Letter to parishioners, 8 October 2021

Friday, 8 October 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

On Wednesday the Church remembered the work and martyrdom of William Tyndale. Tyndale, born at the end of the fifteenth century, is especially important because of his work as the first person to translate the scriptures into contemporary English. Despite the commemoration having taken place a couple of days ago, this Sunday’s readings underline the importance of all that was achieved by Tyndale.

In our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 4:12-16) we will hear the words: The word of God is living and active and it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Our ability to experience the living and active word of God is due, in no small part, to William Tyndale. Before his translation, which would go on to be used as the foundation of the Authorised Version, the preferred text of the Bible was that of the Vulgate, Jerome’s translation from the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Scripture was read to confused congregations by clergy who may have understood what they were reading, although that was not necessarily the case. Thanks to Tyndale, the people were finally being given the opportunity to engage with scripture on a more personal and intimate footing.

Of course, Tyndale’s work attracted the anger of the Church. The Bishop of London was particularly forthright in condemning his creation of a way for ordinary people to read scripture for themselves as subversive. Tyndale was forced to leave England. He was finally arrested and tried for heresy in Brussels, and was subsequently executed there in 1536.

William Tyndale is one of the most underrated heroes of the Church. It was because of Tyndale that we are able to own and read bibles in a language we can understand. His determination to open the living and active word of God for all led to both exile and execution. His determination remains a model of faithful discipleship that we should all honour. But … how often do we engage with the word of God? Most of us have bibles, but how often do we read them? Bibles are still given as baptism, confirmation and wedding presents, only to be confined to that part of our bookshelves reserved for books we will get round to reading ‘one day’.

In this Sunday’s Old Testament lesson (Amos 5:6-7, 10-15) we are encouraged to: Seek the Lord and live. We are also urged to: Seek good and not evil. There is only one place where we can find the Lord and his good, and that is in scripture. In our bookshops, whether actual or online, there is now a classification of books described as ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’. On the shelves allocated to these books, which usually takes up a lot more space than those allocated to ‘Religion and Spirituality’, we are presented with many routes to finding ‘peace and contentment’ … or so they claim. These books sell very well, because each one fails to deliver and leaves us wanting to try something else. Every time we buy one of those books we are simply throwing away our hard earned money. There is only one source of ‘peace and contentment’ and that is contained within scripture … the word of God that is living and active … the word of God that will lead us away from evil and into a life that is good.

From today, let us honour the work and sacrifice of William Tyndale as we dust off our bibles and engage with the living God who offers us the ultimate joy of eternal life.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen