Here are some beginnings from famous books:
‘It was the best of times it was the worst of times’
A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens.
‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’
1984 by George Orwell
‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number 4 Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone by J.K. Rowling.
‘In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth….’
The Bible by? Well about 40 different people, but all inspired by God.
Today’s Bible Sunday – a day to celebrate the bible. Especially having it in English. It may seem obvious that the bible’s in English, but 500 or so years ago England was the only country in the whole Christian world where it was illegal to read the bible in its native language. Then, one brave soul, called William Tynedale decided to translate the OT & NT into English, and have it printed on the new-fangled printing presses. And so began a chain of events that changed the world.
So the much loved King James Version wasn’t the first English translation of the bible, but it was the first English bible to be widely available and widely read. But even among Christian’s, the bible remains a controversial and much misunderstood book. What’s less controversial is the effect it’s had on the English language. Even those who say they don’t know anything about the bible often quote it. Consider this story…
Ruth and James on the school run talk about their day at the school gate.
‘Wow James, I only made it by the skin of my teeth today; I’m at my wits end.’ ‘You’re always late Ruth, like mother like daughter.’
‘I am what I am, a leopard can’t change its spots you know James’
‘Well what was it this time Ruth?
‘Oh James, work’s rubbish at the moment! It’s like the blind leading the blind. It’d be easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle. My boss, the Jezebel, keeps making me the scapegoat. A leper. I try to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, but she wants my head on a platter. Demanding her 30 pieces of silver. My ideas are like casting pearls before swine. And she’s got feet of clay, some days a Good Samaritan but on others a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. And rules are tablets of stone with her; well I just wash my hands of it all. What makes it worse is, my last boss, God bless him, was the salt of the earth. But the Queen of Sheba, she can stew in her own juices for me’
‘Look Ruth, I don’t want to be a job’s comforter or a doubting Thomas, but you’ve got to keep on the straight and narrow. It was the same for me at first, a real baptism of fire. Like Daniel in the lion’s den. I didn’t know anyone from Adam. But then one day I had a Damascus road experience and realised it’s better to give than to receive and that you reap what you sow. I saw the light and realised that the love of money is the root of all evil. They were doubting Thomas’, but I said, ‘Oh you of little faith.’ Now though I’m the apple of my bosses’ eye. He says I’m like the prodigal son, like manna from heaven.’
Uh Oh, watch out Ruth, look busy, the Vicar’s coming, I hate it when he quotes the bible all the time…….. (42 quotes)
Words and phrases and ideas from the bible have seeped into the fabric of our world. Many books, much art, lots of music, ideas like health care, education, welfare, political systems and modern justice can all trace their roots back to the Bible.
One of the main reasons why English is so common in the world today is because of the Bible. The impact of the english bible was similar to the impact of the internet – bursting onto an unsuspecting world. Ideas just started pouring out….
But what of faith? How does the bible transform us?
By being the best way God has of speaking to us – through the bible.
But it can only really do that if we read it. So I want to set you a challenge. The challenge is to read Mark’s gospel straight through at one go.
I want to encourage you to read it for yourself. But don’t start at that famous opening line ‘In the beginning….’ Better to start at St. Mark’s gospel ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ……’
In the end it’s our friendship with Jesus that transforms us. At the last supper, just after Jesus gives the new commandment to love and lay down life for friends, he says to the disciples, ‘I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father.’ Reading the bible for yourself is one of the best ways to start and keep up that friendship.
So to end, some endings:
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ A Tale of two cities.
‘He loved Big Brother.’ 1984
‘I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer….’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone.
‘Amen, Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen’ the Bible. Well perhaps not the end, but just the end of the beginning?
Here are some beginnings from famous books: