2017 February Issue
Brother Biddle's Christmas
John 1:14, "And the Word Became Flesh and dwelt among us..."
Brother Biddle1 is a friend of mine who has been the pastor over at East Burlap Protestant Parish2 for a long time. We keep in touch from time to time. Usually about twice a year in the lull periods of the church calendar, he manages to get me caught up on what has been happening over at East Burlap. I try to keep him informed as to what is happening in the churches where I am working. East Burlap is pretty much your normal everyday kind of church. It is a church where they assigned rooms each year to the Sunday School Classes based on Sunday school offerings and every year the Women's Bible Class gets the parlor and every year the babies are put in the closet next to the furnace. One year the leaders decided that they ought to provide Brother Biddle a car for his work, and then they took a year trying to decide what kind of image they wanted their minister to present in this car. They finally got him a car with a Lexus Body and a VW bug engine. They had given to them a new organ and since they did not like to spend money they decided to have a plumber in the congregation install that thing, after all, pipes are pipes. When they turned it on and started to play, they had this beautiful fountain of water that sprayed out of all the organ pipes. So you can see why it is always good to hear from Brother Biddle and to find out how things have been going.
I must confess that I was a little disappointed in Brother Biddle’s note this year. His letter this year was all about the major campaign to market their Christmas stuff. Ever since the great success of the Brother Biddle Bladder Beeper which they first put on the market in 1986, East Burlap has had a major fund raising effort at Christmas time by having a bazaar and selling some unique and special items. The Brother Biddle Bladder Beeper was the perfect gift for those who did not have a real beeper. It was a beeper that the owner could make go off when they wanted it to, so that they could look important responding to a beeper and go to the bathroom if their bladders were full. The Brother Biddle Bladder beeper was worn like all beepers, but it had a little remote switch in a pocket that one could push and then a ten second delay would cause the beeper to go off while you were looking pretty attentive to the message. East Burlap used to sell out every year, but now that everybody has a cell phone for real the Bladder Beepers have not sold very well.
So Brother Biddle was telling me about the new and different girls that the Research and Development department came up with for this year. This year they have added a whole new line of products because they are trying to raise enough money for an Olympic size baptismal pool. The plan is for the school to use the pool during the week for swim team practices and the church to use the pool on Sundays for baptisms. Brother Biddle thinks that no one has cornered the mass baptisms market the way The Rev. Moon has captured the Mass wedding market. With this pool, Brother Biddle thinks he can be number one in baptisms before long.
So here are some of the Christmas items that East Burlap was selling this year. They had a number of delicious and creative cook books and other pamphlets:
a. 101 Fun Jell-O Desserts with Spiritual Themes - $5
b. 50 Reasons why you need to take your Flintstone Vitamin to be a Happy Sunbeam for Jesus - $5
c. 45 Acceptable Biblical Names for your Pets - $7.50
d. 25 Effective Biblical Curses on your in-laws - $25
They have a line of new books which they thought would do very well. Marketing and Research discovered that most people do not have very much time to read and so people like short books. East Burlap and their creative department came up with a list of the five shortest Christian books they could think of and published them for the Christmas season. These are the five shortest books because the authors know so little about the subject. Tolerance by The Southern Baptist Convention. Humility by Jesse Jackson, An Amish Guide to Small Appliance Repairs, Trinity Broadcast Network's Guide to Simple Modest Home Decorations, and the shortest book of all was The Secret Sins of Billy Graham.
They had two new versions of the Bible they were selling for Christmas. There was the Stone Setters Bible—an exciting new re-issue of the Authorized King James Version with all the funny spellings, funny writing, and funny sounding passages, chiseled with a stainless steel chisel on three by five blocks of marble. Even Neiman and Marcus does not have a gift as expensive as this one. The Stone Setters Bible cost a little over 33.75 million dollars for the marble and about $15 million dollars to move and store it. Brother Biddle said that one person wanted to put a copy on lay-away, but the church did not know where to store it.
