Literature

In the course of Bible teaching, reviewing books, writing articles and especially preaching, incidents and events in the world around, particularly reading and theatre, have often thrown up links with scripture, some obvious, some strained, but in most cases a link which brings light, truth and understanding to both sides as scripture adds riches to everyday experiences and life opens doors in scripture to scenes previously unexplored or explored in different ways. All have the capacity to speak to us and to change our lives or attitudes. In this section we offer just a few.

Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett

A sermon preached at West Worthing Baptist Church on the middle Sunday of a two week production directed by Christopher Denys at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, in February 1968.  Intended as an experiment to encourage worshippers to see the play during the second week and judge for themselves it was subsequently published on a request from the theatre with the title, 'Life is Three People', in Connaught Sixty-Eight, the theatre magazine, and was described as 'one of the most surprising reactions' amid 'a great deal of comment and discussion' locally.

The Naming of Cats, by T S Eliot

TS Eliot's poem, ‘The Naming of Cats’ (Old Possums Book of Practical Cats),  suggests that a cat 'must have three different names’. What light does this throw on our understanding of God?

No Man’s Land, by Harold Pinter

Watching and enjoying Pinter’s No Man’s Land, and wondering where on earth it was going, all at once something clicked and I found myself living in two worlds and (without much difficulty) relating the one to the other. Only later did it dawn on me that it was January 18-25, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. For a preacher it was too good an opportunity to miss and with a couple of invitations shortly afterwards to preach at a Unity Service, 'Ears that Tingle' was born.

The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

When the disciples of Jesus responded to his call to become fishers of men (Mark 1:17) they had little understanding of what it meant. They only knew who inspired them and who they wanted to be with. Three years later, after his death and despite the resurrection, life was different and they were changed people. In The Seagull Chekhov explores the challenge when we have to confront the death of our ideals and come to terms with a different reality, demonstrating once again how death can be the gateway to life. Reading Chekhov in the light of the resurrection may also be a way of grasping a fresh understanding of the resurrection.

The Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

Of the many ways of reading, enjoying, understanding and interpreting Tolstoy’s The Resurrection one way is to explore it through three keyholes, or (to put it differently) Three Kisses. The connection with kisses in scripture is not immediately obvious, though the three prototypes can be found there (Exodus 18: 1-9, Luke 7: 36-48 and Mark 14: 43-4) and alongside Paul dealing with the Galatians (4:7) may help us to take a fresh look at the way we handle our closest relationships.

If This Is a Man, by Primo Levi

When I saw that Primo Levi's masterpiece had been reissued my mind went back at once to a fog-bound Gatwick which robbed me of a night at home and left me with a new experience and understanding of human nature in a crisis, as well as fresh insight into a familiar New Testament parable.

To a God Unknown, by John Steinbeck

What are we to understand by ‘dying’ in order to ‘live’? Steinbeck probably never set out to answer the question but his telling of the story of John Wayne so reflects the experience of Jacob (Genesis 28:10-17, 32: 22-31) that as he describes John and his new bride making their way Through the Pass on their wedding night he may have been nearer to throwing fresh light on Paul's emotions when writing to the Galatians (2:19) than he knew.

Most of us have a moment in our lives of which we can say, ‘Life has never been the same since . . .’. For some it’s been better. For some it’s been worse. But for all it’s been different. Beginning with our own experience and in the light of Steinbeck's description of John Wayne's  honeymoon experience we explore The Other Me in the light of Paul's experience. Did he ever go back to the pass? If he did, how often and when?

The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Finding life difficult at home, with a nagging mum and a crippled sister, Tom decides to walk out on both of them, following the example of his father, a long distance lorry driver, who simply drove off one day and never came back. Facing a spiritual crisis, some people decide similarly to follow the example of the Israelites in the wilderness and many others in scripture, walk out on God only to discover that it may lead to rediscovering God in a new and a different way. 

© Alec Gilmore 2014