Do You Get the Picture?
Pictures tell stories, and stories give us mental pictures. Christian urged us in his Christmas message to ‘hear the old story in new ways and listen like we never have before’. We have images in our minds from the Bible stories we have heard in the past, but they may need to be revitalised.
It’s an interesting exercise to write down the story which is in our minds before opening the book, then to read it afresh. We laughed a lot as we used to do this in our Bible study group. Parts of the narrative had been mentally added, omitted, embellished, or re-interpreted. If we had painted pictures of the story, they would all have been different.
A picture of a picture never fully portrays the original. When I visited the Tate Gallery I had already decided that I didn’t like Picasso’s work. I had seen pictures of it. Much to my surprise, I found myself drawn to the real thing. There was a depth to it which I still can’t put into words. I felt as if I was there with the artist. I saw his work afresh. He touched me through time and space.
Bible stories do that too. Malcolm said in his message last week: ‘In this babe of Bethlehem, God strides across creation, and knows no boundaries. Reaching out in blessing upon the world – His world, which he loved into being and loves still, and is committed to loving for evermore.’
Today’s story brings us to the River Jordan. I imagined this as a river much like the Thames, clear and deep. That was not the reality when I went to the place itself. To the right there were minefields. Behind us there were soldiers with very large guns. Pilgrims on both banks of the river were touching the water, paddling in it, or being baptised in it however, because through the Bible story we were standing there alongside Jesus, who had touched us through time and space.
How does the story of Jesus’s baptism look to you? Do you see the throng of people? What is the body language between Jesus and John? What does it feel like as Jesus goes under the water and comes up again? Can you describe the Holy Spirit, or hear the voice of God? Are you there, with Jesus? Does the love from the Father and the Son reach you, as the Holy Spirit touches you through space and time?
I will close borrowing Malcolm’s words once more: ‘May you be held in the arms of divine love. May God bless you, that you may bless the world, in His name. Amen.’