Friday, 28 June 2013

Bringing home the Gospel…

Old news makes good news - or rather in this case good news (the literal meaning of the word gospel) makes the news still today.

The Lindisfarne Gospels were produced over 1,300 years ago. But the news that they are returning for three months to the North East of England from whence they came has caught the public imagination. Throughout July, August and September it will be possible to see them in a special exhibition in the Palace Green Library between Durham Cathedral and the Castle.

The Gospels are just that - the setting down of the good news of Jesus as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Handwritten and wonderfully illustrated, it’s easy to see why this ancient book should appeal to people.

But I heard someone asking why we should be making so much of a fuss about them. Since Henry VIII pillaged the monasteries of their treasures in the 16th century, the Gospels have been in London. But in our times this has meant that millions of people have had the opportunity to see them - and free. “All you need to do is nip into the British Library - and there they are…” said my friend.

See them in Durham this summer - and you’ll have to pay! But it should be worth it. Here we’ll see not a book removed from its rightful home, but the Gospels set in their proper context. See them alongside the Durham Gospels and the Gospel which was buried in the grave of St. Cuthbert, and many other treasures besides. See the explanations of how they came to be produced and the community which created them. See that they have come home. And remember that the true treasure is the witness they bear to God’s love revealed for us in Jesus.

Durham Cathedral itself will be hosting events to celebrate the return of the Gospels. And - as you can read in this magazine - there are other exhibitions and occasions throughout the region to spread the celebration. I hope people might go to them. It’s a way of understanding that the Gospels come from a living tradition in which we share - of prayer, study, worship and service. They are an artistic production - and God gives us imaginations that we should keep using. They come from the North East - and that’s a reminder to us of the part which we can play in an often-neglected part of our country.

The Lindisfarne Gospels are a gift from our region to the wider world. What gifts can we still offer in our own day?                                  
Martin Jackson
This item appears in our Parish Magazine for July and August - read the whole issue online by clicking here

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