The Church of England (CofE) has been undergoing a post-coronavirus exercise of church closures and consolidation.

Having been buoyed by Zoom worship in 2020 and 2021, Anglican bishops have decided to pull the plug on some of the world’s most beautiful churches, a source of community and comfort to those who worship in them.

Last week, Emma Thompson, not the actress, but a journalist and member of Save the Parish, wrote an article for The Telegraph about this dispiriting and destructive plan.

She rightly wonders whether England’s Anglican churches will still be there for her children. I share her view of the local church (emphases mine):

I love my rural village church. My vicar. My neighbours who attend. It’s local. It is, somehow, intrinsic. I love the Church of England and what it has brought to our constitution, language, law, architecture, art and music. Yet, unfortunately, I am increasingly worried that this great institution of our national life may not survive for my children’s old age.

At a time when the CofE could be offering comfort during a pandemic, it moved instead to championing political issues and the need to combat climate change. At the most senior levels of the Church, God has been sidelined.

In the last five months, three Anglican bishops have been received into the Roman Catholic Church. The latest is the former bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, who, several years ago, was shortlisted to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thompson rightly points out that his crossing the Tiber should be a red alert to Anglican bishops:

The significance of Dr Nazir-Ali’s decision should not be lost on those at the top of the CofE.

Bishops, now all nominated by the same appointments secretary, appear to prefer groupthink to diversity of thought. If no room exists for Dr Nazir-Ali – a theologically erudite, spiritually committed man who challenged the CofE’s strategic direction – then it is clear that a form of cancel culture has invaded the Church. How strange if the concept of tough love – the idea that someone who cares enough to criticise might love you most – is not embraced by Christ’s followers. Without extraordinary people, the institution will sink.

The new CofE strategy involves the closure of the local church, to be replaced by the diocesan office. How will that provide pastoral care for thousands of churchgoers?

Thompson reminds us that being the Good Shepherd to the flock is still part of the ordination vows:

… ordination vows reference being the Good Shepherd. The parish, the contact point with people providing local pastoral care, must be the basic unit.

Absolutely.

What is happening to CofE churches is nothing short of alarming:

Various dioceses announced morale-shattering parish clergy cuts. The Archbishop of York proposed the “Myriad” scheme to create 10,000 new lay-led “house churches”. Leicester Diocese voted to consolidate 234 parishes into 20-25 huge groups, cutting local vicars.

This accompanies a third shift, the Church’s loss of respect for its buildings, our shared national heritage. A green paper, nicknamed the Church Closers’ Charter, has suggested empowering dioceses to dispossess vicars, close churches and sell parish-owned buildings more easily and quickly.

What are these bishops thinking? Thompson said that these decisions are being taken by a ‘cabal’ of 12 of them, deciding the future of the faithful, and not in a good way.

She says that the Methodist Church in England adopted a similar plan and is now a shadow of its former self.

In closing, she says that the only way to combat this is to give generously:

Some dioceses, by pledging not to cut parish clergy, have managed to increase giving. This shows that we need not despair.

Even so, this dire plan of the bishops is a dangerous path for an established (national) church to take. One can only pray that divine intervention thwarts it.

Bible oldThe 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 9:1-5

The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending[a] the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift[b] you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.[c]

———————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s commendation of Titus and two other brothers in Christ to the Corinthians.

Today’s verses are quite similar in content and tone to 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, which I wrote about a fortnight ago.

John MacArthur explains why Paul is pressing the subject home the way he is. It is because of the false teachers in Corinth attempting to undermine him, especially with this offering from the church there to Jerusalem (emphases mine):

The false teachers no doubt had taken advantage of that and said he’s collecting money all over everywhere to make himself rich or to give to his friends in Jerusalem whom he likes much better than he does gentiles. Whatever way they could assassinate Paul’s character, they wanted to do it. So in the middle of this self-defense, it is important for him to defend the way he handles money. And that’s precisely what he’s doing here. In chapters 8 and 9, he is urging the Corinthians to get back to their giving toward this project.

Remember now, in the beginning they had pledged a certain amount. They started toward that goal and then stopped. It’s time now because the relationship has been restored. They have responded to the severe letter which Titus took. Titus has come back and said all is well. They reaffirm their love and their trust in you, and Paul now knows that they’re back connected as they should be, so he writes 2 Corinthians, and in this part he says it’s now time to start the giving again.

He had already told them that to reach their goal, they had to lay in store every week, the first day of the week, 1 Corinthians 16:2, and they had started to do that and apparently they had stopped. So he is now telling them to get on track with their giving, to restore this process of giving, so that he comes for his third trip, which will be yet in the future, no offerings will be necessary to make up the lack but the original commitment will be already completed. And as we shall see, it was a very large amount.

So Paul is in the process of doing this collection, of getting it from not only Corinth but other churches, carrying it back to Jerusalem, and giving it to the saints there. And in the midst of that, accusations were flying all over the place about the fact that he was likely going to take a big cut for himself or steal the money or do something dishonorable and dishonest with it. So Paul protects himself and discusses here the characteristics of stewardship with integrity.

Paul begins by saying that it is unnecessary for him to write about the necessity of giving to support the ministry of saints (verse 1). In other words, the Corinthians already understand its importance.

He acknowledges their readiness to give, which spurred on the Macedonians in their own fundraising for Jerusalem (verse 2). Achaia is the province where Corinth was located.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Wherefore he was persuaded, that, as they had begun well, they would go on well; and so, commending them for what they had done, he lays an obligation on them to proceed and persevere.

To ensure that the fundraising in Corinth goes as planned, Paul explains that is why he is sending the three trustworthy and pious men so that everything will be ready when it should be (verse 3).

It is worth noting that the Corinthians were far wealthier than the Macedonians, who were very poor yet managed to raise a goodly sum of money.

Therefore, Paul wants an even better showing from Corinth, because the church there had much more to give.

Paul was considering bringing a few Macedonians with him and said that it would be humiliating for all concerned if the Corinthians had not met their obligation, especially as he had boasted of them to the poorer congregation (verse 4).

MacArthur reminds us that Paul did indeed take Macedonians with him to Corinth:

Paul says, “You know, if when I come on my third visit and I bring some Macedonians with me” – which according to Acts 20 verses 2 to 6 is exactly what he did – “and I bring those Macedonians and you are not prepared with your offering, you will be ashamed and I will be ashamed for my boasting about you.” We can bring shame on the church and shame on the apostle if this thing isn’t cared for appropriately. I want you to be an example right from the beginning to the end so that other churches, other individuals from other churches can come and see the model that you have established.

Paul ends by saying that this is why he is sending the three men to administer the collection of the final funds, which should be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly (verse 5). ‘Blessing’ is used in some translations rather than ‘gift’.

A gift given grudgingly suggests greed, or covetousness, as MacArthur explains:

If the enterprises of God, if it is God’s work, if it is done in God’s way, and if it deserves your gifts, and if you have them to give and you don’t, sin is the issue. It has to get down to that. Verse 5, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren” – that’s Titus and the two other brothers – “that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, that the same gift might be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.”

So he says, “To make sure there was no humiliation, to make sure you didn’t fail to give, to make sure you were fulfilling your promise and your pledge, I have urged the brethren that they would go on ahead of me. I can’t come right now” – in fact it would be a while before Paul would go – “but I have to know that things are moving, and I have sent these brothers to get this thing to its completion, to arrange beforehand your” – this is a key phrase – “previously promised bountiful gift,” which indicates that on first hearing about the need, they no doubt had promised a huge amount; bountiful gift, signifying a very, very large sum.

And he’s just pushing them toward the fulfillment of that commitment. They had targeted an amount for the final sum, and he is saying you previously promised this bountiful gift, this large sum, and I want to make sure that the same is ready, that it’s ready and not affected by covetousness. And there Paul identifies the one great sin that affects giving, pleonexia in the Greek, it means covetousness or it could be translated greed. It indicates grasping to hold more, grasping to get more at the expense of others. It’s all built around selfishness and pride.

The rest of the chapter is in the Lectionary. Verse 7 will be familiar:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully[d] will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency[e] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

I know it’s difficult being a cheerful giver when church isn’t going as well as it should. I stopped annual, although not weekly, giving for a few years at my own church, which, to me, went off piste for a time. Now that things are back on track, I have resumed giving annually as well as on Sunday.

In closing, this is MacArthur’s checklist for giving, which he saw elsewhere. It is a series of useful questions for us to ask ourselves when determining how much to give to our respective churches:

Now by way of a helpful summary, as we close, a gentleman has put together a checklist to evaluate any church fundraising or any parachurch fundraising. Before you entrust your money to it, here are the questions or issues you need to see:

Do they have a definite and personal commitment to Christ?

Do they have an unclouded commitment to the authority of Scripture?

Are they involved in that which is defined as a biblical mission?

Is there prayerful dependence on God more than dependence on current strategies and techniques?

Is there an obvious love and concern for those ministered to?

Is there evidence of maturity, Christlikeness, and integrity?

Is there the spirit of servanthood and humility rather than presumption or arrogance?

Is it a God-centered rather than a man-centered operation – and he puts in parenthesis – (without constant pictures of particular men)?

Are the furnishings and lifestyles in that ministry modest and unpretentious?

Have they demonstrated responsible use of funds for purposes that are given?

Are there nonmanipulative fundraising tactics, no continuous crisis or inducements to give that will result in you losing your eternal reward?

Is there a track record of spiritual fruit? Have you seen it?

Is there responsibility to the leadership of a local church?

Are there good personal relationships among the ministry staff?

And is there a pronounced eternal perspective?

That’s a thought-provoking and useful list. I highlighted the questions that temporarily halted my annual giving.

In next week’s verses, Paul defends his ministry.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

The Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost — is October 24, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 10:46-52

10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

10:51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”

10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We pick up where we left off last week. Last week’s reading was about James and John requesting they sit next to him in Heaven,  insisting they could drink our Lord’s cup (God’s wrath) and take on His baptism (severe trial). Jesus granted their request of the cup and baptism. They ended up martyred. St James the Great was beheaded and St John suffered a slow death in exile on Patmos.

Today’s reading involves another request, but, in contrast to that of James and John, a very humble one made in faith.

Jesus had finished His ministry in Peraea. He and the disciples were now in Jericho, on their way to Jerusalem for Passover.

