Monday, 7 January 2013

The Pooverview - Part II

Well, it's been a week or so since The Pooverview Part One, and my mobile has literally not started ringing with people clamouring for the follow-up. But if a mere total lack of demand for what I am supplying were enough to deter me then I'd never have trained to be a concert violinist. So here, like it or not, is The Pooverview Part II.

There is absolutely no reason for this picture to be here.
Artist: Aaron Draper Shattuck

7) Seventh Movement - The Yule Log

What's the worst present you got this Christmas? I did very well this year myself, but I did manage to give a small set of pink sparkly Hello Kitty nail varnish bottles to a big butch skin-headed Armenian guy. Can't imagine that made his year.

Here's what the Armenian guy could have deduced from his overwhelmingly generous present:

1) That I didn't know him at all.
2) That I knew him, but couldn't really give a monkey's about what he wanted for Christmas.
3) That whether I knew and cared or not, I only had three quid, five minutes, and a Sainsbury's from which to procure the perfect gift.

Actually, all three are true, but it was a secret santa and we were only supposed to spend three squids, so whatever.

"Oh, for some Hello Kitty nail varnish to complement my dusky complexion."
Artist: Ford Madox Brown

At the end of The Pooverview Part One I said that Jesus was God's great gift to us. Which, for most people, is probably the equivalent of the Hello Kitty nail varnish (water soluble, no less), and therefore probably begs the questions:

1) Does God not know me at all? Why would I want a 2000-year-old baby?
2) Does God not care about me at all? Why didn't he give me the world peace, the new car, and the squirrel trampoline that I asked for?
3) Does God not have the resources to give me something good? Even Aunt Vera managed to get me an X-Box, and she's totally skint.

But here's what the apostle Paul said about his Jesus present:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as dung, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him... (Philippians 3:7-8)

The ESV Bible actually translates that as "rubbish", but I'm given to understand from them as what read Greek, that not only does it mean dung, but it's also not a particularly nice word for dung. So here's Paul, lining up all his presents, comparing them all to Jesus, and saying "Dung, poo, cacka, crud, dooky." Even Aunt Vera's X-Box.

You can imagine his thank-you letters:"Dear Aunt Vera: Thank you so much for the X-Box, which I love. It is, however, a box full of stinky diarrhoea when compared to the present God got me. Love Paul."

What Paul might have looked like if he had been green and featureless.
Artist: Richard Anuszkiewicz

Paul would probably look at our three questions above, and say:

1) No one knows me better than God.

2) No one cares about me more than God.
3) No one has more resources than God.

So God's gift is going to be the most expensive, most thoughtful, and most needed present I'll ever get. A present so good that it makes everything else look like butt coffee.

8) Eighth Movement - Polishing It Off

Why is Paul so excited about Jesus?

In The Pooverview Part One we looked mainly at Israel's relationship with God, and we saw that it was Not Good and Going Downhill Fast. We saw it fail, over and over again. The question we didn't answer is Why?

Here's Jesus' explanation:

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and goes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-23)
Eat your kosher food, or not, says Jesus. The closest the food comes to the problem is still an inch or so away.* After that it turns into poop. And the poop in the latrine is not the problem, says Jesus. The problem is the poop in our hearts.

Why did Israel keep messing up their relationship with God?

Because they had poopy hearts. Same as us.

How do we fix our poopy heart?
We can't.
We need God to do it.

How does God fix our poopy heart?
Through Jesus.

That's why he was born as a man in a stable, lived a perfect life, and died on a cross, paying the penalty for all the crud in our own hearts. Jesus is the best present an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God could give us, because our greatest need, whether we know it or not, is to get into a right relationship with God; the only way to do that is to get a new heart; and that is only possible because Jesus took the dirty one.That's why Paul was content to let everything around him turn to dooky** - because he had gained Christ, and with it a new heart. He was clean where it counted.

If you haven't gained Christ, it doesn't matter how much good stuff you do. You can don a big robe, wear a silly collar, waft some incense around, give all your money to charity and personally save the dolphins - but you are just polishing a, well, you know. And at some point in the future, maybe even before next Christmas, there will be an Almighty Flush.

Well might you look wistful, young girl at your toilet.
Artist: Glyn Philpot

9) Ninth Movement - You'd Be Potty Not To

The question you are probably not asking now is: if turning to Jesus is so terribly important, how come it is so easy to dismiss the whole issue? Just look at the cultural impression we have of the church, for example. The Good Old C of E is generally dismissed as a bumbling, ineffectual relic, dogged with in-fighting, stupidity and corruption, a blight on civilised society and the sort of antediluvian misogynistic monument to irrelevance that mankind would be much better off without.***

What happened?
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honourable use, some for dishonourable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.(2 Timothy 2:20-21)

By now I hope you've caught the scent of this post, so I'm sure I don't need to explain what "vessels for dishonourable use" might be. But I do need to explain the context, since 99.99999% of the world's problems are caused by people taking bits of the Bible out of context.

Paul is at the end of his life, and is passing on the baton to Timothy. And he's warning Timothy that there will be trouble. Much of the trouble - then as now - came from within the church - from false teachers. False teachers say things like "Oh, don't worry about what the Bible says, let me tell you what I think instead." They also say things like "Give me all your money and God will bless you", or "If you trust God enough you'll never get sick" or "God hates fags" or 
"God doesn't care if you follow Jesus or not, as long as you rescue dolphins", or "Jesus he knows me, and he knows I'm right, been talking to Jesus all my-" oh, wait, that's a Genesis song.

On either side of this vessel analogy, Paul is telling Timothy not to be a false teacher, but to "rightly handle the word of truth". Now, if rightly handling the Bible means being a cleansed vessel for honourable use, then being a false teacher means being a dirty vessel for dishonourable use.

In other words, says Paul - if you are not teaching the truth, then you are full of sh-
Vessels for honourable use. And big cheeses. I love cheese.
Artist: Floris Van Schooten

Why am I telling you this?
Well, mainly because it's about poo, and this is the Pooverview.
But also because it's important. Paul wasn't scaremongering when he warned about the false teachers. They are everywhere. If you are investigating Christianity (and if you made it this far through a two-post series about Biblical bum fruit then you must be fairly committed) then you need to be aware that a great deal of what you hear coming from a pulpit might just be manure.

So for the start of 2013, a great New Year's Resolution might perhaps be to pop into a church or two, if you're not already doing so. But be on the look-out for funny smells. If the preacher isn't preaching the Bible, then he's talking bull.

Maybe a good test would be to ask him to name at least nine occurrences of human excrement in the Bible.

Happy new year.

* I don't know medical stuff but I assume the intestines and the cardio-vascular system are generally kept separate.
** He wrote this from a prison cell where he was awaiting possible execution for refusing to shut up about Jesus.
*** But at least we're not all paellas**** like the Roman Catholics.
**** Courtesy of my spell-checker, which neatly solved my "can I get away with saying that or not" crisis by rendering it nonsensical for me.


  1. It's a shame the bible doesn't include Paul's Thank You Letters to Relatives, but if it did, I suspect they'd be a bit longer than that one to Aunt Vera!

  2. I once illustrated Romans 9:21 to my Bible study group with a pretty china teacup and a bit of a broken bedpan. It was a happy moment.

  3. Disgraceful. All those letters to the Corinthians and the Romans and the Thessalonians, and did Paul ever write a letter to his mum? He did not. At least The Second Letter Of Paul To His Mum isn't in the Bible. I hope it was more complimentary than the one he wrote to the Galatians.