I remember my first week at Spurgeon’s College vividly! Being first-year students there were things we were expected to do by way of initiation! One of these exercises was to show how well we knew our college ‘War Cry’ in New Testament Greek. We had to stand on the table and shout!
Oh no! Not J.W.Wenham’s New Testament Greek Grammar!
Taking a few steps backwards, all students were expected to be familiar with J.W.Wenhams New Testament Greek Grammar before starting college. The reasoning behind this was simple – the first week of our course was “Greek Week”. If we hadn’t studied Wenham we would be floundering. Now this in itself was a huge challenge for me. I never did very well at school, left when I was 15 and went straight into work. In those days, certainly in families like mine, university was not an option or an expectation. You had to go out to work to support the family home. I actually loved studying and researching, but never had the motivation at school. After leaving London when I was 12 years old, I ended up attending Sheerness Secondary School for Boys on the Isle of Sheppey and although I was reasonably conscientious, there was never a lot of motivation to achieve academically.
Looking back now, I regret not working harder to get exams under my belt. So it was a “wake up call” when, called to full time Christian Ministry, I realised that I would have to knuckle down and study hard if I wanted to achieve my goals. I still go back to the Greek text when I’m preparing for sermons, because I came to appreciate the depth of meaning in the original language of the New Testament. For every word in the English language, there are many possibilities in N.T.Greek, so you can dig much deeper into the original meaning of the text.
So, back to the long table in the Common Room at Spurgeon’s College!
The initiation ceremony began and all those just starting out at college, about 16 of us, stood on the table and shouted the war cry in New Testament Greek. The English translation went something like this: ‘Are you afraid? Never! Are you afraid? Never! We are going out to the battlefront and will win the victory’! Sounded great! Just like a lot of our war cries do.
Watch the giants fall!
Seems to me that we are very good at shouting “war cries” – we do it in church when we pray and worship. How much of this spills over into our 9 to 5 lives, is open to question. I am reminded of the story in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 17, David and Goliath. As David approaches with provisions for his brothers who are serving in the army fighting the Philistines, he hears them shouting the war cry. They run down into the valley towards the enemy, but are soon retreating at the sight of giant Goliath! Life does that to us. We all face giants, and the danger is to forget the fundamentals of our faith when tough situations arise.
The Christian church will regain credibility when we ‘do’ what we say we ‘believe’.