Review: Books for Lent

Need an idea for a book for Lent? Here’s a review from last year, as published in the Woman Alive book club. Features one of last year’s crop of devotional books, and the Best Lent Book Ever.

Wangerin Reliving the PassionReliving the Passion by Walter Wangerin. A master storyteller, the author writes as a participant – sometimes a close bystander, sometimes a character – of the narrative of Jesus’ last days. He transports us to a vivid world of sights and smells that bring alive the story. In so doing he engages not only our heads but our hearts. We’re there at Bethany, seeing the woman pour out her extravagant love for Jesus. We feel Peter’s desolation after his betrayal of Jesus. We experience the blackness and despair of Good Friday. We rejoice at the wonder of the resurrection, the empty tomb.

If you’ve never tried a Lent book, give this one a go. If you read one every year, prepare to be refreshed and engaged. The publisher could even promise a reader-be-satisfied-or-have-your-money-back guarantee on it – it’s that good and profound and engaging and faith-building.

9781408188477One that is thought-provoking is this year’s Lent book as commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Graham Tomlin takes the notion of looking through the cross, similar to how Eastern Orthodox Christians gaze through icons as a window to the real Christ. As we use the cross as our lens, we see how God turns the world’s approach on its head. For instance, thinking about power, the cross “offers us a picture of powerlessness. It is hard to imagine a less powerful figure than someone nailed to a cross” (p. 65). True power, it turns out, is that of self-sacrificial love and service. Of Jesus dying for us.

The author takes one concept per chapter and explores it in relation to the cross, whether wisdom, suffering, identity, evil, ambition, failure or reconciliation. I thought his chapters on suffering and identity were the strongest, with plenty to chew over. For example in the chapter on suffering: “Once you start to try to love people, then it will hurt” (p. 121). I did wonder if this book was published at speed, however, for I got distracted by errors such as missing punctuation. Still, one to read slowly.

Looking Through the Cross, Graham Tomlin (Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-1408188477) and Reliving the Passion, Walter Wangerin (Zondervan, ISBN 978- 0310755302)

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