The First Sunday of Advent is November 28, 2021.

Readings for Year C — the new liturgical year — can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 21:25-36

21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

21:27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

21:30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

21:31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

21:34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

21:36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We had a similar passage about the Second Coming two weeks ago, on the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity: Mark 13:1-8.

This Sunday’s is Luke’s version of Christ’s prophecy.

As with Mark’s (and Matthew’s) version, Luke’s preceding verses had to do with the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish sacrificial system, which occurred at the hands of the Romans in AD 70.

With regard to His second coming, Jesus tells us that the universe will give us signs as will the earth, where the movement of the seas will create distress across the nations (verse 25).

Jesus goes on to say that people will ‘faint with fear and foreboding’ as ‘the powers of the heavens will be shaken’ (verse 26).

John MacArthur says:

The staging is given in verses 25 and 26. Sun and moon and stars…what happens to them in that period of time? They go out. The sun goes out therefore the moon goes out. The stars go out as well, blackness covers the universe. At the same time the seas begin to roar, the waves turn into a tumult and we see the powers of the heavens being shaken. This is all final staging and parallels the Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation.

Now that brings us to the third word and where we pick up the text this morning. The third word is shock…shock. There’s only one possible response to this unimaginable chaos, verse 25, “And upon the earth dismay among nations in perplexity.” Verse 26, “Men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world.”

And again I remind you, this is how history ends. This is the real story of the end of the earth and the universe as we know it. This is the first step in the beginning of the eternal state …

The confusion comes because people can’t do anything about it. There is absolute chaos. There’s no way to solve this. You’ve got a third of the oceans destroyed, a third of the fresh water destroyed. You’ve got mountains exploding. You’ve got heavenly bodies crashing and careening into the earth. You’ve got the skies going dark. You have horrible storms, hundred-pound hailstones and other things described in the book of Revelation. And the confusion comes because they can’t sort it out.

They can’t even react to it because it’s coming in such rapid-fire succession. There’s reason to believe that the trumpet judgments come in months and then the final judgments described in Revelation, the bowl judgments come in weeks and days…rapid-fire succession. Shock is so great that we are told that men are fainting from fear. And fainting is a rather benign way to translate another rare word used no where else in the New Testament, aposuche(?). What that word means is to breathe out or to expire. That’s another word for to die. People will be scared to death. People will be scared to death. People all over the world will die of terror because of what is happening and because what is happening they know will lead to further horrors. As they watch everything turn into chaos, they understand the implications. It’s not just what’s going on in the moment, it’s what all this means in the immediate future. That is to say the terror comes from the immediate and the terror is compounded by the total absence of any hope of relief. You might be able to mitigate your anxiety if you thought there would be an end but there will be nor can there be…there will be no end nor can there be any end. The chaos is too great.

This is not, by the way, hyperbole. This is lethal emotional trauma causing rapid pulse, low blood pressure and cardiac collapse. Rapid-pulse, low blood pressure, cardiac collapse, scared to death. This is not something the disciples wouldn’t have heard about before. This is shocking coming from Jesus and yet this is what Isaiah said. Listen to Isaiah 13:8, “All hands will fall limp, every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified. Pains and anguish will take hold of them. They will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame.” Listen again to the Revelation chapter 6, as we read familiar words. “The kings of the earth, the great men, verse 15, the commanders, the rich, the strong, every slave, every free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb for the great day of their wrath has come and who is able to stand?’” They want to die. Some will be scared to death. Others will be scared but cannot or do not die, they will wish to be buried alive just to escape what’s next.

In the ninth chapter of the Revelation and verse 6, “In those days men will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die and death flees from them.” In the sixteenth chapter of Revelation and verse 8, “The fourth angel pours out the rapid-fire judgments called bowl judgments and the sun scorches men with fire. They’re scorched with fierce heat and they blaspheme the name of God who has the power over these plagues that didn’t repent so as to give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, his kingdom became darkened. They gnawed their tongues because of pain and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores and didn’t repent of their deeds.” The chapter ends in verse 21 with a statement, “The plagues were extremely severe.”

The eighteenth chapter gives us a description of the disintegration of life at that final hour, in those final weeks, in those final days. The eighteenth chapter of Revelation, we can pick it up in verse 8. Plagues will come pestilence, mourning, famine, fire, the Lord God is bringing judgment. The symbol here is Babylon, Babylon is the unifying term to describe the final world coalition of religion and government, the final world system. And it’s going to be wiped out. The kings of the earth who committed acts of immorality live sensuously with this system will weak and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment saying, “Woe, woe, the great Babylon, the strong city, in one hour your judgment has come.” Again indicating to us how rapid-fire the final judgments will be.

The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, again symbolizing the whole economy of the earth in this one symbol of Babylon. Nobody buys their cargoes anymore, cargos of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls, fine linen, purple silk, scarlet, the clothing industry, the jewel industry, every kind of citron, wood and every article of ivory, every article made from costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, the construction industry as well, cinnamon, spice, incense, perfume, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, cargos of horses, chariots, slaves, transportation industry, food industry, everything goes…the fruit you long for has gone from you, all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you. Men will no longer find them. The merchants of these things who became rich from her will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen, purple, scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste.” Again indicating the suddenness of this destruction.

Matthew Henry’s commentary acknowledges that some Bible scholars believe this refers only to the destruction of the temple, but, like MacArthur, he says this pertains to the eventual end of the world and the terror that unbelievers will experience:

… our Saviour makes use of these figurative expressions because at the end of time they shall be literally accomplished, when the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their powers not only shaken, but broken, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up, 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12. As that day was all terror and destruction to the unbelieving Jews, so the great day will be to all unbelievers.

Jesus says that, at the appointed time, people will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ of great power and glory (verse 27). The quote comes from a verse in the Book of Daniel.

His appearance, MacArthur says, is the final sign:

… here is THE sign, verse 27, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” That is THE sign, the final sign, the sign is the Son of Man.

Listen to Matthew 24:30, the parallel account. The words of our Lord, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, they’ll already be emotional basket cases, to put it mildly. They will now launch into a final mourning as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. THE sign of THE Son of Man, that is a subjective genitive, the sign which is the Son of Man.

It is not another sign that points to the Son of Man, it is the sign which is the Son of Man. Now remember, the whole world will be pitch dark. As Joel puts it, the sun will go dark and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall. Heaven rolls up like a scroll. It’s pitch blackness. And out of that blackness, the whole world sees the Son of Man coming. This is the moment to which all redemptive history moves. This is its glorious culmination, when the once humiliated Christ returns as the eternally exalted Christ. He came once to die. He comes now to kill. He came once to build His church. He comes again to establish His glorious Kingdom.

Henry ties the Second Coming back to the temple so that we might better understand that its destruction presages the return of Christ:

The destruction of Jerusalem was in a particular manner an act of Christ’s judgment, the judgment committed to the Son of man; his religion could never be thoroughly established but by the destruction of the temple, and the abolishing of the Levitical priesthood and economy, after which even the converted Jews, and many of the Gentiles too, were still hankering, till they were destroyed; so that it might justly be looked upon as a coming of the Son of man, in power and great glory, yet not visibly, but in the clouds; for in executing such judgments as these clouds and darkness are round about him. Now this was, 1. An evidence of the first coming of the Messiah; so some understand it. Then the unbelieving Jews shall be confined, when it is too late, that Jesus was the Messiah; those that would not see him coming in the power of his grace to save them shall be made to see him coming in the power of his wrath to destroy them; those that would not have him to reign over them shall have him to triumph over them. 2. It was an earnest of his second coming. Then in the terrors of that day they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, and all the terrors of the last day.

Jesus says that, when believers see these alarming signs, they can stand up and raise their heads because their redemption is near (verse 28).

MacArthur says:

A word to the saints in verse 28. These are the folks that will be alive at the time and will have believed in Christ. “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near,” engizo, about to start.

Then Jesus gives the disciples a parable about the fig tree and other trees (verse 29), saying that when they sprout leaves, everyone knows that summer is near (verse 30).

Similarly, when these dramatic signs take place, we can be sure that the kingdom of God is near (verse 31).

MacArthur says that analogies involving fig trees are common in the Bible. They were the easiest ways to get a point across:

both in the Old Testament and in the teaching of the Lord, the fig tree served a purpose as an illustration. It is designed to help people understand. In fact, in Matthew 24:32, where the parallel text in Matthew’s record is, he says Jesus also said, “Now learn this parable of the fig tree.” The point is: This is for your learning – manthanō – this is so you can understand. And the reason I press that point is because it seems to me that people turn these parables into very complex things when they are the most simple, especially when you have such a simple parable as this.

It was also apposite as Jesus taught His disciples this lesson about the temple and His later return in the middle of His Passion, which we commemorate during Holy Week. It was Passover week, therefore, springtime.

MacArthur explains the deeper meaning of summer, which involves fruit and harvest, therefore, blessings for some and judgement for others:

When you see the signs – leaves – you know summer’s near. And with summer comes fruit and harvest.

By the way, harvest is always, in the Old Testament, a symbol of judgment as well as blessing. So, you have a simple analogy.

MacArthur says the disciples who would witness the destruction of the temple were symbolic of the people who would witness the end of the world:

The disciples are only symbolic of those people. They are only representative of that future group of people. “You,” meaning you believers, who are alive when you see these things happen. What the Lord is saying is: It’s going to come very fast.

You remember He told a parable about a man who went on a long journey? We’re living in the long journey. We’re living in the long time, two thousand years now. But once those signs start – once they start – you can be sure that when you see these things happen, the Kingdom of God is near …

Jesus emphasises — ‘Truly I tell you’ — that the present generation will not pass away until all those things have taken place (verse 32).

This is a confusing verse, because some of the things that Jesus prophesies here did not take place when the Romans destroyed the temple.

MacArthur says that Jesus means whoever is alive at the time and sees the prophesied events take place, whether about the temple or His coming again in glory:

Let me tell you how simple this is. Verse 32, “Truly I say to you, this generation.” What generation? “The generation that sees these things happen will not die until it’s all taken place.” Whoever is among the you who sees these things happen can know this, it’s going to happen soon in your lifetime, and if you see the beginning, you’re going to be there for the end.