John MacArthur sets the scene for us and describes the beauty of Jericho:

Jesus had been ministering in Perea, which is a region east of the Jordan and down in the south. And He would keep moving down in Perea, eventually would cross the Jordan, just north of the Dead Sea. And the first town He would come to of any note would be Jericho. And from Jericho it is a direct ascent right up the hill to Jerusalem. “They came to Jericho.”

A great crowd is with Him; that is indicated to us here in the text. They are following along a large crowd. Matthew tells us the same thing: a large crowd, a great multitude. And it’s a combination of people who are following Jesus because they know about Him; and just the mass of humanity flowing down to the south to ascend to Jerusalem because they want to be there for the Passover. Many of them would cross the Jordan to go to the east, and cross the Jordan back again to avoid Samaria.

Our Lord has concluded a brief preaching, teaching, healing mission in Perea, and now crosses over the Jordan, probably by some kind of a ferry or a raft. The river would have been swollen at this time of the year, Passover is springtime, and the snow would have melted high in the mountains of Lebanon and filled up that lake of Galilee, and it would have overflowed down the Jordan River, and they would have crossed. They came to the city of Jericho known as the city of palms, city of Palms – about a six-hour walk straight up to Jerusalem.

Well-known in New Testament times, well-known, formidable place, a city fed by springs, had a lot of water even though its desert. Plenty of water piped in if there wasn’t enough there in the springs. They piped enough in to irrigate that place and to turn that place into a garden. It had a large population because of the availability of water. It was filled, they tell us – historians do – that it was filled with palm trees, it was filled with fruit trees of every kind. It was home to a bush known as the balsam bush that supplied juice that was used as a medicine and found only there.

The climate was warm, obviously. Josephus says linen clothes were warn even when there was snow in Jerusalem. Mark tells us that it was not yet the season for figs in the eleventh chapter, verse 13, in Jerusalem, but it would have been the season for figs ripening already in Jericho. Almonds flourished there, we are told, and rose plants. It was really a garden, the city given by Marc Antony to Cleopatra, according to Josephus, in the place where Herod built a fort and a palace in which he finally died. So it was a magnificent place.

But it’s not just the Jericho of the New Testament that we know about, the Jericho of the Old Testament is pretty famous, isn’t it? We all know the story recorded for us in Joshua chapter 6 about the destruction of Jericho when the walls came falling down, when the Israelites marched around it for seven days. It had a well-known history to the Jews. It had recovered from those darker days and was a flourishing, flourishing place. So in verse 46 they came to Jericho.

Now, Mark says He was leaving Jericho, Luke says He was approaching Jericho. That’s quite interesting. Matthew says He was going out of Jericho. What’s going on here? Well, the best way to understand that is that those references can be taken to mean He was in the general vicinity of Jericho. He was going in and out of Jericho because He was not intending to stay very long, although He did stay long enough to spend an evening and a night in the house of Zacchaeus the tax collector to whom He brought salvation. Whether He was at this point coming in before the incident with Zacchaeus or going out after the incident with Zacchaeus, one can’t be dogmatic about. But safe to say, in any case, it is in the vicinity of Jericho where this happens. And that place would have been a buzz, filled with all kinds of sites and sounds and smells, even memories for Jesus, because very near Jericho was an area called “the devastation,” the devastation, the very place where our Lord had been taken by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil.

Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside (verse 46).

This story features in the three synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. The account in Matthew 20 mentions two blind men. Luke 18 and Mark 10 only feature one.

Mark is the only account to name the man.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that some scholars believe his father’s name is included because he, too, was blind. As was usual in Christ’s miracles, there was also a spiritual element in the cure:

This one is named here, being a blind beggar that was much talked of; he was called Bartimeus, that is, the son of Timeus; which, some think, signifies the son of a blind man; he was the blind son of a blind father, which made the case worse, and the cure more wonderful, and the more proper to typify the spiritual cures wrought by the grace of Christ, on those that not only are born blind, but are born of those that are blind.

The Jews viewed physical infirmity as a divine curse, so when Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, ‘the Son of David’, to have mercy on him (verse 47), the crowd sternly ordered him to be quiet. Yet, he yelled out all the more loudly (verse 48).

MacArthur says Bartimaeus would have been the lowest of the low:

He’s at the bottom, by the way, socially, obviously below the peasants. Below the unclean and degraded sinners are the cursed. He’s just a hair above a tax collector.

MacArthur explains the Greek words in the original text:

When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, which is what they said, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David.” He began to scream. Mark uses the verb krazō, “to shout.” It’s a very strong word. It is used in Mark 5 to speak of insane epileptics, demon-possessed people. It’s used also in the Scripture to speak of – Revelation 12 – birth pain and the screaming of a woman; strong. He begins to scream in anguish and desperation, and he doesn’t say, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says, “Jesus, son of David.” 

Bartimaeus uses the messianic title for Jesus:

Son of David; that is a messianic title, and he knew exactly what it was. The Messiah was to be the heir of David’s throne, according to 2 Samuel chapter 7. The Messiah would receive the kingdom that had been promised to a son of David. David’s greater son would be the King who would bring the fulfillment of all the promises both to David and to Abraham. This was the most common Jewish title for the Messiah: son of David, son of David, son of David.

That is why you have the genealogy in Matthew 1 of Joseph that shows He comes from the family of David. That is why you have the genealogy of Mary in Luke to show that she comes from the line of David. Both His earthly father and His true mother were in the line of David. He is truly a son of David.

Jesus stood still and asked the crowd to call Bartimaeus to Him. Their mood changed as they encouraged him to take heart — ‘take courage’ in the older translations is even better — and approach Jesus (verse 49).

MacArthur points out our Lord’s rebuke to the crowd and their change in mood:

this is such a rebuke, such a rebuke to religion, elite religiosity, that the Lord saves the scum

Verse 49: “And Jesus stopped.” And I just need to say, if you see anything through all the years of studying the Gospels, you see the compassion of God toward people, demonstrated in Jesus Christ, compassionate at every turn. He stopped and He said, “Call him here. Call him here. Don’t silence him; call him here, bring him to Me.”

In fact, Luke 18:40 puts it this way: “He commanded that he be brought to Him.” He commanded it. “And so, they called the blind man,” – in verse 49 – “and they said to him, ‘Take courage, stand up! He’s calling for you.’” Now all of a sudden they change their tune. Jesus’ response to the man changes their attitude for the moment. Their curiosity drives them to let this thing happen and see what could be made of it. Maybe they’ll see another miracle.

Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and ‘sprang’ to Jesus (verse 50).

MacArthur says:

Somebody had to bring him obviously.

Jesus asked what He could do for Bartimaeus. It was the same question he asked James and John. Instead of responding with pride and ambition as they did, Bartimaeus addressed Jesus humbly as ‘my Teacher’ and asked to be able to see once again (verse 51).

MacArthur elaborates on this call for divine mercy, both physically and spiritually:

So here is a man who recognizes Jesus as the true Messiah; and here is a man who knows what he needs, and it is mercy, it is mercy. And while this is a typical cry of afflicted people, certainly it’s a true and pure cry of this man from the heart: “Pity me.” He’s not deserving of anything and he knows it. He would have understood the theology of his people as well and thought himself cursed by God because he was blind. He knows he needs mercy, he knows he is a sinner; his blindness aids him in facing that.

Note that Jesus tells Bartimaeus that his faith has made him well. With that He healed the man, who regained his sight and followed our Lord on His way (verse 52).

MacArthur explains:

This man only wants mercy. Unlike James and John who thought they needed elevation, this man knows he deserves nothing. He’s not laying claim on anything. Mercy means to give what people don’t deserve. And he said, the blind man did, “Rabboni,” which means, “Master,” Master. And according to Luke 18 he also said, “Lord, Master, Lord.” Wow, now this theology is starting to fill out here, “Lord and Master,” and he uses a form of the word kurios. He recognizes him as his Master and his Lord; and yet Jesus is taking the role of a servant and a slave. “What can I do for you?” I mean, compassion and sympathy and lowliness and tenderness and kindness and affection and grace and mercy, the King does what the beggar asks him to do.

“What do you want?” “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight. I want to regain my sight.” According to Matthew’s account, Jesus then reached over and touched his eyes. And according to Luke 18:42, He said, “Receive your sight.” He so often healed with a touch, didn’t He? He touched him and said, “Receive your sight.”

What happened? Verse 52: “Go; your faith has made you well. Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.” This really is a model of a conversion pre-cross, a model of a conversion pre-cross. Do you think there was any doubt in his mind that this was his Lord? No. His Master? No. His Messiah? No. That he was a sinner? No. That he needed mercy? No. There was no doubt in his mind that here was the dispenser of mercy needed by this desperate man.

This then is more than a healing, my friend, more than a healing. When Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well,” He uses a verb sōzō, from which we get “saved.” It means “to save.” “Your faith has saved you.”

There is a word strictly referring to healing, iaomai. That’s not the word here. It’s the word sōzō, “Your faith has saved you.” And we know that that encompasses the healing, but also the salvation. The healing is indicated, “and he regained his sight,” and the salvation is indicated in, “he began following Him on the road.”

The evidence of the healing was obvious, “He saw,” 20/20 instantaneously. The evidence of salvation was, “following Him.” He had received mercy; and he gives the sign of a true conversion: “He followed.” By the way, Matthew focuses on the two of them, and it says, “They followed.” And so his friend followed also. So he was there when he got to the top of the hill.

MacArthur speculates on what happened next, saying that Bartimaeus could well have been at the first Pentecost. Perhaps that is why Mark wrote of him by name:

You know, there must have been a – there must have been a literally stunning experience going on in his mind as he comes out of his blindness into sight and out of his sin into salvation, and walks with Jesus to the triumphal entry. And he’s there through the week, and he’s there after the resurrection. And very likely he’s there in the church; and that’s why he’s named, and that’s why his story is told. Who knows? My guess is he was one of the hundred and twenty in the upper room at Pentecost; a lifetime of being an outcast, and now he’s on the inside.

MacArthur reminds us that this was the last of our Lord’s creative — healing — miracles. Conversions are the remaining spiritual events with Zacchaeus, the criminal at the Crucifixion and the centurion who saw Jesus die:

in Jericho two wonderful salvation stories take place. Two stories that stand in stark contrast to national rejection in bleak contrast to the unbelief and hatred of the leaders and the people, two. Two prodigals, you might say, come home; two lost souls are found; two darkened minds are enlightened; two sinners are saved; two outcasts are reconciled. One is the story of the blind, the other is the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector; for he too encountered Jesus in Jericho, and that is recorded for us in Luke 19, verses 1 to 10. Mark doesn’t tell us that story, but it is Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus who are the last two trophies of sovereign, saving grace until the cross; and then there is a thief and a centurion.

