Saturday, 22 February 2014

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? an 'attractive and challenging' Lent book

ripening grain, Northumbria, looking over towards Holy Island

I was very pleased to be asked to write a Lent book for 2014 by Kevin Mayhew. I decided almost immediately to anchor it on Mark's Gospel, which was the first gospel to be written and which portrays a very 'human' Jesus in a very real context. I wanted to open up some of the clues  to his real-life situation hidden in the text, at the same time expressing something of my perspective on him: a rather 'shamanic' Rabbi living at a very troubled time, who communed with the Divine alone at night on the hillsides or in the wilderness, and who talked often about the countryside he and his followers walked through, to illustrate his wisdom. I especially wanted to emphasise the women's voices in that walk from Galilee to Jerusalem, and to bring out Jesus's use of the grain cycle in his teaching, with respect to his own life, death and rising. We tend to associate Jesus's death with the lambs sacrificed at Passover time, but forget that Passover was and is also an agricultural festival of the Mediterranean spring barley harvest. The fields would have been full of ripening grain, soon to be reaped, as they made their way south.

I was also very pleased that the Church Times recently published a great review of 'Who do you say that I am?':

'Who Do You Say That I Am? is a sustained exploration of the identity of Jesus, largely based on daily passages from Mark. It particularly draws on the social geography of the Bible, sets Jesus in the context of contemporary Jewish teachers, and draws attention to less prominent actors in history, among them women. 
The author's comments are attractive and challenging, and quite often move away from the text into areas for wider reflection. Each day, Annie Heppenstall also supplies a short monologue in the voice of one of Jesus's followers. This offers an imaginative alternative in a more Ignatian register, as with Jesus's mother to Peter: "I've given up wishing he might build a home and get a job, so you offering to make him a shelter and expecting him to be grateful - don't you know him yet?" 
With its optional extra Bible reading this would not be a lightweight choice, but it would certainly reward those who follow its journey - with periodic diversions - towards Jerusalem.'
Philip Welsh, Church Times

So, if you haven't got your guide-book for Lent yet, want to get one for a friend, have never used Lent as a time to reflect on Jesus and the Easter story before, or see yourself as outside of Christianity but interested in a 'different' and earth-spirituality-friendly perspective, here is an 'insightful and enriching' (as the blurb says) opportunity to explore Lent 'as never before.' It's available widely on the internet, the publisher's link is here.

somewhere near Bishop's Castle (it's me!)

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:24 NRSV

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