St Barnabas 24th July 2011
No sermon today at St Barnabas … instead we hosted ‘The Disciple’ television game show …
Interviewer: Good morning and welcome to our service this morning. I expect you’ve all been aware of the recent TV series, the Apprentice. It all started out with 12 candidates trying to impress Lord Sugar so they could win the £250,000 first prize. Week by week, one candidate has dropped out until finally last week the winner was chosen.
Well, today we’re going to play something very similar – it’s called The Disciple. We have three lovely candidates who have agreed to come and play for the right to be called a disciple. We’re going to find out a little bit more about them, and then we’re going to set them some tasks. And at the end, it’s up to you to decide which one is going to be hired…
So may we have the first candidate please. Thank you…
Let’s begin by asking your name.
Theophilus: My name is Dr Theophilus Smith, BA, Mth, Phd, Dlitt and some other bits and pieces I can’t even remember.
Interviewer: And your occupation?
Theophilus: I am a lecturer in theoretical theology. I specialise mainly in eschatological pneumatological expectations in the sixth century and the rise of associated heresies.
Interviewer: That sounds fascinating…
Theophilus (interrupting): Oh yes, it is. I really can’t understand why more people aren’t interested.
Interviewer: I can’t imagine. So tell me, Theophilus, how does your work affect the rest of your life?
Theophilus (puzzled): I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
Interviewer: Well, you call yourself a Christian. That’s why you’re on this show, isn’t it? So I just want to find out how your beliefs affect the way you live your life.
Theophilus: Oh no, my work is purely academic. It’s a subject just like archaeology or mathematics. I don’t suppose an archaeologist goes round the supermarket worrying what’s buried beneath his feet, or a mathematician crosses the road, calculating the probability he’ll get knocked over.
Interviewer (puzzled): So your faith doesn’t impact your life at all, then, really?
Theophilus: Of course, I pray. And I sometimes read my Bible. But only in the original languages, you understand.
Interviewer: I think I do. OK, let’s move on and meet our next contestant. Your name?
Hetty: Hetty. I have other names, you know, but everyone knows me as Hetty.
Interviewer: So what do you do?
Hetty: What don’t I do? I run a day centre for the old folk, I shop for my neighbours, I spend a morning a week in the charity shop, I’m on the board of school governors, and I keep the church hall running.
Interviewer: That sounds pretty hectic.
Hetty: That’s right – hectic Hetty, they call me! Always doing something somewhere for somebody else. It’s the only way to live.
Interviewer: Now you came on this show because you said you were a Christian.
Hetty: That’s right – you look it up in the dictionary: Christian, a good person.
Interviewer: So when you find the time to read your Bible and to pray?
Hetty: Oh, I don’t have any time for that religious stuff. Of course, I might pray in an emergency, but the Bible, well, I haven’t looked at in years.
Interviewer: So what does Jesus mean to you?
Hetty: That’s obvious, isn’t it? He was a person who went round doing good. And that’s what I try to do. I hope that when one day I meet Him He’ll be pleased with all I’ve done.
Interviewer: You don’t have a personal faith, then?
Hetty: I’m not sure what you mean by that. I don’t have much time for all that theological nonsense, you know.
Interviewer: All right, let’s move on to our third contender. Your name please?
Olaf: My name is Olaf.
Interviewer: And your occupation?
Olaf: I don’t have a job at the moment. I keep trying to find one, but it never seems to work out.
Interviewer: That must be difficult for you.
Olaf: Yes, it can be at times. But I know Jesus is with me, and He’s never let me down.
Interviewer: So you came on the show because you said you were a Christian.
Olaf: That’s right. I’ve done some pretty bad stuff in my time. But one day a friend took me to church, and I’ve been going ever since. I don’t understand everything I hear in church, but my mates are helping me to read the Bible and to pray.
Interviewer: And that’s making a difference?
Olaf: Oh yes! I wouldn’t be where I am today without knowing Jesus and His church is on my side.
Interviewer: So here are the three contestants, Theophilus, Hetty and Olaf. Let’s come back in a while and let’s decide which one we’re going to hire. Remember – you’ve been watching The Disciple. See you later!
Interviewer: At the top of the show, we introduced our three contestants – Theophilus, Hetty and Olaf. Let’s invite them to come back, and see how they get on with their tasks this morning. I’m going to describe to each one in turn a particular situation, and they’re going to tell me what they’d do.
The first situation: You’re in a church meeting and one of the regular members turns up in a bit of a state. He’s lost his job, and his benefits haven’t been paid. He says he hasn’t eaten since yesterday, and he needs to put some more money in the meter. So over to you. What would you do?
Theophilus: I’d pray for him…(thinking hard)…and if I had some spare change, I’d probably give him it.
Hetty: (enthusiastically) I know exactly what I’d do! I’d make up the largest food parcel I could find for that poor unfortunate soul, and pack it with all kinds of goodies.
Olaf: (gently) I was in that kind of situation once. I think I’d find out what my friend really wanted, and probably get the whole church to rally round. And I’d ask him if he wanted me to pray with him.
Interviewer: We obviously have some different points of view here. Let’s move on to the next situation. Your friend has been watching a documentary about the Christian faith, and she wants to know how you are sure of what you believe.
Theophilus (excitedly): That’s precisely where eschatological pneumatology comes in! I’d give her a copy of my latest book, and ask her to come back when she’s read it.
Hetty: People do get so worried about the unimportant things of life, don’t they? I’d tell her not to worry and just keep active. Life’s too short to worry about what’s right and what’s not. Do as much good while you can, that’s what I say.
Olaf: It is confusing all this stuff, they put out there, isn’t it? I’d have to find out why my friend was asking me. And if she was interested in becoming a Christian, I’d share her my story. Not that I’m a very good example, but I know Jesus hasn’t given up on me!
Interviewer: Sounds like you are going to have to make some real choices there, viewers. But before you get to cast your vote, let’s try them with one more situation. This is the most difficult one of all. I want you to imagine a place where there are very few Christians. It could be a distant country, it could be a large, new estate somewhere in England. You hear about it and you sense Jesus might be asking you to go and live there, and possibly start a new church. How will you respond?
Theophilus: Well, I can see all kind of philosophical objections to the scenario you have just painted. Of course it might be possible in theory that someone received a direct sensation of divine impulse, but weighing all the factors that could possibly come into play, and evaluating the contingent probabilities, then I would deem it unlikely. Although, should I be aware of such a need existing, I would naturally publicise it as a profitable area of research.
Theophilus: Research. Let me phrase my answer in another way…
Interviewer(interrupting) Maybe after the show has finished. What about you, Hetty, how would you respond?
Hetty: Oh no! There’s too much to do here. And why start a church? Community initiative, that’s what’s needed if you ask me.
Olaf: Well, if it really was Jesus speaking, then I guess I’d have to go. But I’d better check it out with my other church members to see if it was God’s will. And I’d need prayer – lots and lots of prayer. I’d have to give up what little I’ve got. But that doesn’t matter. There’s nothing more important than serving Jesus, after all.
Interviewer: Thank you, Theophilus, Hetty and Olaf, for coming on the show and being so honest with us. I know you have to rush off somewhere, Hetty, so I am going to have to give you, the viewers, just a couple of minutes to make your decision. Why don’t you turn to your neighbour, and discuss what you’ve heard? Then, right after the break, we’ll let the voting commence!