The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Ron looked at the old book in his hand. He’d had it for nearly fifty years and the hard cover was curled and frayed on the corners. The cloth that covered the spine had come away on one side exposing the pages knitted together with glue and thread. He had long suspected that books weren’t made like that anymore. The ribbon was still in place but he treated it so gently over the last decade or so because it was attached by a thread and he didn’t want it to separate from the book. The outer pages were brown from use and many of the pages themselves

showed signs of being held and even, he was ashamed to admit, a coffee stain or two. He knew he could buy another copy or if he wanted that edition, then he could happily visit secondhand book stores. He’d just have to be patient.  But it was his book. A prayer book not only teaches you prayers but also becomes a witness to your prayers, your hopes and dreams, your ups and downs, your choices and the circumstances over which you have no control. He looked up at the store window. Could he do it?

A short while later he walked out. The sun was shining.  He felt a little strange and it was bizarre, stupid even. It was one thing for him not to pick up the book when it was there but it was another thing for the book not to be there for him. But it was in good hands. ‘Repair rather than restore please’ had been the summary message as he look around the workshop at tools, ribbons, boards and stacks of books being made or repaired. He hadn’t realized what a book binder could do to restore a book. ‘I can make it almost like new’ he was told. But that’s not what he wanted. To have the book fall apart wasn’t what he wanted but what he wanted was still his book. Why do things wear out? 

Ron looked at the book in his hand. It felt different. The cardboard was no longer soft but firm, almost rigid, and he could see the old cover had been glued to the new cover. The ribbon was a slightly different red and thicker. The pages were the same with their stains and his markings. Just opening the book the first time told him it had a different spine and so his hands were saying ‘new book’ while his eyes and nose were saying ‘my book’.

Old and new together and there was no point in imagining that it was the same book he bought decades ago but it was also true that this was still his book. Repaired and restored. That night, as Ron flipped through the book, treating it gingerly as he learnt about the tension with the spine, as he saw that the pages didn’t fall flat any more, as he read the same words, he felt himself to be a book with each day of his life a page written. He was old and he knew he was a big book and many of the pages he didn’t want to read. Others weren’t so bad and though stained they had happy memories. He was frayed around the edges and his spine wasn’t as upright anymore. He walked carefully – ran slowly – but feared and took extra care so as not to fall. No broken hips please. Of course he had been repaired throughout his life.

Medicine. The natural healing of the body. God. But that would one day come to an end. Ron knew he was restored. That’s why he prayed. He knew and trusted God to forgive and to help and to bless. His long life, his children and grandchildren and the first great grandchild were testimony of that. God had restored him to a right relationship with God in baptism.
And as he fell asleep thinking about his old book and his long life, he also heard a word in his mind – a neuron? a memory? alliteration? the Holy Spirit? – recreated. Ron, you are mine, recreated in Christ – the old passes away and the new has come; always live new no matter how old is the book; your story will never end. — GS