The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book 2019
Muthuraj SwamiBiblical Studies which will challenge and guide Christians in the tasks of reducing conflict and division
Swami’s book was specially commissioned by Justin Welby, and represents his chosen text for Lent 2019. The theme of reconciliation is a principal priority for the Archbishop’s ministry, and it is no coincidence that this text comes forward as our nation anticipates the prospect of social fission, and the need for healing, on the question of withdrawal from Europe. Political events during Lent this year have the potential to make us, or to mar us, as a nation, and whatever happens, around half the nation may feel betrayed or bereft. There will be a fundamental need for reconciliation in families and communities, both in the immediate aftermath of March 29 2019, and for some years thereafter.
Swami recognises at the outset that the Church has a vital role (though not just in Britain) as a community of reconcilers, and argues powerfully that our guidance must come from scripture, and especially through the example of Jesus Christ. His text is therefore uncompromisingly biblical, and ranges across the whole of the canon, drawing new insights and unforeseen angles on familiar and less familiar texts alike. Each of his forty studies is intense, analytical and deeply spiritual. They are grouped into six chapters, designed to facilitate weekly gatherings during Lent, and these themes cover, respectively: the foundations of reconciliation; impediments to reconciliation; risks to self; the need for humility; a call to openness; and peace with justice. The final chapter is particularly profound, and uses notable Old Testament conflict narratives – Jacob and Esau, David and his family – to great effect. These, and the meeting of Jesus and Zacchaeus and the encounter with the Syrophoenician woman will make for memorable reflections during Holy Week.
Although these studies are deliberately designed for Lent study groups, they are not exclusive to the season, nor indeed to group activity. They will prove valuable in individual reflection and study, as a source for sermons; and for all Church leadership teams who are taking seriously the question of healing and soothing the fractures and tensions of our current society. If democracy in Britain is breaking apart amid widespread public disillusionment, the Church must show it has a vibrant and practical alternative within the Gospel message. This book will help our task.
Reviewed by Peter Clough
Festivals - Lent & Easter
The Christian Life