Tag: Literature

The power of a story

Written for the Marlborough LitFest edition of Tower and Town.

Oct2019_500When I was asked recently what I had been reading theologically, I had to admit that most of the books I read over the summer had been novels. Some were recommended by friends, others I had picked up because they looked interesting and not too heavy for a summer’s evening. I don’t think that was the expected answer, but I suspect I have learnt at least as much from reading good fiction as I have gained understanding by reading more academic works.

Although I am by no means an expert, for me a good book tells me something about myself, and the world in which I live. In one way or other I can identify with the characters, or recognise some of the scenarios which are brought to life. One particular book that has stayed with me is ‘The Cut Out Girl’ by Bart van Es.

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The New Jerusalem

The reading below, is a familiar one, taken from the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is a collection of prophesies and visions attributed to John. Its language is strange for us, 21st century modern people, who are used to looking at things scientifically and factually. Maybe not too bad a way of listening to this short passage, is as if it is taken from a yet-to-be-released Harry Potter film.


Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;

 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. 

You hear, esoteric language, talking about places that we cannot really imagine. This time of year, just before Advent, a lot of the readings and themes we hear in Church are about visions, prophecies and what may happen in the future. And by ‘the future’ we don’t mean ‘what happens when we are older’, but what will ultimately happen to humanity and the world. Of course, the answer is, that we don’t know, and so in some sense these visions are speculation of what might happen. However, in some way, one might say, this journey is also mirrored in our everyday lives.

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