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Easter Parable: The Beam of Light

Happy Easter everyone!

With thanks to the children of St Mary’s & St Michael’s Church who helped me put together this Space Ranger parable entitled ‘The Beam of Light’. It was told on Easter Sunday 2014 at both churches for an all-age audience in place of a sermon. If you like it and it’s useful to you for future years at Easter time, feel free to use or adapt, because I’m sure you can improve it! The good bits are the kids’ work, the bits you can improve are obviously mine.

An artist's impression of a Beam of Light shooting into the sky

This morning I would like to tell you a story.

This is the story of a Space Ranger whose name is Captain Steve. He has a spaceship called the Eternal Sunrise that can travel the universe. He shoots from planet to planet, and quest to quest, a hero to the galaxy and a friend to all.

One day, as Captain Steve was journeying a thousand million light years from planet Earth, he noticed a small bright star around which several planets were circling in quiet orbit.

One of these planets looked a lot like Captain Steve‘s home planet of Earth. It had beautiful blue seas, teeming with life, and lush green land, snowy white mountains and all the most beautiful trees, plants, fruits and vegetables. The planet was called SnarfleBartyOctopus.

Captain Steve put his ship in orbit and began to observe life there, taking measurements, recording data and watching closely, even though the inhabitants of SnarfleBartyOctopus didn’t realise he was watching.

He noticed that there were tall people on this planet with bright blue hair. They looked a lot like people on Earth and they called themselves the Daxons.

Their life was incredible. No-one ever died. No-one ever got sick. No-one ever cried. They had more than enough of everything they needed. No-one was hungry. No-one was poor. They lived in perfect peace.

In the centre of their world was a large glowing Beam of Light that shot high into the sky. From this Light, it seemed that the Daxons got all their energy. It seemed crucial to their whole way of being. It was this Beam of Light that provided their power. It was this Beam of Light that helped their food to grow. It was this Beam of Light that kept them healthy and well. It was the source of their life, their peace, their health, their happiness.

One day as Captain Steve watched, he noticed something strange. A Daxon approached the source of light with a small glass jar. When no-one was looking, he sneaked some of this energy source into his jar, tucked it away in his coat and hurried away.

What that particular Daxon didn’t notice was that, as he stole this small beam of light, he left something behind. A little bit of weird Green Goo drifted out of his nose and fell on the floor by the giant Beam of Light. What was even weirder was that when he got home and opened his jar to marvel at the light, it had gone. It wasn’t there.

Captain Steve started to notice other things happening too. Sometimes Daxons would be unkind to each other. Sometimes Daxons would steal from one another. Sometimes it was small and unimportant things. Something that hardy seemed to matter and it was just small things that no-one would notice and weren’t that big a deal. Sometimes they were very big important things that were terribly wrong and shocked everyone and caused even more hurt and unrest.

But each and every time something like that happened, no matter how big or small it was, a little bit of weird Green Goo drifted out of that Daxon’s nose and would float through the air, before it would stick to the rest of the Green Goo that was slowly building up around the giant Beam of Light.

Captain Steve the Space Ranger continued on his missions around the universe but every now and again, he would pop back to observe SnarfleBartyOctopus and see what was happening.

Each time he visited, he discovered things getting worse and worse. With each bit of Green Goo that built up around the Beam of Light, it was as if the very planet of SnarfleBartyOctopus itself got worse and worse. Daxons started to get sick. Sometimes, some of them would die. Because the Beam of Light was getting gummed up and covered by all that Green Goo, there wasn’t as much power as there had been, and there wasn’t as much food as there used to be, and some of the Daxons had to go without.
Daxons started to fight over the food that was available, and with every fight over food, or every time food or power was stolen from some Daxons by other Daxons, everytime someone was left out and went without, more Green Goo came out of their nose and floated to the Beam of Light and made it even more gummed up than it was before. It was a very sad thing for the Space Ranger to have to watch.

Pretty soon, there was hardly any light left at all. All Daxons could see was a tall column of Green Goo. People began to forget that the Beam of Light had ever been there in the first place. They accepted the Green Goo as the way things had always been.

When Captain Steve the Space Ranger went back several years later, he found a sorry state of affairs. Some Daxons had even started to laugh at some of their fellow Daxons who talked about the Beam of Light. They said the Beam of Light never existed, and that their friends were being foolish to believe in such childish nonsense. Green Goo was the natural order of things, they said. When you couldn’t be sure how long you would live, and there wasn’t enough to go around, all that was important was to live for yourself and enjoy SnarfleBartyOctopus as best as you could for as long as you could. And each time they said something like that, a little bit more Green Goo popped out of their nose and floated to the big column stretching high into the sky.

