Sermon for today. 1 Corinthians 13:13 ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’
I like parables (of which the title is not one) for numerous reasons. They use everyday or extreme tools, issues or people to make a specific or more general point about something; usually an everyday area of life or a failure we can think about, relate to and learn from. They can be used to directly point something out to someone, face to face, without any accusation or legal issues, as it is just a parable. If the hat fits… Jesus was able to cleverly do this to the Pharisees. In fact He went a huge step further in a 3D parable (i.e. words into action).
In Matthew Ch 9 from verse 1, Jesus, when presented with a paralysed man, said to him, ‘your sins are forgiven’. The Pharisees said to themselves that He was a blasphemer, as only God can forgive sins. Consider the evidence of His claim. What could science bring to the table to show that a person’s sins are forgiven? Nothing. And yet Jesus was being condemned for it. For his blasphemous words. Knowing what the Pharisees were thinking (and He would later be condemned by those same teachers for healing on a Sabbath), He offered a less controversial order. One that anyone can say to anyone without any likelihood of condemnation or legal action. ‘Get up and walk home.’ And with that, he did so. And full evidence was thus provided, given that ONLY God can forgive sin or perform miracles. A blasphemous order without evidence that anyone could make vs a totally innocent order, demonstrating without doubt, that Jesus was or at least had the power or authority of God.
‘Get up and walk home’ is so innocent, so laughably unlikely as a serious/actionable order in the circumstances (of who He was speaking to). The only thing that changed it, was the action taken by the crippled man. The responsibility of Jesus’ order was now passed to the man. Is the man now guilty of something? If so, what? Walking? Who would blame or accuse him of anything for doing so, and what would that say of Jesus? But the resulting conclusion is now passed to the Pharisees to decide. A man was instantly healed by the words of a man called Jesus. As only God can perform or permit such an act, then Jesus is God, God is working through Him or He is acting upon God’s authority. This put the Pharisees in a very difficult situation. To reject or accuse or punish Jesus (or the crippled man), was to accuse and blaspheme God or blame the devil. To accept what Jesus just did was to commit to following or obeying and promoting and accepting Him.
It is reminiscent of saying ‘Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone’ or saying to the decaying body, ‘Lazarus, come forth’.
There are many great words in books, be they religious, mythological, legend, fantasy, fiction or non-fiction. The truth of the words is irrelevant, they are just great.
One says, one does.
I mention this incident, not just because it is one of my favourite in the Bible, but because of the comparison between the two things which Jesus offered. One was words and internal or spiritual, but of little use in real life. The other was totally practical and a real demonstration of intent and action. Hopefully, this will make sense later.
Parable about parables. Not just for others or even us, they/some are for ME.
There was even a parable, spoken by Jesus in the Bible, about a parable. Those pointing out a spec in someone’s eye when you have a log in your own eye. Some parables are missed entirely or are assumed to be about others, never ourselves. It is said that people who criticise a lot are often the ones who most deserve criticism and the criticisms they make, often reflect the same areas that they themselves lack.
Religious pointlessness effigies?
Many non-believers are very quick to criticise faith and prayer as pointless, non-existent and impractical tools, evading the issue and actual, practical solutions. Imagine walking past a homeless guy, begging for food and you stop and pray for him before walking off. Or a doctor praying for someone with potential cancer and not actually giving them a diagnosis or medical help or intervention. You could do both, but experience tells us that if in doubt, always at least do the practical action as a minimum. That is because that is the need and where the evidence lies in a solution, there and then.
There are numerous tele-evangelists. E.g. Kenneth Copeland who is worth between $300,000,000 and $1,000,000,000 + thanks to donations for all he… does – if only we could emulate this and have something as good to offer!!! Many deny the Covid 19 virus or Autism, mental illnesses etc. and see and preach them as spirits from the devil and not real things. That, and how they can say this publicly (and legally) and have followers of millions and the implications this brings and the tax relief they are allowed is beyond me.
But this is not an attack or criticism or challenge of any God. If anything, it is rather a lesson that non-theists can learn from religion/religious and other texts.
Action, not words produce results.