If you see Jerusalem surrounded, if you’re alive and you see Jerusalem surrounded and you see the changes and the devastating changes in the universe, you see those signs, you will see the Son of Man. Such a simple thing. If you see the leaves, you know summer is near. If you see the signs, you know Christ is near; He’s at the door.

And our Lord is simply saying, “You asked Me a question. You asked Me, what do we look for? What are the signs?” And I’m telling you this, that generation alive that sees these things will see the Son of Man return. Our Lord is answering the question

If you’re alive and you see the signs and you survive through that and you’re not martyred – and we’re talking about believers here; believers who are alive and looking and waiting for the coming of Christ – if you’re alive when all that starts, you’re going to be there when He returns and you’re going to go into His Kingdom. That’s all it means.

If this is looking for an antecedent, the obvious antecedent is you in verse 31 – you, you. It is this generation – the you that sees these things – that will see it all take place.

Jesus makes it clear that heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not; they will endure forever (verse 33).

MacArthur explains:

You were saved through the living and abiding word and you will be brought to glory through that same living, abiding word. Whatever God says is absolutely the way it is, whether He speaks of salvation, or sanctification, or glorification. And we look forward to the unfolding of this.

Then Jesus gives stern warnings about our behaviour. We must not be weighed down by the concerns of this life to the extent that we become despondent and drunk as a result, lest His return catch us by surprise (verse 34), like a trap (verse 35). In our era, I would also include getting out of one’s mind on drugs in that warning.

We do not want to be out of our minds when the time comes for us to meet our Lord.

Henry says:

See here, 1. What our danger is: that the day of death and judgment should come upon us unawares, when we do not expect it, and are not prepared for it,–lest, when we are called to meet our Lord, that be found the furthest thing from our thoughts which ought always to be laid nearest our hearts, lest it come upon us as a snare; for so it will come upon the most of men, who dwell upon the earth, and mind earthly things only, and have no converse with heaven; to them it will be as a snare. See Ecclesiastes 9:12. It will be a terror and a destruction to them; it will put them into an inexpressible fright, and hold them fast for a doom yet more frightful.

Jesus calls upon us to be ‘alert at all times’ — ‘watching’, in some translations — and praying that we are strong enough to escape these terrible events and be able to stand before Him one day (verse 36).

Henry says:

Watch therefore, and pray always. Watching and praying must go together, Nehemiah 4:9. Those that would escape the wrath to come, and make sure of the joys to come, must watch and pray, and must do so always, must make it the constant business of their lives, (1.) To keep a guard upon themselves. “Watch against sin, watch to every duty, and to the improvement of every opportunity of doing good. Be awake, and keep awake, in expectation of your Lord’s coming, that you may be in a right frame to receive him, and bid him welcome.” (2.) To keep up their communion with God: “Pray always; be always in an habitual disposition to that duty; keep up stated times for it; abound in it; pray upon all occasions.” Those shall be accounted worthy to live a life of praise in the other world that live a life of prayer in this world.

MacArthur says:

He will come. He will come. We don’t know when He will come. And so, we live in perpetual vigilance, a vigilant anticipation, never letting that out of our minds. He could come at any moment…He could come at any time…He could come at any day. This needs to be kept before the church at all times. This is one of the gifts that our Lord wants from us. When He comes…Oh, we expected You, we expected You. We’ve been waiting, we’re ready.

This might seem to some as an odd reading in Advent, a time which, for us, is full of preparation for Christmas, including happy social engagements.

Yet, Advent readings begin by calling us to account, to repent, so that we might better appreciate Christ’s deigning to come to the world as an infant and living a fully human — yet fully divine — life among us.

The 33-year-old also said, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get’.

On Thursday, November, 25, 2021, Nigel Farage invited Bilal Fawaz, a rapper and amateur boxer, on his Talking Pints segment:

Bilal Fawaz was trafficked from Nigeria nearly 20 years ago as a 14-year-old. The premise was that he would be able to see his father in the UK:

In the event, he was kept in a house where he was an unpaid servant. He was not allowed to go to school. When he was told he might be sent to another house to essentially continue working as a slave, he began to get suspicious.

Eventually, he managed to escape and get himself into the care system in England. Finally, he was allowed to go to school and make British friends. He had a few scrapes before deciding that the self-discipline of sport was the route out.

Bilal decided to pursue boxing. Now, at the age of 33, he has finally been signed up by a boxing organisation.

He’s also a rapper, and not a bad one at that. The GB News video above shows a clip of him performing.

However, as Bilal only has the official status of ‘leave to remain’ in the UK, steady work has been hard to find. He has 30 months to obtain ‘indefinite leave to remain’, which, he said, sounds like a long time but really isn’t.

One of his parents is Nigerian and the other is Lebanese. Bilal said that the Nigerians consider him ‘too white’ to be Nigerian, and the Lebanese consider him ‘too dark’, so he, too, has experienced racism, hence, his rapper name, which means ‘stateless’.

Over the years, Bilal has given motivation lessons to young people to encourage them to work hard and be positive about life.

He has no time for anyone who calls Britain ‘institutionally racist’. He thinks the UK is a great country and full of opportunity. He says that most people who consider themselves victims are being lazy.

He pointed out that everyone has had hard knocks in life, but that it is up to each of us to overcome obstacles and find a constructive way forward.

Nigel Farage was visibly moved by Bilal’s life story. It seems likely that the two will keep in touch.

The most moving moment for me was when Bilal said that he wanted very much to buy a house and start a family in Britain. I pray that he succeeds in that goal.

The dominant classes in the UK are moving ever leftward.

Meanwhile, everyone else is centrist or decidedly conservative. We’ve noticed our standards of living slip. This probably would have happened without the pandemic, only more slowly.

On Wednesday, November 17, 2021, The Telegraph‘s Allister Heath had a good column on what’s happening: ‘Catastrophic elite failure is destroying the economic foundations of the West’.

Heath blames monetary policies for capitalism’s current weakness in the West (emphases mine):

In Britain and abroad, years of monetary vandalism, fuelled by hubris, neglect, economic amnesia and incompetent short-termism, are destroying capitalism’s ability to function efficiently and equitably. An obsession with near-zero interest rates and QE is engineering a vicious redistribution, propping up washed-out politicians and empowering a zombie class of unproductive private-sector bureaucrats.

He then goes on to discuss what is happening in the UK:

Savers are being mugged: over the past year, at least 4.2 per cent, and perhaps even 6 per cent, of the value of bank accounts was stealthily confiscated by resurgent inflation, and the average worker is being subjected to a real terms pay cut. For all of the talk of “levelling up”, and the genuine rise in relative wages in some sectors such as lorry driving, tens of millions of workers are witnessing, to their growing fury, the salami-slicing of their purchasing power, even before the National Insurance rise.

Heath says that the overall problem is:

the shared self-interest of our politico-technocratic ruling class …

… which has led to:

a series of catastrophic, self-reinforcing consequences.

It is true that the rich get richer. The middle and working classes have less purchasing power. It used to be that most Britons could buy their own homes. Not any more.

Heath points out that this is not just an economic problem but also a social one, affecting the family structure:

Cheap and easy money is destroying conservatism and liberalism, and shifting Britain to the Left politically, morally and culturally. On the one hand, work has become less rewarding; on the other, ultra-low mortgages and QE have dramatically enriched the 65 per cent of the population who possess their own home these past couple of decades, while the 35 per cent who don’t have fallen far behind. Owners of certain financial assets have also done very well from cheap credit, as have those with index-linked pensions; other savers are being hammered. Creditors are losing, debtors are winning.

This isn’t genuine, free-market capitalism: it is a warped, corrupting ersatz that is destroying the social compact. It undermines family formation. It sends a debilitating signal that the only way to become rich is to be rich in the first place, that thrift and hard work are a waste of time, that delayed gratification is for fools, that debt-financed hedonism is the answer. It will also fuel a disastrous class warfare, and embolden the hard Left to call for mansion taxes, all-out wealth levies, higher minimum wages and enhanced trade union powers, destroying what is left of the economy.

Quantitative easing (QE) — cheap money — was once considered an imprudent policy. It was never conservative, but now, it has become the norm:

People’s QE, which started as a fringe hard-Left idea, is mainstream; many “experts” now argue that we should increase our “excessively low” national debt by at least 50 per cent.

Heath goes to say that ‘woke corporations’ are another result of QE:

Cheap money is even behind the rise of the woke corporation, including the emergence of an unproductive yet highly paid segment of the middle class devoted to virtue-signalling. Inflation, by damaging risk-free savings such as cash and gilts, has encouraged riskier investment in stocks and shares, helping big fund managers, especially those that operate tracker funds, to tighten their grip. Because these funds don’t seek to beat the market, they have embraced an alternative role as woke enforcers, forcing private firms to sign up to endless green and social targets.

He says that governments must stop relying on QE and they must rein in spending:

We need to wean ourselves from QE. Governments must rein in spending. It’s either that, or wait until what is left of our societies is eventually taken down by the greatest financial reckoning in history.

That is one of the most honest appraisals of our economic and social situation I’ve ever read.

It’s time for more financial commentators to tell us the raw truth.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. I hope that their day is full of food and fun.

This is an important day, recalling the first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts featuring English Pilgrims and the indigenous people who taught them how to plant and grow regional crops.

Alternatively, some prefer to celebrate the first Thanksgiving in Florida decades before.

Whatever the case, the day is also apposite for giving thanks to God for personal blessings, past and present.

This summer, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the trajectory of my life and those many blessings from the past that made my present days possible. It was a prayerful exercise, full of remembered pleasant surprises from the past. As I looked back, it seemed to be God’s plan for me. How thankful I am.

Those weeks of reflection while doing gardening were a useful exercise. They also helped to lift the gloom of lockdown prior to England’s mid-July reopening. I still feel elated.

The other day, I wrote about Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler.

My post ended with an autobiographical video about his life:

He describes the trajectory of his life, from being a youngster who persuaded one of his teachers to allow him to start an after-school drama club in Scotland. At that time, he wanted to be an actor but also a butler.