The other version of the Bible was called The Ultimate Process Bible. This version is offered on floppy disk in WordPerfect so that every time the committee makes a recommendation, the changes can be easily made and easily saved. What you get on floppies is only an interim report of a preliminary draft of a possible proposal of a future rendition. You are buying the process. This is the work of a multi-denominational team of scholars who have been at work on this process for thirty years. They have spent most of their time designing and preparing the research methods and standards. They have just announced that they have completed assigning every chapter of the Bible to a 15-member committee. Every committee had to be made up of two Asians, two Africans, two Americans, two Chinese, two Canadians, two Frenchmen, two Russians, and one Arab. The committee members had to have a Ph.D. in Greek, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Latin, Arabic, Babylonian, and Ugaritic. Brother Biddle did say even he thought it was a little strange that they were in process to translate the Bible into English, and no one on the committee had to be able to speak English.
There was a children's section with some action figures. There were Adam and Eve dolls with a snake. Eve made Barbie look flat-chested, and Brother Biddle worried about that. There were David and Goliath action figures that had been programmed with all the moves, holds, and throws of the World Wrestling Federation. But when David finally gets to the sling shot, the toy had better be outside because David wasn't always very accurate and could do damage to a lot of mirrors, windows, and lamps inside. The Jonah and the whale figures had to be pulled from the market; the whale looked like somebody was trying to use up some old Jaws sharks, and Jonah kept getting bit into instead of being swallowed.
Some of us grew up with the threat that if we were not good we would get switches instead of presents. Brother Biddle and the East Burlap Christmas Present Committee did not forget, and they updated the switches. They offered for sale The Rod, the Biblical tool for child rearing. Spare the rod and spoil the child. If your child had been naughty then you could give them the rod. The Rod is a 22" flexible nylon rod with a cushioned vinyl grip. It is scientifically balanced for greater impact and follow through. It even has a safety tip on the end. In the great spirit of Christmas, East Burlap Bazaar was offering a life time replacement guarantee. If you break the rod while beating your child, they would give you another, we free of charge.
While the Christmas Committee was working so hard at raising funds, Brother Biddle did not know what to make of the retired minister who was creating a devil of a time in one of the Adult Sunday School classes. Seems this retired minister was going around suggesting that tithing was an invention of the devil. Brother Biddle said his stewardship campaign chairman came by the office and almost resigned. “Here we are trying to get our members to get up to the Biblical standard of a tenth and he is in there telling them that tithing is the work of Satan.”
Brother Biddle had to arrange a luncheon date with the old retired minister. Brother Biddle said he had to laugh. It turns out that the old minister is trying to point out to the Sunday School Class that it is the work of Satan which says that a tenth is the proper amount to give God. The old minister says that the Bible suggests that 10% is a staring place, and disciples and faithful believers are encouraged to give even more. Remember the Widow who gave all that she had and the rich young ruler who was asked to go and sell all that he had and give it away. The old minister thinks it has been the work of Satan to make a tithe the upper limit so that everybody could keep the 90% and do what they wanted to with it. The old guy believes that the tenth really should be the bottom minimum, and faithful Christians should be stepping up from the tenth not trying to inch up to the tenth. I think Brother Biddle told the old man to cool it until after the Stewardship Campaign for this year and to bring that debate up in July.
It is always wonderful to hear from Brother Biddle and his people over at East Burlap. When I read the notes from Brother Biddle they always remind me, whenever I get them, of what an amazing message this Christmas story really is. What an amazing affirmation we keep making as Christian people, that God so loved this world, including East Burlap Protestant Parish and Brother Biddle, and all the East Burlaps and brother biddles, that God came to give us the gift of His grace and mercy. That God would so love East Burlap, and all of us, knowing what he would have to put up with, and still he came. So much more love was given than we could ever deserve. May that good news go with us into the New Year.
First Presbyterian Church
1. Brother Biddle was first created by Robert Suggs and used as a cartoon minister. Mr. Suggs has graciously allowed me to continue to use his name as the foundation of these reports.
2. East Burlap Protestant Parish was first named and identified by Richard Rinker in a book about life in East Burlap. Dr. Rinker no longer writes about East Burlap and has allowed me to use the name with Brother Biddle in the creation of these letters.