It’s an illustration, isn’t it, and a reminder of what our Lord said about the narrow gate; and few there be that find it. And it is also remarkably an indication of the fact that there are not many noble, not many mighty; but it’s the poor and the outcasts and the nobodies and the nothings. All four of them fit into that category: a blind beggar, a tax collector, a thief, and a despised Roman. These are the only shining moments. It’s as if they make an exclamation point on the divine rejection of the Jews. The hypocritical hoopla that will occur when He comes into the city is just that, superficial and hypocritical. We really need to cherish these stories of conversion before the cross, and even the two at the cross.

MacArthur concludes with a practical application for us:

So many lessons here. You see the Lord’s profound compassion. You see that He never ignores the cry of a true heart of repentance; and desperate sinners who know they’re worthy of nothing will always gain a hearing with Him. You learn again what we’ve seen all through His ministry, that He has the power to heal disease. But far more importantly, He has the power to save sinners, turn them into obedient followers who live lives of true worship.

That’s why we’re here tonight, because we have been approached by Jesus somewhere along the road in our lives. In our blindness, in our desperation He passed by, and our hearts were awakened, and we cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And He heard our cry, didn’t He? And all of this is possible because He went all the way to Jerusalem, all the way to the cross, and out the other side of the open tomb.

May everyone reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

In my humble opinion, Michael Caine is the ultimate Londoner.

He was the only Londoner I ‘knew’ growing up — and that was through the films he made.

Now he is planning a move from his massive estate in nearby Surrey back to the capital, possibly Wimbledon.

On October 18, The Guardian published Xan Brooks’s interview with him, done by video link.

He told Brooks that only his wife and he live there:

These days it’s mostly just him and Shakira, rattling around. “So I’m going to get a smaller one,” he says. “Because the grandchildren have all gone now. They’re all growing up. So I’m going to move back to be nearer to them, where it’s easier for them to visit. I’m going to move to Wimbledon. My daughter, Natasha, lives in Wimbledon.”

Caine, 88, told his London story (emphases mine):

He was named Maurice Micklewhite, after his father, who worked as a fish market porter. I’ve read that he only officially changed it a few years ago, because he got sick of having to explain himself every time he lined up at UK passport control. But he says that’s not true: he changed it ages ago, 10 years back at least. It felt like cutting the last link with his past.

When he first became Michael Caine, of course, people still called him Maurice. “But I haven’t got any family members now, so no one’s called me Maurice for years. Everyone’s dead. My brother, my mother, my father. If I have any other relations, they’d be living in Bermondsey.” He shrugs. “And I don’t go to Bermondsey.”

What about him? Is he still Maurice deep down? “No. The day I became Michael Caine, that was it – I was Michael Caine. I wasn’t Maurice any more, I was a completely different person. And it was amazing. It was fabulous.”

What was wrong with Maurice? “Well, nobody knew him. He was broke. He was out of work. And the moment I became Michael Caine, I got a job and was on my way.”

He swings with practised ease into an anecdote he has probably told 100 times before – at dinner parties, in discotheques and on prime-time chatshows to rolling audience applause. It’s the tale of how he got his big break in the 1964 film Zulu. How he met the American director Cy Endfield in the theatre bar only to be told that the part he wanted had already gone to another actor. How he had thought that was that. Back to penury and obscurity. Back to being Maurice Micklewhite.

He says: “My entire movie career is based on the length of the bar at the Prince of Wales theatre, because I was on my way out and it was a very long walk to the door. And I had just got there, when he called out: ‘Come back!’ because he had decided that I could play the part of the officer instead. He said: ‘You look like an officer,’ because I was 6ft 2in, blond hair, very slim. The door was half-open; I was very nearly through it. I turned around and walked back in.”

His story makes me think of Dick Whittington, turning again on the road into London. “Exactly,” says Caine. “That’s exactly who I am: the Dick Whittington of acting.”

Moral of the story: never give up on your dreams!

The journalist makes an excellent observation, which ties in with my impressions of Caine as the ultimate Londoner:

He was the ordinary bloke with the alleycat swagger, the working-class hero with the undiluted Thames accent, a bespectacled poster-boy for 60s social mobility. He has now reached the point where he’s started to view himself in those terms

He got interested in acting because the two places he went to most often were the library and the cinema. Now that his acting career is over, because of the lack of physical agility, he is writing a thriller:

What’s the title and what’s it about? “Well,” he says. “The title is If You Don’t Want to Die. I only read thrillers. I’m an adventure man, I’m not a literature person, so I’m not trying to replace Shakespeare here. But it’s based on something I once read about two dustmen, two rubbish collectors in the East End.” Dramatic pause. “And they find uranium in the rubbish.”

As a boy in south London, his twin passions were always movies and books, the cinema and the library. He’s done cinema to death, so it’s only fitting that he should now be circling back to the library, albeit metaphorically – the actual building has long gone. The last time he visited Elephant and Castle he saw it had been replaced by a block of flats. But that’s progress, that’s history. It involves good changes and bad. When he was starting out as an actor, for instance, British film and theatre were the preserve of the posh. “It was: ‘Bunty’s having a party and everyone’s in their tennis whites.’” Another short laugh. “Then we came along and we changed all that.”

Although he still receives the occasional screenplay, the most recent having arrived a few weeks ago, he’s ready to hang up his boots.

The actor:

has a gammy leg and a dodgy spine and reckons the only time he leaves the house these days is when his wife has the time to take him out for a drive. The other week he was sent a screenplay that had his character running away from a bunch of crooks, and this made him laugh – the very idea he could play it. “I can’t walk, let alone run,” he says. “And I’m more or less done with movies now.”

It is likely that Best Sellers, which finished filming just before the pandemic hit, will be his last film:

He doubts he will ever make another, which is fine by him, no great loss. He’s got his knighthood and his Oscars; what does he have left to prove? He says: “I’ve done 150 movies. I think I’ve done enough.”

Best Sellers is about a crochety old author who suddenly goes viral.

Brooks makes another London-centric observation about the star’s exit from film:

Caine has been such a reliable fixture for so long – part of the furniture, a familiar face on the screen – that it’s unnerving to imagine the landscape without him, like walking into the Tower of London and finding the ravens all gone. It’s more unnerving still to realise that it may already have happened; that he might have retired without anyone making a fuss. Caine spent the first part of his career storming the barricades and the second enjoying the spoils of his success. One would have expected some big final act, a showstopping swan song. Instead, we have this: a clean getaway.

A ‘clean getaway’ sounds just the way Michael Caine would like to end his career: quietly slipping out the back door, unnoticed.

Late this summer, I saw an amazing photo of acrobats on top of the Empire State Building.

This is from 1934, when the building was only three years old. It was the world’s tallest building at that time:

The Three Jacksons were balancing on a ledge that was no wider than a newspaper.

It turns out, thanks to someone replying to that tweet, that there is an accompanying film, with modern narration, of the whole stunt:

It was the only time that the stunt was allowed there.

The video is short and nothing short of incredible.

The Three Jacksons got a two-week stint at Manhattan’s Roxy Theatre after that, but, according to the video, their fame was short-lived.

Nonetheless, this is an unmissable video showing the extent of human ingenuity.

Without a vote on October 19, 2021, in the House of Commons, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has been renewed again until March 24, 2022.

Not enough MPs rebelled to trigger a division (vote):

Interestingly, Bill Gates was in London on Monday. The Queen shook hands with him and he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

As usual, Mark Harper (Conservative) was the only MP who has continued to push back against this questionable piece of legislation. He rightly pointed out that this is the first time that Labour have complained about lack of scrutiny:

Labour have never opposed the Coronavirus Act.

A few other MPs, mostly Conservative, spoke up at Tuesday’s debate. This was probably the only time I’ve agreed with Labour’s Dawn Butler:

The Act has always been presented on the Floor of the House as an all-or-nothing Bill; MPs never have an opportunity to change, amend or scrutinise it, so I think that the Secretary of State is just a little misleading in how he is presenting it to the House today …

Unintentionally misleading.

It would appear that MPs did not clamour for a vote because some of the Act’s provisions have expired.

However, the driver behind the powers of the Coronavirus Act 2020 lie in a separate public health act from 1984 (oddly enough).

The Mirror, a Labour paper, explains (emphases mine):

Facing pressure from Tory MPs, Boris Johnson announced that the vast majority of Coronavirus Act powers – including on detention, events, gatherings, shops and restaurants and schools – would expire last month.

The means only a few of the more draconian powers – including the power to suspend port operations – now remain in the Act.

However, the Act also includes laws designed to improve the state’s response to the pandemic.

Those include the temporary registration of social workers, paramedics and other NHS staff if trainees or retirees need to surge into the system, and the ability to pay sick pay from day one of absence.

Labour MP Dawn Butler said the “authoritarian” Act had been passed with “no scrutiny” and “it was never proportionate”.

She added she was “pleased” that the most draconian powers – including detention powers – had been removed.

No one blamed Sajid Javid, still newish in his role as Health Secretary. It was the principle of the legislation and the way it was rolled out last year.

Of course, every Briton expects the NHS to be under pressure again this year. It’s been under pressure every winter since I moved here decades ago.

Sajid Javid said:

We do certainly expect more pressure as we head into winter, we’ve been very open about that and that is why the vaccination programme, both the Covid vaccination programme, the boosters and the flu vaccination programme remain important.

“But there are provisions in this Act which are still, I believe, still necessary and proportionate to help with the pressure … “

At the end of the debate, Deputy Speaker Rosie Winterton (Labour) took the mood of the Commons. Too few Noes spoke — to much laughter — in a near-empty House. Sickening, as if this were an in-joke. It probably is:

What an insult to the taxpayers who pay MPs’ salaries and expenses.

Meanwhile, it will come as no surprise that various scientists have been pressing the Government to quickly implement ‘Plan B’, which would mean a return to masks and more restrictions.

It looks as if we will be stuck in this downward spiral for some time to come.

Yesterday’s post recapped the horrific murder of Sir David Amess MP on October 15, 2021.

Today’s will cover more about this much admired man’s personal character and political causes.

