On a Facebook recommendation, I pre-ordered, and received quickly from Amazon.ca, the latest publication by Rowan Williams, entitled, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Eerdmans, 2014). It is a surprisingly small book, at under ninety pages. And it is a quick read; it arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon, and I had it completed before going to sleep (with several other needful things done in between).
I recommend this book for those looking for a basic refresher on some of these fundamental aspects of what it means to follow Jesus. As the subtitle suggests, he writes (about twenty pages on each) about the meaning and implications of the sacrament of Baptism, how we read (or hear) the Bible, what it means to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and then gives a brief summary of three views on the Lord’s Prayer (from Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Cassian, all classic Christian writers from early [pre-AD 600] Christianity).
Williams is clear, concise, and accessible in his writing style. He writes with a modest Anglican bias, which the reader would only expect coming from the immediate past Archbishop of Canterbury! But even with that ‘filter’, Williams could be read quite satisfactorily by an inquirer, or by a believer from any branch of the church.
There were six especially helpful learning points that I noted for myself in the book:
- In the Eastern Christian tradition, some icons for the baptism of Jesus depict Jesus up to his neck in water, with river gods, representing chaos being overcome, beneath the water. The old ways are always trying to claim us back.
- The Bible is, in a way, our own story, so history matters when reading Scripture.
- In the Eucharist, Jesus is telling us he wants our company.
- Prayer is about changing your attitude.
- Prayer is a promise to God.
- This one deserves to be quoted: “[Prayer] is opening our minds and hearts and saying to the Father, ‘Here is your Son, praying in me through the Holy Spirit. Please listen to him, because I want him to be working, acting and loving in me'” (p. 80).
Reflection and discussion questions are provided at the end of each chapter for use by individuals or groups. This is a short and helpful read, and I recommend it.