I’ve been going through a box of old papers from my college days at Bricket Wood in England. The box is over 40 years old.
In it was a letter from the first minister I knew well, a man called Vivian Bassett. He was the Methodist minister who first influenced me when it comes to religion. It must be 50 years since I last saw him. I’m sure he’s been dead for quite some time.
He was a really nice man, a good example of Christian love, compassion and mercy, three qualities that are rarely found even in ministers of religion.
He was also a great servant. He visited all his parishioners twice a year on foot, even if they rarely attended church. He didn’t scold them, but rather encouraged them and listened if they wanted to talk about their problems.
Before he left our church he was ministering to thirteen widely scattered congregations – and did so without a car!
Thinking about him reminded me of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 20:
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV).
Vivian Bassett was not an ambitious man. There wasn’t a political bone in his body. He had no desire to head the Methodist Conference. He simply wanted to serve the people at the pastoral level, which is what he did.
I remember his last service well. There was standing room only in the church as people we rarely saw at church turned up to honor a highly respected and deeply loved man.
The new minister arrived a few days later after the Bassetts vacated the parsonage. The new man was a highly academically qualified minister who knew his Bible better than most. His name was Dr. Letch (we teens called him “Lurch” after a popular character in a hit TV show at the time) but knowing your Bible isn’t enough. He did not have the same rapport with people that his predecessor had and did not come over as caring and compassionate, which are more important qualities in a minister representing Jesus Christ.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Jesus Christ.” (Phil 2:5)
The twins in Indianapolis, Ethan and Evan, are now four years old.
Their mother, our eldest daughter Alix, reported a few days ago that she had gone to the bathroom and found the floor covered with water. She asked the boys what they had been up to (a question she frequently asks!).
This time they proudly told her they had washed their own feet — in the toilet bowl — and “look how clean they are!” Yes, being a mom is a mixture of Aawww and Eew . . .
Meanwhile, their three-year-old cousin Leeson in Lansing has added a new word to his vocabulary.
That word is “Never!” as in “Never! Never! Never!” (or more accurately with a British accent “Nevah nevah nevah!), his typical response when asked to do anything.
At first, I didn’t think he knew what it meant, until I asked him if he wanted an ice cream and did NOT respond with “Never! Never! Never!”
He also knows how to tease with the three-word expression. When I wanted to give him a hug before he left for school, he again responded with “Never! Never! Never!” but very quickly afterwards ran to me and gave me a big hug, loudly proclaiming that “I wove you, Gwampa!” (As the chief supplier of his drug of choice – ice cream – he can’t afford to upset me.)
But when it comes to following instructions, depending on his mood, we most often hear “Never! Never! Never!”
Jesus Christ told us to be like little children. When I think of Leeson, I’m mindful of how his words should be our attitude to sin at all times: “Never! Never! Never!
Most Christians would likely agree with that.
But what about the words in Matthew 7:1-4?
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? For how can you say to your brother “let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye?”
When it comes to judging others for their sins, few Christians would exclaim: “Never! Never! Never!”
The BARNA Group that studies religious trends and attitudes in America illustrated this in 2013 when they published the results of a survey of thousands of conservative Christians. They had been asked a series of questions to determine how much they were like Jesus Christ.
Only 14% had the mind of Christ. 51% of these conservative Christians were like the Pharisees. They defined the Pharisees as people who judge others harshly for their sins while justifying their own.
That’s 51% of conservative Christians!
Yes, Leeson and his brother have started school. Leeson, aged 3, is in the Head Start program that lasts three hours each morning, Monday through Thursday. His brother Aubren, ten months older, is in the Great Start program that is seven hours a day. Both are thriving in their new school setting.
The first few days were difficult, especially for their mother and, perhaps more so, for their grandparents. There was lots of crying, weeping and wailing – and that was just from Grandpa!
My wife and I were about to look for a Grandparenting Support Group to help us get through the emotional trauma of taking our grandchildren to school.
Fortunately, we found a support group of sorts, in a Quality Dairy we stopped at. It had a really good display, a “group” of fresh donuts!
Comfort food – that’s exactly what you need after dropping off two young children at a new school. I don’t think we are going to need any other support group – we have about a dozen donut shops en route back from the school.