Thursday, August 06, 2009

JOY IN DISGUISE: Meeting Jesus in the Dark Times

JOY IN DISGUISE: Meeting Jesus in the Dark Times by Edward S. Little (Morehouse Publishing, 2009).

‘I lived for a year on a street graced by the presence of three churches. The first, next door to my apartment complex, was the True Love Church. Just down the block stood the Greater True Love Church. A bit farther on was the Reformed Greater True Love Church. It didn’t take much imagination for me to conjure up the scenarios: church fight, division, another fight, another split, and on and on and on.’ Conflict, writes Bishop Little, ‘is always a complex reality that includes multiple elements and many layers. I have a theory that conflict issues from three sources: principle, personality and power’.

I enjoyed this book: it’s an easy read, down-to-earth, and full of pastoral wisdom. Indeed, Episcopal wisdom. I finished it in one day, secretly desiring that I had a pastor like Edward Little. The Bishop of Northern Indiana is humble (he doesn’t brag about pastoral successes, but writes honestly about his ministerial stuff-ups), irenic (he’s a ‘loving brother and friend’ of practising homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson even though he voted against him, and is an interesting raconteur (especially about movies).

I have only three small reservations… It’s difficult to write or preach with a paragraph-by-paragraph/expository approach and be interesting. Our bishop is conservative, and fellow-evangelicals in my experience want so much to ground their preaching-authority in the biblical text that they often commit the cardinal sin for preachers of being uninteresting. ‘People do not come to church wanting to know what happened to the Amalekites’ says the old quote, or the Greek word for this or that. Second, the title and sub-title were probably chosen to sell the book rather than faithfully describe its contents. Sure, we are helped by traveling with Paul during his hard times, but the title may promise more counseling/pastoral help ‘in the dark times’ than the book delivers. Paul, for many moderns, lived in another world – in all senses. And occasionally there’s a bit of editorial slackness (it’s koinonia not kononia).

But the book is an excellent resource for preachers, if you aren’t bound too tightly to the lectionary and want to earth a month’s sermons in Philippians. And good for a month’s devotions too.

Rowland Croucher

August 2009


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