It’s quite a moment for an author when you actually get your hands on your new book. E-books may be handy for travel but they don’t give me the same buzz, they don’t have the same feel or smell. All the hard work of researching and writing, being edited and revising, checking references and making sure it actually says what I meant – in reality not as obvious as it sounds for a busy person, agreeing the cover design (and I am grateful to my son, Michael, for his very simple but clear illustration) and then finally it all comes together. Today I launched my new book, “Follow me: living the sayings of Jesus” published by Sacristy Press.
One of the joys of my role is making connections between the church and different groups: city, commercial and artistic interests, cultural life, other churches and religions. The public square in which Peterborough Parish Church is set brings many opportunities to join up the dots and we welcome many into the church who come for different events throughout the year. Over recent weeks I have shared the public platform with other faith leaders following terrorist attacks in the country. I have been called on to speak into these atrocities from a Christian angle: to connect faith with what has happened.
Making connections is something we are all called to do. If we are going to work out what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ we need to make connections between how we live, in all its messiness and complexity, and what Jesus said. We don’t live in the first-century today and so we have to fit the Bible to how life is now. Some bits match closer than we might think, but some need more work to find the connection. This book is the fruit of reflecting on this. It is the distillation of quite a long process, actually over 24 years of ordained ministry and over 50 years of life. It’s all been sloshing around in the soup in my brain and found a channel in writing this.
And writing it, as I have found with previous books, has reminded me what really matters in ministry. It has taken me back to the heart of Christian living: to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ and draw others into being his disciples today. In all the activity, events and stuff that has to be done, it is vital to keep that in front of us so that we remember the calling to the profound and radical mission of declaring the love of God in Jesus Christ and drawing others to join in with what that means.
The book is based on statements in the gospels which set out what anyone needs to do if they are serious about being one of Jesus’ followers. It draws on Jesus’ words as portrayed in the gospels setting out what we need to do if we want to be one of his disciples. These are grouped under eight themes: acts of loving service, the commandment to love, prayer, money, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, mission and the Eucharist (Holy Communion). Each chapter ends with a series of questions for private or group reflection and a prayer.
Michael’s cover illustration uses the image of a compass. On the direction pointer is the
Chi-Rho symbol, one of the earliest Christian symbols. The Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ) are the first two letters of the title ‘Christ’ (Χριστος), stylised as a monograph. In and through Jesus Christ we find our direction as people who seek to live in accordance with the purposes of God. We find it in and through him because in and through him God makes his purposes known in a unique way.
Following Jesus, living the sayings of Jesus, takes us to the heart of what we are called to be. My prayer for everyone who reads the book is that it will enliven faith, increase hope and deepen commitment to grow in the likeness of Christ as they seek to live his sayings. May that faith be based on firm foundations for resilient and healthy living as a follower of Jesus Christ.