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They call it the Tingle Factor – that thrill like an electric shock creeping down your spine, and it came totally out of the blue. I was on a visit to Chester Cathedral Library. We’d listened to a long talk about the precious books that made up their collection and were invited to inspect the glass-cased exhibits. Were they thrilling? No way!
But then an elderly gent asked if he could show me something special. He moved a chair and climbed up, reached for a small book from the top shelf, then put it opened into my hands. Wow! Then came the tingle. It wasn’t worth much money but, to him, it was precious. It was a well-thumbed Bible with a few pages missing, and on an empty sheet a student had filled the page with his name – John Calvert.
But that wasn’t what touched me and excited me. I was unexpectedly holding a copy of the first English Bible. It had taken many years of considered translation to produce the New Testament, that was then damned and the 1st Edition burnt (as was the translator, William Tyndale in 1536).
The church hierarchy asked what right he had to wilfully pervert the meaning of the scriptures by producing this ‘untrue translation’?! Well, I’m glad he did. This book has become the basis of all the Bibles that influence our lives today, from The King James to our modern translations. Tyndale’s wording has been found to be true to the original Greek & Hebrew texts. We owe him a great debt. Now the scriptures weren’t only for the priests as the Latin ones had been. You can hold this in your hand, with print that’s easy to read, using the words of the ordinary English people. It was for anyone to read, study, and explore, just as we are able to do in our homes and churches today.
Inspired by work like this, the Bible’s texts have been translated into hundreds of languages, some that are only spoken by a few distant tribes. But these words have a special place in introducing people to God - they have the power to change lives of individuals and cultures.
Going back to my opening words, I’m still surprised at the physical response. God’s word can touch us in many ways, as we hear a moving passage of scripture read aloud, or are affected by a verse in a meditation, but just holding it in my hand . . . !
We can explore the story of our faith; be lifted by great songs of worship; and be challenged into prayers of repentance. Here we meet God, creator of all; Jesus, who gave everything to save us; and our lives can be touched by God's Spirit. It has that power. No wonder our bishops are praying that we find new ways to open our lives to engage with the Bible, in homes, schools, churches – for individuals or the whole community. This is YBible. What would you do?
One response to this, and the ‘Thy Kingdom come’ call to prayer, is an interactive Bible exhibition here in Neston in the third week in May, when the local Churches Together are setting up interactive displays and prayer stations in St Mary & St Helen. It is based round a selection of Bible stories and prayer situations - including Samuel, Daniel, Jesus stilling the storm, as well as the prayer stations some of you may have experienced last year at St Thomas’, based on the Lord’s Prayer.
I’m looking forward to this. There will be things we can explore to grow our own faith, but also help local Primary pupils who have been invited in. Look for details on page 21 of this Catalyst.
To close, I’ll share with you words that were written in the Bible I received when we married.
'Read the Bible: Free gift inside'
Yours in Christ, Judith