The year was 2008 and the month was August. The Rev had returned to St John’s New Vine of Covenant Life and Saints Worship Church Without after his annual break. The town of Stourwickbridgeton, where the church lived, including most of the congregation, was going through somewhat of a milk drought. The local shop in the village had not had any deliveries of milk for quite a few days now; four to be precise.
It was on this 4th day, Saturday if you will, when the Rev took a sip of his first milk-free cup of tea. He was due to preach the following morning on self righteousness, specifically how to avoid abusing someone when they say something stupid on Facebook. With the lack of milk so firmly on his mind however, he felt inspired to talk about the ills that fall on communities and humankind in general.
No-one knew exactly how the milk shortage had occurred. The shop assistant’s explanation was sketchy upon questioning. Even so, the effects were clear for all to see. While life appeared to carry on as normal, some residents of Stourwickbridgeton became agitated, hoarding up the few jars of Nestle’s Coffee Mate. The most desperate were heard to have driven to Sourminster (a town 7 miles away) to buy milk. Such was the panic that gripped the community.
Sunday morning came and the Rev went through Luke 13:1-19. He explained how Jesus challenges us to change our thinking about evil, sin and death. Jesus also shows how repentance is much more than avoiding the misery and despair of communal ills. Collective repentance is the behaviour required by the church. It is one of the marks, together with faith and love, that signals the long awaited end of exile is found only in Jesus.
The Curate Zeal approached the Rev after the service, perplexed by what he had heard, namely because he didn’t understand what the Rev was talking about. “I assume you were referring to the milk crisis” the Curate asserted. “Well, wouldn’t you be better off preaching from Ephesians 6:10-18 which talks about the Full of Armour of God?”
“Why?” asked the Rev.
“The milk crisis is clearly from the devil!” the Curate exclaimed.
“Luke 13 is only talking about how to view people who bring calamity on themselves and how we can avoid a similar fate. Like if someone has sex with lots of different people, gets a disease and then dies, for example. The milk crisis however, is satanic. The devil has made this happen. We need to get our spiritual swords and axes out………”
The Rev cut him short, “Are you serious? Didn’t you hear? The milk delivery van had an accident. The company hasn’t been able to replace it yet. So was the devil masquerading as a foot bridge?”
The Rev was gladdened by the fact that he didn’t preach his original sermon topic.