After he finished school, he gave tours of a Scottish estate. From there, he went on to work for the then-Duke and Duchess (now Dowager Duchess) of Bedford, in England. A few years later, he became butler to Prince Charles. He ended up being a guest on television shows, not only in Britain but also the United States and Australia, discussing various aspects of etiquette. His demonstrations of afternoon tea have been particularly popular. Clearly, he has achieved both of his childhood ambitions.

Grant Harrold’s life appears to have the hand of God upon it, even if he did not say so.

Currently, The Royal Butler gives courses on etiquette, both in person and online. He ended his video by saying how grateful he was to the people along the way who made that possible, beginning with his schoolteacher who allowed him to set up a drama club three decades ago.

Each of us has much for which to be grateful. Thanksgiving Day is a good time to reflect on our many blessings.

Two funeral Masses have been held for Sir David Amess MP, who was stabbed to death on October 15, 2021.

On Monday, November 22, mourners gathered in Essex at St Mary’s Church in Prittlewell, Southend, Essex. Mass began at 1 p.m.

As Sir David was born in the East End of London, he wished for a traditional funeral from that part of the capital. A horse-drawn hearse took his coffin, draped with a Union flag, to two destinations in Southend so that the public could briefly pay their respects. The first stop was the local civic centre and the second his constituency office. His coffin was then taken to a funeral chapel, where local people have been signing a book of condolence.

GB News has a report here from Ellie Costello. This was before the Mass:

Ellie Costello filed the following report at the civic centre after the Mass at St Mary’s. The Victorian horse-drawn hearse — a glass covered carriage — is visible at the 1:00 point. The video also includes her interview with Mark Francois MP, who gave a eulogy at Lady Julia Amess’s request. She spoke with the MP before the Mass. He pointed out that his late friend’s lasting legacy will be that Southend becomes an official city within the next few months:

Six local fire-fighters were Sir David’s pallbearers:

 

Guido Fawkes’s post said that the hearse also stopped at the Methodist church where Sir David was so heartlessly killed. Guido has more on the funeral, including Mark Francois’s eulogy and a statement from former Conservative MP, Anne Widdecombe:

Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay tribute to Sir David Amess this afternoon after he was killed in a terror attack last month. The hearse drove through his constituency, pausing to stop outside the church in which he was killed and his constituency office.

Mark Francois delivered another moving eulogy at the private service in Prittlewell, telling mourners that Sir David “put Basildon firmly on the map and he worked tirelessly for Southend”. Following the 1pm service, a horse-drawn hearse carried the Union flag draped casket on a procession through Southend. Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, also a friend of Amess’s, read a statement on behalf of the Amess family, and asked people to “set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all”. 

Metro has photos of the Southend funeral procession along with a report, excerpted below:

One of the mourners, Sue Abrahams, told the BBC she knew Sir David from their time campaigning together in Southend.

She said she wanted to come out to pay her ‘final respects to him’.

‘Everybody knew him and he knew everybody; it was amazing,’ she said.

‘Seeing the coffin was a very emotional moment. I couldn’t fight back the tears, I’m afraid.’

In an earlier tribute read aloud in church, Sir David’s family said their hearts are ‘shattered’ but that they are ‘enormously proud of him’.

They added: ‘As a family, we are still trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody. Please let some good come from this tragedy.’

The MP’s friend and colleague Mark Francois delivered a eulogy, saying: ‘Whatever the weaknesses of Parliament, David Amess was the living embodiment of all its strengths.’

The former minister said in his tribute that, despite the ‘awful tragedy’ of Sir David’s death, the country should ‘keep calm and carry on’ as that is ‘what he would have wanted us to do’.

On Tuesday, November 23, a Requiem Mass was held at Westminster Cathedral in central London.

Parliament’s session was delayed to accommodate politicians from both sides of the aisle who wished to attend.

The celebrant, the Revd Canon Pat Browne, had married Julia and David Amess 38 years earlier. Therefore, it was only fitting that he should give the sermon his friend’s Requiem Mass. Canon Browne is also the Catholic duty priest for Parliament.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, was the celebrant.

Ellie Costello tells us that, on their wedding day, David Amess arranged for a horse-drawn carriage to transport his bride-to-be to the cathedral. She said that the Requiem Mass was also likely to be in that same vein: grand and emotional. Anne Widdecombe gave a eulogy, and a representative for the Pope delivered a statement:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted a tribute to his late colleague:

This is the funeral procession:

Prominent politicians, past and present, sat in the front pew:

A clip of Canon Browne’s sermon follows. He describes the long-standing friendship he had with the Amess family, including baptising their five children and presiding over the funeral of his mother, who died at the age of 104:

He said that Sir David’s office in Parliament was a place he could always go to for a cup of tea and a friendly chat. On the day Sir David was stabbed in cold blood, he went to comfort the MP’s parliamentary staff:

The Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, His Excellency Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, delivered the Pope’s message. Sir David had met Pope Francis several times:

The Pope’s message included an entreaty for combatting evil with good:

Anne Widdecombe told us that Sir David married his wife only three months after having been first elected as an MP. That was in 1983, when he represented the constituency of Basildon in Essex. She also related other anecdotes, including one about the horse and carriage which delivered the future Mrs Amess to Westminster Cathedral on their wedding day. He said he borrowed it from the Royal Mews. Anne Widdecombe has no idea if that was true or just a joke, but she said that with him, it couldn’t be entirely discounted:

Two Labour MPs who attended were moved by the Mass. They were Barbara Keeley …

… and Dame Diana Johnson:

Afterwards, Mark Francois told Sky News that he hoped the Requiem Mass sent his late friend suitably on his way to God:

This video has views of the beginning of the Mass along with Ellie Costello’s interview with Anne Widdecombe, also a devout Catholic:

Sir David was a true example to us all of a life well lived in unswerving faith in God through His Son Jesus Christ. He could have been swept up solely by politics. Instead, he was always mindful of the Lord.

On Sunday evening, November 21, 2021, I watched a GB News interview featuring former Royal butler and etiquette expert, Grant Harrold, on whether Prince Charles should abdicate for Prince William when the time comes.

Mark Dolan interviewed Harrold, who took the traditional side of the argument, affirming that Prince Charles should become King. Former Labour MP Stephen Pound from London said that the Prince should abdicate.

Short clips follow:

The full interview, which is 20 minutes long, follows:

In other Royal news, the Queen has recovered from her sprained back which prevented her from attending London’s Remembrance Sunday ceremony last week.

Last week, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, visited Jordan and brought back with them several vials of holy water, a customary gift to the Royal Family from Jordan. The holy water is used for christenings.

Yesterday, a rare double christening of the monarch’s two great-grandsons took place at Windsor Royal Lodge. Fortunately, the Queen was able to attend:

Returning to the Royal butler, I was struck by his courtesy in the face of a difficult subject. An abdication is a fraught subject and Edward VIII’s was a difficult period for the British when it took place in the 1930s. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining. George VI’s accession to the throne resulted in Elizabeth II succeeding him in 1952.

GB News host Mark Dolan emphasised Grant Harrold‘s expertise in etiquette. Investigating his Twitter feed reveals that he gives etiquette courses in person and online.

With the holidays around the corner, it seemed apposite to share a few of his insights. Some of them are quite British, but some aspects are worth adopting elsewhere, as they do exhibit courtesy.

When staying at someone’s home, it is worth keeping in mind the hosts’ schedule and those who work for them. This is the traditional breakfast rule for houseguests:

This is a gentleman’s breakfast attire when he is a houseguest:

Turning now to the hosts, anyone giving a dinner party should send out invitations six weeks in advance:

In Britain, there is a certain etiquette at formal dinner parties as to when one can leave the table to use the loo. Obviously, if it’s an emergency, one can leave the table.

‘Pudding’ is the traditional British word for ‘dessert’:

Sometimes, when we are together with friends, it is tempting to pass along another friend’s personal details. However, we should not do that unless we’ve asked the friend’s permission first:

Sometimes, the holidays are the time for romantic commitment. Harrold explains why men get down on one knee to propose. This is a mediaeval, chivalric holdover that should be respected:

A woman’s handbag is one of the most personal items of property she owns. Avoid the temptation to look inside:

Harrold also has advice regarding office life. Despite coronavirus, the rules remain the same.

This is where one should stand in a lift, depending on how many people are in it:

Once in the office, if someone else has boiled the kettle, let them fill their mugs before helping yourself. Be sure to refill it afterwards:

It is also paramount to wash one’s own utensils and crockery. As one of my former bosses said to my then-colleagues, ‘Your mother doesn’t work here’:

Regarding coffee, I fully agree with Harrold’s advice on drinking cappucino, which is a morning drink, not an all-day one:

This next tip was the only point of etiquette with which I disagree, the notional hazards of making friends in public places:

I would have had a very lonesome time had I adopted that rule, especially on my Scottish holidays decades ago. I met several men and women who stayed in touch with me for years afterwards. Be careful, be alert. Assess accordingly, then take a decision. I always prayed to the Holy Spirit before and after a social situation whilst on holiday. He guided me to and through them, and for those blessings of friendship, I will be forever grateful.

In closing, The Royal Butler, as he styles himself, gives us a glimpse into his work in media over the years:

I haven’t watched the video yet, but here it is:

What struck me about Grant Harrold was his inner calm, something of a rarity these days.

His peaceful demeanour would appear to indicate that etiquette and good manners do work!

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Corinthians 11:1-6

Paul and the False Apostles

11 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s dislike of boasting unless it be boasting in the Lord.

The last four chapters of 2 Corinthians are about the false teachers in Corinth who are defaming Paul and filling the congregation with bad doctrine. Most of the controversy had ended already, but it wasn’t entirely over, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to stamp it out fully before he returned.

Paul has to defend himself and do what he dislikes most: boast about himself.

He asks the Corinthians to bear with him in ‘a little foolishness’, i.e. personal boasting (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says it was entirely justifiable and necessary (emphases mine):

In his case it was necessary; yet, seeing others might apprehend it to be folly in him, he desires them to bear with it. Note, As much against the grain as it is with a proud man to acknowledge his infirmities, so much is it against the grain with a humble man to speak in his own praise. It is no pleasure to a good man to speak well of himself, yet in some cases it is lawful, namely, when it is for the advantage of others, or for our own necessary vindication; as thus it was here.

