Total Pageviews

Sunday, 9 November 2014

An Amusing Incident...

Maybe some of you are aware that at present I have a heart condition, which has been diagnosed with a leaky aortic valve. This means that I'm in line for open-heart surgery to have the valve replaced, either with a flesh valve from a donor bank, or with a mechanical valve. This is a sort of thing which have swings and roundabouts. With a flesh valve, another open-heart operation may be needed later in life; however, the presence of a mechanical valve will cause the blood to coagulate around it, which is only preventable by taking blood-thinning medicine for the rest of my days. Perhaps this could be seen as a no-win situation. On the other hand, if I'm committed to take medicine daily for the rest of my life whichever the case may be, then I'll would opt for the artificial device if I am given a choice.

But that may not be my choice, but that of the surgeon. However, a series of pre-op assessments at Harefield Hospital, one of the country's top cardiac centres, has allowed the formation of the patient's notes - which always begins with the patient's name, date of birth, age, home address, blah, blah, blah, then his occupation - as if this mattered a lot with the condition - after all, I'm not a professional wine-taster or a cigarette analyst, if such jobs really existed. So the turn arrived for the Echo-Scan department to analyse my chest area, resulting in clear images appearing on the computer screen for the better part of an hour, reclining on the bed, very much like an ancient Roman feasting at the table.
After a considering amount of time examining my heart with its leaky valve, the operator announced,
Now, lie flat on your back, as I need to scan the pipe which carries the fluid back to your heart.
I thought: Pipe? Am I a mechanical contraption of some kind? With which I responded:
You mean the vena cava.
The operator, an English-looking male I suspect to be in his late thirties or early forties, was taken back with surprise.
Yes, that's right! How do you know? Where did you learn that?
To which I muttered, more to myself than to him:
Well, I'm not stupid.
The operator however, refused to let the matter rest.
Please tell me, where did you learn all this?
Finally, I answered:
When I was young, I had an interest in human anatomy.
As the scan proceeded, images appeared to be contradictory, with which the operator announced that he needed a second opinion. With that he departed, leaving me lying alone on the bed next to a constantly bleeping scanner, what seems to be somewhere between five to ten minutes. Afterwards he re-appeared with a female, apparently a doctor, as she seemed well-knowledgeable on the issue. As he was talking to her, I clearly heard him mention with a degree of astonishment that I knew about the vena cava vein. I guess that he would not have been any more amazed had he discovered that I had two hearts, as Dr. Who! The female then took over the procedure while he had to sit and watch.
As one whose occupation consist of manual labour rather than sitting at a desk in the office, it may be reasoned that my vocabulary gave him something of a culture shock. After all, he must have studied my notes thoroughly during preparations and before calling me in from the waiting room. Therefore, he came to the conclusion that I, as a window cleaner, must be dim. With such an assumption, I should have been annoyed. Instead I was rather amused, and I left the department with a sense of triumph, as I made my way to the next department to have my lung capacity assessed. No doubt, the operator's perception of occupation, social status, and educational levels, all to be seen in unity with each other, must have been severely shaken.  
What a glorious truth it is, that the Gospel has no respect for the person's social status, occupation or academic levels. The love of God through Jesus is universal, to both friend and enemy alike. As Jesus himself had once said, his Father in heaven sends rain to the just and to the unjust alike, as he allows the sun to shine as well on them both (Matthew 5:43-48.) In addition to this, Luke writes that the Holy Spirit is available to all who asks him to fill their lives, according to Jesus' own promise, regardless of the standing of the one requesting (Luke 11:11-13.) This has got to show how wonderful the love of God is, for even the vilest enemy is loved by him. According to what I have seen and heard throughout my life as a Christian, it seems much easier to write off an unbelieving sinner as under the wrath of God than to imagine that God loves him too. But how would heaven shout and rejoice with gladness if this "vilest enemy" was to hear the Gospel and believe? As we used to sing at church, the love of God is so high, that we can't get over it, so deep, we can't get under it, so wide, we can't get round it...such is the picture of the cross of Christ.