Posthumous victory: Southend-on-Sea now a city

I was delighted to learn at dinner time last night that the Queen granted Southend-on-Sea city status. Sir David must have mentioned Southend at least once a week in Parliament. He had long campaigned for it and made 115 references to it. Here he is with his two French bulldogs, one of which is Vivienne. He was due to participate with her in the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event on October 28:

The GB News article says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement to MPs on Monday, October 18 (emphases mine):

The Prime Minister has notified the House of Commons that the Queen has agreed to confer city status upon Southend in tribute to Sir David Amess who was recently killed.

MPs cheered in the Commons as the Prime Minister announced Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”.

Mr Johnson said: “As it is only a short time since Sir David last put that very case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves …

That ‘short time’ was probably last Thursday, October 14:

In a three-hour debate on Monday, preceding a service of remembrance at St Margaret’s, the Parliamentary church next to Westminster Abbey, Boris noted that Amess was never an MP interested in climbing the greasy pole to a Cabinet or party leadership position:

“That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this House, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay.”

Boris Johnson, opening tributes to Sir David Amess, told the House of Commons: “The passing of 72 hours has done little to numb the shock and sadness we all felt when we heard of the tragic and senseless death of Sir David Amess.

This House has lost a steadfast servant, we’ve lost a dear friend and colleague, and Julia and her children have lost a loving husband and devoted father.

“Nothing I or anyone else can say can lessen the pain, the grief, the anger they must feel at this darkest of times.”

Returning to Southend-on-Sea, having city status will help to increase its profile and encourage outside investment, as the leader of the city’s council explains below. Incidentally, having a cathedral, the traditional marker of an English city, is no longer necessary. City status is now a symbolic designation:

On Friday night, this Southend business owner said that Amess was dedicated to making his town a city:

Everything I know about Southend I learned from David Amess’s contributions in the House of Commons:

‘Community man’

There are MPs and there are MPs.

Sir David was the type of MP who will be sorely missed by his constituents, who called him a ‘community man’. GB News interviewed several over the weekend, some of whom were in tears or close to it, including men, such as this Leigh-on-Sea councillor:

This councillor from Southend says that Sir David, whose mother lived to the age of 104, used to throw parties for constituents over 100 years old. He also used to ask about local issues in Southend and resolve them with the help of councillors:

Another councillor remembers that Sir David would check on certain constituents to see if they had transport for important meetings, probably related to issues of theirs he was dealing with as an MP. The man says that Sir David would personally drive those constituents to the places they needed to go. And, yes, there were right to life issues he campaigned for:

The Chairman of Leigh-on-Sea council recalls Sir David’s selflessness:

This lady from Leigh-on-Sea, the Essex town where Sir David was stabbed to death (17 times), discusses his dedication to his constituency. Like many other people, she had the pleasure of meeting him at work in nearby Southend:

As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, a man interviewed (at 2:35 in the next video) said that people used to see Amess in the local Lidl, where he took time to chat with fellow shoppers. The man said that he did not vote for him but said that the MP was always available and accessible to everyone:

Vigil Mass

On Friday evening, the Revd Jeffrey Woolnough conducted a vigil Mass at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea.

This is the church the Amess family attend.

The video below has a few photos from the Mass. Starting at the 40-second point, notice how traditional it is. The priest stands with his back to the people, as in days of yore. He also wears a short chasuble that is very pre-Vatican II, a fiddleback. How fortunate for the Amess family to have found such a church:

At 1:50 in the video above, two ladies expressed their grief on Friday night following the vigil Mass. One of them said that Amess ‘knew everybody’. As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, one of ladies said that people used to see him in the supermarket.

GB News was on hand to cover the Mass:

 

A service at Saint Peter’s Church in Eastwood Lane, close to where Sir David was killed, was held on Friday evening to remember him – where he was described by a priest as “Mr Southend”.

The church fell silent as Father Jeffrey Woolnaugh paid tribute to the Conservative MP and invited his constituents to remember him.

He placed a photograph of Sir David at the front of the church, and said: “This liturgy is one I was not expecting to lead today.

“The whole world grieves. In this Mass we pray for the repose of the soul of dear David.

“Have you ever known Sir David Amess without that happy smile on his face? Because the greeting he would always give you was that happy smile.

He carried that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.”

Around 80 people attended the service and listened as Father Woolnough recounted his own memories of Sir David.

He said: “When you can speak to your MP and you can talk and get on like a house on fire, that’s when you can talk to them later about things that are important to your area.

“What can we say? He died doing the thing he loved, meeting his constituents, his local people.”

Father Woolnough added that his constituents could “count on” Sir David, and said: “He was always available. We don’t have the words tonight.

“Dear Sir David, rest well.”

The priest also said that Amess’s smile is ingrained on everyone’s hearts:

On Saturday night, a secular candlelit vigil took place near where Sir David was murdered. The Daily Mail has many moving photographs of the gathering.

Biography

Most Britons think that all Conservatives were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

Not so.

David Amess was born in humble circumstances in London’s East End.

The Telegraph recounted his life:

David Anthony Andrew Amess was born on March 26 1952 in working-class Plaistow, East London, to James Amess, an electrician, and Maud, née Martin, a dressmaker. As Amess recalled, “we were very poor and lived in a small terraced house with no bathroom, an outside toilet and a tin bath hanging on the wall”. In 2014 he would compile and publish a pamphlet, Party of Opportunity, containing short biographies of Tory MPs with working-class origins.

David’s mother was a Roman Catholic who brought him up in the faith and he remained a staunch Catholic throughout his life, his commitment reflected in his opposition to abortion and to the broadening of LGBT rights. “Confession,” he once said, “is very important to me.”

He attended St Antony’s Junior School, Forest Gate, where he was “often in classes of 50, and the teachers still gave us excellent tuition and kept order to a high standard”, and St Bonaventure’s Grammar School, Newham, where he remembered being “quite bossy and pushy” and was rumoured to have once hit a fellow pupil over the head with a bicycle pump.

Until the age of five, Amess said, he had the nickname of “Double Dutch” on account of a bad stutter: he could not make the sounds “st” or “the” and saw a speech therapist for three years, which also had the effect of virtually eliminating his Cockney accent.

He had a varied career prior to entering politics:

He took a degree in Economics and Government at Bournemouth College of Technology. Then, after 18 months’ teaching at a primary school (“I specialised in teaching children who were described as ESN”), and a short stint as an underwriter, he became a recruitment consultant.

One wonders if he met his wife Julia while he was an underwriter:

In 1983 he married Julia Arnold, a former underwriter, who survives him with their four daughters and a son.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister during Amess’s early years in politics:

A dedicated Thatcherite, Amess contested the safe Labour seat of Newham North West in 1979, and in 1982 became a councillor in the London borough of Redbridge.

During those years, Essex went from electing Labour MPs to Conservative ones. The county is still Conservative-dominated in Parliament.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the media coined expressions for Essex voters, many of whose families had been moved out of London after the Second World War had ended. The next generation of voters became known collectively as ‘Basildon man’ and ‘white van man’.

Amess rode the crest of that wave, as The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh explains:

Basildon was the first constituency he served, beginning in 1983:

When the incumbent Tory MP for Basildon, the Right-wing Harvey Proctor, moved to safer Billericay for the 1983 general election, Amess was chosen to fill his shoes and was duly elected. Three years later he stood down from the council to concentrate on his Westminster seat.

Basildon was regarded as a bellwether seat, and when Amess won it again in 1992, albeit with a tiny majority, it provided the first indication that despite the pundits, and the triumphalism of Labour’s leader Neil Kinnock, the Tories were on course for a fourth successive election victory. He would later describe his campaign in a short pamphlet entitled 1992: Against All Odds! (2012).

Boundary changes prior to the 1997 general election meant that Basildon was almost certain to go Labour, so Amess decided to look elsewhere, and in 1995 was selected to fight Southend West after the retirement of Paul Channon. Returned to Westminster again, he held the seat until his death.

Amess focused on his constituents, first and foremost:

Assiduous and likeable, Amess built a strong personal following by concentrating on constituency issues: the Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley once suggested that the secret of his electoral success was that “he never completed a sentence without mentioning his constituency”.

This was also reflected away from Parliament:

Amess … was a lifelong supporter of West Ham United, and also followed Basildon United …

Even after he left Basildon, he still returned to visit, as this former Basildon councillor remembers:

He had many accomplishments with regard to charity, earning him a knighthood. He:

was knighted in 2015 and received several awards for his contributions in parliament, including the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award of the 2011 Dods Charity Champion Awards, and the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the same event the following year, in recognition of his lifetime commitment to charitable work.

This was how the newly knighted Sir David celebrated:

He did not always follow the Conservative line in Parliament:

he incurred the wrath of many fellow Conservatives by consistently voting to ban foxhunting and hare coursing (though he was in favour of capital punishment), and supporting numerous other animal welfare campaigns.

Many MPs will remember his staunch support of Brexit, however.

They will also remember him for supporting animal causes and an end to fuel poverty:

The most significant of these were the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988), and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (2000) …

The animal-related Act, supported by the NFU, banned the tethering of “any horse, ass or mule under such conditions or in such manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering”.

The second piece of legislation, following on from the death of a constituent from cold, required the Secretary of State to “publish and implement a strategy for reducing fuel poverty”. The measure was credited with pushing fuel poverty to near the top of the political agenda, contributing to a dramatic fall in the problem in England from 5.1 million households in 1996 to 1.2 million in 2004.

Another cause that Amess supported, thanks to a Leigh-on-Sea constituent, Carla Cressy, was that of endometriosis. 

The Telegraph has the story:

“I first approached Sir David Amess when I’d just found out I had endometriosis five years ago,” says Carla Cressy, 30, an accounts manager from Leigh-on-Sea. “I didn’t know much about it, and realised there was very little awareness, support and education around it. He’s my local MP so I visited him at his surgery. I had no expectations of what would happen. I just knew I wanted to share my story with him, about how I’d suffered with endometriosis for an entire decade before I was diagnosed.

He was so lovely – genuinely concerned and upset about what I’d been through. He said we need to do something about it, and he then really did. He went above and beyond to champion this community like a beacon of light. It was incredible. I am devastated that he’s gone.”

This is what happened:

“Sir David recognised the significant impact endometriosis could have, and really wanted to make a difference to help those with the disease,” says Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, a charity that was working closely with an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) that Sir David set up in 2018 to raise awareness in Parliament of the condition …

One of Sir David’s goals when he created the APPG was for the government to provide education on endometriosis in schools. It’s something the group achieved over a year later, meaning menstrual wellbeing is now included on the English curriculum. “We made so much progress together,” says Cressy, who worked closely with Sir David on the campaign. “He really has changed so many lives, including my own.”

