I heard a saying a while ago. It made me chuckle: “Careful now – your bitch is showing.”
This to someone who was complaining in a rather personal manner about something. I have done it, even you may have done it. Your bitchiness is showing. What a concise few words saying so much so gently. That phrase came to mind as I landed in Matthew 23 this morning. The chapter of verbal flagellation for the Pharisees and scribes and teachers of the law. Or as the bible editors helpfully add: “A Warning Against Hypocrisy” and “Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees”
(I was having a conversation the other day when words like that were sprinkled around: “I landed in Matthew 23 this morning” – which assumes we all know the bible off by heart. I don’t. I hope I never do. I hope I never get to the point of “Oh yes – that old verse, passage, story, ,,,,” I hope and pray – thus far delivered with enthusiasm by my Lord – that I always stay with “Oh my … that is something I never knew before …”)
Anyway … so in the midst of all this lashing of the establishment, that phrase came to mind: Careful now Jesus – your bitch is showing.
For it is a carefully constructed piece of drama really: “Woe to you …” repeated seven times over. Seven is a special number in the bible. Seventy times seven gets some airplay as well. Seven is how long it took for a bit of creation. I don’t know if the word “a week” had been coined in those days. But seven (and its variants) get a mention 518 times in the bible. Woe to you seven times over.
And in the middle of all this bitching and seven and noise of the market place, the crowds, ordinary people going about their business in the heat and dust – I heard a whisper: “Careful Jesus – your God is showing”
Now showing my bitch is one thing. I get that. But Jesus showing His God? Now just what does that mean?
”Paul, you recite “the answer is always love, now what’s the question?” with a confidence bordering on complacency. You have this picture of “love” as an all encompassing all connecting all infilling overwhelming overpowering underrated undefeated universal omniversal honey pot. Well … let’s not split hairs here. The precision of “love” matters not. What matters is this:
See the Amazon? See the deforestation? See the swathes of ancient forest being felled forever? See the effect that has on our bucket of dirt? See the arguments for and against? See the hypocrisy on display by all sides? You know those initials NIMBY – not in my back yard? How did NIMBY become NIYBY – not in your back yard? See your green and fair England? Read the history. Learn how much deforestation happened so long ago – the deforestation which “never happened” – England was always like this. And yes, they were your ancestors. And yes you were not alive then. But you live the deforested life and enjoy its fruits – today and tomorrow.
“My God is showing” – thank God!
This “omniversal honey pot” is not just for today. Not just for tomorrow. Not just for the chosen and saved and godly. Neither does it exclude anyone or anything way back to the origins of that bucket of dirt. “My God is showing” because I see our honey pot become a production line.
I see those who want to shove in love at one end, and have neat little jars of love pop out the other end. All neatly packaged and ready to sell. Pallets of pre-packaged love for the small price of your obedience, your duty, your labour, your life, and your soul. Offered like a market trader shouting their wares … special offer today … look what I have for you … buy one get one free … better be quick they are going fast (not!!).
Woe to you who take ownership of this “honey pot”. Who sell membership of a jar of honey. Who set themselves up as authorities on both NIMBY and NIYBY. Who take omniverse and make it “this verse or that verse”.
People like you Paul.”
Now I was kind of rolling with not getting his drift this morning. Confident of his love, trusting of his wisdom – and not really having a clue what he was talking about. Trusting it would make sense when he wished. And then those four words:
“People like you Paul”
So I am sitting here thinking – bit harsh Lord, bit harsh! And wondering what to do next, how to unpick all of this, how to “get it”. And the next ting I hear is:
”No Paul. Not today. You stop right here and do not move. I want you to write this up. I want you to press Publish “as is”.
You know you talk of dropping pebbles? Plop! In a still pond. That the ripples are Mine not yours. That the ripples are My work not yours? Well, this is the pebble I wish you to drop for Me.”
And I have to say my bitch was on display! Really Lord, really? You stick that accusation at the end of a weird conundrum, and then go “job done”? Is this relationship? Is this “us”? I see a half formed pebble. On it stamped an accusing “People Like You Paul.” It feels less a pebble than a sticky ball of clay. I like pebbles. I do some good pebbles for you. This is just a sticky ball of clay – this isn’t a pebble. And you just go “stop”? You just say “publish”? Well, you lost me big time today Lord – I have no idea what this is all about! I need more!
(have you ever heard a silence so silent it is a heavy object?)
Bottom line for me? I trust Him to see a pebble where I see a lump. To unstick this ball of clay from my fingers and splosh it in the still pond. And to have no idea why.
Over to you dear Father …
(and as I started my usual proof-read, does it makes sense, are the typos and spelling errors all done … today that is off limits as well)
So how about a quick Preview before Publish, Lord?
“Not today Paul – not today.”