Category Archives: Philosophy

The Soft Power of Christ

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Whatever account one accepts about the birth of the infant Jesus, there is no doubt that he came into the world in the most humble of circumstances.

He lived in the  most humble of circumstances, first as a tradesman and then as an itinerant preacher.

He died in circumstances that were worse than humble and swiftly put away on the eve of a major religious festival, so that the embarrassing presence of a beaten and bloody corpse should not defile the festivities.

He never wielded any power that would have been recognised by any of his contemporaries. To them power took many forms, but all of them were coercive.

There was the Imperial power of Rome, the local power of the client King Herod, the religious power of the Sanhedrin, and not least the capricious power of the mob that could stone a woman for adultery whilst leaving the errant man unpunished.

The values of that society were replicated across the world. The power which ruled the world  was built upon violence.

Jesus changed that.

His power was founded on teaching, service and example.

He healed by forgiving sin. He embraced the leper. He lifted up the fallen woman,

He broke the heart of the centurion who crucified him, restoring him to wholeness so that he could be the first to recognise that here indeed was the son of God.

He broke the power of death by calling forth Lazarus, restoring Jairus’ daughter and overcoming the death by which which the powerful had sought to silence him

His teaching was never predicated upon violence, but pointed “The Way” accompanied by the simple injunction to “Go and do thou likewise.”

Soft power proved to be costly to those who exercised it, but it did not depend upon power from the top. On the contrary, the Church was really built by the 72, sent out on the road with the minimum of resources, but the maximum of faith;  that this was “The Way” things should be done. Christian communities have never been built to last without the soft power foundation of quiet Christ-like service.

There is only one difficult thing about the soft power of Christ.

There is no excuse for not exercising it. There is nobody who cannot reach out to another with an offer of a helping hand, a re-assuring word, or a prayer.

As we kneel in adoration this Christmas, let us pray that we shall be inspired by the soft power of Christ, to love as he loved us, and to do unto others as we would be done by.

Torture – what would you do?

Brother Ivo has lived a fairly broad life so, as the world considers the US Senate report on the interrogation of prisoners, you may not be entirely surprised to hear of a conversation he once had with a former work colleague who mentioned in casually that he had once electrically tortured someone.

Brother Ivo was young then, and even more idealistic, and was appropriately appalled. He could not but ask how this man, who he liked a lot, could do such a thing.

The story is short.

The  colleague had been employed as a colonial policeman in an outpost in Africa many years ago, when they captured a guerrilla fighter who had been working that night laying land mines. They had far too few men and resources to undertake a physical night search over a wide area. The guerrilla  had mines in his possession when caught so they had no doubt that lethal weaponry was out there somewhere targeting civilians.

The police station was equipped with an old telephone system,  and power was generated by a hand cranked generator which could deliver a powerful but not lethal charge. He had chosen to turn the handle and extracted the information.

The colleague then turned the tables on his interrogator.

“It is three in the morning, and the school buses hit the roads at 6 am. I had to make my decision: I turned the handle – what would you have done?”

That question has rested on Brother Ivo’s conscience ever since.

Would he have had the moral courage to stand by his principles, to look at the shattered bodies of children and into the eyes of grieving parents the following morning, knowing and perhaps explaining to them, “I might have stopped this, but chose not to”?

Alternatively would he have had a different type of courage, to have embraced the opprobrium of most right minded people and no small amount of self loathing, and inflicted the suffering on the would-be perpetrator so that the schoolchildren might live.

In either case, such problems rarely seem to present themselves at a time of quiet moral reflection with the academic support of expert moral philosophers on hand: like so many decision points, it came out of a clear blue sky, like a thief in the night.

Brother Ivo does not intend to answer that question today.

He recounts the story simply to act as a reference point for anyone thinking that they know what they would do in such extreme cases.

The truly fortunate never have to answer such questions. Many of us will offer an opinion over the news story as it unfolds, but whatever decision we think we might take, let us retain a degree of compassion for all and any for whom these questions are not matters of idle or academic interest only.

Prayer would not come amiss of both gratitude and intercession. as the Christas song agonisingly cries “Thank God its them instead of you”.

How to say ‘Sorry”

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There is much talk in the public domain about the nature, need and occasion for an apology, and beneath the discussion are a variety of questions.

When is one needed?

Is there a best time and place for it ?

Does it have to be a “public apology” just because it involves a public figure?

 Do we the public have the right not to accept an apology if the injured party does?

