Here’s a dark Van Alstine secret: Judy and I watch “Masterpiece Mystery Theater.” This PBS offering features several series of crime solution dramas that were made for British TV, ranging from Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marples to less familiar characters like Wallander and Inspector Lewis.  Last night we decided to watch our first episodes of “Endeavour,” and we got to meet Endeavour Morse, an Oxford University dropout who has brought his intuitive gift for observation into police work. I guess Morse’s strange first name, as well as his boss’s name, Detective Inspector Thursday (remember “Sgt. Friday?”), show that the series creators didn’t take themselves too seriously.

My review of the episode is this: The characters are well-developed, the actors are experienced and effective, the filming, locations, direction, etc. are all better-than-average.  But the plot is a joke.  It seems the writer wants to take us down as many paths of suspicion as possible and then give us the absolutely least likely solution to the mystery.  Here’s what happens:  Young Margaret Bell is found dead of an apparent heart attack, but the coroner discovers she had a previous heart condition and was unwisely using amphetamines.  She got the pills from a young post office deputy clerk, Derek Clark (clerk/Clark? Ha ha) together with a monthly check she receives from her brother-in-law, Dr. Frank Cartwright, to support her child, which she had with his help.  (Are you following this so far?)  Derek has noticed the monthly checks and is blackmailing Dr. Cartwright.  Suddenly, there is a second death, as someone has put a bullet into Dr. Cartwright’s head.  Now, the Rev. Monkford enters the scene.  He witnessed the murder, but was reluctant to come forward because he had been at the location to meet a young man for a homosexual liaison.   Alas, the good reverend becomes the next victim of the killer, who is now frantically trying to cover his tracks.  In a seemingly unconnected act of violence, deputy clerk Derek Clark and his father, clerk Wallace Clark (the two Clark clerks), are badly beaten in a post office robbery.  Along the way suspicion for the murders is also cast on Sir Edmund Sloan, Helen Cartwright and Pamela Walters, before the true culprit is uncovered.  So, whodunit?  You don’t want to know.

The Bible contains some interesting “mysteries,” but these are designed to reveal the truth to us, not to hide the truth from us.  When it comes to advice about how to live a positive and worthwhile life, its teachings are surprisingly straightforward.  A good example is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap  eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.   (Galatians 6:7-9)

You don’t have to be a clever detective to find out what God wants you to do in 2015.  Just plant the right seeds and cultivate your life day by day.  There’s no mystery to it.  You may choose to “sow to your own flesh,” then pray for a crop failure.  But it’s not likely that God will change the laws of nature just for you.

— Pastor George Van Alstine