They even seemed to like the fact that Green Goo kept coming from their nose. It sort of felt to the Daxons that the Green Goo justified what they said and made it sound even more truthful.
Captain Steve had seen enough. he couldn’t stand it any longer. he flew down and landed on the planet. He went to the big city where the Beam of Light was, and began to speak about what he had observed from afar. He tried to talk to the Daxons in the streets, he tried to talk to the government, he tried to talk to the television people and the newspapers.

Some people listened to him. They liked him. Although no-one still alive could remember the Beam of Light, there were some of them for whom something deep inside their hearts told them that this Space Ranger was worth listening to. Something echoed inside them and sparked like a warming flame when he talked of how SnarfleBartyOctopus used to be and how it could be once again, something in their hearts told them Captain Steve was right when Captain Steve spoke of how they should live towards one another. He told them that if they were to do this, the Green Goo wouldn’t keep coming from their noses, the Light would begin to shine again and things might start to change.

Some of them even noticed that Green Goo never came out of the Space Ranger’s nose.

Other Daxons didn’t like him. They thought he was dangerous. Captain Steve seemed to be disturbing their entire way of life. They especially didn’t like it when he said they had to share their power and share their food with those who had none.

One day, a group of soldiers arrived as the Space Ranger was addressing a large crowd. They arrested him, tied him up and carried him to the tall column of Green Goo.

They told him that if he was so fond of talking about Green Goo and Beams of Light, maybe he should become part of the column. Then he could go and find out for certain if the Beam of Light was at the middle of all this Green Goo. They picked him by his hands and legs and threw him right into the big Green sticky column. Captain Steve stuck to the wall of Green Goo and slowly but surely, he began to disappear as the Goo closed around him.

Some Daxons laughed at him. They poked fun at him and called him names. Every time they did so, another bit of Green Goo popped out of their noses and floated towards the column, sticking onto the Space Ranger and covering him/her even more.

Eventually, he was hardly even visible… the Green Goo was choking the life from him/her and eventually, with one last gasp, the Space Ranger died.

That moment, something strange happened. All across the planet of SnarfleBartyOctopus, there was a strange sucking sound like water as it shoots down a plug hole.

The Daxons started to notice that the Green Goo was folding in on itself. The Green Goo was disappearing. The big column of Green Goo was slowly being drawn down and down and down out of the sky. It was getting thinner and thinner and thinner….

Until finally, all that was left on the floor was the cold, dead body of the Space Ranger. It seemed that the Green Goo had all been sucked into him. It had all gone.

There was no Green Goo. There was no Beam of Light. Those who had criticised Captain Steve and killed him were shocked when the Green Goo went, but they were also slightly relieved and pleased with themselves to find no Beam of Light there either. This Captain Steve had been wrong, just as they suspected.

The Daxons who liked the Space Ranger and the ones who hated him didn’t know quite what to do next. Everyone was still and silent for a few moments.

Somewhere in the distance, there was a faint sound… a rumble…

The Rumble got louder and louder, the ground started to shake. The Daxons ran for cover. An earthquake. Something terrible was happening. They thought their entire world was ending. It seemed the whole planet was turning itself inside out.

From the place where the Space Ranger lay, the ground suddenly cracked open and an enormous Beam of Light shot high into the sky.

The Daxons stood aghast, their mouths open.

From out of the middle of the Beam of Light, Captain Steve was standing and then walking towards them. The power of the Beam of Light had made him whole once more. He had been remade from the inside out.

Captain Steve said goodbye to his friends and followers, returned to his ship, the Eternal Sunrise, and flew off into deep space.

Those who had believed the Space Ranger suddenly realised the truth of all that he had said. Those who hadn’t believed suddenly realised they had been wrong. The Beam of Light was real. The sick started to get well. Food and power started to flourish. Their world was being remade from the inside out.

Let’s pray
Lord Jesus, we are not Daxons

and this is not SnarfleBartyOctopus.

But we know that when you died and rose again for us,

you were trying to take away all our Green Goo,

all the stuff that’s horrid in our lives,

all the stuff that keeps us from the Beam of Light…
the Kingdom of God that was always supposed to be our home.

Help us today
to live as Children of the Light

and to believe you when you tell us ‘there’s a different way to be’.
Thank you for the cross
and thank you that you rose again. Amen.

Trendy Vicars look like Neo!

A photo of Keanu Reeves as Neo in the Matrix

The Daily Mail isn’t prone to running ridiculous stories about Trendy Vicars, at least not since they last did it a month ago. It does slightly boggle the mind, however, to think that the Daily Mail thought the best way to greet Christmas was with a ridiculous story about Trendy Vicars and what they choose to wear in church.

