Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.
How often we say things like, “Oh, I see now!” or “I finally saw through him.”
Clearly, we are using the verb “to see” in a metaphorical way. In the first case we are referring to understanding something. In the second case to understanding more about a person.
I have a vague memory of a Johnny Nash song that began, “I can see clearly now…” I can recall how he sang those words but what came next? (Having looked it up, I can tell you that the answer is: “…the rain has gone.”)
None of us has the slightest difficulty in understanding the meaning and the message of this pop song. We interpret it as a way of saying something like, “I’ve come through a difficult time and now I want to encourage others who are going through tough times.”
If we move over to the bible, the same should apply. When we read, “The Lord’s my shepherd,” we do not thereby think we are sheep, and when we read “I’ll not want,” we again understand that the psalmist is expressing an overall trust in God rather than detailed expectations about material provision.
We could go on with many other examples of the foolishness of people telling us that the only way to interpret the bible is to take everything literally. We now use the title ‘bible exploration’ rather than ‘bible study’ for our sessions at King’s Stanley Baptist Church as, if you really think about it, no Christian thinks that knowing the bible is an end in itself. Exploration implies that there is something to be discovered, and that the journey itself is engaging and important.
With this in mind, let me give an example. In John’s gospel, the first recorded words of Jesus are a question: “What are you looking for?” Taken literally, all that means is that that happens to be a record of what Jesus actually said. Taken metaphorically, that question is one we might consider worth pondering today.
Let’s start our answer with a little bit of honesty: we as a church are looking for people to join with us. In other words, we need you. Especially if you are driving to a larger church where you are part of the crowd. Come and strengthen a small group of fellow Christians who are seeking to serve God in the place where they live. We don’t have all the answers, but we are interested in taking the questions of life and faith seriously.
The second recorded words of Jesus in John’s gospel are an invitation: “Come and see.” Again, they are much more than a simple record of merely historical interest of what was said there and then. If, as Christians claim, Jesus was “raised to life on the third day,” then that invitation is still open to each one of us.
“See what?” we might ask, though perhaps that might be better rephrased as, “See whom?” for if we were to read on then we might come across those words we often hear read at funeral services, “I am the way the truth and the life.”
“What are you looking for?” Then comes the invitation, “Come and see.”
Enjoy this summer. May you be blessed in your journey through life and find, and be found by, the God who loves each one of us.
(Stop press: “We” won the Cricket World Cup!)
Robert Draycott (Rev)