The Greatest Book
Dear Family of St John’s
My husband thinks I have another problem… once again, we have different views on the situation. He thinks I have too many books. Can you ever have too many books? I don’t think so. Being an IT guy, he tells me that anything and everything is available online. I beg to differ!
The handwritten recipe books from my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother are not online. And, if they were, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the slightly tatty pages and unidentifiable splatterings of some or other food item that was spilled so many years ago.
The copy of Winnie the Pooh that was gifted to my maternal grandmother on her 4th birthday on the 10th August 1932 is not available online. The copies that are available online don’t have the inscription written in the book to Penelope Anne. They’re not the same.
Another book that is not available online is the prayer book that is inscribed to my great-great-grandmother. It’s the prayer book that was printed for the coronation of Edward VII and his wife, Alexandra, as king and queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and as emperor and empress of India, and took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on 9 August 1902. The whole coronation service is in this prayer book.
I also can’t find copies online of the books my great-great-grandfather wrote about the churches of London. I’ve looked and they’re out of print.
So, my husband is not, as he likes to think, always right!
Books hold memories. As a child I’d visit my dad and paternal grandparents on the family farm in the Free State every July and December holiday. A highlight of the holiday was travelling with my grandparents into Ficksburg on the first Thursday that I was there. My grandfather went off to his Rotary meeting and my gran would take me to the CNA to choose a book for the holidays. I still have some of these books, inscribed with her scrawly handwriting with a special message. My favourite was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still have it.
When I page through these old books from my childhood I can remember where I was when I first read them. I am delighted with the stories all over again.
A good book has the power to draw you in, you become lost in the pages and the story. When you emerge at the end, you might even feel a little disoriented. The lives of the people in the story you’ve been reading can seem so real, you want to dive back in again.
I have another category of books that form a big part of my collection. These are Bibles. Some of the collection is due to my studying and preparation for sermons. Comparing translations, looking at the study notes, reading up on commentaries. But, these aren’t my most treasured copies. The Bibles on my shelves that I treasure the most are the ones that have played the greatest part in forming my faith.
These are the Bibles I was given as a child and teenager. The little pocket Good News Bible my dad gave me one holiday. With miniscule print! The King James Version white cover Bible I was given by an aunt when I was confirmed. The Good News Bible that my mom bought me as a teenager that is filled with highlighted verses and all my notes in the margins. This is the Bible I was using when I experienced God’s call on my life at 16. I have highlighted the verses in the Bible that I believe God spoke to me through.
I also have a collection of very old Bibles that have been handed to me over the years by various people as they clear out cupboards and bookshelves. They’re often in quite fragile condition. The print is in a size that no human eye could possibly read comfortably. And they’re typically the King James Version. These aren’t Bibles that I feel can really be passed on anymore. They’d fall apart with even minimal use. But, I can’t throw them away. So, they go onto my bookshelf. Because I feel that I need to honour the impact that they’ve had on someone’s life.
The Bible is the one book that has impacted me the most. Every time I read a passage, I learn something new. It has everything you could possibly hope to find in a book. It’s a book whose characters draw you in. It’s a book, that if you read it and absorb it, will change your life. It’s a book with multiple writers, but one author.
It’s also a book that is available everywhere. In this case, I will agree with my husband and say that it is easily available online and I use my online versions all the time. It’s available in many languages, in braille and in audio format. In translations that are easy to read and in modern language. It even comes in picture books for younger readers.
How often do we turn to this book? Do we dive in and become engrossed like we might with the latest top-selling novel? Do we buy Bibles for our children and encourage them to read it from a young age? I suspect that many would say no. But, this is how our Lord speaks to us. Through His Word. This is how He helps us and offers us encouragement.
I’d like to challenge you in the coming weeks to open up your Bibles and start reading. Hear the love of God and His voice as you read the greatest book ever written.
Your friend and rector,