My collecting of religious books continues to fuel my imagination of days long ago. One of my more recent acquisitions is a Pilgrims Progress edition published in 1915 London by The Religious Tract Society. It has an attractive blue cloth cover with a nicely detailed and somewhat ornate illustration. The wear and tear over the past 100 years is really not that bad. There are some smudges and a few spots on the pages but that just helps confirm the book was actually read, consumed, and maybe used for the purpose it was written.
The most interesting feature of this book is a presentation label placed on the front of the first end page. It reads:
Sunday School 1914
My first search for Shankill Baptist Church sends me to the web page of a church by that exact name located in Belfast Ireland shankillbaptist.com. The community started in 1895 as the industrial revolution was taking hold of the area and there was a great need for evangelizing. Since the book was published in the UK and since everything I search with Shankill appears to be in Belfast, I’m thinking that may be where the book was presented to Agnes Irvine over 100 years ago.
I have since emailed Shankill Baptist in Ireland and await any information that may confirm the book actually originated from their church.
The readings today focus on two main themes, the fruitful word and the Christian community of prayer. The imagery of rain and snow watering the earth to make it fertile and fruitful is provided as an example of the word of God. Just as we see the results of rain and snow, we can also see the results of the Lord’s word. God’s word gives life and provides confidence. The word of God became flesh so we could see how much God loves us. The Lord spoke and it came to be in the book of Genesis. Expect results when you read the word of God and wait for the fruit. It may come just when you close your eyes.
Why do you pray? Is it to acknowledge what God has given? Is it to ask for forgiveness? To acknowledge God’s love? The Gospel for today delivers the “Our Father” prayer that we know so well. Jesus teaches that we can go to our loving Father God with these words each day. We are one Christian community when we pray these words. When I offered communion in a nursing home I would pray with anyone of any faith. It did not matter if someone was Catholic or Methodist, they knew the Our Father prayer. Even if the person had Alzheimer’s disease, they still knew the prayer. Praying with these elderly always provided me the opportunity to take each phrase and focus on the meaning. This was often done as we slowly and carefully prayed each word. If it’s been a while since you’ve prayed the Our Father very slowly, give it a try and remember it is the word of God.