Wycliffe strikes again

John Wycliffe was a trouble maker.  He agitated, he instigated, he raised hell.  Wycliffe was a 14th century (don’t fall asleep yet!) English Christian who believed that the people should be able to read the Bible in their own language.  In a world where I just downloaded a Bible app for my iPhone, maybe this isn’t so shocking.  But 600 years ago, this could (and did) get you killed.

Essentially, Wycliffe just wanted the people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  As an Oxford professor, he had the talents and abilities to translate the Bible into English for the people (it was only being read in Latin).  He and his followers would then read and share this English translation of the Bible across the realm.  Others leaders in the Church, however, were peeved.  In fact, after Wycliffe died he was condemned as a heretic so they dug up his body and then burned it.  Yikes.

Pulpit in National Cathedral

Now, I’m not going to put myself onto the same level as Wycliffe.  (His image, in fact, is carved into the pulpit of the National Cathedral as one of the figures instrumental in achieving English language worship.)  But at the same time, what I am teaching at Barnett’s and around here at St. Alban’s is exactly what Wycliffe would have wanted.

I am taking all of that stuff that I learned at seminary and all the reading that I have done on my own, and sharing it with the people.  My books are not kept under lock and key, I don’t have to show that I’m a priest when I buy these books.  Anybody can read them.  Now, realistically, I know that hardly anybody will read books about systematic theology or virtue ethics, and that’s fine.  My job, as the parish priest, is to share all that with the people that God has brought to me.

And in my experience, the people of God eat this stuff up with a spoon.  They’re hungry, they want to know about Christ’s incarnation and resurrection.  They want to talk about the Trinity and reflect on how it influences their spiritual lives.  The people of God are thirsty.

So you clergy out there, we would do well to heed the warnings of F.D. Maurice:

“We have been dosing our people with religion, when what they want is not this but the living God.”


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