Some things I found funny

I have heard a few funny things recently.  Do you remember the children’s game known as Chinese whispers?

A group of children stand in a line.  The first person whispers a message to the second one.  The second repeats it to the third and so on along the line.  Then the last person says what they have heard and it is compared with the original message.

Usually it has become so unintelligible it might just as well have been in Chinese.  (I wonder what Chinese children call their version of this game.)

For the Sunday service after Queen Elizabeth II reached the landmark date, when she became the longest reigning British monarch, the music, sermon and prayers marked this event.  After all, the Queen has an important position in the Church of England.  Messages were sent to the choir beforehand that the practice would begin a quarter of an hour earlier than usual, because we would be singing Zadok the Priest.  Most of us received the message by email, but one or two people,who do not use computers much, received a telephone call.  A message taken by a family member was relayed as, “The organist hopes you’ll be in church on Sunday, because you’re doing Zorba the Greek.”

An overheard remark at a section of Hadrian’s Wall was probably intended as a joke, although no-one laughed out loud.  Much of the stone from Hadrian’s Wall was removed centuries ago and reused for other building work in the area.  How much building is visible varies along the length of the wall.  In places the foundations are just visible above the ground.  At one such point someone said, “It wouldn’t have kept many people out.”

Another funny remark was made at the first meeting of the craft group following the summer.  Someone asked how we had got on at the flower show.  I remarked (perhaps not particularly accurately) that I won a prize with a cactus.  My friend’s reaction was, “You knitted a cactus?”

Going back to Zadok the Priest – we had sung it in our service to mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  It was composed by Handel for a coronation service and has been sung at every subsequent coronation.  Most of the current members of the choir had learned it then (if they did not already know it).  This time we sang it after the sermon.  The service was being led by a couple; they are retired clergy and members of the choir.  They sang from the choir stalls before returning to their places at the front.  At the end the congregation burst into spontaneous enthusiastic applause.  After the service one of them led the choir in a short prayer, thanked us and then said, in typical British understatement, “I think they liked it.”  Her husband said, in a very flat tone, “They clapped.”




Reading the Bible

How times have changed!

I needed a Bible to take to Sunday school when I was seven or eight years old.  It was the translation known alternatively as the Authorised Version (AV) or the King James Bible (KJB) because King James I authorised it to be read in churches.

I still have this copy with colour and monochrome pictures and find it useful as it has phonetic markings on many of the names.  With the list of pronunciation of these marks in a dictionary I can (but don’t often) decipher them.  I also have a copy I was given at school by the local education authority.  (It wouldn’t happen now!  Voluntary organisations such as the Gideons fill some of the gaps.)  This has lovely line drawings, which were also used in a subsequent translation (Revised Standard Version – RSV) given out a few years later by the same authority.

The next translation I was aware of was the New English Bible.  The New Testament was ready and published before the whole Bible.  The Old Testament was written before the birth of Jesus and the New Testament was written in the first century afterwards.

Now there are numerous translations and paraphrases.  I have the Living Bible and the Good News Bible, both of which are paraphrases and much easier to read than many translations.  There are also New Testaments on our bookshelves in French and German.  It was when I bought the latter that the lady from the Bible Society said, “Perhaps one day you’ll be a missionary!”  I ran in the opposite direction (like Jonah.)  In case you don’t know, Jonah has a (short) book of the Bible all to himself.

My favourite Bible is the New International Version, which is a translation rather than a paraphrase.  However I still love some familiar passages in the AV.

But now we have the choice of reading a book or reading on a device.

There are Bibles available online free of charge.  I have the English Standard Version on my Kindle app.  I use Bible Gateway to look up passages.

One of the books I read and reviewed this year is really helpful for anyone wanting to look at the Bible without spending a great deal of time on it.  It is Bible to go!

Many people were put off Shakespeare at school.  I suspect that they associate the Bible with the same archaic language.  (Other people regard that period in history as the zenith of the English language.)

My plea to you, my readers, is to find a way which you find helpful to look again at the Bible.  Perhaps you have a copy hidden away somewhere, which you were given or presented with, or perhaps you can download one.  Be thankful – there are many people in the world, who are unable to read the Bible in their native language.

If you have read this far, you are a privileged English speaker and have the choice of many versions of the Bible and helps for reading it.  Check out the Bible Reading Fellowship.

I heard a speaker say, The book’s great, but I’d rather meet the author.  The Bible is a book for which this is possible for all its readers.  Although written by human agents it claims to be the Word of God, a title also applied to Jesus Christ, the word made flesh. John 1:1-14



Bring back “ken” and other archaic words

The English language has lost (or neglected) several words, which are still current in other European languages.  For example, we only use one word for you, whether we mean one or more people.  “Thou” meaning you singular, has lapsed into disuse except in some dialects.  This makes it more difficult to distinguish how many people are being spoken to or asked about.  We need constructions such as, “How are you all?”

In French there is tu as well as vous.  German has du and Sie.

Another word we have lost (except in dialect) is ken.  Many people will be familiar with the song, which begins, “Do you ken John Peel?”  Ken means to know a person.  Again there is a distinction in French with connaître and savoir and in German – kennen and wissen.  In each case the former is about knowing a person and the latter about knowing information or facts.

At Bible study this week we women were discussing Philippians 3:1-11.  The phrase “to know Christ” was one, which particularly interested me.  The mission statement of our parish church (and many others) is “To know Christ and to make him better known”.

There is a distinction between knowing about something and knowing a person.  We are able to know Jesus Christ.  Many people consider that Jesus was a good man or a teacher, who lived about 2000 years ago.  Because he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he is alive for evermore.  He has issued an invitation to know Him.

In his prayer the night before his crucifixion, Jesus described eternal life as knowing God and Jesus Christ.  The whole prayer is John 17: 1-26

Dost thou ken Jesus Christ?