February 2019 - Bike Theft

Bike Theft

“I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness”. 

Emo Philips


There is something about this joke that made me laugh, and a slightly guilty laugh it was too. It's funny, it's clever, and there is something deeply true about it, which slightly troubled me.

Imagine sitting in a pub, the right side of a couple of beers, and telling this joke. Then, after a short pause, asking, “What do you think?” Depending on the company, there might be a variety of answers. If the vicar was there, one might expect an 'expert' response (don't hold your breath on that). If the bishop was there, one might expect the 'orthodox' reply, for they speak on behalf of the church. Others may wonder at what their companions might think of them, and curtail their words accordingly. Perhaps they will perceive a judgement on their thoughts or the rightness of their beliefs. You can imagine the shiny, keen and enthusiastic Christian who rushes to pick up their bible, leafing through it until they find the text which gives the correct answer. And there the conversation closes.

We all (well, mostly) edit our words before presenting them before others. But what if we could speak openly and honestly about what we think, feel, even believe. “OK, so I'm struggling with the notion of the resurrection”, says one person. [Short pause in case lightening interrupts]. No, nothing happens. It's an honest statement. “You know that bit in Genesis when Abraham almost sacrifices his own son? That's a terrible, horrible story!” [No thunder, so let's carry on]. “Actually, on reflection, I'm not sure that Brexit was such a good idea”. [All hell breaks loose, people run for cover, apocalyptic images come to mind].

The thing is, scripture, in the Jewish tradition, was a conversation starter, not a conversation stopper. So people who turn to it and say, “Well it says this, so it must be the final word on the subject”, are very out of keeping with their own heritage. A proof text is used to close down the honest exploration of thoughts and ideas, but, rather, the bible should be opening things up rather than shutting them down. Jesus was a Jew, and taught as a Jew, so perhaps we can take his words as openers and not enders?

Conversations lead in all sorts of directions, reveal new insights, and open profound realisations for all of us – and that's okay, if somewhat disturbing on occasion. Whatever you choose to talk about with your friends and family; listening for truth, honesty, doubt and alternative opinions is a sign of health and growth, not weakness and confusion. And what about that bike?

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the February 2019 issue of The Grapevine