This year’s Lent course is grounded in one man’s spirituality. John Alan Davis is in his 90s. He is a retired headmaster, a poet and a dramatist. As Bob Fyffe notes in his introduction to the course, Alan wrote this gospel as a spiritual exercise whilst his wife was suffering from dementia and after her death. It brought him comfort, and it will bring us not just comfort but new insights, unsettling challenges and new ways of encountering Jesus.
The gospel is written in blank verse, and it deploys the work of all four evangelists. That in itself produces striking juxtapositions which force us to think – the beatitudes with the parables of the astute manager and the Great Banquet, and the blending of the synoptic and Johannine accounts of Holy Week for example. That in its turn might make us alert to the value of the four individual tellings of the Jesus story that we have in our Bibles.
The poet’s eye makes us see anew. Parables are re-cast in rhyme, with a dramatist’s ear well attuned to the realities of human emotion. Here he touches the heart of the parable of the prodigal son:
Find sandals for my boy’s sore feet
Slave he’ll no longer be.
Go, kill the fatted calf
He’s home and loved and free.
The final stress on ‘free’ opens up the long vista of redemption.
The book is divided into 23 parts, each with a beautiful accompanying photo, which could themselves be occasions for mediation. The Lent course selects five of them, linked loosely by the theme of discipleship, each with a couple of thought- provoking questions. Accompanying that, are sound files which can be downloaded from CTBI’s website, of Alan reading the gospel. His voice, so full of drama, takes the text into new dimensions – and is a ‘must’ for Lenten groups. The audio file of Holy Week is also available on the web-site.
It is a rich resource for Lent.