Archive for April, 2008

The language of church

Sunday 20 April 2008

Our church at the moment is an Anglican church, which can mean a variety of things, but in our case means it’s quite traditional. In an average morning service, there are probably 5 words that I can only guess their meaning from the context, and dozens of others that I wouldn’t hear during the rest of the week.

And the idea of using different vocabulary in church to the rest of life isn’t confined to traditional churches. We were listening to a sermon online today from a church that is very alive and fruitful in many ways, but some of the words used probably hadn’t been used in regular English conversations for well over 100 years.

Why do we do this? Why do we use special old words when we’re talking to God that we would never use if we were talking to our next door neighbour? I’m not sure, but here’s some possible ideas:

  1. We think that God understands old words better. God is old. He’s been around for thousands of years – maybe he’s like our great-grandparents and longs for the good old days. Maybe if we use old words we’ll get his attention and he’ll really understand us.
  2. We’re used to using a Bible with old words. Since God speaks to us in old English, it’s only fair to reply in the same language.
  3. We want to impress other people. If God speaks old words and we do too, maybe people will be impressed that we’re close to God and know his “lingo”…
  4. We’re scared to use the same language in church as we do in the rest of our lives. If we do, that will mean that the rest of our lives are actually connected to what we do in church and we’ll have to give our whole lives to God, not just Sunday mornings.

Are there other (more genuine) answers I’ve missed? I’d love to know, because there are people who are much more godly than me, who I really respect as Christians, who use old English words. Am I missing out on something because I only use simple words…?


words to inspire

Friday 4 April 2008

Alexander McCall Smith‘s The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has captured my fancy – and routed my thoughts toward Africa, most delightfully, once again. I have laughed aloud at Smith’s permeable wit and authentic characters in this story set in the African country of Botswana. One line brought very welcome feelings of home, liberty and peace, as it reads,

I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.

It spoke to me also of freedom and space. No constraint, nor barriers. The words inspired my imagination and my creativity – and below resides the byproduct. Because I am not a trained artist, it may not be so pleasing to your eyes as the process of bringing the colours and shapes alive with my fingers was to me. But alas, here it is…

Botswana mama in open bush, in Oil Pastels

Which book would I save from our burning house?

Thursday 3 April 2008

Eddie Arthur has tagged me to name one book that I would save from our (hypothetical… at least I hope it’s hypothetical, although it is one of the few houses in England to be made of wood. Sorry, I think I’ve got ahead of myself…) burning house. The Bible isn’t allowed, which is a shame because it’s pretty much the only book I read. Oh well…

Having said that, over the past few months I have been reading one or two. My problem with reading is that it requires a lot of effort and, being lazy, I don’t like putting in a lot of effort when the book might be rubbish. But when someone who I know has the same interests as me recommends a good book, I can be tempted – as has happened with Surprised by Hope (recommended by Eddie) and The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (recommended by Kent Anderson). I’m half way through both of these and they’re both very thought provoking.

Eddie’s choice of The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley is tempting and may find itself being exchanged for my birthday Amazon gift voucher. Unlike Eddie I can’t say I remember Brearley playing though…

Laura always laughs at me because I can’t stand fiction books. They go in the same category as boring books – I hate the thought of putting so much effort into reading a whole book, and then remembering that it’s not even true! Whenever we watch a movie, my first question at the end is “was that a true story?”

But I digress. I think from our small selection of books, the one that I have found to be the most interesting and to have had the most practical impact on me, is probably The Story of David: After God’s Heart by Ian Coffey.

It’s a very easy book to read (which is one of the reasons I got to the end) and goes through the life of David, as in Shepherd David, King David, David and Goliath David. Each of the 22 short chapters retells the story of a part of David’s life, going from Samuel anointing him as a young man to his last instructions to Solomon before he dies, and looks at what we can learn from the story.

I think the book resonates with me because it takes a (true…!) narrative and makes some simple but quite profound points (as far as I can remember from when I read it 4 or 5 years ago). I like that, probably because I’m simple.

The only drawback is that it’s bright red, so might be difficult to spot in a hurry amongst the flames.

Here’s a quote from the chapter where Nabal insults David (1 Samuel 25:1-44):

“At this point, David has a respite from his long-term struggles with Saul. The throne is inching nearer, his influence is continuing to grow. These are dangerous moments, when he is perhaps tempted to rely on himself rather than God.

David’s strength of character is seen in two ways: first, he was prepared to take advice. Nabal’s ears were closed to any opinion but his own: David showed openness. Second, David was willing to take advice from an unlikely source. In his culture, Abigail was ‘a mere woman’ – her status was low. And she was married to the man who had insulted his honour. But David’s teachability meant he would listen to advice from a most unlikely source.

Being prepared to listen and learn is the mark of a mature follower of Christ.”

Simple but true. Always a good combination in my (rescued from a burning house) book.

I tag Paul Merrill, Andrew Simpson (if he’s reading this) and Matt and Liz Wisbey (if they have internet connection and haven’t been eaten by lions in the middle of Tanzania).