Two weeks ago I was on a night crossing on the Birkenhead to Belfast car ferry, having driven the 600-odd miles from Liverpool to Canterbury and back in the previous 24 hours. The night crossing includes a decent dinner, served just before sailing. I was sharing a table with a man who was crossing from England to visit a friend in Northern Ireland. In the course of conversation he was talking about his family holiday: they had been to Turkey. One of the places they had visited was the city of Ephesus, as he described it, “A place called Ephesus.”
Not just Ephesus; a place called Ephesus. He said that because he assumed that I would never have heard of it.
It got me thinking. How often do preachers (like me) talk about Ephesus with the assumption that everyone listening to us knows exactly what we are talking about? How often do we say things like, “as Paul said to the Ephesians”, assuming that everyone listening to us knows exactly who these people were.
In that little turn of phrase, I think there is an illustration of the gap between what Christians assume everyone knows and what they actually know.
It reminds me of a story I heard of a vicar who was being driven in a taxi. The driver asked him if he would mind popping into a bookmaker’s to place a bet on his behalf while he sat outside in the car. The vicar found himself in a totally foreign world, but realised that his experience had allowed him an insight into the discomfort that taxi driver would have felt, had he walked into a church service.
Implications for the way we talk in church and about God?