I wonder how many of us can remember what it feels like to be a child. Those of you who know me will know that I have 2 daughters, and they are aged 4 and 9. One of the joys of having two children of that age is the sense of wonder that they have about the world around them. Everything is new and much of it is exciting. To be around them as they start to make sense of the world is just joyous. Every now and again I shall get summoned by one of them to come and look at something, it could be an insect in the garden, it could be a rainbow, it could be a picture that they have drawn. It is wonderful to behold.
And it is inevitable, as we get older, that we end up losing a little, (or a lot) of that sense of wonderment, the astonishment of what we experience gets diminished, through repetition, through cynicism or the grind of what it means to be an adult. Every now and again my children come to me and urge me to look at something, but I am too busy that I tell them, “Not just now, can I just get this done?” or, “Go and tell your mother.”
And then after I am finished whatever it is that I am doing, I then go up to them, I want to find out what they were interested in only to find that the moment has passed, that the opportunity is missed and that instead of experiencing what it is that they wanted to show me, instead of being engrossed in what it is that so intrigues them, I end up being told about it. My children try to tell me, they try to describe what it is that I have missed.
It is at moments like this that I go from the potential of a first-hand experience to a second-hand description. I had the chance to really get immersed in it but instead chose to miss out. In that brief moment of time something inevitably gets lost as a result, the moment has passed and any magic that could have been contained therein has fluttered away, never to return.
Now I talk about this because it is much the same as what Jesus was alluding to today in the Gospel reading. The disciples of John, (I have been told by someone quite close to me that one of those disciples was called Andrew) asked Jesus where he was living. Instead of just saying, further down this road, on the left hand side next to that house over there, Christ invites them into his story. He says, “Come and see”. Come follow me and I shall show you. I shall show you this and so much more. They get the opposite of what I sometimes opt for, instead of getting a second-hand description what they were given was a first-hand, full screen, technicolour glorious experience.
And part of the beauty of these readings is that they are just as true now as they were then. Nothing has changed in the intervening years, Jesus is still offering us a first-hand experience. The whole reason that we come to church is to get a first-hand experience. When we go up to receive the Eucharist, we are invited into a first hand experience. When we share Christ’s story we may think that we are getting a second hand story but what we are actually invited to do is to partake in that story. God’s grace is still at work, it is still changing people. This isn’t just a dry academic study, this is the endless opportunity to end up being transformed by this story - the most wondrous, exciting story know to man.
The Bible is a wonderful collection of books. There are none finer but just like John the Baptist, the man who went before, who signalled to the people of what was to come saying, “it is not me but someone who comes after me who is the important one”, the Bible’s purpose is not merely to tell a story. Its power lies in the fact that it points to Jesus as the way that we live our lives. He calls to us, he invites us to come into a relationship with him.
We are not asked simply to know about him, we are actually asked to properly get to know him, to be fundamentally changed by him, to be like him. The Bible is only the menu and our Lord Jesus Christ (in so many ways) is the meal and we are asked to tuck in.