it seems to me’ instead of the unchanging ‘I believe’.  There is also in me the tendency to nod and smile when someone says something which requires challenge but I simply can’t be bothered to speak and dismiss them as someone who will never change – which they never ever will if I continue to say nothing…

It is so tempting to leave myself a little ‘wiggle room’ to change my mind.

On the other hand I have lately found an advantage of aging in ministry.  I have received (in Church of England terms) probably all the preferment I am ever likely to have.  I am pretty sure a bishop’s mitre will never fit on my head and I really would look silly in an Archdeacon’s cope.  This means I can get on and do what God asks of me.  Having given my life away for God’s service nearly 40 years ago I find each day a new freedom to finally do what I set out to do.  So what is holding me back?  For that matter what is holding each of us back from that perfect submission we pledged when we first knew we were loved perfectly?

Maybe this Holy Week would be a good time to stop, take stock, and remind ourselves of some of the unchanging truths of God’s love?

To Do:

In the Passion according to John we hear Pilate ask What is Truth?’  When I first met it I was instantly attracted to The Four Way Test used by Rotary Clubs the world over.  A useful simple yardstick – the kind which upsets Screwtape – it shows us that there are some unchanging values in the world I reproduce it here.  

A rule to follow I hope it will help you live the core principles of the Gospel.

The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do

  1.      Is it the TRUTH?
  2.      Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3.      Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4.      Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

A Psalm To Ponder:


Refrain:        Hungry for mercy, thirsty for justice,  fierce is our cry: Put right what is wrong.

A child is murdered in the street, 

a widow is mugged for a meagre purse, 

a stone shatters the bedroom window 

of a couple whose skin is strange.

A violent spiral runs amok, 

and the powerless are the first to suffer.     Refrain:

Masked gunman, why do you kill?

Arrogant fool, why do you trample?

Drunken gang, why have your hearts 

become the very stones that you throw?

What is this rampaging spirit 

that sweeps the mob to such fury?     Refrain:

No wonder the widower weeps, 

no wonder the mother howls.

No wonder they shrink back in fear 

or cry, Revenge! through broken glass.

O God, stop these horrors of our every day, 

this wasteland of our killing fields.     Refrain:

How long will the ways of violence triumph?

How long will cruel words pierce the air?

How long will the arrogant boast of their conquests?

How long will prejudice keep us apart?

O God, do you not hear, do you not see?

Will you not chasten?  Where is your justice?     Refrain:

Arise, Judge of all the earth.

May your justice be seen to be done.

Lift the burdens of oppression, 

heal the crushed in mind and spirit, 

bind up the wounds of the injured, 

bend the necks that are stiffened with pride.     Refrain:

You know the thoughts of all our hearts, 

you know that each of us is no more than a breath.

Yet you will not cast us away people of the earth, 

you will not forsake those who you have created.

Justice will be seen to flourish again, 

vindicating those who are true of heart.     Refrain:

Take up the cause of the weak and the helpless, 

speak for those overpowered by words, 

bring to light the corruptions of justice, 

bind those who spread evil by means of the law, 

expose the conspiracies of silence, 

let not the innocent be condemned.     Refrain:

If you had not been our helper, 

we should have lost our way in the mists.

When our feet slipped on the narrow path 

you held us firm in your merciful strength.

In all the anxieties of our minds 

your peace steadied and calmed us.

In all the doubtings of our hearts 

your presence sustained and consoled us.     Refrain:

Humble those who work evil, 

silence those whose words weave corruption.

Gently withdraw the sting of their violence: 

with healing ointment may their poison dissolve.

Remove the power of those who wreak havoc, 

put them to tasks of service and care.     Refrain:

In your good time bring us face to face, 

oppressors and victims who often collude.

None of us has words of defence in your presence, 

we are silenced by the power of your truth and your love.

May the victims among us stretch out our hands 

to touch those who would now shrink away, 

gently to turn their faces towards us, 

that our eyes may fill with mercy and wonder.     Refrain:

So may we look with confidence towards you, 

loving God, so awesome in mercy,

fierce in compassion and judgment, 

yearning for reconciliation and peace, 

bearing the pain with a heartfelt cry, 

in which grief and joy become one.

Spirit of the living God, in communion with you and with the cries of those who suffer injustice, work in and through us new deeds of discerning wisdom and true judgment, that we may know among us the fulfilment of your promises, even the firstfruits of the reign of justice. AMEN. (Jim Cotter) 


Please Note:  These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin

If you would like them as a daily email please send a request to vicar@felixparish.com


Quotes from The Screwtape Letters are copyright © 1942 C.S. Lewis Pte

Prayers from Psalms for a Pilgrim People are copyright © 1989, 1991, 1993 Jim Cotter

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,  ‘Resisting the Prowling Lion’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023

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