Thursday, 1 February 2018

We read to know we are not alone

This week I’m attending two book groups – I must get a proper job!!!

The first was at AFC on Tuesday when we gathered after LunchBreak to consider Matthew Fox’s book A New Reformation.  Fox, a theologian, has been forced out of the Roman Catholic Church so his book is really one of protest, and at times it's quite a forceful cry from the heart. 

Tuesday’s book got mixed reviews from our group yet, in the process, prompted an excellent and lively discussion!

I love talking about books because that produces a conversation which breathes life and, sometimes, a new perspective into our reading.

In the film Shadowlands, about CS Lewis and his marriage to Joy Davidson, there is that beautiful line: We read to know we are not alone.

So, I’m pleased to be going to another book group tomorrow!  This time in Luton and one that draws together half a dozen ministers from our local Association. 

The book we’ll be discussing is John Swinton’s Raging with Compassion which seeks to address the issue of Theodicy, that is how we continue to believe in a God of love in the light of so much suffering in the world.

Swinton urges us to steer away from trite or traditional answers to the problem of suffering and believe instead that in the cross we encounter a God who doesn’t explain pain away, but one who shares pain with, and alongside us.  This is the God who partners us in suffering.

I find this just about the only response worth considering, that suffering doesn’t require an answer (which never really comes) but a presence.

One of Swinton’s most helpful quotes in this respect is from Henri Nouwen:

When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares…

Well, I love books and the wisdom they contain – and I enjoy book groups – even when two come along in the same week! And I really do understand the idea that ‘we read to know we are not alone’.

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