I remember watching Usain Bolt. Always so relaxed, smiling, toying with the audience and then effortlessly beating everyone to become the fastest known human ever over a short distance. Countless people admired him and kids wanted to be or emulate him. After all, we all saw how easy it was for him, right? No wonder he was admired.
Roger Federer was asked if he was just pure talent. “100%”, he said. “I just relax, do nothing and eat cheeseburgers all day, then turn up and win.” When sarcasm brings perspective.
The point, of course, is that behind all of the apparent relaxed skill or natural ability and progress, lies effort that is most likely greater than all of their competitors. If you saw the training, the grimaces, blood, sweat and tears, sacrifices, money, devotion and time involved over a long period, it would put the most stubborn people off. But that is all hidden behind the scenes. The actual game or race is the easy part, because all the work has been done in practise and training to prepare the way. They don’t just pray or hope or have faith that they will be good enough or win, no matter how religious, they know that they have to earn it, like anyone else. It is hard work, (more than their competitors) that is the fruit of the labours to win and get where they are.
A non-theistic parable.
Imagine a baby elephant struggling to get out of a muddy swamp, slowly drowning. A small child is trying to help, but it is hopeless, due to his meagre size. The elephant’s family call from afar. There are hundreds of 4x4 vehicles surrounding the swamp on the trail of a free safari. The passengers, clicking away, who joined because they love nature, are full of sorrow and words of comfort. ‘Call the police. Call the vets. Call a helicopter. Where is everybody? Somebody help.’ The safari guides operate the pulleys on the vehicle, but need volunteers to help pull it out. But everybody assumes or hopes someone else more qualified or rich or available will help. And finally, the baby elephant takes its last breath. And everybody cries, wondering at the utter waste of a life and what could have been.
The parable’s parallel.
Our project is struggling and needs your help. We are your free guides. We pay for your visit as tips are so few, and we are few and spread thinly, unable to operate all the strings to do what is needed and our heads are barely above water. Only one in 100 tourists who give us a tip (donate) or who volunteer, which is not sufficient. You are a tourist and we ask you to help in any practical way you can. Please ask for details. We ask very little, and if we don’t ask, we don’t get. We don’t want to be rude or intrude, but we need you to know where we are and what we need.
We get many people, posting or sending comments about the Phylogeny Explorer Project.
‘What a great idea’, ‘when will it be ready?’, ‘Can I use it to do x now?’, ‘Keep up the good work’, ‘This is going to be amazing’, ‘Thanks for all the work’, ‘Can’t wait to use it as a teacher at school’, ‘The final nail in the Creationist coffin’, ‘Best wishes, hope it is ready soon’, ‘You have my full support’.
And we try to respond to many of these comments, often because they don’t go to the Facebook group or Website where the answers can often be found, so it takes valuable time up. But if you have been following the analogy of faith, hope and love (and prayer), you will notice that people’s hopes and praise or interest don’t get a single thing done, don’t make an iota of progress and actually take time away to speak to them, with nothing in return.
We are a very small team of volunteers and spread ourselves very widely and thinly over many areas, finding it hard to focus on any one area, so we sometimes can’t complete a task or only give a limited time. We totally rely upon the good will of volunteers and any donations we can get to pay for everyday expenses and to access specialist skills that we lack in out voluntary base. Our income is extremely small and some volunteers (on top of their work) are brunting the financial costs, which is unfair and sometimes this is in the hundreds or even thousands of £/$.
Due to this lack of funding and not enough volunteers (many positions requiring no skills and little time), we can’t reach, as quickly as we would like, the point of being able to provide a publicly accessible project, due to this catch 22. Our workloads only increase and our donations, due to having little to physically/visually show to ask or tempt people to donate, are reducing and very limited.
With a visually attractive MVP (minimum viable product) to show, we can justify reaching out a lot more for help, instead of relying on people to just act on faith that we will get there and their money is going to justify their giving to an invisible actuality.
We need a visual, working model, up to date business plan, a press pack and a professional presentation with some key scientists on board. Whilst even some of these are catch 22’s, dependent on each other. Unless or until we get to this point, we can’t justify generating money or serious interest, sponsors, organisations and universities to join up. But without money (which these will help generate), we can’t reach the point to generate more serious money.
We need security. Luck or hope is not enough.
