Today is a very special birthday. Because today, May 9th, a very famous person reaches the grand old age of 359 years old.
Today is Mr Punch’s birthday! Though I doubt very much that Judy has bought him a present! Mr Punch celebrates his birthday today because the very first record we have of him is in the diary of Samuel Pepys – on May 9th 1662 Pepys records how he saw a new Italian puppet play outside St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden – the first recorded performance of Punch and Judy.
And each year to celebrate his birthday St Paul’s Covent Garden, holds a Mayfayre in his honour and has Mayfayre service.
Mr Punch, of course, has never been noted for his good behaviour. He is notoriously rude and bad-tempered to everyone who comes his way, as well as being rather violent, though as he has got older he has toned down his behaviour a bit. In his younger days, as I remember from childhood trips to the seaside, he would throw the baby out of the window, beat his wife, murder various public servants who came to see him before finally tricking the hangman into hanging himself! And then he would follow that up by declaring: That’s the way to do it!
It’s no wonder Mr Punch doesn’t have any friends. Not easy being a friend to someone who behaves like Mr Punch. He didn’t behave in a way that was likely to get him any! And he very much behaved in a way that was definitely not the way to do it!Continue reading
My parents were both keen gardeners, and would spend hours, days even, out in the garden, planting, weeding, pruning. The passion for gardening never rubbed off. But one thing I remember from my childhood is my Father out in the garden doing the constant pruning or cutting back of rosebushes, fruit trees, and other plants.
As every gardener knows, many plants can appear to be dying, overgrown, weak – no longer able to bear fruit or flowers.
But with careful pruning, cutting back in the right way, bushes and trees can produce spectacular flowers and fruit. The newly pruned plant is given strength as the weaker parts of the plant receive nourishment from the stronger central stem. Pruning can seem a very drastic thing to do, and the nervous gardener may not have the confidence to cut back as much as is needed. It’s hard to cut off all the old growth but it is essential to do so if the plant is to continue to be fruitful and beautiful.
Today Jesus speaks to us about plants and pruning. Today, in our gospel reading, we hear some of his final words to his disciples. Spoken after they had shared their last supper together, this part of Jesus’ last teaching before his arrest and his crucifixion.Continue reading
The gospel for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, sees Jesus reminding us that people are not responsible for their own misfortune. Rather, he says, we should stop blaming people and look to our own fruitfulness.
Every once in a while, someone comes up with a catchy or succinct phrase that enters the public consciousness – and that phrase is then used and quoted years after it was first coined and the original context has been forgotten. One such phrase that comes to mind at the moment – I can’t think why – A week is a long time in politics. Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, of course.
Often, though, it’s advertisers. It was The Accident Group, whose founder failed to see the irony of sacking two and a half thousand workers by text message when it went bust and then disappearing to Spain with millions, that came up with the slogan in their adverts: Where there’s blame, there’s a claim. It’s a phrase that people still use.
Where there’s blame there’s a claim.Continue reading
John the Baptist again this week! Here’s what I said.
Getting to heaven is as easy as one, two, three. Well – at least that’s what most devout Jews thought at the time of Jesus who were under the impression that simply being a Jew more or less guaranteed you your place unless you were particularly evil. At least, most thought that. The Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death – for them there was no heaven – that’s why they were sad you see. (Groans from congregation!) But for most, it seemed fairly straight forward – as easy as one, two, three. And today’s message from John the Baptist is – don’t kid yourself. Don’t think that just because Abraham is your ancestor your place in heaven is guaranteed.
Now, I don’t know what’s come over me this Advent but I keep thinking of old songs – last week as we thought about repentance it was Brenda Lee and “I’m sorry” from 1960. Today it’s Eddie Cochran. You may remember his famous song, also from 1960, Three steps to heaven: Continue reading