Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Acceptance. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

A new reality show has just produced a winner. Until Saturday, a Croatian website allowed viewers to view seven sheep 24 hours a day, feeding and interacting with each other. Over the 10-day Stado (herd) show, a public vote gradually eliminated all but the victor who will have a poem written in his honour. Itís reported that those voted out might be eaten.

Whilst not new, the idea of using farm animals to satirise human behaviour still has punch. Jesus may have been doing it too, when he compared human beings to sheep. If so, he was doing it rather more affectionately. Far from denigrating the people who behaved in a sheep-like manner, he wanted to let his hearers know that each of them mattered profoundly to God.

Few of us, if watched by others over a ten day period, would not exhibit some ovine behaviour. Maybe we follow the crowd just because it's easier. Or do things about which we feel foolish and which we hope havenít been noticed. Perhaps today we can be glad that the one who is aware of all we do, wonít vote us out for our unattractiveness or uninteresting behaviour, but treats us all with equal honour.

In the Andalusian town of Villaralto, Judas plays a bigger role in the Easter celebrations even than Jesus. Today the townspeople will hang out life-size, straw figures of Judas over the main streets. After post-mass hot chocolate and biscuits on Easter Sunday, everybody gathers in the streets and join in as gowned townspeople destroy the Judas figures.

Judas has long been a hate-figure in Christian mythology. He represents those parts of all of us which are disloyal, cowardly, easily-led and greedy. As the inhabitants of Villaralto lay into the straw images of Judas, they are symbolically expressing anger against him, but also anger against those parts of themselves.

Jesusí way of dealing with human failing was not to be angry about it. We know little about how he felt about Judas but we do know they seemed to have sat close enough to have a private conversation at their last supper together and that he gave him a morsel of bread dipped in wine. These were both signs from a host at such a meal that the recipient was particularly favoured.

Perhaps anger is not an appropriate response to our weaknesses and failures. Jesusí affectionate attitude to Judas when he knew what he was about to do suggests that Godís approach is much gentler, more understanding. The destruction of Judas-figures in Villaralto on Easter Sunday may be one way of expressing Christís triumph over evil. Another which can be expressed in our own lives is to deal in Christís way with those parts of our personalities and lives we find distressing. Letís today try and respond as he did, not with anger but by loving ourselves in spite of our failings.

A new website provides an opportunity for confession. invites anonymous postcards containing secrets. ďMy boyfriend and my family thought I quit smoking two years ago. I didn't (and still smoke)," said one, signed "Closet Smoker". "I say I'm a vegetarian. But I eat meat on the sly!" said another, with a sketch of a steak and steak knife as evidence. There are also other more intimate secrets. "Some of the people mailing in secrets seem to be searching for absolution. They want to lighten their burden," said Frank Warren who created the site.

Relief is nearly always what follows the revealing of a secret. Those which have been accompanied by guilt or regret seem to lose their power when told to someone else. But the success of the website may indicate that there are many of us who donít have a human being who we would share such things with.

Jesus seems to have been the kind of person people opened up to. A woman with a secret illness, a tax collector who had never before admitted his thieving ways, a religious leader who was finding orthodoxy unsatisfying, were all truthful in his presence. These are just the confidences we know about. There were no doubt others he took with him to the grave and beyond.

Letís today be grateful for those in whom we feel we can confide. For Christians that may still be a quality found in Jesus whose life continues beyond his resurrection. Perhaps too, because a website canít offer the acceptance that guilty and regretful people need, itís worth fostering in ourselves those qualities which would make us trusted and available listeners.

The new Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, published last week, includes a phrase coined by Anne Robinson. In her quiz show, she curtly dismisses failed candidates with the words: "You are the weakest link ... Goodbye."

Itís not just in quiz games that itís tempting to get rid of the weakest link. In business, voluntary organisations, even in social groups, itís often the most obvious solution for the good of everyone else just to say goodbye to anyone whose contribution is incompetent, frustrating or annoying.

All, however, is not always what it seems and even weakest links have redeeming qualities. Jesus often seemed to make common cause with those who others felt did not make a useful contribution to society. He saw something in them that others missed.

There will always be people who, often for good reason, should not continue in the team or group of which they have been part. If today we encounter anyone who has been discarded in this way, letís be sure to see beyond their failure in that respect and notice, if we can, any other qualities and skills they may have to offer.

Over this weekend the town of Marsden, West Yorkshire, has been celebrating its annual Cuckoo Day. Thereís a legend about how it began. Many years ago the residents decided that, since the Spring and the sunshine arrived with the first cuckoo, they would build a tower around the cuckoo to try to keep Spring forever.

Over this weekend the town of Marsden, West Yorkshire, has been celebrating its annual Cuckoo Day. Thereís a legend about how it began.

Many years ago the residents decided that, since the Spring and the sunshine arrived with the first cuckoo, they would build a tower around the cuckoo to try to keep Spring forever. Unfortunately, as the last stones were about to be laid, away flew the cuckoo. If only, they thought, weíd built the tower one layer higher. As the legend says, it "were nobbut just wun course too low". Now each year the townspeople celebrate the return of the cuckoo with a day-long festival of clog dancing, music, a procession and a famous "cuckoo walk".

Itís not just in Marsden that people want to hold on to the warmth and beauty of spring. Indeed, itís true of our lives also, that when all is going well and we feel surrounded by a spring-like freshness and enthusiasm, we would like to hold on to that feeling. But the seasons change and life moves on. Perhaps the art is to see value in each season and each phase of our lives, including when our lives feel cold and wintry.

Anthony Mello* tells a story about a shepherd who was asked about the next dayís weather. It will be the weather I like, he replies. When asked how he can be so sure, the answer is that since he has learnt that he does not always get the weather he likes, the sensible thing is to learn to like the weather he gets. Not even a captured cuckoo would ensure a permanent spring. Better to accept the different seasons of our lives as they come.

* In his book ďThe Heart of the EnlightenedĒ

Office flirtation on the phone is apparently quite common. A routine business phone call can, if the voice and manner are mutually appealing, lead to further conversations of an increasingly intimate kind. Of course these conversations donít reveal, unless by choice, important facts like age and physical appearance, and itís apparently easier to keep other details to yourself as well. The author of the magazine article in which I read about this, suggested that this was the attraction of such flirtation. It is much easier not to be quite truthful than when meeting in person. But if you decide that you want it to become serious, the real test is whether you can trust the other person with the truth.

Most of us censor what of ourselves we let others see. Itís risky revealing too much of ourselves Ė we choose to whom we do it because some will judge us and find us wanting. But to be truthful about ourselves and to be accepted is wonderful.

Jesus once had a conversation with a woman who felt the need to hide from him her current living arrangements with a man to whom she was not married, and her unsuccessful, and probably painful, earlier marital arrangements. But Jesus saw through this and when she realised he was still happy to spend time with her, she blossomed.

We could make someone elseís day by being the kind of accepting, generous person with whom they feel they can be truthful about themselves. We might also find that in return we get a chance to be open about ourselves too.