I was reminded of another poem preparing last Sunday’s message!

Did any of you read The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾ – probably many years ago now? (Not to be confused with The Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend!) My family were very keen on Adrian Plass and read not only The Sacred Diary, but also The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal and The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn and other books of Plass’s poetry and other writing!

And in one of his books of poetry you find this poem!

When I became a Christian I said, Lord, now fill me in,
Tell me what I’ll suffer in this world of shame and sin.
He said, Your body may be killed, and left to rot and stink,
Do you still want to follow me? I said Amen – I think.
I think Amen, Amen I think, I think I say Amen,
I’m not completely sure, can you just run through that again?
You say my body may be killed and left to rot and stink,
Well, yes, that sounds terrific, Lord, I say Amen – I think.

But, Lord, there must be other ways to follow you, I said,
I really would prefer to end up dying in my bed.
Well, yes, he said, you could put up with the sneers and scorn and spit,
Do you still want to follow me? I said Amen – a bit.
A bit Amen, Amen a bit, a bit I say Amen,
I’m not entirely sure, can we just run through that again?
You say I could put up with sneers and also scorn and spit,
Well, yes, I’ve made my mind up, and I say, Amen – a bit.

Well I sat back and thought a while, then tried a different ploy,
Now, Lord, I said, the Good book says that Christians live in joy.
That’s true he said, you need the joy to bear the pain and sorrow,
So do you want to follow me, I said, Amen – tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Lord, I’ll say it then, that’s when I’ll say Amen,
I need to get it clear, can I just run through that again?
You say that I will need the joy, to bear the pain and sorrow,
Well, yes, I think I’ve got it straight, I’ll say Amen – tomorrow.

He said, Look, I’m not asking you to spend an hour with me
A quick salvation sandwich and a cup of sanctity,
The cost is you, not half of you, but every single bit,
Now tell me, will you follow me? I said Amen – I quit.
I’m very sorry Lord I said, I’d like to follow you,
But I don’t think religion is a manly thing to do.
He said forget religion then, and think about my Son,
And tell me if you’re man enough to do what he has done.

Are you man enough to see the need, and man enough to go,
Man enough to care for those whom no one wants to know,
Man enough to say the thing that people hate to hear,
To battle through Gethsemane in loneliness and fear.
And listen! Are you man enough to stand it at the end,
The moment of betrayal by the kisses of a friend,
Are you man enough to hold your tongue, and man enough to cry?
When nails break your body-are you man enough to die?
Man enough to take the pain, and wear it like a crown,
Man enough to love the world and turn it upside down,
Are you man enough to follow me, I ask you once again?
I said, Oh Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said Amen.
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen,
I said, Oh Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said, Amen.

The language of ‘being man enough’ is a little non-inclusive (though Plass is a man!) and the poem is a little overdramatic (in that sense that a lot of Christian material was in my youth), but I like it. I also appreciated Tom Wright’s comment, that I included in my sermon last week, that:

We would be wrong to think of suffering only in terms of the direct outward persecution that professing Christians sometimes undergo because of their faith…. All Christians will suffer for their faith in one way or another: if not outwardly, then inwardly, through the long, slow battle with temptation or sickness, the agonising anxieties of Christian responsibilities for [others] or a church, the constant doubts and uncertainties which accompany the obedience of faith and ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’, taken up as they are within the call to follow Christ.

Our vocation, as God’s people,  the church, is to suffer; and to suffer in outward and inward, obvious and not so obvious, perhaps spectacular, but usually very mundane sorts of ways.

Paul was speaking personally of his suffering (though not in any detail, I note!) and I would say that last Sunday’s sermon has been very helpful for me as I think about the toil and struggle, the suffering, in my Christian life, and particularly – and it might sound dramatic, but it is also very mundane –  about my toil and struggle, and suffering, for the church.

It always comes back to this. Are we prepared to keep going – even when its hard – because our suffering is proof that we are Christ’s people, our suffering is for Christ’s people who we care for, and our suffering is for God’s new world that we long to see?

I said, Oh Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said Amen.
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen,
I said, Oh Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said, Amen.


PS Speaking again of being an Epaphras, Charo Paynter has decided to step down from being our morning tea coordinator. This has not been an easy task – with all the Covid changes and constant search for volunteers – but she has done it with grace and energy, and I want to say thankyou for the love for all the saints that she has demontrated. Thank you, Charo! Also – is there anyone else out there who would like to take on the role of coordinating morning tea and providing this space for community, for love and encouragement, for our church? Please speak to Charo or myself or Steve or John Higgins if you do!

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