Why not approach this period of isolation as a period to reflect on how we lead our lives, and what changes we might like to make when we return to ‘normal’? Here is a suggested list of books that may be helpful:
Brother Lawrence: The Practice of the Presence of God -would be suitable for those who would like to go deeper with God in a mindfulness way -The practice of mindfulness is a well practiced Christian meditation on God’s Presence.
Sue Monk-Kidd: When the Heart waits -this would be ideal for someone wanting to explore the meaning of their own life, to help appraise the things we have felt to be important, and to assess how we take the lessons we have learned forward into our new life -The analogy used is like that of a chrysalis…during this period there is a lot of inner working going on before the beautiful butterfly emerges perhaps a bit like us through this isolation period.
Richard Rohr: Immortal Diamond -The search for our true self This reminds of the experience of Daniel’s friends in the furnace as Rohr helps us to disover our true sense of self and understand the different things (attached to our egos) that have helped shape us and form us into who we are -the challenge is are we willing to let go of some of those things so that we can more fully live the life God has given us?
Ruth Valerio: Saying yes to life This book has been heartily recomended by Bishop Nicholas, challenging us to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint and to think more carefully about how we use the world’s resources -understanding that they are not just for those living in the most affluent countries but the resources are there for everyone. As a church we will be studying this book after Easter as We say YES to the resurrection, and say YES to life for all.
SAYING YES TO LIFE by Ruth Valerio
Saying Yes to Life is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 2020. It was recommended for use during Lent by our Bishop Nicholas, who is the lead Bishop on environmental issues in the Church of England.
I have been reading this over Lent and would warmly recommend it. Ruth Valerio is passionate about God’s creation, and takes the opening chapter of Genesis as the foundation for this book. Each chapter takes a theme from God’s creation and develops it, looking at light, water, land, sun/moon/stars, creatures and birds, and human beings. She develops each theme by tracing it through the whole of Scripture, and also by looking at each one in context in our world and how they are being affected by climate change, pollution and other environmental damage. She also offers suggestions for how we may, as individuals, groups and churches, address some of the damage being done to our environment so that we can leave the planet in good state for the future.
At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions for groups and links to video recordings on the internet.
This would be a good resource for a group discussion as well as for individuals to deepen their understanding of these important issues for our time. We shall be developing these ideas during our reflections in the Easter season, which seems appropriate, given the title of the book.
The book is published by SPCK and is available from Amazon.
Book Review : God and the Pandemic by Tom Wright
As I mentioned when I wrote for the Newsletter the other week I am making a habit of resorting each morning to the summer house with a mug of coffee and a book. Weather is still permitting and I have moved on to another book : Tom Wright’s ‘God and the Pandemic’. (When he writes for the likes of you and me he writes as Tom Wright; when he’s writing for fellow academics he writes as N.T. Wright.) Being a Bible scholar Tom Wright digs deeply into scripture as he thinks deeply about the coming upon us of the pandemic. The book’s subtitle is ‘A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath’, and Justin Welby’s quoted comment is ‘Superbly written, utterly Bible based…don’t hesitate!’
The book came out of a short piece Tom Wright wrote for TIME magazine and the many letters he received afterwards. In the Preface he says, ‘The aim of this book… is not to offer ‘solutions’ to the questions raised by the pandemic. … My main argument is precisely that we need to resist the knee jerk reactions that come so readily to mind’. He goes on to outline the response to disasters of both ancient and modern philosophies and considers what should be a Christian response. He looks at that of the Hebrew prophets to disasters hitting ancient Israel, among them the Babylonian exile. He engages with the point of view that sees disasters as punishment and says ‘whenever anyone tells you that coronavirus means that God is calling people to repent tell them to read the book of Job: the whole point is that that is not the point’. Wright suggests that we are simply to know that caught up in awful circumstances we are not meant to understand: we are to lament, and leave it with God.
Moving into the New Testament Wright makes the point that Jesus doesn’t look back for a hypothetical cause of trouble but looks forwards to see what God is going to do about it – see John 9 and the man born blind. He (Wright) goes on to talk at length about the significance of Jesus’ life and death .
The following chapter looks at the early Church and what Paul has to teach us; then, in the final chapter, the author looks at ‘Where do we go from here?’ He shares with us the view of writer Rodney Stark that the way Christians behaved in the great plagues of the early centuries was a significant factor contributing to the spread of the faith, as well as referring to ‘the gritty wisdom’ of Luther in a letter dealing with Christian behaviour in a time of plague. This after he has shared with us the thought that ‘as Jesus was to Israel so the Church should be to the world’. He suggests that we should seek to be ‘sign producers’ for God’s kingdom, and goes on to discuss our distress at not being able to meet together to worship in our usual buildings
Finally he points us to Psalms 72 and 73 and the theme of Lament, and a time of lament used as a time of prayer and hope.
Psalm 43 : 3-5
15 September 2020