Sermons

Summary: A sermon for Bible Sunday preached in 2011 at Holy Trinity Barkingside

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Ho logos tou Christou enoikeitO en humin plousiOs, en pasEi sophia didakontes kai nouthetountes heautous, psalmois, humnois, Oidais pneumatikais en tE chariti aidontes en tais kardiais humOn tO theO kai pan ho ti ean poiEtE en logO E en ergO, panta en onomati kuriou IEsou eucharistountes tO theO patri di autou.

(Colossians 3:16-17)

You all understood all of that? I can say it again if any of you were unclear? It’s very important we understand the bible.....

Back in 1823 my great-great-great granddad Henry William set out with his wife and children in a boat to New Zealand to take the Gospel to the Maoris - any of you who have got sea sick in a boat in the bay of Biscay will know how unpleasant sea journeys have can be - and you’ve only traveled for a few days. they had to travel for months in boat which by today's standards was tiny. They changed boats at the colony in Australia and then went on to a place where they were TOTALLY cut off from the world they Knew. Apart from the occasional whaler, the only people in New Zealand were Maoris who spoke no English and practiced cannibalism. But Henry went there to take the Gospel to them. He pretty quickly realised that in order for them to become Christians, they needed the bible in their own language. He and his brother William worked on translating it bit by bit from the original Greek into Maori. This was no easy feat since when they arrived Maori had no written language. They had to invent that from scratch. Why slave away to do that? Because they knew that in order for the Word of Christ to dwell richly in their Maori congregations hearts, the Maori had to hear God speaking their own language.

Now that’s an exotic tale from pre-Victorian times. We’re used to having an English bible sitting on our shelf, It’s always been there. There’s nothing special about a bible being in English, is there? Except that the bible wasn’t always available in English.

This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the most famous English translation of the bible. But the story does not start 400 years ago. It starts even earlier in 1526 with William Tyndale. The 16th Century was a terrible time in church history. Brave Christians of different traditions died for their faith at the hands of Christians who held different views. In both Calvinistic Geneva and Roman Catholic Spain, believers were burnt for their faith for being “the wrong sort of Christian”. And one of those who died for their faith in the 16th Century was William Tyndale. He wasn’t killed by Lutherans or Calvinists or Roman Catholics. He was killed by Henry VIII’s Church of England for producing an unauthorised translation of the New Testament. Tyndale knew that when he published his translation of the English New Testament, he was risking death - but he did it anyway. Because if the Word of Christ was to dwell richly in people’s hearts, they had to hear God speaking their own language - English. The irony was, that the Church of England who executed Tyndale later used Tyndale’s translation almost word for word as the basis for their official translations of the bible, including the King James Bible who’s 400th anniversary we celebrate today.

Ho logos tou Christou enoikeitO en humin plousiOs, en pasEi sophia didakontes kai nouthetountes heautous, psalmois, humnois, Oidais pneumatikais en tE chariti aidontes en tais kardiais humOn tO theO kai pan ho ti ean poiEtE en logO E en ergO, panta en onomati kuriou IEsou eucharistountes tO theO patri di autou.

(Colossian 3:16-17)

You don’t have to be fluent in ancient Greek to know what that passage means, because you can pick up an English bible and hear God speaking to us in our own language:

“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly: teach and admonish one another with all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms hymns and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

If we were Jewish we would be told that in order to be a proper Jew we would have at our Barmitzvah to recite by heart in Hebrew passages of the scriptures. If we Muslim we would be told that in order to be a proper Muslim we must learn Arabic and read the Quran in its original language.

But Colossians tells us God wants his Word to dwell in US. Not just in academics and linguists who can learn long-gone languages, but in all of us. God speaking OUR language. When the New Testament was written, the writers could have written in the Hebrew they had been brought up with. But they wrote instead in Greek, the language their hearers spoke. The only way their hearers could have the Word of God dwell richly in them was to hear God speaking their own language.

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