I was lent a book this last month that came with a high recommendation. I must admit that, had I seen it on the shelves of a bookshop, I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance, even though the subject matter was of interest. The title is quite simply '32 Programmes' by Dave Roberts and focuses on just a small selection of football programmes that he has collected over the years out of a collection of over 1,134.
The opportunity for writing the book came when he and his wife decided to emigrate to America and he had been asked to pack the things that were to go with them. To his wife's surprise, he'd packed ALL his football programmes, and very little else! After a firm talking to, he agreed to select the most important, and to place the rest in storage for retrieval later. Although having reluctantly accepted the idea of taking just 31 that would fit into a Tupperware box, he'd reconciled himself to taking the most valuable, but, having re-examined them all closely, he decided to focus on the ones that evoked the most dramatic memories.
The book, despite its subject matter, is brilliantly written, honest, very funny, and provides not only an insight into his passion of all things football, but, more importantly, through each takes the reader on a rollercoaster of a ride that reflects his own life experiences from the age of seven up to the point he writes the book. It also has the ability of make connections with the readers own life and experiences. I particularly like the occasion he had been warned by his line-manager that he couldn't have any more time off work to go to a day-time football match, and if he had unauthorised time off, he would be sacked on the spot. He was desperate to attend a local derby, so decided in his lunch break to head for the stadium and at least buy a programme. This he did, but on his way back to his place of work, he was facing lots of people who were heading for the ground, and he says the temptation got too much for him and he turned round and joined them - and then started looking for another job, which ended up being a wonderful career move!
I would like to think that a Bible is something that we take with us on our journey, and that we find room for it in the midst of all the other things that we take. It, too, is brilliantly written, is an honest appraisal of a developing relation between God and His (often errant) people but especially focuses on the experiences that invoke the most dramatic memories. It can be both painful as it is humorous, and takes the reader on a rollercoaster type of journey of faith as the people of God reflect on their experiences in this amazing encounter with the One who has made Heaven and earth, and then see it reflected in our own lives and experiences.
It would prove an interesting exercise if we were to be challenged to take with us a condensed version of those accounts that we rely on more heavily to help us in our own faith journey. If that were the case, I would certainly want to take certain Books from the Old Testament: Exodus; Ruth; the Psalms and Isaiah. But when it came to the New Testament, I would choose the Sermon on the Mount, and probably the whole of St. John's Gospel - with its emphasis on the Word that was with God from the very beginning 'was made flesh' [1: 14]; my favourite passage of the amazing encounter with the woman at the well [Chapter 4]; the refusal to condemn the woman caught in adultery [8: 1 - 11]; the raising of Lazarus from the dead [Chapter 11]; the affirmation that 'Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life' [14: 6]; the realism that Jesus had to die to go ahead 'to prepare a place so that where I am you may be also' [14: 3]; the assurance that He was offering a peace 'such as the world could never offer [14: 21] and John's account of the trial and death of Jesus [Chapters 18 and 19].
The icing on the cake has to be the resurrection account - especially for me Jesus' encounter with Mary in the garden who was chosen to be the first person to be confronted by the risen Lord [20: 11 - 18]; along with the reference to 'Doubting Thomas' [20: 24 - 29] and the commissioning of Peter [21: 15 - 19].
The Gospel of St. John comes with a high recommendation - so much so that, at Stowmarket URC, we are inviting folk to a Coffee Morning on Saturday 8 April where the Gospel will be read from beginning to end by various voices as a means of engaging on this roller-coaster journey with our Lord towards His death and resurrection. Why not join us we recount a disciples' experience of an amazing encounter with the One who has made Heaven and earth, who came in human form to reveal the extent of God's love towards all. The wonderful thing is that we are able to see our own lives of faith portrayed within its retelling.