Wednesday, 28 September 2005

The 100-Minute Bible

One speed reader on BBC's Radio 4 Today read it in just over 5 minutes. The presenters on Today were so impressed that they challenged listeners to submit by E-mail their own 10-second version of the Bible. Here's my favourite, by James Barabas:

The lights came on,
we could see the rules,
but being lost,
we behaved as fools;
He came to save us,
died on the cross,
will we learn,
or are we lost?

I demurred.

I believe in making things accessible, but when it seems that all we are about is taking the things that really count in life and dumbing them down, or aiming for the lowest common denominator, we are losing our senses. Actually, we cut out the time to use our senses. Maybe eventually we'll forget what those are even all about.

According to the article in The Times, some reasons given for coming up with the 100-Minute Bible in the first place are its:

  1. Design -- for the era when speed of consumption counts for everything and few have time to spend an hour in church on Sundays any more;
  2. Written for people who want to know more about Christianity but who are unlikely ever to find time to read it in its entirety;
  3. Been written in a style to encourage readers to keep turning the pages, but without resorting to literary gimmicks.

I don't know about you, but with Reason No. 2, I want to know this: If people genuinely want to know more about Christianity, who told them in the first place that they would find out about it in the Bible, as it's never mentioned there? They will waste their precious time searching for the word 'Christian'. They will not be able to get the measure of the rich characters found within. And they will certainly not be introduced to or discover the true and loving nature of Christ, who's name they read and hear un-lovingly intoned more in secular literature, movies, and on TV shows. And if they are 'unlikely ever to find time to read it in its entirety', the Cliff Notes approach will not be too enlightening or even inspiring. All this from the Land of Shakespeare, Wycliffe, and King James.

As for Reason No. 3, Reason No. 2 somewhat cancels out any motivation for readers to want to keep turning the pages. And gimmicks??? What did authors like Moses and Apostle Paul know about modern-day Western marketing gimmicks? Those dear, nameless souls they employed as scribes had enough details to worry over besides the latest publishing trends. Like, How much longer can I write before this candle burns out?, or, Who did they say dried this animal skin?

Is it any wonder my belief sounds so wishy-washy to non-Christians? How and when did people become so averse to reading the Bible? And how can it remain the 'best-seller' it has always been?

I've just been settling in to reading the Bible on my Palm Pilot. Now that has been a treat and come in handy at odd and not-so-odd moments! Not only can I access it and all the great study features if I'm stuck on a delayed train journey, held up waiting for appointments, or trapped in a dire, dull meeting, but I know it's there 'in its entirety' at my fingertips. The Bible on Palm Pilot is not used a lot over here, though, and John and I both probably appear to be playing small computer games in church to our fellow church-goers. I have had to learn to tap quietly. If they only knew!

If you're in a hurry to acquire this newest literary testament, click here and you can order your very own copy hot off the press!

What are your thoughts?

And how would your 10-second summary of the Bible read?

Saturday, 3 September 2005

The wideness in God's mercy

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgement given.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of man’s mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify his strictness
With a zeal he will not own.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

If our love were but more simple,
We would take him at his word;
And our lives would be all gladness

In the joy of Christ our Lord.

God just keeps blessing me richly with English hymns and choral works that I was not familiar with in the United States. Some of these new gems have made me cry upon a first hearing, as the combination of their music and text intermingle to highlight Biblical truths in a fresh way for me.

The words to this lovely hymn were penned well over a century and a half ago by FW Faber (1814-1863). I am always amazed at how the messages conveyed in hymns written long ago can resonate with the times and feelings of today. Some of the musical styles may change, but God uses both – music and text – to reach out and touch our souls.

I heard this hymn for the first time on Thursday, as our choir was preparing it for this Sunday’s Eucharist. My heart was very heavy just prior to this rehearsal, as news and pictures of hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in the Gulf States of America was being broadcast. In light of all the tragedy that has transpired – from the many degrees of human suffering to all the behaviours of human nature in crisis, both positive and negative – this hymn just washed over me like the most wonderful soft, downy comfort blanket.

(The hymn is to the tune of ‘Corvedale’, harmonised by Maurice Bevan (1921-). If some of my American friends would like to learn this, let me know, and I will make sure to send it to you!)

Friday, 2 September 2005

Call My Name

When the raging storms of life roll in,
And darkness clouds my path;
Lost, alone, on a road of fear –
Empty silence holds my tears.
Who will hear my cries?
Who can read my heart?
Who will lead me home
And be my Guide?

Call – and I will answer you.
Just call my name
And let the heavens ring.
For I will send you Comfort,
I will lend my Strength,
I will Counsel you,
And bring you Peace.

When Time has closed the doors of hope,
And the Way is marked with pain;
Cold, cold shadows linger on,
And the hands of love seem turned away:
Who will hear your cries?
Who can read your heart?
Who will lead you home
And be your Guide?

Call – and I will answer you.
Just call my name
And let the heavens ring.
For I will send you Comfort,
I will lend my Strength,
I will Counsel you,
And bring you Peace.

(Jeremiah 33.3)

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