Sardines and salvation

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28/05/2018 by Chris Green

I looked blankly at him, I’m afraid, and then I dashed off to check.

“It’s a shame you used a modern bible translation. I always look forward to the sardine stone.”

Sardine stone?

It turns out that one set bible reading for last Sunday, which was Trinity Sunday, was Revelation 4, and in the old translation of the Prayer Book, one of the stones describing God’s glory is a ‘sardine stone.’ As in, a stone from Sardis. Blood red, and glowing.  Modern translations call it a carnelian.

Which is accurate.

And has nothing to do with fish. (The fish ‘sardine’ is probably linked to the island of Sardinia; when ‘sardine’ refers to a stone it should probably be pronounced as an adjective, like ‘bovine’, or ‘supine’) And yes, to any fellow Anglicans, I should probably have spotted the word years ago.  It’s not like Trinity Sunday is trivial.

But here’s the thing.

That translation, which my friend so enjoyed, and which has its funny side, was distracting him.  A passage which should humble him before God’s throne, was making him giggle because it felt quaint.

Sometimes, the things we treasure are valuable.  The old prayers wear deep grooves; the old creeds carry honourable scars. We are fools to throw them out in the name of relevance or simplicity.  Looking back at the last fifty years in my denomination, there have been people who have thrown them out because they didn’t believe them, and well-meaning twerps who helped them chuck the out the window because they mistook depth for difficulty, and mistook difficulty for nonsense.  

And sometimes the things we treasure have no value.  They have sentimental value, perhaps, they are curiosities, but they have no truth content.

If we were a society for collecting the oddities of the English language they’d have a place. But we’re not, and they don’t.

But just occasionally like ‘sardine stones’, they are positively unhelpful.  If we were a society for collecting the oddities of the English language they’d have a place. But we’re not, and they don’t.

It was Trinity Sunday – a precious, true doctrine, of (literally) infinite worth and wisdom and value.  Soul saving and soul cleansing.  God in himself.

And my friend missed it because he missed a sardine.

Sometimes antiques are dangerous.

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