Morning prayer begins, "The night has passed and a new day lies open."
What a wonderful sentiment that is. It suggests that the night has passed and a new day lies open. We could say something similar about the new year, the old year has passed and a new year lies open. This too suggests that an old year has passed and a new year lies open.
Of course, things in the past affect things in the future. It is the way of things. But not all things in the past affect all things in the future and there are some things in the future that we can still change, even though there remain some things in the past that will affect the future and that we have no control over.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, a grump middle aged cynic, goes on and on about how nothing ever changes. Well, as I have just shown, things do change, because there are things in the past that do not affect things in the future and so there are things in the future that we can change, even though there are some things in the past that do affect some things in the future, although not all of them.
When we were young, a long long time ago now, the world was full of possibilities. Then we ended up in some dead end career, got married, got a mortgage and settled down to the daily, depressing, endless grind that became our unfulfilling and ultimately pointless life. Just as Ecclesiastes says. Don't you wish you could have a more exciting career, that you could abandon your family and be free again? I know I do.
But wait, some of us can pray to the Invisible Magic Friend! And in praying to the Invisible Magic Friend we become, in an ambiguous and unspecified but nevertheless very real sense, free to gain more knowledge, more understanding, to do more good.
Thanks to the fact that I pray to the Invisible Magic Friend, I am able to be optimistic about the future and wish you all a very Happy New Year. The rest of you will just have to collapse in a depressing, paralysing heap as you contemplate the economic woe or the wearisome drudgery of your inane, irrelevant existence.
It's one of the pressing problems of our age: what version of the Lord's prayer should we use? Should we forgive trespasses, forgive debts, or forgive sins? It's a tough one, but fear not, that's precisely the sort of vital challenge that Christian theology is willing to take on.
As luck would have it, debts have been in the news lately in the form of pay day loans. These are loans that poor people have to take out. Poor people are people who've run out of money. Just at the time when there are more poor people about, the British are becoming less tolerant of poor people, with many thinking that the poor just deserve to be poor.
Fortunately we have Christianity. Christianity invented being good to the poor. Judaism, which was a kind of dummy run for proper Christianity, also did some helping of the poor, although mainly their own poor. Christianity decided to help all the poor, which is why we don't have any poor people left today.
The Emperor Julian said so, so I must be right.
Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos, Vicar of St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, handy for Belgravia and Knightsbridge
Friday, 31 December, 2010, 08:31 AM - PrayerRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
DON'T PANIC! DON'T PANIC! There are only 16 hours left in 2010 in which to pray! If you get down on your knees right now you can still get some really useful praying in before the parties start. There's the Our Invisible Magic Friend who art in Heaven - that's a really good prayer, given to us be the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend himself. Then there's the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed, with or without the Filioque, the Chalcedonian Creed and the Athanasian Creed - all of them, truly fantastic creeds.
The two occasions I remember most in 2010, were at two men's deathbeds. Their careers and lives behind them, they lay there surrounded by friends and family. Scarcely able to be heard and certainly in no position to object, I held each man's hand and began to utter, Our Invisible Magic Friend. Their expressions instantly changed and they began to mutter insensibly, no doubt grateful that some of their last dying moments, their last time alone with their families, their last chance to express their love, could be interrupted for the important task of a bit of last minute praying.
I'm sure you have many worthy New Year's resolutions that you intend to keep. Let's make praying to the Invisible Magic Friend one of them.
Happy New Year.
Preposterously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Why do people take drugs?
Some just want to blot out the misery of human existence, the sheer hopelessness of it all, the pointlessness of existence, the dreary, limited futility of you meaningless, dreary lives.
Animals don't have this desire. I've spoken to many of them about it and they all expressed their perplexity at the human propensity to seek oblivion. As one field mouse put it, "If you seek non-existence that much, why don't you just get eaten by something?"
Angels don't either. When was the last time you saw an angel that was paralytic drunk? Proves my point I think.
Others take drugs to get a high, to lose themselves in the music and dancing. As T.S. Eliot wrote "I'm off to get stoned." It's all about mysticallness and stuff. The response of this intellectual colossus of 20th century literature was to become an Anglican, which coincidentally just happens to be my religion.
I'm not going to mention invisible magic stuff - that would be far to crude for someone as preposterously reverend as oneself. Instead, I will refer to "reality", at once stillness and ecstasy, and unfortunately not currently available in pill form. You can only understand it by praying. Again not by praying to the Invisible Magic Friend, one takes that as read, just praying in general.This is how one finds one's true self.
We need to get young people off drugs and get them into prayer - the real way of discovering reality.
Those bloody militant atheists are at it again. Now they're militantly taking legal action to try and ban official prayers at the start of council meetings. We've been telling counsellors that they must pray to the Christian Invisible Magic Friend for centuries. Now they militantly come along, militantly disagreeing with us and militantly telling us that we can't force people to follow our religion? I mean, just who do they think they are?
In a bid to support our brave, persecuted, Christian councillors, valiantly fighting for freedom and tolerance against the overwhelming forces of militant secularism, I have devised some useful prayers that might be said in defiance of those who would militantly deny our undoubted right to tell them what to do.
