I know, I know...I'll be late for my own funeral one day.
After nearly a week away from the blog I've lots of half-worked-out posts to share, but neither time nor space to get them sorted immediately, so I'm taking refuge in the structure provided by the Friday Five just to ease me back into the swing of things once more.
1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?
My first conscious encounter was with Psalm 107, the passage that begins – “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters…”
For some reason, I was told to learn this section of the psalm by heart to recite during worship in my nursery class at the rather nice AngloCatholic Convent school I then attended. I was all of 4, so quite what my teacher imagined she was doing I really don’t know, but it turned out to be a delight for me.
The child of a sailor, growing up on the stormy coast of the English Channel, I was reared on stories of great sea farers of old, and the romance of an island nation. So I was entranced by the rolling rhythm “They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths” and knew, even then, that
“He bringeth them to their desired haven” was the most perfect closure.
Once I’d learned it, it was a resource to shout into the waves as they hurled spray and shingle onto the promenade during the winter months…Even now, alone on a beach, I can’t resist.
Soon, it was the passages set in “Messiah” that filled my head.
Church? Well, I was there most weeks, but have no memories of hearing Scripture there till much later. I guess I was too busy watching the thurifer fill the sanctuary with smoke,and wondering whether Fr Ogden knew that the whole place was on fire!
2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).
Not being a Biblical linguist, I’m in no position to query accuracy,- so tend to judge translations on the wisdom of others and my own stylistic preference
In common with many respondents, I prefer the NRSV for study (also because it was the Bible given to me at my ordination) and that’s also the translation we use for the Old Testament readings in the Daily Office. I’ll often consult the New Jerusalem too, during sermon prep. For the New Testament readings in the Office, we’re following The Message, where the sheer freshness shocks me into hearing familiar passages clearly…and in some of Paul’s longer sentences, clearly for the first time! I wouldn’t use it often for public worship, but just sometimes it seems to unpack layers of meaning that had been all but forgotten. Of course, there are some passages that need to be heard in KJV. I’ll never forget the day when Hattie Gandhi, aged about 8, threw a major tantrum because she had been invited to read one of the Nine Lessons during the village carol service – and, thinking to make it easier for a child, her reading had been taken from the Good News Bible. She was livid. When it came to shepherds on a hillside, only the Authorised Version would do!
3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?
Oh dear…this is where my personal anxiety that I don’t “know” the Bible well enough, that I don’t have the right sort of “relationship” with it, really begins to bite. This is an ongoing neurosis of mine…Will my response reveal the depths of my ignorance? Will my friends still want to play with me when they know? Only one way to find out..
I love huge chunks of Isaiah (thank you, G F Handel)…and the prophecies of Micah. John is my favourite gospel…but my favourite passage? Umm
Romans 8 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther’s famous words about James, to be “an epistle of straw?” Which verse(s) make you want to scream?
See above…I’m too insecure to tell you, in case I’ve managed to omit a jewel in ignorance…I certainly don’t spend a lot of time seeking comfort and sustenance from Leviticus et al….but what I’d love to obliterate immediately if not sooner is the noble sentiment expressed in psalm 137
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock.
Ummm…yes…I know it is important to be real with God. I don’t have a problem with the psalmist telling it like it is, - I just don’t feel comfortable praying those lines (and others like them) as we make our way through Evening Prayer.
5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?
I think it’s really important, a matter of basic hospitality, to use inclusive language where it is possible, but I’m not keen on the clunkier attempts that sometimes rear their heads. It is those, of course, that set a congregation muttering about political correctness gone mad – when they have actually not even noticed the gentler revisions
“To ask on behalf of all [edit: “men” is deleted] such things as their well being doth require”
Bonus: Back to the Psalms–which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?
Psalm 121 – just reading it puts me into a calm space where I can see God and know the constant love and protection that surrounds me.