Sunday 25th October – Bible Sunday

Years ago, on a family holiday on the Norfolk Broads, my oldest daughter ‘Becca, asked to steer the cruiser we had hired. We arranged for her to stand on a box so that she could see out of the wheelhouse and we gave her the wheel. She did well but she began to do what many do when steering a boat, she began to oversteer … to turn the wheel too far to port or starboard, because the boat was moving quite slowly and took a while to respond.

She was never in danger, but pretty soon she panicked and in true 21st century fashion she took her hands off the wheel and screamed “Press pause! PRESS PAUSE!!” as if it were a video game on her phone!

‘Becca was overcompensating in her panic.

I cannot watch the news today without feeling terrified that we’re careering right and left, over-steering and barely in control. Overcompensating in so many ways…and I can feel a real sense of panic. I find myself praying aloud,  “Lord, please, press pause!”

But it was ever thus – all through human history we have careered from one direction to the other: from peace to conflict and back again; from boom to bust and back again; from freedom of speech to repression and back again, from racism to pluralism and back again.

And politically from left to right – Obama to Trump – and, please God, back again… And here in the UK, Marcus Rashford, the Man United and England footballer, is awarded an MBE for his work championing free school meals for the poorest children in the country during the school holidays, and then just days later 300 conservative MPs vote against doing that…

And all the while we still career from respecting our planet home and living in harmony with the environment to possible extinction…

I don’t know about you, but right now, in the midst of all this chaos, I feel a desperate need for some guidance, advice, reassurance, on how to live through this and not just to survive but to thrive again

Now this is where some might say – well, read your Bible… you’ll find it’s all there. It’s an instruction manual to life. It is infallible. The Bible is TRUE.

Well, all through my own voyage of life, I have wrestled with that, just as I have wrestled with God’s word, as we have it in the Bible. I have also wrestled with the many ways in which the Bible is perceived.

The very word “Bible” has come to mean definitive, ultimate, infallible… on our kitchen shelf right now we have The Curry Bible, The Soup Bible, The Hotpot Bible and even Mary Berry’s Baking Bible! Isn’t it interesting that secular publishers think that they can sell more books by adding that word – presumably they believe it will convince us that their collection of recipes is all you need, they can be trusted, they are somehow “true”. If you buy Paul Hollywood’s Bread Bible, you’re set for life – everything you will ever need to know about Bread is right there, all your questions answered, you can’t go wrong. After all, it’s the Bible!

This idea of “Biblical” being synonymous with “Definitive” has always worried me, because we already know that the word Bible means “Books” and is a collection of Poetry, Prose, History, Diaries, Law, Legends, Fantasies, Letters, Romance, Laments, Sermons, Songs and much more… It is a library. A rather strange and diverse collection of works spanning many hundreds of years and coming from many different sources. Which is why we should be wary of anyone who says “The Bible says…” because it’s like saying “The Library says…” and, of course, a library could say anything.

And yet we call our Bible the Word of God. Holy Scripture. And we have come to understand that the Bible, as a library, traces the dawning realisation and understanding of the Divine through human experience…isn’t that wonderful? And what they (and we) have discovered in reading this incredible collection is that The Word of the God of Love – is LOVE – sometimes misconstrued or misinterpreted, but always true.

Love. Unconditional Love. And with true Love comes Justice… comes Compassion… Here. Now. The Divine. Down to Earth.

Love. Justice. Compassion: The perfect prism through which we make sense of our world, the people and the politics. The perfect prism through which we can respond to the panic and poverty all around us – the makeovers, the rollovers and the political pushovers…

The perfect prism through which we see ourselves and our need to focus and stay on course.  And God knows, we need it.

Revd Martin John Nicholls