Is it moral to force an apology upon someone whose wrongdoing is neither admitted nor  proven?

If given, should the victim accept it uncritically ?

How does one discern a sincere apology from part of a “reputation management strategy”?

Can one offer an apology for something for which one did not – and could not – have had any personal responsibility?

It has all become very confused and overly complex, so Brother Ivo thought it might be helpful to the public debate if he tried to illustrate a successful confession and apology and thereby  grounds the public consideration of the problem, by considering  one of the Anglican Church’s historic Confessions which stands in the form of an apology to our Maker.

This is an apology which has stood the test of time and helped many a wrongdoer make his or her peace, so it seems a useful starting point for anyone before they begin to struggle with what is happening in the confused world of the un-churched, where there is little familiarity with how this kind of thing works.

First let us remind ourselves that one of the popular expressions we use for accepting responsibility is ” holding our hands up” – which is why Brother Ivo chose the above illustration.

It is a good starting point, for saying sorry begins nowhere if not in the placing of oneself in another’s power and in a position of vulnerability by abandoning bogus defences.

So we Anglican say –

 Almighty and most merciful Father,

We begin with clarity, identifying precisely to whom our confession and apology is directed. Unless we are plain about the person to whom our apology is aimed it will become at best diffuse and at worst self-referential.

“we have wandered and strayed from your ways  like lost sheep”

At first sight, this may look like a charming remnant of an anachronistic farming community, but whilst it may indeed have such an origin, its imagery is very pertinent to the process of apology.

Brother Ivo recalls hearing a shepherd once describing his sheep as the animals with the most highly developed death wish of any of God’s creatures. Leave a fence un-mended on a cliff top and they will find it. Pasture them by a torrential river and they will fall in. An unerring sense of imprudent behaviour is something we and sheep appear to have in common.

This portion of the confession and apology addresses an important recognition of what it is to be a fallible human being. We are wayward, we are both willful to have our own ways and thoughtless of the consequences, to ourselves and others.

    We have followed too much the devices and desires  of our own hearts.

Our apology places the responsibility firmly upon ourselves; there is no room for “ the big girls made me do it” or “I am a victim too”.

The striking phrase “devices and desires” is worth a moment’s reflection.

To the Christian, every act for which we owe an apology, has an element of pride within it. We have elevated our judgement and needs above those of God, our community or the person/s we have wronged. Plainly our ‘desires” will have been prioritised, but what are these “devices”?

If we are to apologise and mend our ways effectively we need to identify how it was that we came to be in the mess in which we find ourselves. Part of our vulnerability is surely that we develop little mindsets, tricks which help us to step away from the standards we profess. Amongst these might be “ Nobody will ever know”, “I deserve this” or “s/he put temptation in my way”.

They are usually an expression of pride – Lucifer’s besetting sin – and this is rooted in the idea that the rules are for others and not at all applicable to people of our circumstance or  importance.

All the time those “devices” are left unaddressed, progress cannot be made, which is why forcing an apology upon a person, whether by carrot or stick, will never result in a lasting improvement. Only when we have seriously reflected upon how we got into the mess will we learn anything of lasting value. We have to identify not only the result, but  also  the mechanisms by which we kidded ourselves that we could get away with it unscathed. Identifying ” the devices” is of no small importance.

We have offended against your holy laws.

We have left undone those things

    that we ought to have done; 

and we have done those things

    that we ought not to have done;

A Christian confession /apology is nothing if not comprehensive. It has the singular advantage of starting with absolute clarity. That which God find’s displeasing is to be repented.

There is so room for moral relativism here, there is “no hiding place”. Whilst that may seem daunting to the unbeliever, it does have the real merit of making clear to the believer that there truly is no point in trying to deceive either the Almighty or oneself. We are where we are – so we might as well deal with it!

So it is,  that we are invited to call to mind not only the sins of commission ( what we did wrong) but also the sins of omission (where we failed to do the good that is also required of us in the Christian life).

When one hears of public figures struggling over the terms of an apology, the likelihood is that they are equivocating in a way that this famous confession does not allow.

The contemplation of these words will swiftly take one to the heart of one’s guilty conscience but whilst that is an uncomfortable journey , the conclusion is  both plain – and healing.

 and there is no health in us.

We pronounce judgement upon ourselves. It is the best starting position if we are to restore ourselves to moral health and self respect. Sometimes one has to hit rock bottom before taking the road to recovery. From hereon, things can only get better.

But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us sinners.

For the first time the words could be ambiguous, but not in an unhelpful way.

