Last night we went to Stratford to see this play. It was extraordinary and throughly enjoyable. At one level it was the story of various Bible translators: Tyndale and the committee that produced the King James Version whose 400 year anniversary was last year.
At another level it was a play about words: the fine nuances in their meanings. (Should the Bible text say ‘priest’ or ‘elder’, ‘church’ or ‘congregation’, ‘confession’ or ‘penance’?)
At yet another level it was play about politics, set in the days when England was trying to steer a middle way between what it saw as the dangerous extremes of Catholicism on the one side and Puritanism on the other.
But at its heart it was a play about faith and finding God and living in the light of that discovery.
If that doesn’t sound ‘extraordinary’ to you, then at the very least the fact that the theatre was full of people who had paid good money to watch a play containing huge chunks of the Bible and debating delicate theological dilemmas was extraordinary. I wanted to ask them all why they had come? They can’t all have been vicars!
I think the success of this play says something about the enduring interest in all things spiritual and about the powerful presence of the Bible in our culture. I’m very excited about this because we have just decided to do a public Bible Readathon next May outside our church: Genesis to Revelation all the way through, round the clock with as many readers from our church and community as we can encourage to take part.
The most moving moments in the play came at the point where extremists from either side come to the point of admitting that it was not cleverness that mattered, nor how much you knew about scripture, nor how many verses of the Bible you knew by heart but rather how many of those verses were ‘written on your heart’.
Repeatedly the players returned to 1 Corinthians 13:1 ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal’. Perhaps it stood out to me because I have brought it to mind several times already this week. As I write this review, I am taking a quick break from a 5,000 word assignment in which I need to use words like analepses, apodosis, and anagorisis.
I am challenged that it doesn’t matter one jot how many fancy words I know or how heavy the theology books on my shelf. I am challenged by Tyndale’s huge ambition that the Bible should be able to be read by every ploughboy in the land. I realise that only thing that matters is that my life be changed by the Lord of Love himself, that his love should be both written on my heart and flowing out in my life.
‘Love God and love one another’, if Jesus didn’t make it any more complicated than that, then why do we?