One of the things you soon learn when you come under doctor’s orders in sickness, is why we are called ‘patients’. And it is a rapid learning curve—but not necessarily the most comfortable—way to learn the lesson. You’re not in charge; you must wait and be patient. But then again, much of the advice I was given to follow in earlier times is completely reversed today.
For example. Once I was put on insulin I was told not to inject in public. Go to a toilet facility or in a secluded cloakroom when eating out. True to this advice, I was having dinner one evening at our festival site in Bridlington, at Mr Yip’s Chinese restaurant (recommended). The maître d’ knew what I was about. Just before the food came I disappeared to the upstairs toilet to inject. On my return, as the food was brought in, the maître d’ was amused to tell me that I’d been ‘reported’ as shooting up drugs, and should the police be informed? Well, today that advice is completely reversed. Inject in public. Don’t go near toilets; that’s where germs breed. Don’t be ashamed of your condition; don’t hide it from others.
The same is true of our religion. In the early days of our fellowship we were encouraged to keep quiet about religion. Let others, senior ministers and the like, do all the talking. We were to keep schum and let others take the heat. But then all that changed and we were told that now we were on the front line and were to let our light shine. Back at Bridlington there is a lighthouse on a nearby headland. From the town, the lighthouse can’t be seen, but the back end of its beam, rolling inland, can. When I see that light I always think of that command, “Let you light so shine….”
But then, of course, that instruction never changed. Only our interpretation of it. And so often what we understand is not necessarily what the Bible would have us do. Whole books have been written concerning the biblical advice to “turn the other cheek.” What does it actually mean? What are we actually to do? And predictably the burden of the books is more how do we by-pass or get around what the Book instructs us. Mark Twain once wrote that it was not what he didn’t understand from the Bible that worried him, it was what he did understand. Quite so.
James Pratt’s funeral last week was conducted by a Methodist minister. The main reason being that his niece and next of kin is a person of standing in that particular community. Head of this, leader of that. And she was quite determined that her uncle was going to be laid to rest by their Methodist minister. I would have liked to have said to her, “Your Methodist minister probably receives a fee of around £100. James has the last laugh because we don’t charge any fee for funerals for members or their immediate family. You could have saved £100.” But I didn’t, of course. It was a very nice service, as you would expect. But very little about what the Bible has to tell us about death. Not felt appropriate in this day and age. It’s upsetting. It’s not what people want to hear.
But death is part of life. And ignorance is not preferable to being slightly offended at the un-nicities connected with death. I’m studying Ezekiel at the present, and that very reluctance to face reality is what the prophet rails against time and again.