“Never mind the Cassocks” they say, “vicars could soon be conducting services in shell-suits, shorts or even football shirts under radical plans to overturn centuries of Church tradition.”

“The Horror” says the nation. “Typical” says Mr Angry of Tunbridge Wells. “Pile of garbage, Daily Mail” says anyone with an ounce of common sense.

Read more

Remembering that this isn’t a game

A photo of two red dice rolling.

In all that follows, I want to underline and emphasise what is always true of posts on this blog. These opinions are my own personal opinions, and do not represent the views of my Bishop, diocese or other colleagues. Any alignment with their own views is purely coincidental.

In the last couple of days, I have been trying very hard to process devastating news.

Since 2011 when I arrived in my current parish, I have been championing Kings Hill’s need for an extra primary school. Kings Hill very obviously needed the extra school places and local people felt that the Local Authority wasn’t listening. Just as I arrived, a Free School bid had been unsuccessful but the pressure in the community was beginning to mount. Read more

The Genesis of a Non-Story

A screen grab of the headline from the Mail on Sunday

The other day I received an email from the Comms Unit at Church House. A journalist from the Mail on Sunday had been to church (at All Souls, Langham Place for a family event) and was intrigued to see the church used projector screens and also had flat screens on pillars. She wanted to write an article about its use in church.

The journalist spoke to the Comms Unit. The Comms Unit spoke to Publishing. Spotting the chance for a bit of free promotion, the staff at CHP talked about the days of Visual Liturgy, their current work and the (relatively less complex) development of a couple of new iPad apps to help clergy with the lectionary. Finally, they said, if she wanted to know about projection, she really needed to talk to me. Read more

A contemporary Advent parable

A photo of Paddy and the girls from ITV show Take Me Out

The girls were ready, Paddy had the TV studio audience to their usual fever pitch but as the lift descended, some of the girls were already making up their mind.

No pounding dance track, no rappers promising steamy nights of passion or singing of male bravado. Instead, the haunting voice of Enya singing ‘O Come o come Emmanuel.’

The audience were momentarily silenced, not quite sure what to make of it all. Read more

The discrepancy between Diocesan and General Synods

Fairness

The list of who voted yes and no in the debate on women bishops (opens PDF) has now been published. Electronic voting systems have their plus points and their negatives, I guess.

The Head of Communications for the CofE has encouraged everyone to “love your enemies” as they look through the list.

I certainly think it is important that people don’t vilify or criticise those who chose to vote ‘no’. That doesn’t help anyone.

I would, however, like to use it to illustrate something of the Read more

Where did it go wrong? Structural issues have done us

A photo of tears, frustration and disappointment at General Synod today

I appreciate that, in the rarified bubble that clergy can sometimes inhabit, it probably feels like the entire world will have noticed tonight that the Church of England has failed at the final hurdle to pass legislation to enable women to enter the ranks of Bishops.

I’m sure the reality is that lots of people aren’t paying the blindest bit of notice.

I’m not going to comment on the why’s and wherefore’s of those in favour and those against. My task now, like all of us in the church, is to Read more

Bringing the cloud of witnesses close (cloud christianity)

A word cloud of famous Christian leaders and saints

Tomorrow is All Saints Day, a day to remember and honour all those who put their faith in Christ and have gone before us into glory.

As a result, it seems the perfect time to develop some ideas that I first put forward at the recent Christian New Media Conference. The more I think about the Communion of the Saints, the more I think that the Internet is opening up new dimensions theologically for that Communion. Check this out from Hebrews… Read more

Reflections from #cnmac12

Christian New Media Conference badge

On Saturday, I travelled up to Kings College, London to participate in (what was apparently) the sixth third annual Christian New Media Conference (the awards night has been running much longer).

I signed up to attend months ago, pretty much as soon as tickets were available, and as it turned out I ended up going as a contributor, leading a seminar on ancient-future lessons and what the Tradition of the church has to say to us today. Read more

Ancient-future lessons (CNMAC 2012 seminar)


An image showing an icon of St John of Damascus

This is the transcript of my seminar today at the Christian New Media Conference. Thanks to those who came to the seminar and for all your encouraging and positive interaction and feedback. For the accompanying Powerpoint, you can download it (.ppt, 7.9 Mb)

Now, as someone who has lived his Christian life through both the Anglican and evangelical traditions, images of God is not something that comes very naturally to me. I am sure we all know the Ten Commandments instruction to not make graven images (perhaps better translated as not making an idol) and not to bow down or worship them.

Indeed, the protestant churches (from which I’m guessing a good proportion of us come) generally draw their heritage from Read more