Read one way, it reminds God of His nature and His promise to always have mercy on those who are truly repentant; it opens the dialogue by inviting God’s unfailing love and grace. At the same time, is serves as a reminder to us of God’s forgiving nature. That’s what he does, – He has “mercy upon us sinners” – which is precisely he sent Jesus. Through our contrition Jesus stands as the open door to forgiveness and restoration.

This may be the tricky part for the secular person following our Christian methodology. You have to place yourselves entirely in the hands  and under the mercy of those whom one has wronged. The hands must be held up and the vulnerability to judgement embraced.

The Christian has the sure and confident knowledge of the outcome to an apology sincerely expressed, but unfortunately there is no such guarantee in the secular sphere. That may be why we see more equivocation outside churches than within them.

Yet have not great sinners found amazing grace in their victims? Have not murderers found understanding in the responses of their victims families? Those who engaged in fierce war reconcile, those who contended politically, smile in old age at the arrogance of their youth.

If you have done wrong and should say sorry, then you simply have to take the risk. It is easier to understand that if one has been habituated to the process through regular worship.

Spare those who confess their faults.

Restore those who are penitent,

At this point we begin to think of ourselves; this is the plea in mitigation. Although we may not be the faithful nation we once were, there is still probably enough Christian residue within the culture to apply a degree of social pressure upon one receiving a full and unqualified apology to urge them to respond appropriately with grace. In another prayer, with which most are still familiar,  we are called to  “ Forgive us our trespasses , as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

The imperative to accept a sincere apology is strong even in the world of the unbeliever.

Of course sometimes a wrong is so so deep, so devastating that we can understand if a forgiving response by a human is not or cannot be immediately forthcoming, but there is no better hope for the contrite than to make the plea unreservedly and leave it there.

    according to your promises declared to mankind

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here the faithful Christian has the advantage.

The Christ who forgave those who nailed Him to the Cross has “form” when it comes to forgiveness, so we enjoy a privileged position where claiming forgiveness is concerned.

Yet the corollary of this is sincere repentance in the first place. The internal formulation of repentance and apology is intended to be part of a process and not an isolated event. Through it, we improve our personal awareness, and by knowing ourselves better, and improving our moral performance we play our part in restoring the health of the relationship which was fractured by our initial wrongdoing.

And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,

That we may live a disciplined righteous and Godly Life

to the Glory of Your Holy name


AMEN

Having passed through the process of confession and having offered our apology, we dare to hope.

Part of that hope is  that having been through the process of confession and forgiveness, we shall not immediately repeat the offence,  but too ready an assumption that we shall succeed, would be to fall back into the pride at the root of the problem in the first place.

We do ourselves no harm by reminding ourselves that bad actions usually arise out of bad habits, bad attitudes and ill discipline A more ready awareness of the presence of God in every part of our lives will plainly help us to avoid the worst aspects of our nature, but having confessed, apologised, and secured absolution, the Christian should be painfully aware that s/he needs to undertake this process of life reflection again  – soon – and so a form of confession is to be found at the heart of all the principle services throughout the wider Church.

Daly Brother Ivo does not expect all this to be necessarily accepted on a theological level by all readers, but he hopes that explaining how we sinners in the Church manage our frailties, he offers a helpful template by which others will make a better job of that most difficult of tasks, that of holding one’s hands up and sincerely saying “I’m sorry”

 

 

In praise of “tolerance” – Every “Big Tent” needs a porch

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For some reason which is unclear to Brother Ivo, Pink News recently carried a ”story”  about a somewhat uninhibited UKIP Councillor who had used his Facebook account in a rather florid “stream of conscious” fashion. It was not quiet as startling as some of the Parliamentarians exposed by Guido Fawkes last year, but nevertheless Councillor Sam Fletcher was offering “too much information” about his private life which would not not win him too many plaudits within the orthodox Christian community. That is probably not the reason Pink News ran the story.

It really is not terribly shocking or new. Cllr Fletcher confesses himself baffled by same sex attraction, and rather oddly likened his current thinking to his former regard for mushrooms which he formerly could not abide, but can cope with now.

No doubt he might have expressed himself more wisely, yet the report resulted in much criticism on social media for his less than wholehearted enthusiasm for such “alternative” lifestyles.

His political affiliation is surely irrelevant. There will be orthodox Muslims, Jews and Christians in every political party who still hold to traditional teachings upon such matters who have nevertheless accepted societal and legislative change in the secular spheres. Cllr Fletcher may or may not be good at representing his ward members, but his views in such matters ought not to reflect in any meaningful sense upon the reputation of the party to which he and others who think like him belong.

