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01 September 2010

It’s good to celebrate

It’s good to celebrate

With the arrival of a key milestone in the Christian faith, General Director Steve Clifford urges us to throw a party...

Just a week after England had been humiliated 4-1 by a young, inexperienced German team and had returned home from the World Cup, Ann and I travelled to Bonn to conduct the wedding of a German friend. The service went well, and my words of congratulations for their win (a solemn "well done") were much appreciated by the smiling German members of the congregation.

Following the marriage service came the reception, for which I was completely unprepared. The Germans have a passionate ability to celebrate a wedding, and on this occasion more than 200 guests had come from many parts of the world. There were speeches, PowerPoint presentations, music and dramas, surprise arrivals and lots of food and drink. We left exhilarated but totally exhausted well after midnight, with the cake yet to be cut and dancing just about to begin.

The Bible is full of celebrations, festivals, religious holidays and special meals with opportunities for storytelling and the enactment of dramas. The life and ministry of Jesus picks up this theme to the point that the religious leaders of the day accuse Him of excess and mixing with all the wrong kinds of people.

John's Gospel positions Jesus' very first public appearance and miracle in the context of a wedding party in Cana. If you recall, at terrible embarrassment to the hosts, the wine runs out, but Jesus well and truly rectifies the problem by supplying litres of best-quality wine (a response which has provided not a little embarrassment for some Bible teachers over the years). We can't get away from it: God seems to enjoy a party.

Saying thanks

After the wedding, I reflected on how rarely we have opportunity to look back and express our thanks. It happens in wedding speeches and at funerals and anniversaries. But why do we have to wait for a big event to come along? If you are like me, you look back over your life and you are profoundly thankful for all the people who have influenced who you are today.

"We can't get away from it: God seems to enjoy a party"

One of the most moving parts of the German wedding was when the bride and groom's schoolteacher was introduced. Martina and Uwe had met over 30 years ago when they were both 12 years old. It took them three decades to get together, and both were profoundly thankful for their class teacher, so she was invited to the wedding. They took the opportunity in front of all their guests to say thank you.

I have a suggestion: we should be making contact with some of these people who have influenced our lives. Send a note, card, phone call, email, text or even make a personal visit - the purpose is simple: to say thank you.

It might be a teacher, friend, colleague, neighbour, family member or someone in church who has had an indelible impact on us. Whoever it is, we are grateful for what they brought into our lives. They might not have been perfect (none of us are) but we want to celebrate by saying thank you.

Thankfulness is one of the fundamental attitudes we, as Christians, should cultivate in our lives. In Luke's Gospel there were 10 lepers who were healed, but only one went back and said "thank you" to Jesus (Luke 17.15-19).

Celebrating the Bible could be a way of saying "thank you" to God for the wonderful and profound gift of the Scripture, which has influenced so many lives. As Martina and Uwe said their generous thanks at their wedding, let us be generous with our thanks to those who have touched our lives and those who continue to do so, however big or small.

Celebrate the Word

So in 2011 we are going to be celebrating big time. Next year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, a translation that has been printed and distributed in its millions and has shaped our culture in so many ways that it's impossible to list them all.

Biblefresh, as our year of celebration is called, isn't about getting us all back to reading the Authorised Version. Neither is it about trying to make us feel guilty for not reading the Scriptures enough. However, it is an excuse to celebrate with almost 100 organisations and thousands of churches collaborating together to find fresh ways of engaging with the Bible, learning about it, supporting the translation of it and experiencing it afresh.

I love the strapline on the Biblefresh party invitation: "It could change your world". I do hope as many of us as possible will get involved as either individuals, a small group or as a whole church. My prayer is that wherever we turn next year we will find Biblefresh. Imagine conferences, Easter and summer festivals, Bible-reading notes, magazines, newspapers, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, radio and TV all celebrating the wonderful gift God has given us in the 66 books that make up our Bible. So now is the time to plan. 

  • RSVP for the party and get the resource book, which is packed with ideas on how to maximise the opportunity, register online at: biblefresh.com

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