One of Sir David’s upcoming tasks, had he lived, was to ask for further research funding, as a Labour MP explains:

“He really wanted that debate,” says Labour MP Emma Hardy, vice-chair of the APPG on endometriosis. “We’d published a report last year, collecting evidence from women around the country with their experience of endometriosis, and Sir David wanted to draw attention to our recommendations.”

Their key goals are to reduce the time it takes for people to be diagnosed, ensure GPs have enough information to make them aware of the condition, raise public awareness, and fund more research into non-invasive ways of diagnosis …

“The main thing that comes from women is not being listened to, not being believed, taking ages to be diagnosed and then when they are, there’s not much change. Sir David wanted to change that. Endometriosis isn’t party politics, but he was really passionate about trying to do something about this condition. I don’t want him to be remembered as the person this tragedy happened to, but the person who worked so hard to improve the lives of people with endometriosis. We can’t replace him, but I hope we can find another Conservative MP to champion his work and continue with the APPG.”

This GB News video covers Sir David’s public life from the time he entered politics:

MPs paid respects

On Friday afternoon, Union flags were lowered to half-mast over government buildings, including No. 10:

On Saturday morning, prominent Conservative and Labour MPs laid flowers near the Methodist church hall where Sir David was murdered:

Government whips have reminded MPs that there is an Employee Assistance Programme for anyone among them who wants counselling after Sir David’s senseless murder.

Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, was deeply sorry to lose this man:

This was because he befriended MPs from both sides of the aisle and found ways to work constructively with them:

One of the things I found moving in watching and reading these tributes was the recollection made by more than one MP, regardless of party affiliation, on his befriending of new Parliamentarians. He introduced himself, asked how they were getting on and enquired if they had any issues with which he could help.

Conservative MPs

These are some of the Conservative MPs’ tributes, beginning with Boris’s:

Long-time friend David Davis paid tribute to Amess’s career of service, rather than ambition:

Stuart Anderson remembers Amess helping him settle into the job:

Andrew Rosindell, another Essex MP, lamented the loss of his oldest friend in the Commons:

Another long-time friend, David Jones, called him ‘frankly irreplaceable’:

I agree with Mike Wood. Forthcoming Adjournment debates will never be the same. That said, Southend is now a city:

The folks running PARLY agree on the adjournment debates, during which Sir David addressed more issues than Southend:

Labour

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer emphasised Amess’s Christian faith and the fact that he was well liked across the House:

Hilary Benn remembered Amess’s dogged campaigning and dedication:

Siobhain McDonagh will forever connect Amess with Southend, and who can blame her?

Steve McCabe will remember Amess’s cheerful nature:

John Cryer was a former neighbour:

Liberal Democrat

The most moving tribute, however, came from Lembit Öpik, a former Liberal Democrat MP, who spoke to Mark Dolan on GB News Saturday night:

The former MP was so moved that he had to sit down and recover after that interview. Mark Dolan’s producer was with him during that time.

Conclusion

It was serendipitous that the Gospel reading for Sunday, October 17, was about service (Mark 10:35-45):

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

What apposite verses for Sir David Amess, who gave his all in service to his constituents.

May his place in Heaven be an exalted one.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Sir David Amess MP (Conservative), posted the following tweet promoting his upcoming constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex:

These surgeries are an opportunity for constituents to present their problems to their MP. They might be seeking help with schooling, crime or health, among other things. Meetings are face-to-face, one-on-one. One’s MP then cuts through bureaucracy to achieve a successful resolution to the problem.

It seems this type of in-person connection between a member of the public and an elected constituency politician is unique to the UK. Long may it continue.

Two days later, Sir David posted a photo of himself and the Emir of Qatar. Amess was the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Group fostering good relations between Britain and Qatar:

That same day, the MP for Southend West tweeted his gratitude for the government aid to Southend-on-Sea, no longer a smallish, seaside resort, but a town with a population of 160,000. Sir David has been campaigning tirelessly in Parliament for it to have city status. Winter fuel poverty was another of his big causes:

Little did he realise those would be his final tweets.

Just before noon on Friday, October 15, I was watching a heart-warming segment on GB News about the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event, to be held on October 28 in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Isabel Oakeshott was interviewing Matt Vickers MP (Conservative) and his dog Karen. Karen was paying attention to the conversation. As soon as it turned to dog-napping, she began barking.

The public can vote up for their favourite MP-dog pairing until October 27. Sir David had already registered with his French bulldog Vivienne. Recently, he said:

If I am feeling down, the dog lifts my spirits as she is always pleased to see me and she makes me smile.

Little did I know watching the GB News segment with Matt Vickers and Isabel Oakeshott that Sir David was minutes away from his last breath.

Amess’s last meeting was a Zoom call about the Children’s Parliament, which pairs up an MP with a young member of the public. The meeting ended at 12:02 p.m.

At 12:05, Sir David was gasping his final breaths, having been stabbed multiple times in the church hall.

The Times reported:

It was just moments after midday on Friday when Sir David Amess had his last appointment.

Richard Hillgrove, a PR professional, shared a call with Amess to discuss the Children’s Parliament, an event where kids are matched with members of parliament to debate the important issues of the day.

As usual, the MP for Southend West was firing on all cylinders, full of buzz and ideas for the event: the running order, the voting system, what software they should use. Hillgrove’s daughter, Lola, 11, had been matched with Amess, who visited her at school so they could have their picture taken.

Hillgrove says he ended the Zoom call at 12.02pm, so that Amess could host a constituency surgery at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. It was his final farewell. By 12.05pm, Amess had been stabbed to death.

A few minutes later, Hillgrove saw the first reports of the murder on television. “I didn’t even realise it was Sir David at first,” he recalled. “I was absolutely horrified, every minute that came passed seemed like an hour, the longer it went, the more concerning it got.”

Eventually the unimaginable news filtered through. Lola came home from school in tears. “I was honoured to have known him,” said Hillgrove. “He was such an inspiration, his engagement was incredible. He made sense of a crazy world.”

The events of Friday afternoon have pierced the quiet provincial calm of Leigh-on-Sea, leaving the tight-knit Essex community fearful and furious. A deep, heavy sadness hangs over this seaside town. Yesterday, the flower bins were empty at the Co-op on Eastwood Road, just 100 yards from where Amess was stabbed 17 times by a 25-year-old man. Every tulip, rose and pansy had been scooped up and deposited at the tribute for the man alternately known as “Sir David” or simply “Dave”.

The Telegraph reported that Amess’s staff, women, witnessed his horrifying murder. Paramedics from an air ambulance worked in vain for two hours trying to stabilise him:

Sir David was attacked seconds later, stabbed repeatedly in front of his horrified staff.

Sir David’s wounds were so many and severe that paramedics were unable to stabilise him sufficiently for a transfer to hospital. After two hours of vain struggle to stem his injuries, the air ambulance took off empty.

The Telegraph spoke with the aforementioned Richard Hillgrove:

Mr Hillgrove recalled how, during their conversation, Sir David had periodically glanced to his right.

He assumes this was towards trusted assistant, Rebecca Hayton, upon whom Sir David, not being the most technologically savvy parliamentarian, relied for help when making video calls.

It was she who witnessed at close quarters the full ferocity of the knife attack, running from the Belfairs Methodist Church hall screaming. Her screams alerted Sir David’s other assistant, Julie Cushion, who was positioned in the church hall lobby.

Shortly after the attack, Stephan Aleyn, a former Southend Conservative councillor, spoke to Ms Cushion.

“She is in absolute bits,” he said. “What she saw is going to stick with her for the rest of her life.

“It was a normal surgery and they were assisting Sir David in helping his constituents.

Julie and Rebecca thought this man was just another constituent who needed help from their MP, when suddenly he launched his attack on Sir David.

“For anyone to witness that sort of shocking, unprovoked assault is awful. It was a lovely, normal, sunny day – then this.”

After stabbing Sir David several times, his assailant sat down next to his body, making no effort to evade police, it has emerged.

A Southend Conservative Party source said: “One of Sir David’s office staff was in the hall with him, and it now appears that after attacking Sir David, this man sat down and waited for police to arrive. It’s absolutely chilling.”

The article says that 999 calls were made at 12:05 p.m. Police, including an armed response unit, and the air ambulance responded immediately. The suspect went quietly with the police:

The 25-year-old suspect was detained inside the church hall and led out to a police van. A knife was recovered.

Amess’s staff must have also contacted a Catholic priest he knew. The Revd Jeffrey Woolnough showed up shortly afterwards and asked police to be admitted to administer Last Rites — or Extreme Unction, as it used to be known. However, he was refused entry:

He was denied entry, however, and so stood on the street with another man reciting the rosary. He described it as a “great disappointment” for a Roman Catholic not to be able to receive the last rites.

“It was remarkably calm by the time I arrived,” Fr Woolnough told The Telegraph.

“I prayed from outside and I just hope David received those. I know he would have done, because any prayer said that is sincere is received by the recipient.

“I was praying the rosary – it’s a half hour prayer going through all of those intentions, asking that whatever was going on in there, for God’s will to be done. That’s all I could pray at that point in time.”

I did not know until he died that Sir David was a devout Catholic, but, given his serene demeanour, sincere smile and gentle wit, it does not surprise me that he was a churchgoer.

The Spectator‘s Melanie McDonagh, also a devout Catholic, expressed her displeasure with the police response regarding Last Rites:

It’s not known whether Sir David was alive when the priest arrived at the scene, but he still should have been there. Nothing should come between a dying man and the mercy of the Church. Of course the police were dealing with a tremendously difficult situation and would have been shocked and confused – how could they not have been? – but it doesn’t excuse this failure of judgment, which we can assume stems from a failure of training.

Essex Police sent The Spectator a statement, which says, in part:

As with any police incident, it is of the utmost importance that we preserve the integrity of a crime scene and allow emergency services to tend to those in need. A cordon is put in place to secure and prevent contamination of the area. Access into a scene is at the discretion of the investigating officers. This is a fundamental part of any investigation to ensure the best possible chance of securing justice for any victim and their family.

McDonagh says that the priest was ‘an emergency service’. I cannot disagree:

The most troubling element of the statement is that the police wanted to ‘allow the emergency services to tend to those in need.’