John MacArthur says that Paul wants to hammer down on their disloyalty:

He’s saying, then, I want you to tolerate this latest confrontation, I want you to tolerate this foolish boasting in the Lord which is demanded by your foolish disloyalty. And here are four reasons why I want you to tolerate it because what is at stake is your loyalty to God, your loyalty to Christ, your loyalty to the gospel, and your loyalty to the truth. I mean there’s a lot at stake.

He uses the analogy of marriage to express his ‘divine jealousy’ — ‘godly jealousy’ in some translations — because he wanted to present them to Christ as being doctrinally pure, as a virgin would be on her wedding night (verse 2). He says ‘divine jealousy’ because he was jealous and fearful on God’s behalf. They were turning away from scriptural doctrine for another ‘Jesus’, the one promoted by the false teachers who had come from outside Corinth.

MacArthur expands on what Paul meant:

It’s not me that I’m worried about, it’s you that I’m worried about. I’m not concerned about my Christian experience, I’m not concerned about my relationship to the Lord, that’s as it should be. What I am concerned about is yours. I’m grieved that you might get seduced away from me and therefore you draw unto these false teachers, you’re going to wind up with error and iniquity and your own life is going to be a shambles. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.

What might appear to them as foolishness is extreme concern motivated by jealousy. He is jealous of the betrayal as a husband would feel for an unfaithful wife who pursued other lovers. It’s not selfish. He’s quick to add, “With a godly jealousy.” Literally, the jealousy of God. He’s saying I am jealous for God. You are being disloyal to God, that’s what he’s saying. This is a righteous indignation. This is a righteous jealousy. The Corinthian defection was disloyal to God.

This, by the way, is a major theme in the Old Testament, as you know, this whole issue of disloyalty to God. In Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5 it says, “The Lord is a jealous God.” Well, what is – what is that context? That’s the context of laying down the law that you shall have no other gods. Why? Because God is a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” And that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:9 and 6:15. Deuteronomy 32:16, “They made Him jealous with strange gods.” Joshua 24:19, “He’s a holy God, He’s a jealous God.” Nahum 1:2 says essentially the same thing. Psalm 78:58, “They aroused His jealousy with their graven images.”

Paul was feeling the pain of God’s jealousy. Paul was feeling the pain of God’s own heart.

Paul says he fears the Corinthians will be led away from the truth in the same way as the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (verse 3).

MacArthur explains how crafty the serpent — Satan — was with Eve:

Eve was deceived. Let me just tell you something. You all know the story of Adam and Eve, and the serpent in the garden, and all of that. I want you to understand clearly, I do not believe for a moment Eve believed she was sinning. I don’t believe she was overtly, purposely rebelling against God. She was deceived, and deception means she thought she was being given the right information, and that heretofore, she had had the wrong information. She thought she had been deceived, and now things were clarified; and that is always the approach of false teachers.

They come, and they cast the truth as error, and then offer error as the truth. That’s the way it always is. Let’s go back to Genesis 3, and see how Satan did that, in the prototypical illustration of deception. Genesis, chapter 3 – and obviously, we don’t have time to cover everything here – but there are some points that we need to make. “The serpent” – it says in verse 1 – “was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” The serpent now has a special identity because Satan, who is a spirit being, an angel, has taken up residence in this serpent, and can even speak through the serpent; and so, the serpent comes to the woman.

Finding the woman – because the woman is out from under the headship and protection of her husband, he finds her – isolates her, gets her alone, and in typical fashion, here is the model seduction; here is the model religious seduction. Here’s how it goes. “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” Now, God had said that; clearly, God had said, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Clearly, God had said that; Satan knew God had said that. But he brings it up as if it were unclear.

And the first thing you want to do with the truth is to cast doubt on it, and that’s what all false teaching does. And Satan just says, “You don’t really mean that God said you can’t eat of something in the garden? I mean, you understand now, there’s nothing there but perfection; why does there have to be prohibition? Since there’s no such thing as wrong, how could anybody do it? Surely, you don’t understand what God meant. I mean, you must have missed that, Eve. I mean, God said you shouldn’t eat of some tree in the garden? You couldn’t have heard it right …

“The truth is – let me give you the truth; now – now that you realize you really haven’t understood God, let me tell you the real truth. God knows that in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Now, how do we understand this? I’ll tell you how we understand it from Satan’s side. This is right down Satan’s alley. Satan wants Eve. He wants Eve out of God’s hands. He wants to wrench Eve out of the hands of God; and he knows how. All you have to do is get her to take steps to be like God, and she’ll get thrown out of paradise.

How does he know that? That’s exactly what he did. He knows that very well, because when he wanted to exalt himself to be like God, he got thrown out of paradise; now, he wants her out of there, too. From her standpoint, she doesn’t understand the motivation of Satan. He is trying to rip a soul out of the hands of God; He’s trying to damn a soul. But from her viewpoint, it sounds like, “Oh, you mean if I do this, I’ll be like God?” This is the original Gnostic heresy. “I’ll have the elevated knowledge? I’ll have the super-knowledge? I’ll have the transcendent knowledge?

“I’ve been so confused. I thought I understood about that tree, and I thought I understood about the fact that we would die – even though I don’t know what prohibition means, and I don’t know what it means to disobey, and I don’t know what it means to die, because nothing around here dies. I – maybe I have misunderstood it, and now, you’re telling me, if I will do this, I can be like God?” My – if I said that to you as a Christian, “If you do this, you’ll be like God,” you’d say, “I want to do that, because the goal of my life is to be like Him, isn’t it?”

So – so from her standpoint, it sounded perfect, absolutely perfect; and that’s always the way. The false teacher comes, and says, “We’ll show you the true knowledge; we’ll lift you up; we’ll make you like God.” Like the Mormons say, “We’ll make you into gods. We’ll lift you right up, and you’ll forever and eternally rule your own planet, as the god of your own planet.” That’s always what the false teachers say. Well, the woman said, “I better check this tree out.” So, she “saw the tree was good for food, saw that it was delight to the eyes, and it was desirable to make her wise.”

Paul then says that the Corinthians, who had heard the truth about Jesus, put up readily enough with a false teacher, welcoming him to their pulpit (verse 4).

MacArthur says:

he says, “You bear this beautifully.” You took it, you gave him the pulpit, you accepted it. You have already shown an immense and deadly vulnerability. This, by the way, is a pastor’s heart. This is the attitude of true pastoral care.

He points out the use of the word ‘comes’ in that verse. It is the opposite of ‘sends’, as in God’s sending a true preacher:

He starts the sentence by saying “For if one comes and preaches” – and I just stop there long enough to say it could be translated since, because it’s really not hypothetical. One had come, and more than one had come. He’s not talking about a hypothetical situation, really; there was a real situation.

They had come. The false teachers had come. The false apostles had come. They had come on their own. And by the way, it’s important just to note, he says, “For since one comes” is in distinction from one being sent. He who comes is in direct contrast to he who is sent by God, namely an apostle like Paul. They had come on their own, and the Corinthians had given them the pulpit, accepting the preachers, who had come with their lies. They came, and they “preached another Jesus whom we have not preached.” It was not the Jesus Paul had preached.

False teachers always affirm Jesus, but they also always introduce error:

Here came these false teachers, subtle, but it was another Jesus. It always is. You can always tell error because of its Christology. They always corrupt who Christ is. Mormonism believes that Jesus is the spirit child of God, and so are all of us, so he’s one of us. He was – he came in the flesh, but he was a spirit child of God. We’re all spirit children of God, so we’re all creatures; he’s a creature, like us. That’s another Jesus. “That’s not the Jesus,” Paul says, “whom we preach.”

I don’t know what the false apostles said about Jesus; it doesn’t tell us. Really, Paul never does outline error for us; it’s not helpful. They came into the Corinthian church from the outside – just as Satan did into the garden of Eden, which was the paradise of God. And likely, they – they were Palestinian Jews, who allegedly sought to bring the Corinthians under the correct teaching, and they said they came from the Jerusalem church. They were, in a sense, Judaizers, seeking to impose Jewish customs on the believers; but – but different than Judaizers, because they made no issue out of circumcision, and they made no particular issue out of the usual legalism.

Actually, they encouraged – encouraged licentious liberties. They exalted rhetoric. They were heavy into oratory. They were charmed by Greek philosophy and culture. They claimed to be the apostles of Christ, and representatives of the Jerusalem church, and they said that Paul was a fraud. They identified somehow with Jesus – the name Jesus – but it was a different Jesus. We don’t know anything more about the particulars of their religion, and I’m glad Paul didn’t waste any time defining their defect. They had somehow invented another Jesus.

You have to listen so carefully, because Satan is so seductive. They talk about Jesus. They love Jesus. Jesus is the Savior. But it’s not the true Jesus. Secondly, he says, “If one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received.” Now, what Spirit had they received when they believed? The Holy Spirit; at the time a person believes, they receive the Holy Spirit. But the false apostles came with a different spirit.

Paul refers to the false teachers as ‘super-apostles’ — a bit of sarcasm — saying that he is not at all inferior to them (verse 5).

MacArthur discusses the wording:

This is what I call a minimalistic statement. He says, “I consider myself not in the least inferior.” I mean, he is so hesitant to say anything self-promoting, that he says the bare minimum. He’s saying – he’s not saying, “They’re equal to me,” but he’s saying, “I’m at least equal to them.” Again, you see his humility in this …

There he is, sarcastic again – the extra-super guys – “even though” – and here he goes, right back to it – “I’m a nobody.” He felt so comfortable referring to himself in the most base terms; and it was such a foreign thing for have to – for him to have to elevate himself. This is a remarkable man; a remarkable man.

He then says that, even if he is not the most gifted speaker, what he lacks in oratory he more than makes up for in knowledge and says he has made that clear to the Corinthians in all things (verse 6).

The false teachers were no doubt gifted speakers, and the Greeks loved oratory as well as physical presence.

