Wednesday, April 04, 2012

I'm on the train...

Let's pretend: you've phoned me, and I'm shouting so that perfect strangers can hear everything. As I type this, the girl next to me (whom I don't know from Eve) has just begun to speak, and has uttered the magic words:

I'm on the train.

Her life is unfolding for me to enjoy. I'm closing my ears and opening my heart to you instead. Maybe she'll log on later and read this. For all I know. A thousand of you a month do; that's more people than I send birthday cards to so one or two of you (perhaps the ones in North Korea) are unlikely to be people I know well.

Anyway. It's been a while, and stuff has been happening.

Firstly, I've been quiet politically & I've had complaints. All this pro-gay marriage stuff. I'm just selling the Coalition line. I'm told I wouldn't have been so generous if Gordon Brown had been behind it.

Well, that's true. But Gordon Brown would have done it all rather differently. And with such a sulky face.

The Coalition have been having a rough time of it; messing up tax benefits for charities, the elderly, everyone - except the wealthy. I don't mind that Dinner with Dave costs £250,000. You should see what I charge; I think he's underselling himself. I do mind that churches which rely on poor people to get by (and used to catch the odd break when repairing the roof) now simply have to ask poor people to give more. I do believe Honest Dave cares; but cutting that particular corner at the same time as cutting the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p felt awkward.

That tax break also feels awkward to all charities who rely on the occasional big donor. Rich people give big & reclaim tax on giving; it costs them more now to give, and that's a disincentive. Not very Big Society is it?

Yes, yes, we're all in it together. Top tax rate down from 50p to 45p; stamps up from 46p to 60p. Everyone suffers. Errr...

Dave does his best. You have to give it to him. No you have to; he's listening in on every conversation, apparently, or at least will be if he gets his way & then tries you secretly for what you said secretly. Still, on the whole, I'm happier with Dave listening in than Gordon Brown. Or Rupert Murdoch, who's been doing it for years. Allegedly. (For the benefit of Dave, and his horsey friends, just in case they number amongst the 973 people I don't know who read this.)

I'm still on the train. In Doncaster. It's the safest place to be. In Doncaster.

Keeping it political, it's been very exciting in my neck of the woods, I actually know someone in Gorgeous George's constituency of Bradford West. What a turn up for the books! Ed Miliband's party failed to do something that nobody could fail to do! (Miliband: the smallest unit of opposition; thanks to whomever spread that on Facebook.) Gorgeous George turned up, called Bradford 'Blackburn' (where I also know people, co-incidentally), smiled a lot, said the war in Iraq was terrible (so was the war in Crimea - and I think no-one is running on that one either any more) and won by a landslide.

Lesson: bi-elections are won by the politician who shakes the most hands, smiles the most, proclaims his/her love for peace the loudest, and is photographed the least with Ed Miliband or George Osborne. Knowing the name of your constituency is not essential. Especially if many of your constituents aren't sure either. Allegedly. (Again, for Dave. And anyone who may or may not ever have known anyone who may or may not ever have fed apples to a retired Metropolitan Police horse.)

In personal news - it's almost Easter, or as I would have called it last year, Holy Week. Not that that's a personal thing. Many people know this. That it's Holy Week, that is. Just not so many where I work. Certainly fewer than where I used to work. And I am about to not work at Easter for the first time in eighteen years.

Calverley Church had it's annual meeting last weekend, and it was well done & John (the vicar) spoke movingly. I thoroughly enjoyed not running it. Not preparing it. Not dealing with the three people who tell me how to do it better, and do so at great length.

I'm on the train - and as I sit here, counting my blessings and smiling at the public woes of others, I want to stop, to pull the safety cord and make everyone realise something.

Honest Dave is right.

We are all in this together. That girl whose conversation I tried not to listen to. The rich who might pay more tax. The poor who end up footing church & charity bills they can't afford. Honest Dave & Gorgeous George & even Gordon Brown. Not to mention unmentionable horsey people who may or may not have been in the employ of Australian media barons. The congregation at Calverley. Friends in Pontypridd. Those who know what Maundy Thursday is all about and those who wonder why a day of the week would get such a confusing name.

I am enjoying leading worship & preaching at Calverley - doing ministry without carrying responsibility. A great combination. And anyone who gets to do something without actually being responsible is easily and quickly critical of others. I'm on the train; I'm not driving it. I can speak to others. Write a blog. Watch the scenery. Complain about the speed.

It's so human.

Honest Dave is right.

And his Easter message may not be perfect theology, but a little pulling together, recognising our own humanity, our frailty and fallibility and ability to reach out and help and affect the people around us, has a massive potential. Easter is a time of death and resurrection. Dying to self & rising to Christ, dying to selfishness and rising to the glory of all that God has for us as we serve him in and through one another.

Perhaps the train might be Holy Week, and the destination the glory of all that lies ahead. And perhaps as I listen to my clever-cleverness I might let it go and aim for something better in what is to come. Dying to the cheap laugh and easy critical word. Rising to love.

I'm on the train; but I'm heading somewhere better.

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