A priest is an emergency service. In the case of Sir David, the priest was someone who could help see him into the next world, not just keep him in this one. You don’t have to share a belief in the efficacy of confession to go along with this; you just need a very elementary knowledge of and respect for the faith to refrain from standing between a confessor and a dying man. As for the reference to the ‘emergency services administering potentially life-saving treatment,’ Catholic priests are used to operating together with medics for precisely this reason.

You might like to know that Essex police recently engaged in that exercise in cultural conformity, Hate Crime Awareness Week. Perhaps in future, some awareness of Christianity might be part of the training.

Monsignor Kevin Hale, who knew Sir David, told GB News how Catholicism informed the MP’s life. Amess’s mother was a Catholic and she brought him up in the faith:

Monsignor Hale said that Sir David had grown up in the East End of London and attended St Bonaventure’s Roman Catholic School in Newham. It is a secondary school for boys.

The Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Anglican Archbishop of York, lived for a time in Amess’s constituency and paid a warm, faith-filled tribute to his former MP and friend in The Telegraph:

It was said of Sir David Amess that though he had opponents, he didn’t have enemies. As we come to terms with the horror of his murder on Friday, this is a distinction worth pondering.

I think of David Amess as a friend. Leigh-on-Sea is my home town and, for ten glorious years as Bishop of Chelmsford, part of the diocese I served. We often met: in parliament, but usually in his constituency, Southend West.

He was, as we have heard over the weekend, a dedicated, zestful, persevering constituency MP. He loved Southend, as I do. He rooted for it. He exemplified that vital, but overlooked, root of our democracy that Members of Parliament may get elected on a party ticket, but, once elected, serve everyone

David Amess was a kind man. The word kind is related to the word kin. When we are kind to someone, it doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with them, or even like them, but that we recognise a kinship, a common humanity and treat them accordingly; or as we sometimes say, “treat them in kind”.

David’s robust kindness came from his Christian faith. He was a devout Christian, a Roman Catholic. But the idea that we human beings belong to one another and have a responsibility to each other is not self-evident. Observation of our behaviour and attitudes shows us the opposite. Our worst desires can be seen everywhere, leading us to separation, fuelled by selfishness, and bearing fruit in hatefulness and the possession of each other.

The picture of humanity that God gives us in Jesus Christ offers something else. In this regard, perhaps the most radical words Jesus ever spoke are the ones most of us know and many of us say every day: “Our Father.” In saying these words we don’t just acknowledge we belong to God, we acknowledge our belonging to each other as kith and kin

David Amess, the friend with whom I sometimes disagreed, had the same values and the same vision. It shaped his life and it is what made him such a loved and effective constituency MP and an exemplar of what our democracy can be.

He was always very kind to me. He supported the Church. He cared. He liked to build coalitions of goodwill so that people could work together. Kindness and kinship, it turns out, gets things done.

My heart goes out to his wife and family and the constituents of Southend West. I am praying for them …

David Amess didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. He wore it in his heart. That’s the best place for it. It means it runs through your very being.

Late on Friday, the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command took over the case from Essex Police:

Early on Saturday, October 16, it was established that the suspect is a Briton of Somali parentage.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, Dominic Casciani, downplayed the suspect’s parental origins:

The BBC‘s home affairs correspondent was accused yesterday of trying to downplay the suspect’s reported Somali origins …

Although every national newspaper with the exception of the Financial Times mentioned that the suspect had Somali ‘origins’, ‘heritage’ or ‘descent’ yesterday, Casciani appeared to wrestle with the issue on Radio 4’s Today programme.

Presenter Nick Robinson asked him: ‘The suspect is a British citizen, but he’s also of Somali origin. Is that regarded as significant?’

Casciani replied: ‘The Somali element – erm, no. The reason why some reporters have established this fact is that there has been some misreporting …’

Twelve hours earlier, he had tweeted: ‘We have learnt from official sources that detectives have established the individual is a UK national, seemingly of Somali heritage. We report this in the interests of accuracy’ …

The BBC says Casciani ‘focuses on stories relating to law, order, society and belonging – including immigration, ethnicity’.

The Telegraph reported on the Met’s discoveries made on Saturday. The suspect lived in London, far from Sir David’s constituency:

On Saturday, officers from the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism team, which is leading the investigation into his death, were searching three addresses in London – at least two of which were believed to be in the east of the capital. One search had ended but the others remained ongoing on Saturday night. The suspect, a British national of Somali origin, is thought to have acted alone and travelled by train from his north London home to Essex to carry out the attack.

The Daily Mail told us that the suspect lives among at least one celebrity in London, the rest of his neighbours clearly well-heeled, and might have spent a week planning the bloody attack:

Ali, who is thought to have been targeted by the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme, may have lived in Sir David’s Southend West constituency in Essex in the past.

His most recent residence is believed to be in London. Officers have been carrying out searches at three addresses.

The security services are providing assistance to Scotland Yard, which is leading the investigation. Last night, detectives were granted a warrant of further detention, allowing them to keep Ali in custody until Friday.

Police officers were yesterday standing guard outside the North London council house where Ali lives. It is in a street of £2 million three-storey townhouses where the late actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, used to live.

That day, news emerged that Sir David had received a menacing threat just days before his murder. However, police believe that the two events are unconnected, according to The Telegraph:

The threat to the veteran MP was made in the past few days and reported to police …

It is understood that Essex Police received a report of the threat, but they are not connecting it with Friday’s attack.

John Lamb, the former Mayor of Leigh-on-Sea and a close colleague of the murdered MP, said Sir David had received the “upsetting” threat in the past few days …

Mr Lamb said it had been Sir David’s idea to hold his surgeries in places like the Methodist church, so he could be more accessible to his constituents, rather than in the local Conservative Party offices in Southend.

It is understood this came despite concerns being expressed by some of his staff over the potential security risk at more open venues.

Mr Lamb said: “Sir David used to hold them at the Conservative Association, but that made it hard for older people to see him so around a year ago he started going out into the community. He didn’t want to hide away, he wanted to be visible and accessible. He told me: ‘I want them to be able to see me in their local area’.

Before this, the last time an MP was murdered was in June 2016, just days before the Brexit referendum. A white male fatally stabbed Labour MP Jo Cox outside her own surgery. He was said to have had mental health problems, aggravated by the threat of eviction. His mother was also in poor health. That is not in any way to excuse his horrific crime of murdering a young wife, mother and MP. However, at the time, the media said the motive was because he was pro-Brexit and she was not.

Sir David, along with every other MP, was deeply affected by her death. He mentioned it and attendant security issues in his 2020 book, In Ayes and Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, published last November.

He wrote:

The British tradition has always been that Members of Parliament regularly make themselves available for constituents to meet them face to face at their surgeries. Now advice has been given to be more careful when accepting appointments. We are advised to never see people alone, we must be extra careful when opening post and we must ensure that our offices are properly safe and secure. In short, these increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians.

He also said that he had to check the locks on his property and that certain ‘nuisance’ (his word) members of the public occasionally showed up outside his home. Other MPs have installed CCTV cameras on their properties.

Jo Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, is now an MP in her former constituency, Batley & Spen. She tweeted her condolences:

The Emir of Qatar also sent a message of sympathy. Last week, he and Sir David were discussing Afghanistan refugees who are currently living in Qatar, awaiting settlement in other countries:

On Sunday, October 17, the father of the suspect in custody spoke. The Sunday Times reported:

The father of the suspected killer of Sir David Amess said he had been left “traumatised” by his son’s arrest after the stabbing of the veteran Tory MP.

Harbi Ali Kullane, a former adviser to the prime minister of Somalia, confirmed that his British-born son, Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was in custody. Kullane said that anti-terrorist police from Scotland Yard had visited him.

Speaking at his sister’s home in north London last night, Kullane said: “I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or even dreamt of.”

The suspect was a “self-radicalised” lone operative known to counterterrorist police, according to Whitehall sources. He is believed to have been referred to Prevent, the government’s deradicalisation programme, before allegedly stabbing Amess on Friday

Investigators are examining the theory that he was radicalised online during lockdown.

Officers were yesterday granted a further warrant to detain him until Friday under terrorism laws. Scotland Yard said that early inquiries had uncovered “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.

Amess, 69, an MP for almost 40 years, was a devout Roman Catholic who was guided in his daily life by his strong faith

Intelligence sources said the suspect had not been on the radar of MI5, which is monitoring more than 3,000 people who it is feared could be plotting a terrorist attack. However, he is believed to be one of thousands of extremists who have been referred to the voluntary Prevent programme after displaying potentially disturbing behaviour such as inflammatory postings on social media.

More than 6,000 people were referred by police and other agencies to the programme in the year ending March 31, 2020.

By the way, referral to the Prevent programme does not include monitoring by police and/or security services.

That day, the Amess family issued a statement thanking the public for their messages of support and urged the Government to grant Southend-on-Sea city status.

The Times reported:

Sir David Amess’s family have said that achieving city status for Southend would be a way of paying tribute to a “patriot and man of peace”.

In their first public comments since the MP’s murder, his family thanked people for the “wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death. It truly has brought us so much comfort.”

Amess, 69, was married with five children and in a statement tonight they said: “The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming. As a family it has given us strength.”

They urged people “to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all” so that some good might come from their father’s death. His family said there was “still so much David wanted to do” insisting: “This is not the end of Sir David Amess MP. It is the next chapter and as a family we ask everyone to support the many charities he worked with.”

They cited his efforts to raise money for a statue of Dame Vera Lynn and said: “Closer to home, David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign.”

As I write on Monday, no known motive for Sir David’s gruesome murder has emerged.

Some of his friends believe it was because he was a devout Catholic. I’m not sure about that. I did not know he was one until he died, and I’m a political junkie and frequent viewer of BBC Parliament.

A radical Islamist preacher says it was because Sir David was pro-Israel, as the MP had been an honorary secretary of the Conservative Friends of Israel since 1998.

However, let us not forget Qatar and the current tensions in Somalia.

In Monday’s Times, speculation arose over whether Amess was murdered because he headed the APPG fostering relations between the UK and Qatar. Qatar supports the current regime in Somalia:

Meanwhile, members of the public are calling for those voting for the Westminster Dog of the Year to choose Sir David and Vivienne as a fitting posthumous tribute to the tireless yet cheerful MP, who will be sorely missed.

I will have more on Sir David’s life in tomorrow’s post.

My deepest condolences go to the Amess family, Sir David’s staff and his many friends. May the good Lord grant them His infinite grace and comfort in the days and months ahead.

Eternal rest grant unto your servant David, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in your eternal mercy and peace. Amen.