The love of God shows no preferences. It has no preference for the rich above the poor, nor for the educated above the ignorant, nor for the upper classes over the underclass. God's command for all men everywhere is to repent and believe the Gospel. That means a change of mind from believing that Jesus Christ was a myth, a good teacher, or an impostor - to believing that through him the world was reconciled to God by dying on a cross, and bodily resurrected three days later, confirming his title as Christ and Lord, the Son of God. It is not the desire of God for anyone to perish, but he is very patient, and desires that all should come to repentance, that is, a change of mind about Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:8-9). This same Peter delivers the Gospel so well as recorded in Acts 2. There, thousands of Jews from all over the known world were gathered to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. Most, if not all, knew about Jesus who was crucified, but thought that he was an impostor and a blasphemer, hence his execution by the Jewish leaders. Peter successfully convinced up to three thousand of them to believe that the crucified Jesus is the risen Christ, their long awaited Messiah by linking his coming with the fulfilment of prophecy. And by believing, they were saved, reconciled to God without any works to earn or merit their salvation. What a glorious bit of good news!
This blog is written on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, the nearest weekend to Armistice Day, marking the end of the Great War on November 11th, 1918. Throughout this week we watched a series of programmes which can be classed as docu-dramas, epics reflecting the real life of those who fought in the trenches. Titled The Passing Bells, the drama featured two teenagers who volunteered to fight, believing that the imminent war would only last a month or so, a blip on their lives when they could defeat the Germans easily. After all, as head of Empire, didn't the Brits defeat the indigenous of every country conquered within months, if not weeks? Why should this be different? So they believed.
But the war dragged on. After three years of conflict, post traumatic stress syndrome was beginning to set in, even though it wasn't recognised back then. The superb acting showed young men crying out to return home, as they dodged enemy bullets whizzing past them, in heavy rain, falling Winter snow, and biting cold winds. A few even deserted the camp and tried to make a desperate run for it. When caught, they faced the firing squad. In turn, they see their best mates and colleagues lying dead on the ground in large numbers. It makes me wonder how such mass death and suffering happen after God had reconciled the world to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is known that 888,246 British and colonial troops died in the Great War.
How the heart of the risen Lord must have bled for these troops, just as it bled for the fate of Jerusalem for failing to recognise him (Luke 19:41) and wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35). As I watched the drama, I felt my heart go out for them too. As the war dragged on, without an end in sight, the patriotic and imperial confidence they had before the conflict - that they were of God's chosen nation, so immortalised by William Blake's And did those feet of ancient time walk upon England's mountains green? - was beginning to wane, only to be replaced by fear of imminent death, the biting cold, dampness, feeling ill, and under the constant burden of the commanding officer, along with the threat of the firing squad for dereliction of duty.

Some twenty years ago, I knew an elderly war veteran who was also one of my clients before his death in the 1990s. I recall his tale of his father fighting in the Great War, as he put it, "in the name of God." The state of him at his return after the end of the conflict made his son grow up to be an atheist, after seeing his dad crushingly deluded with the faith, enough to depart from it. As we watched The Passing Bells, I was able to recall the conversation, if the drama was as true to life as it can possibly be, there was the commanding officer quoting a Psalm that no harm would come to the tents of those who trusts in the Lord. A short while later the whole camp was struck by enemy fire, and many died. Little wonder that these troops trusted in themselves more than on God, the very God of England as they once believed in.

My recent experience at Harefield Hospital indicates that this "god of England" (small g) is as much alive now as he was before the Great War. According to several of my former church mates going back into the 1980s, nearly all younger than myself, the British Empire was not only inspired by this god, but ordained by him through the British military forces. And I also recall one of them insisting that the god we worship every Sunday is the god of England rather than the God of Israel as the Bible makes known to us. Although just a kitchen porter at the time, he favoured the class system, and our reserved culture as a whole, and had a superior attitude over foreigners and peoples of other countries. I know personally other church-goers to this day who are strong advocates of the class system, worships the Queen, shows greater respect for the educated middle class, and would have preferred to see the likes of me as rather stupid, but instead grudgingly acknowledge me as a true believer with a little bit of intelligence.

No, I do not want to know this god of England. He seems to be a cruel beast in the sky who quickly judges on the way we perform. As I see it among his followers, he can get lost. They can have him gladly, the truculent god who threatens to take away their salvation if they fail to hold faithful, or fail to perform to their full potential, or fail to carefully abstain from sin. Such a beast of a deity I can do without. Maybe that was it. Our friend at the echo-scan department might well have been a believer in this English god. Equally possible, he might have been an atheist. But in either case, his condescending attitude towards me was identical to all those who voluntary joined the military to fight in the Great War. They fought for their religion, their King, and their Country. They fought for their culture, for their class and academic structure, but the few who returned arrived home disillusioned, especially with their god.

Rather, I much prefer to serve and worship, adore and trust the true God of Israel, who inspired the writing of Holy Scripture, and whose Son died to atone for our sins, reconciling the world to himself without imputing sin on anyone (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Romans 5:10.) And with the Holy Spirit available just by the asking, I can live a far better, more fulfilled life loving and serving others, including hugging other men and considering their affairs above my own. The Holy Spirit in me does not discriminate or show favour towards one person above another - he gives me the power to love both the wise and the not-so-wise on equal terms, the well off and the poor, the educated and the ignorant. The Holy Spirit gives me the power to live out the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, which involve looking on and treating the poorly educated on the same par as the professional who graduated from university. After all, Christ died for both.

Perhaps on that hospital bed I have given this god a shaking as well. 


  1. I have never considered what a person does as a job as a plumb line for whether he or she is more intelligent Frank. The doctor would have no inkling of how to clean windows as well as you do just as much as you might not be able to do what he does. As far as success is concerned regarding both jobs, I think I would have to say that window cleaners have a higher percentage than doctors.
    God bless you and Alex Frank.

  2. Dear Frank,
    One of the most ill-mannered, crass people I ever met had doctoral degrees and medical specialty training at one of the finest Ivy League schools. And I know of at least two other doctors trained at equally prestigious schools who were so completely lacking in common sense that it compromised patient care. In contrast, I have met several people who never went beyond high school and who had none of life's advantages, yet who excel at problem solving and thinking outside the box, and are quick-witted, well spoken, and full of intellectual curiosity and general knowledge. Praise God that He is no respecter of persons and loves each of us without judging the superficial characteristics as the world does. Thanks as always for the excellent post.
    God bless,

  3. Great post.

    As you point out, there is a tendency to make a god who fits our ideas and conforms to our standards, rather than finding the true God and conforming to his standards. those false gods will fail every time.