water or water

6 07 2012

Sometimes there’s comedy in the gospels that we miss with our straight-laced reading and bland NIV translation. I was preparing for a full-immersion baptism, and the Bible passage was the woman at the well. It seemed appropriate as there’s lots of water. As I was reading it, the incident was suddenly laced with comedy and verbal slapstick.

Jesus meets this excluded women at the watering hole. She is collecting water. He needs water. He asks her for water. He means water. She asks him how he can ask her for water, what with her being a Samaritan. He says, if you knew who I was you would ask me for water, and I would give life-giving water.

He’s talking about something deeper than water water but she still thinks he’s talking about water water. So she says but you haven’t got a bucket for water. He looks confused because you don’t need a bucket for his water, which isn’t water water but living water. He tries again, saying that this water water might quench thirst but you will be thirsty again, but his water (not water water, other water) becomes a spring of water (other water, not water water) that gives life eternal. 

She thinks, that water’s got to be better than water water if it means I don’t have to come to the water hole with a bucket, I’ll have some please. But Jesus isn’t talking about water water. He’s talking about… water. Other water. Same word, different meaning.

Then after some personal disclosure he didn’t have a form or a risk assessment for, the disciples return and offer him food. They mean food food. He says, I have food to eat that you know nothing about. They are confused, thinking he has stashed sandwiches in his jumper so why did they bother going shopping. But he’s not talking about food food, but food. Same word, different meaning.

I couldn’t help but think of this famous Two Ronnies sketch. So we watched it in the service.

It’s all quite funny really, this comedy of errors and misunderstandings. Like when Jesus said this is my body and it’s made of bread. He didn’t mean he was a dough ball… Imagine where that thinking could lead.  

There’s food for thought.


13 07 2011

I remember my first car chase. I say car chase. I was on my bicycle, and slapped a car for stopping on the yellow-box junction outside Oval tube. He reversed out of the queue and chased me down a side-street where I lost him.

I remember the first time I was punched. It was days after the car chase, in almost the same place. I had slapped the white van for pulling out on me when I was cycling home from work; the white van man chased me, and I didn’t lose him. He overtook me, waited for me, and punched me.

After this I took the bus to work.

I assume both those driver had driving licenses. Their driving licenses didn‘t mean they were driving well. The fact that I have my cycling proficiency certificate from 1987 didn’t mean I was cycling well either.

The proof of ability to drive is in the driving, not the certificate. The proof of ability to cycle is in the cycling, not the certificate.

I have another certificate. My birth certificate proves that a birth took place.  But it doesn’t prove that I am still alive. What proves I am alive? Me.


Jesus talks about us being born again, or born from above. It’s like being born the first time, except that the first gulp of life-source we take is not air, but the Spirit. In the Greek, the word is pnuema, as in pneumatic tyre. Filled with pneuma.

Often when this happens we get a certificate. We remember this day. Like our first birth, we rightly celebrate it, but unless we keep on breathing the Spirit our baptism certificate, like our birth certificate, is meaningless. Interesting history, but it doesn’t prove life. And this applies whether you are baptised as a baby or a believing adult. Because neither prove on-going life. Anyone can get wet.

We may go faithfully to church every week; we may just come for a baptism. But the challenge is the same for all of us. Are we living as new creations? Are we living as those who have been born from the spirit, breathing in him as our source of life, reconciled to God and changed from the inside out?

That is proof of life.  Certified.

olympic baptism bingo

5 07 2011

There’s a new Olympic sport. Not as much of a guilty pleasure as beach volleyball, but good nonetheless. It’s called Olympic News Bingo, and involves watching BBC London (my local news) and seeing how many tenuous links to the Olympics they can make with an ordinary news story.

A bus has crashed – OLYMPIC TRAVEL CHAOS.
Famous person visits London – OLYMPIC HOTEL CHAOS.


You get the picture. 

Without wishing to cash in on such cheap journalistic techniques, I was thinking about how much the Olympic ticket lottery was a bit like many people’s attitudes to child baptism.

To get an Olympic ticket, you don’t have to be into sport, you just need to want to be there; you don’t have to know what it will be there – you may end up watching cycling or wrestling or hammer-throwing – but at least you will be there; you don’t have to make any long-term commitment, just give your credit card details, sit back and wait. It may work out, it may not. At least you’ve done your bit to try. 

Many people approach having their children baptised in a similar way. You don’t have to be into Jesus (or even religion), you just need to want them want them to get into heaven, though you don’t really know what that means and actually aren’t very interested in finding out. Like handing over your credit card details to Olympic organisers, you make the “renouncing evil” promises through gritted teeth. You don’t really know what you are promising, or where you will end up, but at least you are in shout for a ticket.


And the best thing? No long-term commitment.  Ok, the vicar goes on about the ‘baptism legacy’ being you and your child involved in your local church developing healthy spiritual lives… but you know as well as he does that you have no interest in a long-term legacy, just like getting an Olympic ticket isn’t going to make you join a gym. You just want a ticket and then to go home.

I know not everyone thinks like this. We are about to do our first baptisms at our church for years and our prayer is that in the same way buying an Olympic ticket might get more people involved in the wonderfully life-giving life-changing thing that is participation in sport, so our baptisms might get more people involved in the wonderfully life-giving life-changing thing that it participation in Jesus’ kingdom, in bringing heaven to earth now, not just for the future.

Only time will tell. I know I am convinced that no ticket will give me a better view of the Olympics then from my armchair. So there I will stay.

unnecessary beach volleyball picture



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