It is with the very greatest pleasure that we publish this thoughtful sermon by the Very Reverend Nathaniel FitzSimmons at this special season. The Reverend FitzSimmons has recently been appointed as our first and only Chaplain. We hope that both staff and visitors alike will benefit from his warmth, humanity and wisdom for many years to come.
I cannot tell you how delighted I was, last week, when the lovely Miranda Givings called into the vicarage for tea, as she usually does on her way to have her roots re-done on alternate Wednesdays. It is unfortunate, because I was not very delighted at all, in fact I was pretty irritated as I was just completing a matchstick model of Vera Lynn, using red-tipped Swan Vestas for the nipples when the door-bell rang and I turned suddenly with a piece of sandpaper in my hand and, well—the fire was soon under control, but my second best cassock will never be the same I fear! Anyway, thirty year’s work up in smoke!
Miranda and I are old friends; I remember dandling her on my knee when I was first appointed Rector of St Priapus here in Lesser Hampton. But that was more years ago than I know Miranda would want me to say! Although we have a clue, I think, here in the number of the first Hymn, 57, The Lord is King: lift up thy voice.’
On this occasion, though, it was not just to guzzle my Tesco Finest Assam and chocolate hobnobs that she had called, but to offer me the post of Chaplain to the Utterpants Website. Frankly I didn’t know what she was talking about—still don’t, as a matter of fact, but the offer of Derek to come round and sort out the vicarage drains for me swayed it. So here I am. Not that my appointment is in any way a reflection upon the morality of the fine body of men and women whom Miranda has gathered together in what she engagingly calls her 'pants.' As she herself once put it to me with her inimitable candour: 'I was educated at Purley College for Precocious Young Ladies where a congenital inability to keep my knickers on and a stunningly naïve belief that men were remotely interested in my mind, resulted in me having two children before I even knew I had any ovaries.' A fate that has befallen not a few of my female flock over the years. So, fear not, dear readers; I come not to cast stones, but to give succour in these troubled times.
Now Easter time is a jolly good season to start a Chaplaincy for it is a time both of ending and of beginning. We remember the ending of the period between Christmas and Easter and the beginning of the Bank Holiday sales. This year the Single Lesbian Young Mother's Club has asked me to remind you that they are offering a free copy of their highly controversial 2005 Calendar and two pots of jam for only £1.50. This offer closes on Ascension Day.
As your Chaplain I want you to think of me as a friend, I may be in my 81st year, but I have a lifetime store of good advice which I will share generously with any who come within earshot. Having sixteen grandchildren also keeps me in touch with the issues of the day, the problems of young people; under-age sex, unwanted pregnancy, drug addiction, teenage prostitution, tight underwear and shoplifting. But enough of my family. I want you to feel you can come to me in complete confidence and I will lend—without judging in any way—a friendly hearing aid and a bony shoulder to cry on. Only last week Mrs Higgins from the Post Office came to me and said: “Vicar, I have been sleeping with the paper boy and now I have a venereal disease.” And I said, “Don’t worry you filthy old slapper, your secret’s safe with me.”
Anyway, I digress, I would like to take as my reading today the parable of the Wise Husbandman and the Foolish Virgins—a text which I feel sure will commend itself to Miranda's readers. This is a little known parable recorded by an even less well-known disciple—Thaddeus, at the Last Supper—while the twelve were waiting for the garlic bread starters to arrive. The disciples had asked our Lord for a parable to pass the time and Jesus said to them:
There was a certain husbandman who builded a bathing pool for his wife and children in the years of his youth, sumptuously arrayed with offering tables, oxen roasts and encompassed about with apple and peach trees. But his wife was a froward woman who did sell herself nightly in the market place and his children wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had suffered enough, he called his wife and children unto him, saying: 'Get thee gone, thou strumpet and take the idle fruit of thy deceitful womb with thee.'
And it came to pass that in his bitterness the husbandman neglected the pool, until, one day, in his dotage, he said unto himself: "I will go down unto my pool and harvest the fruit of the trees which I did plant in the years of my youth.'
Then he took up a pail and his staff and did go down to the pool. And lo, as he approached, the sound of happy laughter did smite his aged ears and he stood still and said unto himself: 'These are the voices of young maidens; howbeit that they are come down unto my pool?'
Immediately he stepped forth from the shade of an apple tree and espied five naked virgins bathing in his pool. And when he saw their comeliness, he said unto himself: 'Surely their breasts are like clusters of ripe grapes, their bellies an heap of wheat set about with lilies which wanteth but my liquor to anoint them. Their mouths are most sweet: yea, they are altogether lovely. O that they might open to me: for my loins coveteth their comeliness and my lips long to sup upon their milk-white breasts.
So saying, he bethought himself of a cunning ruse and called out to the maidens. Straightaway they did hide themselves in the deepest parts of the pool, and cried out in great vexation of spirit: 'Howbeit thou art come to spy upon us? We shall not uncover our nakedness until thou departest.'
Then the husbandman did hold aloft his pail and said unto the five virgins: 'I cometh not to spy upon thee, but to feed the crocodile that liveth in this pool.'
And it came to pass that the five naked virgins straightaway lay with the husbandman and were made fruitful and he was greatly blest and dwelt with them all the days of his life.
And I say unto you, my disciples, the foolishness of youth is a fruit that is soon plucked and cast into the winepress and seen no more, but the wisdom of old age has its own reward.
And I think, my friends that there is a message there for young and old even today.
I usually take my luncheon in the Cockwell Inn between twelve and three, so if any of you would like to buy me a drink I would be happy to oblige. Don’t expect a civil answer after about 12.30 though, because I am a right bastard when I’ve had a few. As witnessed by the shiner my good lady wife is sporting this morning.
I look forward to working amongst you for many years to come.
Your brother in Christ,
Story © 2006 How Tenji & Miranda Givings
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