Stitches in time…

A sampler to savour

I went to an antiques centre yesterday. It was in an old coaching inn, and each wobbly-floored room brought new treasures into view. Everything was laid out wonderfully, and gave the impression of a kind of Aladdin’s cave. For the uninitiated like me, each item was labelled with a date of origin, explanation, and price tag. Many of the samplers in the different room also bore some quirky reference to the age of the artist or the circumstances in which she stitched. Not so with the two below.

 In case you can’t read it, the label suggested that these particular samplers “would be great for a kitchen or wine bar!” A number of thoughts spring to mind:

  • Did the people who had skilfully labelled all the other items really have no idea about the origin of these phrases?
  • If they did, what made them feel that they would look at home in a wine bar?
  • Were the phrases from the sacred text of another religion, would there not have been complaints by now?

I don’t wish to make a mountain out of this particular molehill. However, I will say this. The labelling of these samplers probably tells us far more about the era in which they are currently displayed than the era in which they were made. Their implicit message about either Biblical ignorance or casual offence is troubling. Just this morning news emerged about the discovery of a ‘lost’ script for the vintage comedy series ‘Blackadder’. Apparently the episode, featuring Blackadder as the proprietor of an inn in Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth, was ditched because it might have been too offensive. Offence is a relative thing, of course – but I am far more concerned about the label above than the prospect of a comedy script with a talking turkey and a sardonic innkeeper.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Stitches in time…

  1. Richard, thanks for an interesting piece as usual! One of the challenges I find for communicating is what metaphors to use. With biblical metaphors we might be frustrated at the lack of biblical knowledge (a failure of the church, and therefore all of us as Christians, over many years to prove the bibles relevance to the man and woman on the street) but I don’t think we can go further than that. In an age when many school children don’t realise that bacon is in anyway linked to a pig rather than Mr Tesco why should we expect them to unrest and that vines are linked to wine let alone the saviour of the world.

    I guess a question in return is what place metaphors have in the role of preaching when you are trying to stay true to the text. Was a metaphor simply the illustration of the truth at that point in history? Is faithful preaching finding the best metaphor for the context in which we speak to unpack the timeless truth with the timely metaphor?

  2. Rob. You raise some very interesting points, as ever. I would agree completely that any failure in Biblical knowledge is the church’s failure, rather than society’s. Not only that, but there is a disconnect for many, as with your Tescos & bacon illustration.

    As regards metaphor etc, I believe that metaphors shift whilst truth remains untouched. I wrote a Master’s dissertation a few years ago on the role of the preacher as translator. My conclusion was that although translation/ metaphor are vital …the word of God will always sound like a word from a ‘foreign place’. Eugene Peterson reflected on this in a letter exchange we had. He always said that his translation did not make the Bible easy to understand – only the language. The primary issue with the Bible is the ideas, not the language. Then again, you would know that!

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