So, with well over 1000 members of the Facebook group and many thousands more who are aware of the project, be it through Aron Ra or elsewhere, we are asking you, if you really are supportive or like this project and appreciate the work we do and what it will offer, would you take a step of faith? You say you like the project. Well we can’t use or spend mere words, no matter how genuine. If only we could. If you really want to be a part or see progress or get recognition for your contribution(s) or be part of this team and project, we need your services or money, no matter how little. $1-$10 a month and/or a one-off donation would be amazing, especially if replicated by at least dozens of people (preferably a hundred or more), and help to motivate those of us who are taking one step forward and two steps back because we have to spend so much extra time budgeting our time, money and resources with the cheapest options, which are often slower options. Faster but slightly more expensive options can often get us to a point where money is generated a lot faster, so is more cost effective. But, like if you rent or need a mortgage, beggars can’t be choosers. The poor often pay more.
If you can’t afford $1/month ($12/year), that is understandable for some and there are voluntary positions too. Alternatively you could let us know that you would really like to contribute a little money or time, but you can’t. This actionable effort taken to tell us is emotionally valuable to us and it takes away the unknown, i.e. are 99% of people who support us in word, really all unable or unwilling to afford £/$1 or an hour a week or is it just apathy or are members just joining one of hundreds of groups arbitrarily? We are looking for NEW people to help us, to share or replace the burden of others, with work or money.
So many voluntary projects fall by the wayside, but I am not sure many are so potentially valuable and as educational as this one or have so much already done behind the scenes. The only way forward is with YOUR help.
There is ONLY one way.
The ONLY way to help us is to contact the project directly and we have the ONLY account where money goes into the project. No-one else and via nowhere else is this available. No person on the project or elsewhere takes money for this project. If anyone claims so or if you donate to anyone, thinking or believing or hoping or being told that any or all of the money goes to the project, it is untrue. If in doubt, contact Steve Owen or Jeroen Pill. We run the project. Other people, like Aron Ra and others who run Websites or patron’s do fund themselves for things, but this is not related in any way to this project. Any announcements or information about the project should also go exclusively through and/or be sanctioned by the project.
Our practical needs.
We want to reward those who help in some practical way and give them recognition. We see it on other sites and projects, but we don’t have the time, skills, resources or money to create this, which also takes time away from the project. But one volunteer, an hour a week could change this.
We need about £200 per month, minimum to pay our ongoing costs. We would like an additional £100-£200 per month for other occasional costs or upgrades and we need at least £2,000 to pay for services that we do not have skills in within the project volunteers, using something like fiverr to make our media pack and a professional presentation, once the MVP is ready. We also want volunteers from non-skilled to developers, artists, marketing/branding folk, social media builders and mods, plus people who can help organise, manage and communicate on these things so others can focus on their areas.
Let him who has ears, hear.
Thank you for understanding and anything you can do to help and keep this alive.
… but the greatest of these is charity.
Faith and hope (and prayer and words) offer nothing to this project that we can use, unfortunately. If you like/support the project though, maybe this can translate into action. In some translations of the Bible (e.g. the KJV) 1 Corinthians Ch 13 doesn’t actually use the word, ‘love’ in this verse. It uses the word ‘charity’, which is the 3D translated version of a 2D word. It is love, ‘poured out’ or ‘in action’. Love is emotional, but charity is the actionable demonstration of it. Love is feeling sorry for someone who is hungry, telling your partner you’ll love them forever or liking the idea or work of a project. Charity is giving food or money to the hungry person, going out of your way to help, support and to regularly show your emotional claim to your partner or offering to help or donate in/to a project.
It may be that some need coaxing from anonymity or just need a push and really would be willing and able to help, even in the smallest of ways. Obviously there are some who have chosen not to or really can’t afford a dollar/pound or an hour a week, but I am not convinced that such people are 99% of our group (which is the reality/statistics). You are free to choose not to help. You are free to choose who, if any project(s) or charity/ies you want to support. There is no shame in not having time, interest or money to help us. Our small current and diminishing list highlights very clearly where we are and I’d love to add YOU to that small, but hopefully growing and public list, if you are both willing and able, as the project success, progress and continuance, depends on YOU.