Author Emma Ineson
Publisher SPCK £10.99
The subtitle is ‘What Jesus said about sin, mistakes and messing stuff up.’ Emma Ineson was until recently the ‘Bishop at Lambeth’, working closely with Archbishops Justin and Stephen, so in many ways her work was at the essential core of the Church of England. I therefore wondered, before I opened this book, whether (perhaps subconsciously) it had been influenced by the perception that our church had indeed ‘messed stuff up’ in the last two or three years.
But that was rather an unworthy thought, for this is a good book on the ‘theology of failure’. Bishop Emma applies it both to the Christian church and more especially to us as individuals, using Bible passages dominated by the gospels and looking at Jesus’ own thoughts and actions. If we are led to consider our own inadequacies, we may be comforted by the failures of the disciples, especially as recorded in Mark.
The chapters are designed for a Lenten journey and take the reader through a careful, nuanced definition of failure; the nature of sin (using especially Romans chapter 5); our responsibilities to acknowledge sin; failure and the church; and how to live well with failure. The climax of course comes with Holy Week and Good Friday – the perceived utter failure of Jesus himself when, briefly, he felt separated from God.
I personally found the whole book absorbing, useful and thought-provoking, but I was left wondering whether a ‘fringe member’ of our church would feel the same. Will they falter on the notion of sin? Will they focus too much on the current (very public) problems and divisions in the Church of England? But the final chapters will I think move us all – whatever the state of our faith – towards hope and fulfilment. The solemnity of Lent always gives way to Easter joy. This book is therefore warmly recommended as one that should strengthen and deepen Christian faith.
Reviewed by KATE BURTON
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book