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Showing posts from July, 2014

Have you understood all this?

I don't really think that this Sunday's Gospel reading (Mt 13) is a verbatim report of an actual conversation between Our Lord and His disciples, but I still love their reply. Jesus tells them what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, namely: a mustard seed, yeast, treasure hidden in a field and a merchant seeking fine pearls. ‘Have you understood all this?’ he asks, and the disciples answer, as though it were the easiest thing in the world: ‘Yes.’ So the story goes. 
But we know, in hindsight, that the disciples really did not understand what the Kingdom was all about. The Gospels are, among other things, a record of the failure of the disciples to understand what Jesus what saying. So it was that they abandoned Him when it came to the crucial moment. 
The Collect for this Sunday, it seems to me, considers well this biblically warranted limitation of our abilities: "Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding." The Kingd…

The BBC and women bishops

Radio 4 gives much to enjoy, but it can sometimes be bad for my blood pressure: not least when it betrays the Beeb's wilful ignorance of anything to do with Christianity. The standard of its religious reporting is wretchedly simplistic, and makes me wonder how far they dumb down the rest of our news. This morning, the Today programme proclaimed that the Church of England is "banishing the Devil" from its "Christening ceremony." Once again, the feckless C of E kowtows to secular modernity. Never mind the fact that we offer the sacrament of Baptism, and not "Christening ceremonies," whatever they are; nor that the Church has simply approved one new optional liturgy which does not mention the Devil in addition to the existing ones which all do; nor that the Book of Common Prayer in its 1662 manifestation remains the normative standard of our liturgy and doctrine, in which the Devil is most vehemently and explicitly rejected. No, forget all that: the add…

St Augustine on those who call themselves Christian

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the church are our brothers
We entreat you, brothers, as earnestly as we are able, to have charity, not only for one another, but also for those who are outside the Church. Of these some are still pagans, who have not yet made an act of faith in Christ. Others are separated, insofar as they are joined with us in professing faith in Christ, our head, but are yet divided from the unity of his body. My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers; and they will only cease to be so when they no longer say our Father.      The prophet refers to some men saying: When they say to you: You are not our brothers, you are to tell them: You are our brothers. Consider whom he intended by these words. Were they the pagans? Hardly; for nowhere either in Scripture or in our traditional manner of speaking do we find them called our brothers. Nor could it refer to the Jews, who do not be…

Trinity 3: Which seed will you sow?

Do you ever get out of bed a bit late? Set the alarm to sleep for just another ten little minutes? And then, when it rings, maybe another ten after that? And then you get up, ten or twenty minutes late, and you have to rush to get in the shower, get dressed, scoff down some breakfast if you've got time, do your teeth, and maybe your husband or wife or one of the kids tries to engage you in a bit of conversation, but you haven't got time, and while you're smiling, you're gritting your teeth and thinking you just need to get out of there and into the car and get to work, and actually your wife can tell, and that winds her up. You get into the car and because you're running late - just ten little minutes late - you speed, and when you get stopped at the lights (how long is this going to take?) you can feel the blood pressure rising. Then you're waiting at the roundabout and someone pulls into the next turning without signalling, and you could have gone then but n…

Too Clever by Half

"Don't be clever, boy."
"Yes, sir. How stupid do you want me to be?"
A young and precocious Stephen Fry understandably got himself into a bit of trouble for the above exchange.
He must have been infuriating to teach, but his question does make a fair point as it strikes against the anti-intellectualism of English institutions. I heard a French politician being interrogated by Jim Naughtie earlier this week, and was much impressed by the forthright rebuttals he parried with in crisp, concise English. Far better, I thought, than the grunting obfuscations of so many of our own political class, eager as they are to say nothing and to do so in a register they condescendingly suppose will mollify the common man. The last thing they want to be accused of is sounding posh, and the close runner up is sounding "too clever by half," that peculiarly English complaint. Those few among them who are not worried about either of these things are refresh…