There was a TV programme last December where an esteemed scientist invited his audience to join in an experiment using chocolate. Yes, folks, you can try this one at home (unless you’re allergic to chocolate). The point was to demonstrate how the different ingredients worked. You place a piece of chocolate (any sort according to taste, milk or plain) on your tongue and leave it there. Try to resist the urge to lick or swallow it for a little while.

Firstly, the chocolate begins to melt. That’s the cocoa butter and other fats which melt at body temperature. As the chocolate melts on your tongue it cools it slightly in a pleasant manner. Exactly how this feels will depend on the blend of fats and whether it is milk or plain chocolate. Next you might notice the sweetness on your taste buds. Eating the chocolate this way allows you to notice each sensation as it develops. Then the aromas are released, you might notice vanilla amongst them, and you have the smell of the chocolate too. And finally there is the texture of the chocolate itself, the cocoa solids, which also varies according to the qualities of the ingredients.

Although it was hard to do, maybe half a minute or so, the point was well made – at least among those who were able to resist eating the piece of chocolate straight away. I did try joining in but it doesn’t really work with a Malteser.

Please bear with me, but I think you can liken the Bible to chocolate. There is an ancient tradition, called Lectio Divina, which is a way of reading the Bible. In this you’re not reading it for information, you’re not studying it – not looking up a favourite verse. Nor are you listening to it in a service. What you do is to read a particular passage slowly, taking time over it, savouring it if you like. It means taking time enough to allow God’s word to do its work. A bit like that experiment with the chocolate (Gerard Hughes compares it to sucking a boiled sweet) or taking a throat lozenge. In both cases we get more out of it the more time we take over it. With reading the Bible this way it is best not to try to read too much – maybe just a few verses.

And if the Bible is like chocolate, then it is made up of more than one sort of chocolate: some of it is sweet and mild like milk chocolate, some of it is dark, it also has some fruit in it and even the occasional nut. It is not something that can be easily consumed all in one go. Too much too quickly of any good thing is liable to give you indigestion.

Joking aside, another way of ‘reading’ the Bible comes from the Bible Society, who have produced an audio series of the New Testament called “You’ve got the time”. The idea being that during Lent you can hear the New Testament read over the course of 40 days. Each episode lasts about half an hour which hopefully means that most people can find the time to listen to them if they want to. Whether or not you’ve decided to give up eating chocolate for Lent, you may wish to give “Bible chocolate” a go in either of the ways suggested here.

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