Thursday, July 30, 2009


Ed. Adam Harbinson, The Columba Press, 2009

Here’s an interesting pot-pourri of ‘testimonies’ written by a disparate group of people – a few Catholic priests, three or four ManUnited fans, well-known raconteur Adrian Plass, a singer/songwriter who sources the story of the woman taken in adultery in Matthew’s gospel (instead of John’s), a couple of journalists and CEO’s, a victim of sexual abuse, a troubadour, someone who was grateful Jesus heard her soundless screams in the night, a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (believed by his followers to be the Messiah), one or two professional theologians, etc. But all, I think, English, Welsh or Irish.

The chapter by Adrian Plass is a classic. As a boy he heard a preacher talk about Jesus on the cross: ‘In the eyes of the man beside him [the dying thief] saw an invitation to be loved and wanted… Jesus’ eyes were saying “I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care what you are. I don’t care what others say about you. I don’t even care what you think of yourself. You’re coming with me. Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be all right…” The preacher’s words seemed to be meant especially for me… a puzzled little boy who had wanted so much to stop his mummy and daddy arguing so that they would be happy…’

Another wrote: ‘The Jesus I know… caught Martin Luther King in his arms on a balcony in Memphis and sat behind Rosa Parks on a bus in Montgomery Alabama… [he] somehow manages to laugh, cry and dance and joke with every expression of human emotion.’

These people come from all walks of life, and they’re honest. One laments his undisciplined praying; another wants just ten minutes with Jesus to ask him about death, suffering, injustice and natural disasters. Another is profoundly challenged by the anonymous poem ‘Risk’: ‘To live is to risk rejection/ To live is to risk dying/ To hope is to risk despair/ To try is to risk failure/ One of the greatest dangers in life is to risk nothing.’

An anonymous writer attacks a large church for spending a million pounds on its building: ‘One million pounds would pay the salaries of 2000 pastors in South Sudan for ten years! One million pounds would feed, clothe and educate 1000 children in Uganda, Ethiopia or Zimbabwe for five years!’

A ‘freelance theologian’ tells us that ‘If God has set eternity in the hearts of human beings, then Jesus Christ sets humanity in eternity’.

The Jesus many of these people know is not a cardboard Christ or a pale Galilean, but someone who causes trouble, but, as one reminds us, ‘we in the West have designed our lives to avoid trouble at all costs.’ For everyone here Jesus is real, but he’s not static. ‘He is not a proposition to be mastered, but a person to be known,’ writes one of them. ‘He is to be related to rather than reasoned about… He prefers to be found in a community rather than a creed.’

J B Phillips wrote about ‘Christ our contemporary.’ Here’s a good montage of how that actually works in various people’s lives. He is many things to many different people. You won’t relate to everyone’s experience here. And you might quibble about this and that (for example, I don’t think it was C S Lewis who coined the saying about ‘simplicity on the other side of complexity’). And if you want to get to know these contributors better, half of them have set up personal websites.

Rowland Croucher
July 2009


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