MacArthur says:

The guy wasn’t attractive physically, and he couldn’t speak. Where is the impressive oratory? Where is the compelling rhetoric? Where is the knowledge of Greek philosophy? They were so used to that in their culture; they worshiped eloquence. I mean, they used to go down – you know, you read these stories about the Greek philosophers – they used to go down to the river, and fill their mouth with marbles, and learn how to articulate with all these little round stones in their mouths, teaching themselves how to articulate …

And the word unskilled – are you ready for this? It’s the Greek word idiōtēs; it’s the word for idiot in English. It has a contemptuous edge. “I know, I’m an idiot as an orator,” is what he’s saying. “I know that; rude and crude,” and they said amateurish, untrained, common, unrefined, and ordinary.

That’s what the word means, idiōtēs. He was no orator. He was clear. He was profound. But he didn’t have any of the oratorical finery. It – it was – to him, it wasn’t the technique, it was the truth, that was captivating, right? Only truth and clarity concerned Paul, and the simpler, the better.

Paul’s ministry ended on an unfortunate note, as MacArthur explains:

Churches to whom he had given so much of himself, and even more importantly, to whom he had given the gospel of Jesus Christ – churches where he had preached and evangelized, and where he had founded the church and ordained the elders – have slipped into periods of serious disloyalty, even before the pages of the New Testament are closed. We read the seven letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, and the first century is not even over yet, and five of the seven manifest serious, deep, endemic disloyalty that threatens their future existence.

By the time Paul came to the end of his life, after such a notable career as a preacher and teacher of the truth of God – at times early in his career, even a worker of miracles – it’s almost unbelievable to read the level of disloyalty that occurred at the end of his life. It should have been that as people got to know him better, and as the evidences of his power, and the expression of the Spirit of God through him, began to multiply as he founded church after church after church, and as he wrote letter after letter after letter.

And as the pattern of his godly example became more familiar to everybody in the known Christian world, you would have assumed that by the end of his life, there would be a tremendous crescendo of loyalty to the man, because of all that had gone before in such unflinching and unwavering devotion to Christ. But the sad fact is that when he went to pen the last letter he ever wrote, when he was a prisoner awaiting his imminent execution – that epistle being 2 Timothy – he says to Timothy, in chapter 1 of that epistle, and verse 15, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me.”

Disloyalty on such a widespread level that he says, “All that are in Asia have turned away from me.” He names Phygelus and Hermogenes as two illustrations. It’s almost unthinkable. It’s almost inconceivable that there would be such manifest disloyalty to Paul, and consequently to what he taught. At the end of that epistle, the last chapter he ever wrote, chapter 4, he says in verse 9, almost with a melancholy tone, “Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, for having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

One can only imagine the deep hurt and pain that Paul felt at the desertion of Demas. Nothing new, really. Verse 16 of the same chapter, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me.” I suppose anybody in ministry has to be ready to face disloyalty. I don’t think Paul really felt it so profoundly because it just involved him, but because he understood the implications. Disloyalty to the apostle Paul was tantamount to disloyalty to the one whose ambassador he was.

Disloyalty to the apostle Paul, being ashamed of Paul, was being ashamed of Christ, for Paul was really lost in Christ. Paul, who said, “But for me to live is Christ.” Paul, who said, “I’m crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Paul was almost indistinguishable from Christ. His words were not his words, they were Christ’s words. His demands were Christ’s demands. His character was Christ’s character coming through. It was he who said, “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ.” And a rejection of Paul, disloyalty to Paul, was a tacit disloyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that’s what was so heart-wrenching about it for him.

It wasn’t that he needed to accumulate fans; it was that that was betraying an evident defection from Christ. Sad. As we come to 2 Corinthians, we have to say that such a defection had begun in the Corinthian church. The Corinthian church had manifested signs of disloyalty; serious, deep disloyalty. And this disloyalty so greatly concerned Paul that he wrote this epistle, called 2 Corinthians. And he wrote the epistle to confront the disloyalty in this manner: to confront the disloyalty by affirming and defining, clearly and comprehensively, the integrity of his own ministry.

Returning to 2 Corinthians 11, Paul has much more to say to the Corinthians about himself and the false teachers.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:7-11

Reign of Christ, or Christ the King, Sunday is November 21, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine below):

John 18:33-37

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Pontius Pilate had been conferring with the chief priests just outside of the hall of judgement, or Praetorium. Praetor means governor or procurator. The chief priests did not enter the hall because they considered it Gentile territory, therefore, it was unclean. If they had entered, they would have been defiled and unable to partake of the Passover feast. That belief came about through rabbinical tradition and is not in Scripture.

Pilate then re-entered the hall of judgement, summoned Jesus and asked whether He was the King of the Jews (verse 33).

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur say that Pilate’s question was scornful and contemptuous.

Henry says:

… he was far from imagining that really he was so, or making a question of that. Some think Pilate asked this with an air of scorn and contempt: “What! art thou a king, who makest so mean a figure? Art thou the king of the Jews, by whom thou art thus hated and persecuted? Art thou king de jure–of right, while the emperor is only king de facto–in fact?”

MacArthur looks at the Greek text:

In fact, in the original language it’s like this: “You? Are You the King of the Jews, as if – this is absurd, this is ridicule, this is ridiculous. You’re the one everybody’s so worked up about?” He probably remembered back to the original day when He came into the city with all the hail hosannas. “You’re the one? It’s You? You’re no threat.” This is ridicule.

Jesus responded by asking Pilate whether he came up with that question on his own or if others — the Jews — had told him to ask it (verse 34).

MacArthur interprets our Lord’s response:

Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about Me? Is this your charge, Pilate? I’m in your court. Are you actually charging Me with something? Is this your idea that I’m an insurrectionist, that I’m a threat to Caesar, that I’m a revolutionary, that I’m leading an attempt to overthrow Rome? Is this your idea or are you just an errand boy for those Jews?

If Jesus had brought about a temporal kingdom of Israel, the chief priests would have defended Him against Pilate. Henry explains:

If others tell it thee of me, to incense thee against me, thou oughtest to consider who they are, and upon what principles they go, and whether those who represent me as an enemy to Cæsar are not really such themselves, and therefore use this only as a pretence to cover their malice, for, if so, the matter ought to be well weighed by a judge that would do justice.” Nay, if Pilate had been as inquisitive as he ought to have been in this matter, he would have found that the true reason why the chief priests were outrageous against Jesus was because he did not set up a temporal kingdom in opposition to the Roman power; if he would have done this, and would have wrought miracles to bring the Jews out of the Roman bondage, as Moses did to bring them out of the Egyptian, they would have been so far from siding with the Romans against him that they would have made him their king, and have fought under him against the Romans; but, not answering this expectation of theirs, they charged that upon him of which they were themselves most notoriously guilty-disaffection to and design against the present government; and was such an information as this fit to be countenanced?

Pilate feigned ignorance, saying that he himself was not a Jew, that the chief priests handed Jesus over to him; he asked what Jesus had done (verse 36).

It is worth noting that Pilate and the Jews did not get on well. In fact, they had sent a few negative reports back to the emperor in Rome about him. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent but wanted to keep his job.

MacArthur says:

In chapter 19 … verse 12, the Jews said to Pilate, “If you release this man you’re no friend of Caesar. We’re going to tell him again.” Why does Pilate even release Jesus when he knows He’s innocent? Blackmail, blackmail. His previous mistakes and misjudgments made it impossible for him to defy the Jews and keep his job. He lost it anyway in 35 A.D., and historians tell us not long after that he killed himself. I guess he wanted to do the right thing as a judge in one sense, but he had no courage because he killed Jesus to keep his job. That was Pilate.

MacArthur tells us:

Pilate’s answer is, “I’m not a Jew, am I?” verse 35. “Are You kidding? I don’t carry their agenda. Your own nation and the chief priests to me; what have You done?”

Again, the culpability of the leaders of Israel for the execution of Jesus Christ is patently obvious: “I have nothing to do with You; You have nothing to do with me. Rome has nothing to do with You; You have nothing to do with Rome. You’re no threat. This isn’t an issue with Rome. You, You are some kind of a king? I don’t know anything about that, it’s Your own nation and Your own chief priests who delivered You to me. And once again, what have You done?”

There is no crime; he can’t find any; he can’t identify any. This is some kind of Jewish issue that has nothing to do with the military or politics. Pilate knew this for sure, that the Jews would welcome a real king who could gather an army to overthrow Rome; they would welcome that. He also knew that they wanted Jesus dead for envy, jealousy, so he says, “What have You done? There’s no accusation at all.”

Jesus says that His kingdom is not of this world and acknowledges that if it were, the Jews would be fighting to protect Him; He then repeats that His kingdom is not an earthly one (verse 36).

Pilate turns the question of kingship back on Jesus, who replies that it is he who says so; as for Himself, He came to this world to testify to the truth and that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to His voice (verse 37).

MacArthur elaborates on the meaning of that verse:

He came to testify to the truth. What truth? The truth of His kingdom, the truth of His nature, the truth of God, the truth of man, the truth of sin, the truth of salvation, the truth of heaven and hell; gospel truth, saving truth, to tell men the truth about God, about themselves, about life, about death, about eternity, about forgiveness.

The days of guessing are over. The days of half truths and lies, over. He said, “I am the truth.” John says, “If you obey Him, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Free from what? Free from the search for the truth.

He is the truth, and that statement at the end of verse 37 is so important. “Everyone, everyone – ” this is an exclusive statement. “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” There isn’t a person on the planet, and never has been, who knows the truth who rejects Christ. If you reject Christ you do not know the truth. He is the truth.

We live in an era when people’s idea of truth is extremely subjective and erroneous. However, believers can be assured that the truth they know endures forever:

If you’re not hearing the voice of Christ revealed on the pages of Holy Scripture you do not know the truth. I don’t know what you know, but you don’t know the truth. You may know the truth about certain temporal things, but you don’t know the truth that matters, and that’s the truth about eternal things. “Everyone, everyone, everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” and when you begin to hear His voice, that’s the end of the search, you’ve been set free from the search.

It’s really wonderful to live in a cynical post-modern world where people have decided there is no truth, and to step up and say, “Yeah, there is, and we know the truth, we know the truth.” The truth is the Son of God living in incarnate, the Word of God inspired and inerrant, that’s the truth.