Bible GenevaThe 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 8:16-24

Commendation of Titus

16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going[a] to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending[b] the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. 22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers[c] of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

——————————————————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to be as generous in giving to his fund for the church in Jerusalem as the churches in Macedonia were.

In today’s reading, Paul commends Titus to the Corinthians. Titus will be collecting their donations for the church in Jerusalem.

As false teachers in the church in Corinth were trying to besmirch Paul’s character in any and all ways possible, the Apostle is very careful in how he works with the congregation from a distance. Surely, some mischief maker will say that Paul is going to spend the money on himself or on something unworthy.

They already know and love Titus, because he has been delivering Paul’s letters to them. However, Paul wants to dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s to convey that everything regarding this fund is above board and acceptable.

As such, Paul thanks God for making Titus’s heart such that he cares for the Corinthians as much as he himself does (verse 16).

Paul adds that not only does Titus agree with the fundraising, he willingly wants to go to Corinth and collect the money himself (verse 17).

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

You see, Paul was the leader, the dominating force, this hard-driving man, this great mind, this visionary, this man able to embrace the whole of the redemptive purposes of God, the plan of God doctrinally, and also to embrace the whole of the church. He was bigger than life, but Titus was more like them. We never hear him preach. We don’t have any of his sermons in Scripture. We don’t see him leading any meetings. He’s just always serving, serving, serving. They must have seen him not as some kind of a powerful entrepreneurial man, some kind of great mover, and shaker, and motivator, and mobilizer, but as a man who loved God, who loved them, a man who knew the truth.

And so, Paul happily says to them, “Titus agrees with the plan.” How important that is. The whole enterprise for the benefit of the Jewish poor and the Corinthian church was not just Paul’s passion, it was no one-man concern. Paul wants them to know that Titus, whom they knew so well, and whom they loved so deeply, was wholeheartedly in agreement.

Paul then describes Titus’s travelling companion in glowing terms as being famous for preaching the gospel among all the churches (verse 18).

Not only that, but the churches have agreed to appoint this man to travel with Paul and Titus in administering these donations — ‘this act of grace’ — for the Lord’s glory and as a sign of good will (verse 19).

Who is he?

Matthew Henry says it was Luke:

He commends another brother, who was sent with Titus. It is generally thought that this was Luke.

However, MacArthur disagrees:

I’ve heard people say it might be Tychicus, or it might be Trophimus. Some have said it probably is Luke, because it says “whose fame in the gospel has spread through all the churches” – and they think it’s probably a reference to Luke’s gospel. The problem with that is Luke’s Gospel was not in circulation yet when 1 Corinthians was written, so the people wouldn’t have known of Luke’s Gospel. So, it’s not Luke. We don’t know who it is. The name is not given. But they would know who it is.

MacArthur says they would know who the man was because he accompanied Titus when the latter was delivering one of Paul’s letters:

… he would be standing there with Titus when he delivered the letter. They would know him, and they would recognize him. He didn’t need to give his name because he was well known. It says, “He’s the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches.” He doesn’t name the man, and there’s no way to know who he was for us, but clearly the Corinthians knew him, and they knew him as a man who was famous for preaching the gospel. A distinguished preacher. Known and esteemed by all the churches. A prominent and unimpeachable brother who was sent with Titus to receive and transport the money.

Paul explains that he is sending these two men so that no one can cast aspersions on the donations (verse 20). Furthermore, he and they are aiming at what is honourable both in God’s sight and in man’s (verse 21).

Henry says:

He would not give occasion to any to accuse him of injustice or partiality in this affair, and thought it to be his duty, as it is the duty of all Christians, to provide for things honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men; that is, to act so prudently as to prevent, as far as we can, all unjust suspicions concerning us, and all occasions of scandalous imputations. Note, We live in a censorious world, and should cut off occasion from those who seek occasion to speak reproachfully. It is the crime of others if they reproach or censure us without occasion; and it is our imprudence at least if we give them any occasion, when there may not be a just cause for them so to do.

A third brother in the faith will also be going to Corinth, a man who has been tried and tested and whose earnestness is even greater than ever because of his confidence in the Corinthians (verse 22).

Henry says this man could have been Apollos:

He commends also another brother who was joined with the two former in this affair. This brother is thought to be Apollos. Whoever he was, he had approved himself diligent in many things; and therefore was fit to be employed in this affair.

MacArthur says that we do not know who he was but the Corinthians would have known of him:

This is another one, and we don’t have his name either, but that would obviously be known to them as soon as he arrived. He describes him with some glowing terms, “Whom we have often tested” – that’s that word dokimazō which means to be approved after testing, like testing metals and having them come out proven. “We have tested him, and he has passed. We have found him diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you.”

Just to take the extra precaution, here’s another one. Again, no name is given, but a great commendation, “whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things.” What does that mean? Diligent, it’s zealous, passionate. He’s just a – he’s a zealous person. Just in general, he’s passionate; he’s devout. “But now even more diligent, more zealous than normal because of his great confidence in you.” Perhaps he had heard the wonderful report of Titus in response to the severe letter and the restoration of their relationship to Paul. He heard that the Corinthians indeed proved to be teachable, responsive, responsible, repentant and loyal. He’d heard such good things, and he was now so encouraged he wanted to be a part of the whole enterprise.

So, now you’ve got Titus, and you’ve got the brother whose fame spread through all the churches because of his preaching, and now you’ve got a brother many times tested and found zealous and now committed to this whole process as well, with a greater zeal. Very, very careful accountability.

Paul winds up his commendation, saying that Titus is his partner working for the benefit of the Corinthians and that the two brothers are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ (verse 23).

MacArthur explains the words as written in Greek:

This is the summary of this little group, of this little financial committee. “As for Titus” – let’s go over it again – “he is my partner and fellow worker among you.” He’s my partner; he’s my koinōnos; he’s my close companion. “And he’s a fellow worker among you” – synergos; you know him; he’s been there; he’s worked with you, and you love him, and you know his character, and you know his heart. “As for our brethren” – these two brothers, the preacher and the man tested and proven – “they are messengers of the churches” – and again, that reminds us of back in verse 19, appointed by the churches – “they are messengers of the churches.”

I want to stop at that point and just make a couple of comments that are really very important. The word “messenger” here is apostolos, it’s apostles. They are apostles of the churches. What does that mean? Well, it’s a term used to refer to somebody who was officially authorized to be a representative. Likely the churches in mind here are the churches of Macedonia. Apostle or messenger is someone charged or commissioned with an official duty, and his role – listen – can only be understood by knowing who commissioned him and for what …

They were not commissioned by Christ to be witnesses of the resurrection and preach the gospel. They were commissioned by the churches to go with Paul and Titus to help secure the money and bring it all the way to Jerusalem.

So, they are messengers of the churches. So, you don’t include them with the apostles. They are official men commissioned by the churches, not Christ, and for the purpose of securing the money and taking it to Jerusalem.

But I want you to notice the caliber of men who were given to this task, the end of verse 23. This has got to be the single best, the single highest compliment ever given to a believer, “They are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Wouldn’t you like that on your epitaph? What more could be said? They are a glory to Christ. They bring glory to Christ by their holiness, by their virtue, by the excellencies of their spiritual commitment, by their obedience to the Word of God they bring honor to Christ. They are a glory to Christ. The best of men.

Paul ends by encouraging the Corinthians to give evidence of their love towards the churches and proof that these these men were correct in boasting about the congregation (verse 24).

MacArthur explains that verse’s message:

Therefore, give, and do it openly. Literally, the Greek says, “in the faces of the churches.” Let everybody see how generous you are; let everybody see how magnanimous you are; let them see the proof of your love.

You say you love? Prove it. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, if you have love one for another.” Let’s see your love. Put it on display for all the churches. This is the opportunity to give visible demonstration of our love for the saints, of your love for the Lord of the Church.

Paul has a bit more to say on this topic in 2 Corinthians 9.

Next time: 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity — Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost — is October 17, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 10:35-45

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

10:36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

10:37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

10:39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;

10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

10:41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This reading about pride and humility would have been more powerful had the Lectionary editors added the preceding verses, which follow last week’s reading, about the rich young ruler. It ended with Mark 10:31:

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Here are verses 32-34, where, for a third time, Jesus tells His disciples what will happen to Him (also see John MacArthur’s sermon):

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

After hearing that, it is incredible that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, would have the utter brass neck to ask that He do whatever they ask of Him (verse 35). Well, early on, Jesus had called them the ‘sons of Boanerges’, the sons of Thunder:

a name signifying sons of thunder , given by our Lord to the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, probably on account of their fiery earnesty. (Mark 3:17) See (Luke 9:54; Mark 9:38) comp. Matt 20:20 etc.

Matthew Henry’s commentary points out that, in Matthew 20, their mother petitioned on their behalf and they seconded it:

This story is much the same here as we had it Matthew 20:20. Only there they are said to have made their request by their mother, here they are said to make it themselves; she introduced them, and presented their petition, and then they seconded it, and assented to it.

Note, 1. As, on the one hand, there are some that do not use, so, on the other hand, there are some that abuse, the great encouragements Christ has given us in prayer. He hath said, Ask, and it shall be given you; and it is a commendable faith to ask for the great things he has promised; but it was a culpable presumption in these disciples to make such a boundless demand upon their Master; We would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. We had much better leave it to him to do for us what he sees fit, and he will do more than we can desire, Ephesians 3:20.

So Jesus asked what it was they wanted Him to do for them (verse 36).

Henry says this was a way of putting them in check so that they might realise the folly of what they were doing:

He would have them go on with their suit, that they might be made ashamed of it.

They continued in their conceit and pride, asking that Jesus place one of them on His left and the other on His right in glory (verse 37).

Henry explains the two brothers’ reasoning:

James and John conclude, If Christ rise again, he must be a king, and if he be a king, his apostles must be peers, and one of these would willingly be the Primus par regni–The first peer of the realm, and the other next him, like Joseph in Pharaoh’s court, or Daniel in Darius’s.

John MacArthur has more:

Now as we look at this incident with James and John coming to Jesus and making their request, I want you to see how this breaks out into three characteristics of self-promotion, three characteristics of self-promotion, the path to greatness through self-promotion.

First of all, it’s motivated by self-ambition, or its defined by selfish ambition. Verse 35: “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.’” James and John called the sons of thunder, they were brash, bold men. They were the inner circle. They were with Jesus intimately with Peter, the most intimate of all the disciples and apostles. They were close to Him on a regular daily basis, and they think they have gained some ground by that because of their intimacy, because of their participation in the transfiguration, because they have been privy to so many private conversations in times with Jesus. They are sure that they are certainly above and beyond the rest of the men, and so this has come to the place in their minds where they’re bold enough to ask for privilege in the coming kingdom.