All parties in this regard are ethical and theological coalitions – rather like the C of E , you might say.

It was not this that caught Brother Ivo’s attention.

What interested him was criticism of his expression that he “tolerated” gay people.

This is a recurring problem in this and other matters, for in the world of the politically correct, expressing “toleration” is regarded as just the right side of rabid persecution. To “tolerate” is no longer a respectable liberal position in a society where the personal is political and all views accorded equal respect -except the views of the non-progressive.

As the truly liberal and tolerant comedian Lenny Bruce once said, “Liberals can understand anything, except people who can’t understand them”.

Yet tolerance was once an important traditional liberal virtue, and Brother Ivo sorrows that it is ceasing to be so. We need our liberal friends to restore the value of toleration to its proper place in the Progressive pantheon which, to their credit, they helped to create.

Brother Ivo remains proud to proclaim his attachment to it:  tolerance allows him to engage with intellectual opponents whilst refining the discussion and narrowing the ground that stands between his position and theirs. Tolerance is an essential component to anything approaching a truly diverse community, for it rejects uniformity and acts as a buffer between those who might otherwise fall into the acrimony of small difference.

One only has to look to the countries and societies which have not learnt, and do not attempt tolerance to see what a God send it is.  One can choose so many bad examples of societies which lack this cardinal virtue. Even in our Churches there is intolerance between those who agree on the entire contents of the Creeds but find other points of highly specific but principled difference over which to obsess.

Saint Paul had to exercise tolerance as he engaged in dialogue with the Athenians over the altar to the “Unknown God”. He exercised less when he disputed with St Peter on the importance of circumcision. He was not at his best during that particular exchange, and one suspects that he knew it.

In the secular field, we need to win the battle anew to make tolerance a central social value once more. We must learn to live peaceably in civil society with those with whom we are in disagreement. One can disagree yet still like one’s opponent yet a lack of tolerance renders this virtually impossible and with that, any hope of resolution of difference goes. Without tolerance the only resolution is conquest and oppression.

In this regard, Brother Ivo would pray in aid the example of the Church porch, which architecturally expresses  a very real theological idea which is largely lost in a religiously illiterate age.

When a candidate for Baptism arrived at a Church in bygone times, the service might begin in the porch. The physical space stood neither wholly within, nor wholly outside the Church. It reflected the theological state of the candidate at the start of the service. In a similar way, anyone might stand in that space observing what was happening without total engagement, until they were ready to seek complete fellowship with what was happening inside.

A few years ago, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair described their political projects in term of a ” Big Tent” which contained many strains of opinion without close ideological agreement.

It is still an ambition of our political class.

If one is to have any hope of creating such a foretaste of heaven,  a lot of PC folk like those at Pink News might do well to brush up on their Church architecture and apply the lessons.

So today, Brother Ivo invites the religious illiterate to consider the meaning of the Church porch which physically offers and embodies shelter and invitation, engagement and practicality. Those who planned the structure had to think about and made it at a cost. The same is true of tolerance.

Disparate peoples and cultures cannot just be thrown together and expected to gel into a cohesive group. Those possessed of deep strong opinion will not surrender themselves and their traditions to insult ridicule or coercion. If people are to be enticed into harmonious relations it has to be by a process more akin to seduction rather than confrontation.

So to those who espouse the rhetoric of the diverse multi-cultural-society “Big Tent”,  Brother Ivo offers a word of advice.

Erect your “Big Tent” by all means, put up the posters expounding its virtues, by all means, stitch into its walls a pink panel for the gay, bisexual and transgendered, a Yellow and white one for the Catholic, green ones of varying hue for the many strains of Islam, find colours  for the atheist, vegan and Scientologist but do make sure that your Big Tent has porches -several of them, all of them large and capacious, for Brother Ivo senses that folks will need to spend many hours in the porches of tolerance before they decide whether to enter the main event.

You may plan to get everyone singing Kum Ba Yah from the same song sheet, but it make sense to offer folks a practice space first, to iron out the disharmonies.

Leigh Church Porch blog

Thomas Becket and Human Rights

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On this day in 1170 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four knights who clearly understood that they were following the wishes of the King.

It is unlikely that if/when Henry II uttered the sentiments, if not the words ” Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest”, he was knowingly following the modern spin doctor’s strategy of building into his words “plausible deniability”.