This Sunday closes the Church year.

Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Readings for Year C will commence as we enter a new Church year.

COP26 ended last weekend.

The great Glasgow conference ended with an agreement to phase ‘down’ coal rather than phase ‘out’ coal.

This left COP26 chairman Alok Sharma MP (Conservative) in tears.

More on that below.

Let’s start at the beginning of the year and work from there.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg declared early in April that she would not be attending COP26:

The budding epidemiologist (irony alert) said that the conference should be cancelled until global vaccination rates had risen.

Odd that she did not mention carbon emissions from 30,000 prospective attendees, which the Global Warming Policy Forum did in May, strongly suggesting that the conference take place virtually. Guido Fawkes said that having done so would have saved British taxpayers £200m.

The UK Government stuck to the plan, however. A spokesman said:

We are working on the basis of COP26 being held in person this November, while closely monitoring the covid situation.

The summit team is working closely with all partners and exploring what different scenarios might mean for COP26 and how we plan for that, whilst putting the health of the participants and the local community first.

We are not looking to postpone the summit.

During COP26, Greta led a rally in central Glasgow, attracting hundreds of fellow admirers in the streets.

Mixed messages from No. 10’s COP26 spokeswoman

On April 20, No. 10 decided to scrap the plan for American-style press conferences which Downing Street’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton was supposed to lead. Stratton became the Government’s COP26 spokeswoman instead.

What a mistake that was.

On July 27, she told Britons not to rinse their plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Good news for plumbers, then:

The next day, she — working for a Conservative government — advised Britons to join the Green Party:

This seemed to be an attempt to walk back her dishwasher advice from the day before.

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphasis in the original):

In an unexpected turn of events, Boris Johnson’s COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton told The Independent that people should “join the Green Party” if they want to tackle climate change. When asked why organisations were critical of her advice to consider not rinsing plates“ before putting them in the dishwasher, Allegra responded by saying:

“When people say to me, ‘What can they do?’, they can do many things, they can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.”

A highly quotable if somewhat unusual endorsement… 

On August 2, Stratton explained to Times Radio why she still drove a diesel car rather than buy an electric one (emphases mine, unless otherwise stated):

I have a diesel Golf. It’s third hand and I’ve had it for 8 years. I don’t drive it very much because I live in London, and it wouldn’t be right. I cycle, I’ve hurt my leg at the moment, but usually we cycle or get on the bus or walk most places. The car we use to go to granny’s and grandad’s who are  mostly 200, 250 miles away. I should be moving to another car, before I hurt my leg I was thinking about getting another carMy son would really like me to buy an electric car. I think it is the idea that right now, if I had one, any of those journeys to my dad in South Scotland, my mum in Gloucestershire, my in-laws in the Lake District and my Gran in North Wales, they’re all journeys, that I think would be at least one quite long stop to charge. And my kids are seven and four and I don’t fancy it just yet. That’s not to say that very soon, that technology, the charging points, we’re already seeing an increase in numbers, we’re seeing the cost come down, and we are seeing the range go up. So the direction of travel is great, and is swift. So I am optimistic that at some point, like so many families around the country, I’ll go for it. But right now, I have hurt my leg and I’ve been told I can’t drive ...You know, sometimes when you’ve got a four year old in the car, they’re asleep, and you just want to keep going to get there, because you know, if they wake up, you know, they’ll want the loo, they’ll want food, they might be feeling carsick and so on. So you want to be in control of that journey ... And included in that might be that the stop times for recharging improve so much that it’s half an hour.

Stratton gave all the best reasons for not buying an electric car.

Commenting on Stratton’s quote, Emily Carver, Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs, pointed out:

Of course, when polled, the majority of the public support addressing climate change. Who wouldn’t want a greener, more sustainable planet? However, as is the case with so many policies, it is far easier to support a rosy abstract goal than it is to face its real-life consequences.

Furthermore, very few in the media mention the African slave labour involved in mining cobalt for car batteries in general:

How did Stratton get a position as press secretary then Britain’s COP26 spokeswoman?

Breitbart provided some clues:

Stratton became the first official White House-style press secretary for the prime minister last year. She is a former journalist who had worked with establishment outlets The Guardian, the BBC, and ITV. Despite spending £2.6 million on furnishing a press room, the government scrapped the plans in April, moving Stratton to the role of the Cop26 spokeswoman, with the conference taking place in November of this year.

The Times claimed in May that Johnson appointed the former journalist at the insistence of his then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, herself a keen environmentalist.

The newspaper of record alleged the hiring took place despite the interview panel recommending against it, with leaked remarks calling Stratton a “risky appointment” and voters allegedly preferring Ellie Price, the panel’s first-choice candidate.

“The PM said it would make his life too difficult. Carrie won’t accept it if it’s anyone else. He said, ‘I’ve promised this to her’,” a Whitehall source told The Times, with a second source saying: “Boris said Carrie would go bananas if she didn’t get her way.”

In 2020, Stratton worked for Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In January 2021, TCW told us that Stratton is married to The Times‘s James Forsyth, who also works for The Spectator:

It’s time for the journalist James Forsyth – who also writes a column in the Times – to reveal the truth about Sunak’s plans. Forsyth and Sunak are close friends. They attended Winchester College together in the 1990s. Sunak was best man at Forsyth’s wedding and they are godparents to each other’s children. In April 2020, Sunak hired Forsyth’s wife, Allegra Stratton, to be his media chief (though it’s not clear if this job was ever advertised and I don’t remember any of the above being declared publicly). Since then she has moved on to be No 10 press secretary.

The conference, the hypocrisy

Guido Fawkes looked through Government contracts for COP26 to see what taxpayers’ money was financing.

The filming costs were exhorbitant:

The government has splashed a whopping £36,083,135.81 on a production services contract with Identity Holdings Limited which includes a supply of production and media services.

Glasgow teemed with prostitutes for the first two weeks of November. So much for women’s rights and the Left’s virtue signalling moral compass.

Guido reported:

The 25,000 delegates who have flooded into Glasgow have brought protestors by the thousands and, according to Guido sources, untold sex workers from around the world who are advertising their services online. In the interests of research for this story Guido has been doing research on various “adult work” websites which filter by city. According to one of the website operators, business has really hotted up, with the number of hookers advertising their services tripling from the normal three hundred or so in the city, to upwards of a thousand

Former Labour MP David Miliband told BBC’s Newsnight that the cost of net zero would be at least £100t of ordinary people’s money:

For whatever reason, a Green councillor from Brighton not only attended the conference, but flew to get there:

On November 9, Guido wrote (emphases in the original, the one in purple mine):

Why it is really necessary for a local council leader to attend a UN conference Guido doesn’t know given they have absolutely no locus or input into the COP process. To make matters worse Brighton’s Green council leader has been caught with his fly open and forced to apologise after jetting to COP26 in Glasgow. Just days after Caroline Lucas moaned Rishi’s Budget was a joke because of its tax cuts on domestic flights…

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty took a plane from London to Glasgow, a 460-mile journey after which he made a speech at a protest march led by Greta Thunberg on the importance of cutting carbon emissions. He also chair’s Brighton and Hove council’s carbon neutral working group. According to the LNER website, the train journey from Brighton to Glasgow would have created 26.68kg of CO2 – Cafferty’s plane journey created 169.94kg…

Having been found out, the councillor issued a grovelling apology to a Brighton newspaper, The Argus.

In sharp contrast, former Scottish Conservative MP Ruth Davidson spotted the Royal Train at Carlisle station:

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s security minister Tô Lâm left Glasgow to journey to London for an eye-wateringly expensive gold leafed tomahawk steak at the newly opened Salt Bae Knightsbridge restaurant.

Guido has the video …

… and a post about the Communist enjoying a taste of capitalism:

And where had he just come from prior to his luxury dining experience? A flower-laying exercise at Karl Marx’s grave…

This absurd spectacle should surely call into question the millions the UK’s given to the corrupt, communist state. Since 2001, £481 million of UK taxpayers’ cash has been given in aid to Vietnam, and they are set to get another £7 million bung in 2021/22. Based on the video, Guido calculates the three steaks alone cost the table £2,550…

His colleagues back home are clearly displeased. The #SaltBae tag on Facebook was blocked in Vietnam to prevent people seeing the video –  something the social media giant is now investigating. Presumably if he is sacked for his typically corrupt communist antics, he can expect a golden handshake and a gold-plated pension…

One supposes he flew there and back.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has been a stickler for wearing masks in the coronavirus era, but look what she did at COP26. She dropped her mask:

The Daily Mail reported that Joe Biden had an emission problem of his own which left the Duchess of Cornwall highly amused. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is on the left, with Camilla on the right:

Brand Scotland

More than halfway through the conference it became clear that Glasgow’s hospitality sector was not reaping the post-coronavirus benefits that COP26 promoters promised.

On November 10, The Times reported (emphases mine):

While hotels across Glasgow are fully booked to accommodate the thousands of delegates, the hospitality trade is understood not to have seen any uplift in trading since the event began on October 31.

There are even suggestions the event has led to a reduction in trade for some operators. Footfall in the city centre is said to have been affected as people try to avoid the demonstrations.

There is also thought to be a number of delegations which have stayed outside of the city, with Edinburgh hotels among those which are busy.

Oli Norman, whose Ashton Properties owns venues such as Brel and Sloans, said he had heard of some publicans and restaurant owners who have seen their trading fall by up to 50 per cent, and added: “It should have signified a resurgence in the local economy but if anything it has been a damp squib.”

Dan Hodges from the Mail interviewed self-employed Glaswegians in Easterhouse, a poor district away from the city centre:

Thomas is disillusioned with COP26. ‘I’ve missed my chance,’ the Glaswegian barber tells me. ‘My friend rented his flat at two grand a week. He’s making £6,000 and using the money to jet off for a holiday.’

I’m in Easterhouse, a few miles from where the global elite are gathering to save the world from itself. But few of them have ventured out to what was once the most deprived housing estate in Scotland. ‘I’m not sure why,’ Angus, the local butcher, laughs. ‘Perhaps Joe Biden got lost on the M8.’