MacArthur tells us why their mother petitioned on their behalf in Matthew’s version of the story:

Now this is important. Why would you bring your mother? Come on, be a man. What, you bring your mother? Well, it’s not just that they brought their mother, it’s who their mother was. When you study the crucifixion of Christ in the account of Matthew, Mark, and John, you see three women at the cross: Mary the mother of our Lord, Mary Magdalene, and a third woman. The third woman who is at the cross is identified in three different ways. Matthew calls her the mother of the sons of Zebedee; so it’s this woman, which means she hung in there. When the apostles had fled she hung in there, she was at the cross. So, strong faith there.

Matthew calls her the mother of Zebedee. Mark calls her Salome; so that was her name. John calls her the sister of Jesus’ mother. So their mother is Jesus’ aunt. So this is now a family deal. They’re going to play the family card here, okay. “Not only were we at the transfiguration, not only are we intimately involved with You in the inner circle, but Your mother is our mother’s sister. That’s got to be good for something big, really big.”

She bought into it. She didn’t ask for anything for herself, she didn’t ask if she could have a seat on the dais, she would find her proud fulfillment through her children, like unsuccessful people with bumper stickers, and others on the Internet. She comes worshiping proskuneō. She comes bowing low, and Mark – Matthew says she’s desiring a certain thing of Jesus, and what she’s desiring is exactly what they asked.

So they’re really – this is serious ambition. This is not just personal ambition, this is not whimsical ambition, this is family ambition. Everybody’s in on this deal; and they’re going to come and they’re going to gang up on Jesus thinking they have the right

There’s another feature of pride that rears its ugly head as well, and we could call it arrogant overconfidence, arrogant overconfidence, arrogant overconfidence. This is so much a part of people’s life and attitude today, it’s just absolutely everywhere. They say, “We want to sit one on Your right hand and one on Your left, in Your glory.”

Jesus tells James and John that they do not understand what they are asking; can they drink the cup that He will drink and can they be baptised with His baptism (verse 38).

MacArthur tells us what Jesus was saying. The cup was one of God’s wrath and the baptism was not one of water but being submerged in something profoundly horrible, akin to what we would call a baptism by fire:

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” That’s an Old Testament idiom for taking in something, draining it. And it’s the cup in Isaiah 31 of God’s fury: “Can you handle, can you handle all that is to come?” Jesus was going to drink the cup of God’s fury. Remember in the garden He said, Matthew 26, “Let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done,” the cup of God’s wrath, He would drink it to the bottom. That was the image. Drinking the cup was literally imbibing it all in. It’s an Old Testament idiom meaning fully absorbing something, fully experiencing something, taking it all in.

Psalm 75, verse 8 talks about the ungodly drinking the cup of wrath. So that cup is very often associated with suffering. “Are you able to do that? Are you able to be baptized?” meaning not Christian baptism, but immersed into, plunged into, submerged. “Are you really able to go all the way under and suffer, to be, as it were, drowned in persecution, and ultimately martyrdom?” This is strong language. “Can you literally drink it all in and be submerged in it, because that’s what you’re really asking, because if you want the glory, the glory is the reward correspondent to the suffering.”

Naively, the brothers asserted that they were able, so Jesus agreed that they would drink His cup and be baptised into His baptism (verse 40).

Of the two, John was present at the Crucifixion and stayed until the end, with Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. Jesus commended John to Mary before He died. In fact, John was the only one of the twelve Apostles to be there. Judas killed himself that day and the other ten, James included, hid themselves away in fear.

James and John had no idea what they were affirming and what lay ahead for them. Jesus granted their request about drinking His cup and bearing His baptism, as MacArthur tells us:

“Jesus said to them,” – verse 39 – ‘The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.’” That’s a prophecy, folks, that’s a prophecy. “Oh, the suffering? Yeah, you’ll have that. You will have that. Yes, you will drink the cup in full, and you will be submerged in suffering.”

For James, he’s the first martyr; for John, he’s the last martyr. James’ martyrdom – had his head cut off – came fast, soon, sudden, lightning quick. For John, his was a slow agonizing, disappointing death as an exile at the end of the century on the island of Patmos which was virtually a prison island. “You will, you will drink the cup.” Rejected, exiled, in John’s case; rejected, executed, in the case of James – the first and last who died because of the gospel.

Then Jesus said that He could not grant them a seat at His right hand or his left, because that status has already been prepared, and not by Him (verse 40). The implication here is that God determines who will sit right next to His Son in glory.

Mark tells us that the ten Apostles listening to this conversation became angry with the two brothers (verse 41).

MacArthur says this was not because they thought the two were prideful but because they got there before Peter and the rest did in asking the question about sitting next to Jesus in glory:

Ha, they got preempted; James and John got there first. They were furious not because they were spiritually offended, but they thought they were getting cut out of the deal. And this is the third aspect of this, and it is ugly competitiveness.

This argument about who will be first continued until the Last Supper, even though Jesus was constantly reminding them of the pre-eminence of service, such as in Mark 9:34-35:

9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

9:35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

MacArthur says:

Look, they’re still arguing about this at the upper room. They just had a hard time humbling themselves.

Jesus called the Twelve together and reminded them of the Gentile tyrants who lord themselves over their subjects (verse 42).

He said it would not be that way for the Apostles, because greatness lies in service; the one who wishes to become great must be the other’s servant (verse 43).

Jesus went further, saying that whoever wishes to be first must be the slave to everyone else (verse 44). Talk about radical theology: there it is.

MacArthur discusses the Greek words for ‘servant’ and for ‘slave’:

Here’s the path: Be a servant. Be a servant. Diakonos is the word. “Table waiter” was its primary meaning. “Be a waiter.” Don’t be the person that everybody serves, be the person who serves everybody. Big difference, you know. The fancier the restaurant you go to, the bigger the gap between the people eating and the people serving. You be the server, not the one served. You be the table waiter. That’s what it is to be a servant.

There are six words in the New Testament for servant, all of them Greek words. All of them describe a function: oikonomos, a house servant; hupēretēs, an under-rower in a galley ship pulling oars down in the bottom of a big trireme ship. Be a servant. Be somebody who does something for someone else. You’re not served, you are serving. Be a servant. He doesn’t say, “Be an archōn, be a ruler.” He doesn’t say, “Be a timē, a dignified official.” He doesn’t say, “Be a telos, possessing a powerful office. He doesn’t say, “Be a hiereus, a priest.” The word is, “Be a waiter. Be a waiter. Give your life giving people what they need. Spend your life giving people what they need.”

And it doesn’t end there. Go down even from there, verse 44: “If you want to be first,” – prime – “then be the slave of all.” Wow! The slave of all? This is the word doulos about which you have heard much because of the book Slave. I cannot tell you, folks, how important it is that you read that book; it’ll change your entire understanding of what it means to be a Christian, slave. Slaves were inferior to servants. Servants did a job; slaves were owned, totally controlled. He’s saying, “Consider everybody a person to be served, and consider everyone to be your master.”

Jesus ended by telling them about His primary purpose: to serve and to give His life, ‘a ransom for many’ (verse 45). Notice that He said ‘many’ and not ‘all’. Not all will be saved, because God has already chosen whom He will save: past, present and future.

MacArthur says that Jesus was the slave of His Father:

The greatest service and the greatest slavery was exhibited in Christ, right? He didn’t come to be served. He’s not like other kings, He’s not like other rulers. We say He condescended. That’s one of the ways. He didn’t come like all kings to be served, He came to serve. He didn’t come merely to be Lord and Master, He came also be slave of His Father, and do His Father’s will. He came to be the servant – diakoneō is the verb – but to serve.

But it goes down from there. In giving His life He actually offered a level of obedience that could be deemed slavery. And that’s the language of Philippians. Listen to this: “Do nothing” – verse 3, Philippians 2 – “from selfishness or empty conceit.” This is the same kind of instruction coming from Paul that our Lord gave the apostles. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.” That’s exactly what our Lord is saying.

And then, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but the interest of others.” And here is the model: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a doulos, the form of a slave. Humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

And what happened to Him? “For this reason God highly exalted Him.” He made the greatest sacrifice, so He was the most exalted. “God gave Him a name above” – what? – “every name.” So, He got the highest name because He made the greatest sacrifice. That’s the principle. The greater the sacrifice, the more the glory. The greatest sacrifice gets the greatest glory. That’s Christ; That’s the model, that’s the pattern.

We are slaves to sin. We cannot help it. Sin is in our nature and sin is our master.

Through His horrifying and humiliating death, Jesus paid our ransom in blood to God the Father, the only efficacious propitiation for our sin. We are redeemed in God’s eyes, and He welcomes us into His kingdom.

MacArthur discusses ‘ransom for many’:

You want greatness in the kingdom? It’s correlated to your selfless serving slavery on behalf of others in sacrifice. And what was the actual service that Christ rendered? End of verse 45: “He gave His life” – we know that; why? – “a ransom for many, a ransom for many.” Lutron is the Greek word; it means “the price paid for the release of a slave,” the price paid for the release of a slave. Only used here and in Matthew 20; parallel account. He gave His life as the price paid for the release of a slave.

To whom was the ransom paid? To God. To God. God is the judge who had to be satisfiedGod is the executioner who had to be appeased, propitiated. This has now today, gratefully and thankfully, become the dominant theme in our understanding of the gospel, that Jesus is the ransom, Jesus is the substitute. Jesus dies a vicarious, substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. That’s what it says. He gave His life to pay the price in full. The price of sin had to be paid to God, to His divine justice; His justice had to be satisfied. The price that Christ paid satisfied God, propitiated His anger, settled His justice. He did it for many. I love the, kind of, Hebraic way of saying this: “for many,” in exchange for many.

What does that mean? What’s the emphasis there? Why does the word “many” appear? Because it’s juxtaposed with “Son of Man.” The ransomed bought by the sacrificial death of Christ are the many in contrast to the one Son of Man. One Son of Man pays the ransom for many.

Somehow I doubt whether any clergy are going to discuss serving or slavery in their Sunday sermons about this reading.

Let us put away our pride and instead embrace humble service.

Blessings to everyone for a good week ahead.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,533 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

October 2021
S M T W T F S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,661,226 hits