"Dear Invisible Magic Friend, who is so very, very big and who is so wise in the matter of civic amenities, guide us in these, our puny human deliberations, towards decisions that are thy will and in accordance with thine divine law.
"Thou who art the Rock of Ages, should priority be given to the potholes in the High Street, or shalt we give preference to residential areas?
"O mighty creator of the universe, who set the planets in their orbits and the stars in the firmament, shalt we vote for or against the dedicated cycle path proposed around the outside of the town park?
"Thou who has given us this green and bountiful earth, reveal to us thine will regarding the introduction of a separate wheelly bin for glass and tin cans to be collected on alternate Tuesdays.
"Regarding the replacement of the separate Gents and Ladies toilets outside the train station, with the new, self-cleaning, unisex model, guide us with the benefit of thy urinatary wisdom O Lord.
"On the provision of a new children's playground in the forecourt of Councillor Herbert Pratt Tower, what is thy will regarding a climbing frame, provided a suitable rugged, yet injury resistant ground coating can be obtained and thus not suffer the little children?
"O fount of all knowledge, give us the benefit of they guidance on the extension of early evening weekday opening hours for the central library.
"Assist us, we pray, thou who has boundeth body and soul together, to choose between a dedicated gymnasium or a dedicated IT facility to be shared between Queen Anne's School for Girls and St. John the Confused Primary School.
"Smite in thy righteous fury, O Lord, the Transport Committee who have singularly failed to choose a new location for the replacement bus shelter in Woodland Drive.
"O source of all grace and good fortune, look kindly upon our application to the lottery grants committee for the provision of a new pavilion that might shelter the town brass band and in so doing, be pleased to deny funding to some less worthy cause.
"Give wisdom to the local government minister that he might increase our Council Tax grant for the coming financial year. We know we prayed for this last year but we didn't get any increase and if we don't get one this year then Happy Valley old folks' home will have to close.
"This we ask, even those who are unbelievers, through Christ our Lord. Amen"
A service of thanksgiving will be held today in Durham Cathedral for Sir Bobby Robson. It's not an obvious place to hold a remembrance service.
OK, it is. He was born nearby and managed Newcastle United which is just up the road. More importantly, football is a terribly spiritual activity. Besides, the Church of England owns death in this country. Wherever there are dead people, you'll find the CofE. Combine football and death and the natural place to go is your local cathedral. How could anyone possibly remember someone's life without constant references to the Invisible Magic Friend?
As a Rev Dr Dr, who gave up astrophysics for the much more exciting pursuit of contemporary theology, and as a Newcastle United season ticket holder, let me just assure you that everbody, even the most hardened atheists, pray to the Invisible Magic Friend in times of adversity. But those of us who are holier also give thanks to the Invisible Magic Friend for people like Bobby Robson. Most people are horrible, so it's a real delight to come across someone who is genuinely human, who is decent and courageous, who is good, true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, just like Jesus. It's a reminder that competitive team sports like football isn't about the winning or the enormous amount of money involved, it's about being nice.
Oh and life itself is a gift from the Invisible Magic Friend, so don't be ungrateful. Remember to thank him or you'll be sorry.
Yes... many happy memories.... of things.... things that have happened... in the past... old things... long, long ago... in a galaxy far, far away...
Many of you... now that you've spent your bank bonuses are now seeking out the Invisible Magic Friend... You're finding it hard to find him... due to him being invisible and magic. Your financial ruin and new found destitution are signs... They're signs that the Invisible Magic Friend wants you to be that way... As an old time conversationalist with the Invisible Magic Friend here are my hints and tips for making first contact.
First, click your heels three times and say, "Where are you Invisible Magic Friend?"
I'M RIGHT HERE, IN YOUR HEAD, WHERE I'VE ALWAYS BEEN.
Not now, Invisible Magic Friend. I'm trying to explain to the wireless listeners how to find you.
IF THEY SPEND LONG ENOUGH TALKING TO THEMSELVES THEY'LL SOON FIND ME IN THEIR HEADS TOO.
You need to study the holy prophets.
OH, I WAS IN THEIR HEADS ALL RIGHT. THEY WERE COMPLETELY WACKO.
Try staring aimlessly at an altar for hours on end.
YEP, THAT USUALLY DOES THE TRICK.
If you don't have a lover then the Invisible Magic Friend can really help out.
I REALLY DO WISH YOU'D STOP TALKING TO ME WHILE YOU'RE DOING THAT.
The Invisible Magic Friend is there to be used.
TYPICAL! IS THAT ALL I AM TO YOU? AN OBJECT TO BE USED? YOU TOLD ME YOU LOVED ME FOR MY MIND.
His greater power can cure you of alcoholism.
A SIMPLE TWELVE STEP PROGRAMME IS ALL IT TAKES TO FREE YOU FROM A POINTLESS, DESTRUCTIVE OBSESSION AND RETURN YOU TO NORMALITY. YOU'LL FEEL BETTER, HAVE MORE SPARE TIME AND WON'T BE SUCH AN ENDLESS BORE.
There's a big Jewish festival come up you know.
OH, WHAT A SURPRISE.