I've just bought a new Bible. It isn't that I've worn the other one out completely - it's still serviceable enough. I've had it since 1992. So, why buy another Bible? How many Bibles does someone need for goodness sake?
Come to think it, that question could be interesting if we drop the rhetorical flourish and simply ask;
How many Bibles do I need for goodness sake,for the sake of goodness, that is, before I get the point, in order to begin to be transformed by words that are life giving, or to be touched by grace that is heart changing, or troubled by stories that are conscience building, and grabbed and graced by good news that is mindset changing?
The answer is one,
just one, if it's read faithfully, angrily, routinely, in perplexity, expectantly, reverently, honestly, even guiltily
just one, if it's held prayerfully and pondered slowly for guidance or grabbed desperately and ransacked for, well, guidance too
just one, to be read falteringly with broken heart, or joyfully with soaring thoughts, or in the confusion, fatigue, boredom and frightening array of options that is life at high speed in high definition at a too high price
just one, to find answers which might not be there, or in search of the right questions which we might just discover
just one, to look for some comfort and love in our sorrows, or to remember again why laughter is a way of thanking God twice for the same blessing
just one, to find guidance, wisdom, mercy, judgement and grace, gifts already there for the finding and each of them underwritten by the promise of God
just one, because a hungry traveller needs one good meal at one good inn to make the next miles possible.
Yes one Bible is enough, if it shows sufficient signs of use. Years ago, one of Scotland's more spectacular Baptist preachers, in a wee corrugated iron church in Lanrkshire, Scotland, demonstrated, with stunning unintended improvisation, the cost and consequences of using and abusing a Bible for a lifetime.
He was lampooning the thought that a Bible should be kept in its box, treated with reverence and deference so that from one year to the next it kept its pristine appearance in keeping with its sacred status. When he preached that morning he held up his own Bible, and waved it wildly as he thundered and threatened about the tragedy of the unread, under-used over-protected gilt edged Bibles he believed were languishing in drawers and cupboards all over the town. Then he loosened his grip on his Bible, and was left holding the covers as a veritable blizzard of pages began to fall from the raised pulpit, and wafted with sacramental slowness, left to right, like sacred text snowflakes, settling on the choir seats, the floor and occasionally brushing the heads of the few choir members within range.
He never faltered. Forty years later, having taught homiletics and biblical studies, philosophy and systematic and pastoral theology, and preached over 3000 sermons myself, I still remember the hairs on the back of my neck being raised, by those slow motion india paper pages, loose-leaves of testimony to a Bible that had seen better days, but which had sustained and nurtured and given life and passion and purpose to this man's story.
How many Bibles do you need? For all practical purposes, just one.