We are bounded by our concerns at the moment—and the pandemic has succeeded in taking over our psychic space like nothing I’ve ever experienced. And that’s not a good thing.
My two choices for Lenten books are my attempt to redirect our attention to some other deep concerns. Not that the pandemic is over or not important—but that we must begin to live with its rhythms, and other things must now regain their importance in our hearts and minds. This is a Lenten discipline for us all.
First, I have chosen Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Fundraising, a classic of Christian stewardship. Many of you may have already read this book. I have. But, like many of the great Nouwen’s works, I find that I return to them over and again. This is a good sign because it means that the theology that I find there is working its way into my heart and my head.
So it is with Nouwen’s counter-cultural and counter-intuitive talk about Christian fundraising more commonly known in our context as stewardship. Nouwen invites us to share opportunities for growth with those who have the resources to “help the kingdom come about.” He invites us to retrain ourselves and let go of resistance when it comes to talking about money and instead to consider stewardship as a ministry, “as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.”
All of this sits on the assumption that we have a sense of what our contextual mission is; how we are answering the call to life, compelled to love—and what resources we need to accomplish this Gospel work. Reading Nouwen’s book marries incredibly well with the parish mission action planning process. I hope and pray that many of our parishes will combine the two and find new life as a result.
As my second recommendation for a Lenten book, I have selected Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s landmark book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. Her relational and practical approach to grappling with the reality of climate change is not only a breath of fresh air, it is a model for reestablishing connection across ideological divides and compassion where violent disagreement has encouraged dehumanization.
Dr. Hayhoe is a Christian, a Canadian, and a climate scientist who is doing her best to tackle this crisis in grounded conversations that seek to galvanize humanity into collaborating to save our planet and preserve a future for our children and grandchildren. There is no more important issue in our time, and I am recommending this book as an urgent act of discipleship.
These books are also connected; stewardship is caretaking—using our resources to be the face and hands of Christ. As Dr. Hayhoe writes, “Climate change disproportionately affects the poor, the hungry and the sick, the very ones that the Bible instructs us to care for and love … What is more Christian than to be good stewards of the planet and love our global neighbour as ourselves?”
The Bishop’s 2022 Lenten Books are widely available through online book suppliers at an affordable price.