Tuesday, 29 September 2009

October 2009 Newsletter


We live in a world where everyday we are confronted by thousands of choices: which television programme to watch when there are so many channels to choose from; where we go on holiday (here in Britain or a destination somewhere else in the world); you can even choose whether or not your breakfast cereal has red berries or chocolate bits in it! Sometimes I’m so bewildered by the myriad of choices before me in a large supermarket I prefer to go to smaller shops to help limit the possibility of the choices before me!
As in the world, so it is in the Church: When I lead a Bible study last week I was amazed at the number of different sorts of Bible that people had chosen to have, ranging from the traditional ‘King James’ version, through ‘The Revised Standard’ version, ‘The Jerusalem Bible’, ‘The New International Bible’, ‘The Good News Bible’, and a modern rewriting of the Bible in contemporary language, ‘The Message’. All this seemed a long way from our Medieval forebears: In Medieval times only the priest understood the Service and read from the Bible in Latin, Sunday by Sunday. Wall paintings were drawn on Church and Cathedral walls to depict the key Bible stories for the majority of the people to get to know the main Biblical stories. When the Bible was finally printed at first there was only one version to be had produced by Martin Luther and the Wittenberg Press.
Each faith on our world has its holy book: ‘The Koran’ for Moslems, 'the Bhadvagita’ for Hindus and the Sikhs venerate their holy book as the last ‘Guru’ or prophet and final revelation from God. So why should we choose to read the Bible, and, if we do, what version of the Bible should we choose and what bits should we choose to read?
I expect many of us learnt the old Sunday School song ‘The best book to read is the Bible’, and I don’t think it matters which version you choose to read as long as you are reading it. I did try and read the Bible in a Year one year, and it was truly hard going: I didn’t find it particularly uplifting ploughing through the gory descriptions of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament ‘Book of Leviticus’ whilst the rain came lashing down in February!
The Bible is really a collection of separate books, in some part history of the Jewish people (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Kings, Samuel); in some part Wisdom and poetry (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), in some part Letters written to emerging and early Churches (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians) and, of course, the most important story of all: the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) recounting the story of salvation brought to the world in the person of Jesus Christ, the central figure and rock of our faith:
‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father’ (John 1:14)
Often we need some aid to penetrate and get to grips with this complex book, The Bible. Many of us use daily Bible reading notes, which take us through a certain passage or section in the Bible, with a good explanation of the Bible verses under question and helpful hints of how to apply the Bible teaching in our lives today.
Another way of exploring the Bible, and helping the Bible to speak to us, is through joining a Homegroup. In our Benefice, at present, we have three homegroups meeting (and you are welcome to join them at any time), looking together at an Old Testament prophetic book, ‘The Book of Isaiah’, which as well as calling God’s people back to God’s ways, also has some superb pieces of poetry within it: ‘Comfort, comfort my people (Isaiah 40:1), ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares’ (Isaiah 2:4) and wonderful predictions of the coming Messiah:
‘Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and he shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
This month on Bible Sunday, Sunday 22 October, we celebrate the wonders to be found within the pages of the Bible. In our multi-choice world I would encourage you to take another look at the Bible as a source of solace, hope, guidance and salvation. When Jesus suggests to his disciples that they should leave him Peter replies:
‘But where else can we go. You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6:68).
May we find St Peter’s words also true for ourselves, in our daily reading of the Bible, in our Homegroups as we discover the Bible together, in the extracts we read from the Bible Sunday by Sunday in Church.
With very best wishes, God Bless and fruitful reading,
Revd Nigel Marns
Rector of St Piran's & St Michael's, Perranuthnoe