Nevertheless, thanks to the ambiguity of his expression of displeasure, after the killing he was able to proceed to the next step in modern day “reputation management”.

He undertook penance in a public form after Thomas had been canonised, which was the rather more arduous medieval equivalent of spending an hour on the sofa with Oprah, having accepted the advice of highly paid professionals that he had acted through medical “anger issues” for which he bore no personal responsibility. The medievals plainly  understood repentance better than we do.

Henry thus survived the Europe wide opprobrium for killing a churchman, especially one who had by then become a saint. Within a relatively short period, King and Church were reconciled.

Henry left us  an important legacy in the legal and administrative systems which he had necessarily reformed as he constructed an Angevin Empire which stretched from the Pyranees to the Scottish border. Faced with a wide variety of local customs, authorities and jurisdictions he needed to draw them together to facilitate his exercise of royal power, and his model of Administration and Court structures lasted well into the 20th century.

Thomas for his part, also had a long and continuing legacy.

He had not been especially loved in life, partly because he had been the King’s Chancellor and ally in exacting taxes to support the conquests and reforms which Henry planned. Yet he was canonised within three years of his death and his tomb soon became the premier pilgrimage site in England, drawing pilgrims from across the kingdom and beyond. As such, it became a major economic asset to the city of Canterbury and the stop over towns on the way.

So much for the history. The aspect that intrigues Brother Ivo however, is the modern resonances of the dispute itself.

Although he became The Lord Chancellor, Thomas had not had the opportunity to study to become  a lawyer from the start of his career. It was not until he entered the household of the then Archbishop of Canterbury Theobald of Bec, that he was sent to study law at the University of Bologna which may have unwittingly been responsible for setting him on his collision course with the King.

In Bologna, the not infrequent tensions between town and gown, which characterised many other later university cities, had resulted in an accommodation between the Church and the civil authorities, with the latter agreeing to hand over the disciplining of the student clerics to the ecclesiastical authorities.

It is hard not to see the study of law under such a regime of clerical immunity as significant.

Equally, an aggressively ambitious king building an empire, and necessarily integrating disparate legal jurisdictions under his unifying power, was always likely to resist any continental inspired claims for such an exception to his integrating plans.

Of course, Brother Ivo is fully aware that Henry was himself “continental” yet it is not overly fanciful to see in this tragic conflict between old friends, something of the current antipathy between UKIP and the Europhiles. This King, pre-dating a subsequent namesake, was asserting his secular independence against a transnational ecclesiastical power which saw itself as the senior partner in a partnership of authority under God.

The essence underlying that dispute was that of sovereignty and we are again passing through a time of contention over the same issues.

The former Lord Chief Justice, Sir Igor Judge, has recently spoken out on the modern incarnation of the same old problem.

In restrained respectful but unequivocal terms reported in the Daily Telegraph, he identified that once again there is a conflict of sovereignty. Yet if anything, the modern dispute is even sharper. At least in the case of Archbishop and King, each saw himself as accountable to God, to whom, ultimately  account must be given for the exercise of his talents.

In the modern secular incarnation of this rivalry, Sir Igor sees that “the European Court of Human Rights in its present form is not answerable to anyone” and raised concern that any judges however distinguished – “should have that sort of power.”

He explored this theme in the context of the controversy of prisoner voting rights, and yet anyone who has studied either the English or the American Civil Wars will know that there is a distinction between the occasion for a war, the ostensible casus belli, and the underlying issues which always lie deeper and in the realm of underlying principle. 

The problem which confronts our modern politicians is no different to that faced by Henry II or indeed St Thomas himself. Each knew, as Jesus taught beforehand, that no one cannot serve two masters ( Matthew Chapter 6 verse 24). They may finesse, compromise or prevaricate but at some point, not necessarily of their choosing, the tension will be broken and the battle for supremacy will be resolved, even if it should be followed by much subsequent regret and unexpected, unwanted, consequences. 

Yet the irony behind this constitutional crisis in waiting is identified by Sir Igor himself. The whole edifice of the European Court of Human Rights was “was largely written by British lawyers for a war-torn, concentration camp filled continent.” 

It may have been part of “victor’s justice” but it was the justice of the morally superior. It may offend many today to speak in such terms, yet it is the truth. 

It makes it all the more galling to have the judgements of a mature judicial system subjected to what one Court insider described to the Telegraph: ” Some European judges are little more than “activists” and are unqualified for the task ….. We know that around half the Strasbourg judges had no judicial experience before going to the court, which means it’s no surprise they go off on judicial frolics of their own.”

