Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

A colleague at work brought me a used t-shirt from Louis in Truro, on the front of the shirt you can read “Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition”. For those who are not familiar with that expression it comes from a very funny skit written and performed by the cast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Of course there is nothing funny about the Spanish Inquisition, a 15th century church movement to eradicate heresy using torture, murder, and prison as a means to enforce orthodoxy. But the Python team play against that lethal reputation to portray a clumsy, mixed up threesome, dressed in wild red robes showing up in rather dull situations to threaten people with such terrifying techniques as poking someone with a comfy pillow. And so it goes…

You can download the youtube videos to see for yourself. On Father’s Day my daughter drew the trio and presented it to me with French toast. Sweet! The sketch now is framed on my office desk. It reminds me not only of my daughter’s talent and kindness it also keeps me attentive to the world around me, not so focused on myself and the “incoming” of a Minister’s life. Yes there are crisis; and they come. Someone is given a terminal diagnosis, the Presbytery want to know why the church is doing thus and so, committees need extra volunteers, budgets are in the red, people are hoping for visits, sermons need writing, and then there is the busy Fall that awaits, better to start planning now. But to plow into these challenges, to wait for the issues to present themselves, is to be blinded to the now.

Buddhists are inherently better at the now. It is part of their raison d’être to be in the present, to push back the past and future and focus, to meditate, upon the sacred moment that exists right in front of you. They’re right, of course, we routinely miss what is there in front of our nose because we are obsessed with the past and the future. Christians can be guilty of this; after all we are hardwired to deal with our past transgressions and the life that is to come. We are also told many times in scared scripture to plan for the future, to be prepared. But even within this framework surely there is room for the now. Jesus practiced the now, even when he tried to push the now away (see the story of the woman who tries to get his attention at the table, he compares her to dogs) something sacred, prophetic, comes back to him and he corrects himself and engages the moment.

No, the reason the sketch of this amusing Python skit is placed on my desk, so that I have to see it every day, is to remind me that I can expect the unexpected, those moments that upend our carefully planned out day. I wonder who will poke me with a comfy cushion today…