What does he think about calls for us all to go vegan to protect the planet? ‘Well, I’m a butcher,’ he replies. ‘And my dad was a butcher and my grandad was a butcher. I grew up on pig’s feet soup. So I think people round here are still going to want to eat meat.’

Angus’s views could be ascribed to self-interest. The same can’t be said for local cabbie Andy. He’s made a small fortune shuttling delegates between Glasgow and Edinburgh at £120 a time. ‘Sorry, but the whole thing is a pile of crap,’ he tells me. They’ve been driving round in big convoys telling everyone else to get the bus.

‘It all feels like a millionaire’s party.’

While a Scottish government minister caught coronavirus at COP26 …

… First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did her best to market at least one Scottish product, Irn Bru, a popular soft drink. She gave some to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Sturgeon also marketed herself through a series of selfies:

This short yet amusing video tells the story perfectly:

One senior Scot noted Sturgeon’s contradictory position on mask wearing:

Sturgeon had no policy mandate at COP26. She was invited only as Scotland’s political leader. It was a courtesy.

Still, as such, one can understand why she wanted selfies with world leaders. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, even though she denied it:

How it ended

Not surprisingly, much socialism was on display at COP26.

Harry Wilkinson discussed it with Tom Harwood of GB News on the last official day, November 12. This was an excellent interview:

China and the United States signed a bilateral deal thought to be a big deal. We’ll see. That said, India is the second greatest polluter after China:

Nicola Sturgeon wants a ban on nuclear fuel in Scotland, but if she does ban it too soon, the nation will not have the energy supply it needs:

In the end, coal would be phased down rather than phased out. This is because too many developing countries need it to supply energy to their citizens.

Britain’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, nearly broke down in tears, explaining why to Times Radio:

It was an emotional moment. I understood the disappointment. And six hours sleep in 3 days probably didn’t help.

The Times reported:

Before he banged down the gavel on the pact, the tearful Sharma told delegates: “I apologise for the way this process has unfolded. I am deeply sorry.” The representatives of 197 countries at the summit responded with a standing ovation …

Sharma said the summit had kept “1.5 alive” but added “its pulse is weak” and described it as “a fragile win”.

Nonetheless, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the agreement is a ‘historic achievement’:

Even Angela Rayner, the Labour MP who recently referred to ‘Tory scum’, praised Sharma for a ‘tremendous job’:

Sharma received many more compliments in Parliament early this week.

Those interested in combating climate change — largely impossible, in my opinion — should know that COP26 picked up from the Paris Agreement to flesh it out with specifics and COP27, to be held in Egypt in 2022, is thought to go even further with better pledges from participating nations.

On Monday, November 15, 2021, Winston Churchill’s niece, Clarissa Eden, the Countess of Avon, died at the age of 101.

The Times published an obituary. What a fascinating life she led.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

A life well lived

Anne Clarissa Spencer-Churchill was born in London on June 28, 1920. She was the daughter of Jack Spencer-Churchill, Winston Churchill’s younger brother, and grand-daughter of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Randolph Churchill. Her mother was Lady Gwendoline (“Goonie”) Bertie, a daughter of the 7th Earl of Abingdon. According to The Times, the Earl’s family thought that Lady Gwendoline married beneath herself, because Jack, even though he was a Major from the Great War, earned his living as a stockbroker, something that true gentlemen did not do in that era.

Perhaps they were not wrong. Money was tight, so much so that Jack’s family lived with Winston’s in South Kensington, overlooking the Natural History Museum.

Childhood holidays were spent at Blenheim itself and later at Churchill’s home, Chartwell in Kent. They also included visits to Normandy where family friend Consuelo Vanderbilt, formerly Duchess of Marlborough, lived.

Clarissa had two older brothers. Despite her mother’s devoted attention to her, she grew up to be independently minded. She left a fashionable Essex boarding school, Downham, because she felt she did not fit in with the other girls.

At the age of 16, her family sent her to Paris to study art. This was the beginning of her adulthood and sent the tone for her life over the next several years:

There she was taken up by the younger members of the embassy staff, including Fitzroy Maclean. At 17, she had her first love affair, visited nightclubs run by White Russians and saw Josephine Baker dance clad only in a circlet of bananas. It was no surprise that when she returned to London she found her contemporaries to be lacking in sophistication. In imitation of Marlene Dietrich, she had a man’s suit made. Deborah Mitford, her fellow debutante, recalled the blue-eyed Clarissa as having “a whiff of Garbo” about her.

By the time the Second World War broke out, Clarissa had moved from London to Oxford, attracting the attention of men:

There she unofficially attended philosophy lectures and persuaded AJ Ayer to give her tutorials. “She was a don’s delight,” Lady Antonia Fraser recalled. Her circle included Lord David Cecil and Isaiah Berlin, who told her how as a small boy in Russia he had buried his mother’s pearls in the snow to save them from the Bolsheviks.

She inspired a fictional character called Emmeline:

The composer and writer Lord Berners, a noted wit — a notice at the top of a folly on his estate read: “Members of the public commit suicide here at their own risk” — left a portrait of her as the heroine of his novel Far From the Madding War.

Emmeline, who has “hair reminiscent of a cornfield at daybreak”, looks like “a nymph in one of the less licentious paintings of Fragonard”. She is not the sort of girl to whom one makes improper suggestions without encouragement. Reflecting on their acquaintance at the time, and on his more humble origins, the historian Raymond Carr noted: “I got no encouragement.”

The Times has a photo of her as a young woman, stately looking with fine, yet angular, features, so characteristic of the British upper class.

Clarissa’s life as a young adult, The Times says, resembled that of Anthony Powell’s series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time. I’ve read all of them and recommend them to anyone interested in British society. What held true then still holds true today.

Anthony Powell became one of her friends along with many others in the arts. There were also two spies, who came to be infamous:

Other names of the era who flow through her memoir include Cyril Connolly, Cecil Beaton, Greta Garbo, Orson Welles, Peter Brook, Lucian Freud, John Pope-Hennessy, Emerald Cunard, Nancy Mitford, Moura Budberg, the Marchesa Casati and Donald Maclean, the spy, who danced with her.

She worked with Guy Burgess at the Ministry of Information after a spell decoding messages at the Foreign Office.

Working for the Government during the war was not without its glamour:

Clarissa was at the time living on the top floor of the Dorchester hotel in central London, which had cheap rates during the Blitz; in the next room was Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela. When she later got a flat, she shared it briefly with the writer Elizabeth Bowen after she had been bombed out of hers. And when she made parts for submarines, she found herself on the production line next to Lillie Langtry’s daughter.

After the war ended, Clarissa went to work for film maker Alexander Korda, who made the iconic movie The Third Man:

Clarissa Churchill worked as a writer for Vogue and in the publicity department of Korda Films, then producing The Third Man. Subsequently, she joined a magazine owned by George Weidenfeld, Contact, persuading Elizabeth David, then little known, to contribute recipes to it.

Her life changed forever when she met Conservative politician Anthony Eden, remembered for the Suez Crisis of 1956.

During the war, he was the Secretary of State for the Foreign Office from 1940 to 1945. The two did not meet until after the war, however.

Eden’s first marriage had collapsed. He was single when they made each other’s acquaintance:

Despite their close relations to Churchill, the pair had not met properly until soon after the war. Eden was living as a bachelor, his first wife, Beatrice, finally having left their troubled marriage after the death in 1945 in Burma of their elder son, an RAF pilot.

They had a common interest — art:

“Like many Englishmen, he hadn’t known intimacy,” Clarissa observed of the Eton-educated Eden, whose mother had been beautiful but selfish. They brought happiness to each other, sharing a love of art and, arguably, a political outlook. “I’m not really a Conservative,” he told her, “I’m an old-fashioned Liberal.” A more certain influence was that “he offered me a taste of another side of life”, far removed from the more bohemian circles in which she moved.

Eden was 23 years older than his girlfriend. Some of Clarissa’s admirers disapproved of the relationship, especially when it resulted in marriage:

Indeed, their engagement in 1952 had astonished their two very different sets of friends

… betraying their lack of worldliness, both were surprised by the excitement that their wedding generated. The crowds who gathered outside the register office at Caxton Hall in Westminster were almost as large as those for Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage there a few months earlier. The reaction of others, however, was less friendly.

Evelyn Waugh, who had been in love with Clarissa, wrote her an intemperate letter (after lunch at White’s) about the state of her soul — she had been raised a Roman Catholic. Duff Cooper, another disappointed admirer of hers, confided to his diary his view that Anthony Eden had no friends and his only interest was in becoming the Tories’ leader.

Clarissa’s cousin Randolph Churchill, who in the press had repeatedly attacked Eden, his father’s political heir, said at the wedding reception that he would give her two years to “knock him into shape” before recommencing his criticisms. He kept his word.

Eden’s health was poor. Shortly after he and Clarissa married, he had a serious problem with his gall bladder, which took some time to resolve. He nearly died:

Stomach pains that he had had for some time were, at Clarissa’s prompting, found to require an operation in 1953 on his gall bladder. When this was botched, it necessitated two more, the last in America and with Eden close to death.

A bad health experience so soon after marriage drives some couples apart. Not so with the Edens, who became ever closer. Clarissa’s infertility was the next blow. Yet again, their love grew for each other to the extent that Clarissa stopped seeing many of the friends she made as a young adult during this period:

He recovered but the experience of nursing him, Clarissa recalled, “bound us together in a situation of emotional dependence”. It perhaps promoted a siege mentality in both of them, and it was a further sadness that Clarissa was unable to have children after a miscarriage in 1954. She admitted that she had never had women friends with whom she exchanged confidences. After her marriage, she lost touch with her other friends, dismissed by her husband as “café society”.

The couple spent their spare time alone with each other. By now, Eden’s star was in the ascendant; he was a popular Foreign Secretary. He was irked that his rival, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did not stand aside to allow him to lead the Conservative Party and enter No. 10:

Clarissa emphasised her disinclination to cultivate strategic friendships by retreating alone with her husband as often as possible to her cottage, Rose Bower, near Salisbury. These were halcyon days for Anthony Eden as foreign secretary. His diplomacy saved Europe’s fledgling defence pact and brought peace to Indo-China, and in 1954 he was made a Garter knight. Yet he became increasingly irked by Churchill’s disinclination to step aside for him — a dozen times a date was set and then revoked — with Clarissa feeling bound to side with her husband against her uncle. The couple were not mollified by the gift of Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire as an official residence, arriving to find its late owner’s much-used hairbrushes still on their dressing table.