Beyond that irony lies another. The present understanding of Human Rights was never conceived within the earlier Christian philosophy of Natural Law, but rather with reference to the abstract reasoning of the “Enlightenment”. Like Henry II reforming his legal system anew, the old forms which had evolved organically were swept aside, and this time the values were conceived “rationally” with no intention to honour or acknowledge the authority of God. 

Yet why was this necessary? 

When Brother Ivo described the World War II victors as ” morally superior” he specifically had in mind that the beaten philosophy of Fascism, like the leter beaten philosophy of Marxism, was founded upon the Enlightenment ideal of remaking humanity in the absence of God. 

One does not have to be terribly religious to have observed that when Man attempts to remake himself in an image of his own devising, he does not make a very good job of it. He is no more successful when, through excessive regard for his own design capabilities, he attempts to remake laws.

The attempt to codify a man made collection of overarching principles of Justice in a pompously self-regarding ” Universal Declaration”, arose within a Europe which lay in ruins thanks to the ambitions of ” rationalists”. Europe had been rescued largely through the moral values of the God- fearing heirs of both Thomas and Henry. They never really forgave us for holding to those truths.

As a new Europe was constructed out of the ruins, its Legal system was built under the authority of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a European Convention with which to give them expression. They could exclude considerations of faith from the edifice, but not the foundations. 

The reason we need such overarching principles is often overlooked, but Henry and Thomas knew and understood it perfectly. Thomas paid for it with his life and Henry through his public penance, for what is the reason that we need such a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”?

Isn’t that reason nothing other than a simple recognition of original sin? 

The Declaration and Convention represent nothing if not a rejection of the Enlightenment notion of the perfectability of Man, without the need for redemption. 

In the United Kingdom, we built our Constitution by embodying Church and State in the person of Her Majesty the Queen, who remains in no doubt that she holds both responsibility under the authority of the Almighty.

We should be slow to give up the best of both worlds. 

 

Briefly speaking……

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At Christmas, Brother Ivo was given a small book of 10 second sermons written by the comedian Milton Jones, for whose off beat humour he has a soft spot. The title of the book is in fact “Even more 10 second sermons”, so there is evidently an earlier offering to enjoy.

Many of these truly “mini-sermons” are thought provoking yet profound in their brevity.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote – “ I am writing you a long letter because I haven’t got time to write you a short one.” Distilling one’s thoughts into a few words is an art, and a very important one. Many a preacher could usefully resolve to adopt its mastery as a New Years Resolution. 

There might even be a TV reality show in there somewhere. “ How succinct is your Priest?”

Congregations could call in Milton Jones to critique and instruct loquacious Ministers, leading to the ultimate acclamation at the end of the Service, as the grateful  Congregation’s rises as one in a prolonged standing ovation.

It is one of the merits of twitter that it compels one to think clearly and concisely, and Mr Jones has a facility for practicing what he preaches.

In the briefest of books he manages to offer sermons on all the main concerns of religious folk including,  Faith, God ,Heaven, Judgement, Prayer and many other important topics. As with any sermon, even where he advances a contentious idea, he provokes a worthwhile reaction. It makes you think.

With such a mercifully short work, Brother must not plagiarise or harm sales by quoting extensively, though it is very tempting to do so.

There!

Through this slight volume, Brother Ivo has been made a more considerate fellow already, and he has not yet finished reading  the entire book!

By way of encouragement to buy (for which there is no commission received) Brother Ivo commends two observations.

“Praying seems to be like trying to undo a knot. You never quite know what’s going to work, its just important to keep going. Also, best check what you’re trying to undo isn’t holding up something else that’s important”.

“Coming from a Christian home is like receiving the antidote to a poison on your first birthday. You can’t fully appreciate its worth until you’ve seen the effects of the poison at first hand.”

Having seen the effects of such a poison within many families, that observation lands with particular impact on this reader in particular, Every sermon will be read, heard,  or considered through the prism of one’s individual experience, but the shorter the message the harder it is to misunderstand or impose one’s own gloss .

There is much other wisdom like these and one cannot help but suspect that behind the comic mask is a serious mind. He may not thank us for saying so.

It the very clarity of the thought which is its principle value. There is much else that Brother Ivo would love to quote, commend, explore and expand upon, but that would not be fair to the time that Mr Jones has put into his reflections, so do just buy it and read it for yourselves.

It will not take long, but it may have a longer lasting effect than you appreciate.