Written for the Marlborough LitFest edition of Tower and Town.
When I was asked recently what I had been reading theologically, I had to admit that most of the books I read over the summer had been novels. Some were recommended by friends, others I had picked up because they looked interesting and not too heavy for a summer’s evening. I don’t think that was the expected answer, but I suspect I have learnt at least as much from reading good fiction as I have gained understanding by reading more academic works.
Although I am by no means an expert, for me a good book tells me something about myself, and the world in which I live. In one way or other I can identify with the characters, or recognise some of the scenarios which are brought to life. One particular book that has stayed with me is ‘The Cut Out Girl’ by Bart van Es.
The book was given to me by a friend who had visited the Chalke Valley History Festival, where the author had given an inspiring talk. Indeed, it shows that maybe one of the best ways to find a good book is to be inspired by its author. that is precisely the great merit of festivals such as our own LitFest: an opportunity to not only engage with the text, but also with the author himself or herself. It can bring the text to life in a different way.
This also, I would like to suggest, applies to our Christian faith. It is one thing to read Scripture, but quite another to hear someone talking about how it may have changed their lives. And we can only imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus himself speak and preach. It is one of the great privileges of preaching: trying to bring God’s Word alive, trying to relate it to those who listen and the world around us. However, ultimately, it remains often the story that speaks for itself.
The Christian story is one that has captivated the imagination of millions of people for nearly two thousand years. It is the story of God with His people; a story that is kept alive not just by what we tell, but also by what we do. It is the story we share, it is our story, and so let us commit to keeping it alive for the generations to come.