A general election took place in 1955. Anthony Eden finally became Prime Minister. The Edens were Britain’s most sought-after couple outside of the Queen and Prince Philip:

When in May 1955 she walked into Downing Street with her husband Anthony, the newly elected prime minister, the wind could not have stood fairer for them. After the young Queen and Prince Philip, they were the most glamorous and powerful couple in the land.

Lady Eden was only 34, her youth and good looks a refreshing contrast to the exhaustion exuded by the previous premier, her octogenarian uncle Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Anthony Eden was 23 years older than his wife yet still handsome, a natural performer in the new age of television, and genuinely popular. Foreign secretary during the war years and since 1950, he had just become the first leader of a government in a century to increase its majority.

The UK does not have a position of ‘first lady’. That said, some wives of prime ministers do undertake improvements in No. 10 Downing Street. Mrs Eden was one of them, although her first goal of refurbishment was thwarted by the shortage of government funds post-war. She settled on the catering instead:

After moving in, she planned a refurbishment that would have restored much of the original interior, but this fell victim to cutbacks. She had more success with the bland official catering. At one dinner she heard John Foster Dulles, the US secretary of state, bet a fellow guest that he could predict exactly what each course would be. That he had to pay out showed the potential strengths of the team that she and Eden made.

Anthony Eden had one immediate drawback, which was his relationship with the press. Churchill knew how to feed reporters stories. His successor did not.

This might have influenced press coverage of the Suez crisis in 1956, which ended his premiership:

This lack of support in the press may not have influenced Anthony Eden’s thinking when in July 1956 President Nasser of Egypt abruptly nationalised the Suez Canal, hitherto owned by Britain and France. But it meant there was less sympathy when, come November, Eden’s response misfired. After a secret agreement with France, British troops were sent to regain control of the canal on the pretext of halting fighting between Egypt and the other conspirator, Israel. Yet Eden was forced to withdraw humiliated when the Americans, describing Britain’s actions as colonial, threatened to impose oil sanctions and began to sell sterling.

Eden’s policy had sharply divided public opinion and Lady Eden was curious enough to attend a rally in Trafalgar Square against the invasion, although she walked away after being recognised. She herself placed much of the blame on Harold Macmillan, then foreign secretary. He had told Eden that President Eisenhower would not demur at an attempt to oust Nasser, and she thought that he had then exaggerated the gravity of the measures announced by Washington.

It was Macmillan who gained the prime ministership when in December 1956 Eden’s health gave way under the strain.

After leaving Downing Street, the Edens travelled to Jamaica and New Zealand for his health purposes:

He tried first to remedy it with a stay of three weeks at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica, Fleming’s wife, Ann, being a friend of Lady Eden’s. When the break failed to improve matters, and with support for him failing in the cabinet and the Conservative Party, he resigned on January 10. He and Lady Eden then sailed for New Zealand. Over the horizon with them disappeared Britain’s remaining pretensions to be a world power, and the tradition of reposing trust in the ruling class; among the Edens’ stewards aboard the Rangitata was a young trades union activist named [future Labour MP] John Prescott.

Upon their return to England, the Edens settled in Wiltshire. Clarissa devoted herself to gardening. Her husband bred pedigree Hereford cattle.

In 1961, the former Prime Minister became the 1st Earl of Avon. His wife became Countess of Avon, or Lady Avon.

The Earl died in 1977 and his surviving son from his first marriage, Nicholas Eden, who was working in Margaret Thatcher’s government at the time, became the 2nd Earl of Avon. Nicholas died of AIDS in 1985 and, as there was no heir, the title of Earl of Avon died with him.

After her husband’s death, Lady Avon divided her time between Oxfordshire and London. She was careful to preserve her husband’s memory and guarded about guests referring to the Suez Crisis:

All the while she continued to guard her husband’s memory with what her acquaintances regarded as characteristic vigour and her friends as her essential integrity.

At one lunch party when a guest referred in embarrassed and halting tones to “the events of 1956”, she said firmly: “We call it Suez at this end of the table.”

On November 16, Conservative History posted photos of Lady Avon and one of Greta Garbo. Lady Avon had captioned each one (click on the image to see them in full):

Final interview

In 2018, when Lady Avon was 98, she gave her final interview to Spear’s, a financial investment magazine.

The magazine’s then-editor Alec Marsh met with the Countess in her Bryanston Square home in Marylebone, central London:

Three tall windows overlook the square, and the sage-green walls of what she calls a ‘salon’ are coated with beautiful artworks, including one painting by the French cubist Marie Laurencin that catches my eye. ‘It’s a painting that my husband liked,’ Lady Avon explains. ‘He had a very good eye. He was always buying paintings.’ Was that something he had in common with Churchill? ‘My uncle didn’t have a good eye,’ she chuckles genially. ‘He did painting; they were quite nice. But he wasn’t an aesthete, but my husband certainly was.’

That year, Churchill was the most popular Briton. A film of his life as Prime Minister during the Second World War, Darkest Hour, was playing in the cinemas:

Like millions of others, she has seen Darkest Hour and was enthralled by it – including Gary Oldman’s portrayal of her uncle. Would Churchill, I ask, be surprised by the public adoration being heaped upon him today, more than seven decades after the moment of his greatest triumph? ‘I don’t think so,’ she says shrewdly, ‘because by the end of his life he was very great, wasn’t he? It would be very difficult not to realise that he would be remembered.’ Would he be pleased about it? ‘Yes he would, of course.’ She smiles. ‘Naturally.’

Alec Marsh asked what her impressions of her uncle were. Before he became Prime Minister during the war, he had largely failed at several points in his career:

We all think we know something of her uncle, but how does she describe him? ‘That’s very tricky,’ she starts, ‘because I always knew him as a great man who hadn’t been appreciated. Most of my [early] life he was a failure. He was out of a job, out of work and not right in anything he believed in. He was in exile, so to speak. Going to Chartwell [the Churchills’ home in Kent] before the war was going to a place in exile – a place where people were not doing anything. It was all rather frustrating and sad.’

She described her frequent visits to see her uncle when he was PM and she was working in the Foreign Office decoding documents:

‘There was always a crisis, a tension, but one knew that that’s what he lived on; the fuel that got him going. Which it did with any good politician,’ she adds, noting that the same was true for her husband. Did Churchill wear the pressure with equanimity? ‘Oh yes. Of course,’ she insists, as though nothing else would be possible. ‘Certainly.’ How did he cope? ‘I don’t know. But he had always done it.’ Did he drink too much? ‘No, not more than most men,’ she fires back.

I ask about her wartime visits to Chartwell: ‘I didn’t particularly like it, but it was interesting always because Winston was so interesting,’ she recalls. ‘One always wanted to know what he was thinking and doing.’ Whatever the house itself lacked in aesthetic quality (‘Have you ever seen it?’ she asks), its host more than made up for its architectural shortcomings. ‘It was just him,’ Avon states emphatically. ‘One went and there was him and nothing else. They had the lunch or whatever it was, and he would talk and one would listen; that was the important part.

‘But he was not interested in what anybody else had to say,’ Avon recalls, laughing fondly. That said, she insists that he was ‘very polite’. ‘If somebody famous was at lunch he would listen to them, but on the whole he didn’t pay any attention to anybody.’

Was he entertaining company, I ask; funny? ‘He was certainly witty…’ And somewhat terrifying at times? ‘Not in the least, no. But,’ she breaks into laughter, ‘I could see he was terrifying, but not to me, no.’ Avon also recalls that he was ‘very conscious about things like nieces and nephews’.

Marsh asked what her abiding memories of her uncle were:

All these years on, how does she remember him? ‘He was exceptional, certainly,’ she punctuates this with a frank chuckle. ‘I think I realised he was very great in spite of the fact that everyone kept telling one that he was.’ She raises her eyebrows. ‘I did realise that he was exceptional. You couldn’t not.’ The greatest prime minister of the twentieth century? ‘Who was greater?’ she answers.

Then he ventured into present-day issues:

What does she think Winston would make of modern Britain? Lady Avon looks over towards the tall windows momentarily. ‘Not much,’ she chirps. ‘I don’t know. He was very, very old-fashioned in his approach to life.’ That comment sits a moment; the quiet of the square seeps into the salon.

Where would Churchill be on Brexit, I ask? ‘I think he would probably not [be] very much for staying in Europe,’ she announces after some consideration. ‘But he was a good politician,’ she adds, ‘so I don’t know what he would have said.’ Which is rather a good answer when you think about it.

Then questions turned towards her late husband and the Suez Crisis:

I wonder how he saw it all; was he proud of his career?

‘I suppose so,’ she replies doubtfully. ‘Absolutely.’ Does she think people have the wrong sense of Suez – that it was a mistake? There’s a long pause. ‘A mistake because it took place at all?’ she asks. ‘I don’t know,’ she states at last. (At the time she famously said that she ‘felt as if the Suez Canal was flowing through my drawing room’.) I wonder if memories of this crisis have fallen prey to time, as she explains: ‘I’m not good at politics, I’m afraid.’ I’m still not sure as the silence of Bryanston Square returns.

How would Eden have liked to be remembered? ‘You mean as a success or failure?’ she responds. ‘Certainly [he] was a success at the beginning,’ she says, referring to his three spells as foreign secretary – covering ten years between 1935 and 1955 – before the disappointing period of highest office. ‘At the end, I suppose not. I never thought about it,’ she adds absently. She reaches forward to the plate and nudges a biscuit towards me. ‘Have that one,’ she says.

While being photographed for the article, she asked Marsh about his tie. So many British ties represent private club membership and other associations:

‘What does your tie represent?’ asks Lady Avon, looking over. It’s decorative, I say. ‘That’s disappointing. Right,’ she chirps, addressing Greg. ‘Where am I looking?’

May Lady Avon rest in peace.

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