A visiting preacher was giving the Children’s Address as part of the Sunday Morning Service. He asked the boys and girls if they would like to hear a story? ‘Tell us about Andy!’ a little boy shouted out immediately. ‘Well’ replied the Preacher, ‘I hadn’t planned on telling you a story about Andy, I was going to tell you a story about Jesus!’ ‘No!’ responded the little boy, ‘I want to hear about Andy!’ I don’t understand’ said the Preacher, ‘where did you get the name Andy?’ ‘You know’ replied the little boy, ‘from the song: Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own …’
Of course, the little boy and the Visiting Preacher were actually talking about the same Person. The song the little boy was referring to is a gospel song written by American songwriter C Austin Miles (1868-1946), a former pharmacist who served as editor and manager at Hall-Mack publishers for 37 years. It speaks of the intimate personal relationship every believer can enjoy with Jesus Christ, whatever the circumstances we may find ourselves in. Originally the song was simply known as ‘In the Garden’ because of its references to finding God in a garden. According to Miles’ great-granddaughter, the song was written ‘in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in New Jersey that didn’t even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden’. The song was first published in 1912 and popularized during the Billy Sunday evangelistic campaigns of the early twentieth century.
The Apostle Paul is writing from a prison cell when he speaks of ‘knowing Jesus and his resurrection power’ (Philippians 3:10) in personal experience. He had been in prison in Rome for two years and yet Jesus is just as real to him there as when Paul was a free man able to worship with his fellow believers and speak freely of Jesus to all and sundry. The Apostle John was most probably in exile on the Greek island of Patmos – a small, rocky, barren area where many criminals of Rome were sent to serve out their prison terms in harsh conditions – when he speaks (even in old age) of continuing to enjoy intimate ‘fellowship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ’ of ‘hearing, seeing, touching’ eternal things (1 John 1:1-4).
This kind of relationship with God in Christ by the Spirit is NOT dependent on favourable circumstances. Even in this period of enforced ‘lockdown’ – maybe even enhanced by this period of time – we can find, rediscover, continue to enjoy – a meaningful, strengthening, inspiring relationship with Jesus? Not so much the kind of Christianity that spends most of its time in the Books of Daniel or Revelation and looks towards the Second Coming of Christ as a kind of ‘escapism’ from the challenges of life today, but the kind of Christianity that spends time in the Sermon the Mount (Matthew 5-7) finding there the kind of ‘earthed’ Christian experience that ‘scratches where people itch’.
So why not go for a walk in the garden, or look out of your window, or simply close your eyes and imagine. To quote TV Presenter Sarah Greene: ‘It’s Andy … are you waving to him children?’
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
~ C Austin Miles (1868-1946)