Meet the Man:
Here, "Meet the Man" is introduced by
Reverend Lynne Wall,
Lecturer in Biblical Studies
Trinity Methodist Theological College.
Tena koutou katoa!
What a great opportunity to share in the launch of such an exciting book as Meet the Man! From the arresting cover to the final quiet call to trust "the Man from Nazareth" whom we find to be "no stranger", this book invites us to "Meet the Man" in a new way.
The cover is reminiscent of the popular image of the revolutionary Che Guevara. The Anglican Church in Britain had adapted this image to portray Jesus with the crown of thorns as part of their Easter advertising campaign for the millennium. Selwyn, I understand, saw it on the internet and promptly secured permission to use it on the cover of his book. What a find! For it aptly portrays the approach Selwyn has taken in retelling the story of Jesus. This is no syrupy picture of a do-good Jesus but a challenging portrayal of Jesus set against the realities of first century Judaism under Roman occupation.
Selwyn has performed a great service for the church. Every age, including and especially a new millennium, where so little is heard of the man who has shaped our calendar to give us this celebration, needs fresh portraits of Jesus. Yet the book is more than just a re-write of the gospels. Within these pages are a host of interpretative details to enable the reader to understand who Jesus was and what was his message. What were the social conditions of Jesus' time? Who were the religious leaders who clashed with Jesus? What are we to make of miracles? Why did Jesus have to die? How can we understand resurrection?
These are the issues usually left to scholars. The gap between scholarly debate and discussion, and the views of people in the pew or those wondering how to make sense of Christian faith in a modern world are woefully wide. Selwyn tackles that gap with courage and tenacity. The questions and issues are confronted head on and not in the equivocal, 'beat around the bush' language of some. He is honest and forthright about the difficulties the modern mind encounters when faced with miracles and resurrection. Yet time and again he brings the reader back to the realities of human life in whatever age we live and to the biblical record of how Jesus lived - what were his priorities and how people responded to him.
For me the outstanding characteristic of this book is its style which is hard to pigeonhole, but for those who have followed Selwyn's writings over the years perhaps I could describe it as racy and yet thoughtful, conversational and yet meaty. Selwyn has the gift of being able to draw the reader in, to paraphrase the words of Jesus in the language of today. For example in commenting on the saying which often closes Jesus' parables, "He that has ears to hear let him hear!" Selwyn writes, "You work it out. If the cap fits, wear it." (p.47) His writing is accessible to young and old alike because he writes with a common touch.
There is a freshness to his presentation of ideas so that you're left thinking "I've read that Bible story a hundred times" and I never thought of that. Listen to the slant Selwyn puts on characterisation of Nicodemus in his conversation with Jesus: "Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a leader of the Jews - a grave, learned senior, no doubt set in his ways, someone who cannot possibly be expected to approve of the young prophet from the provinces with his radical ideas. Yet he finds himself strangely disturbed by what he hears and begins to wonder whether there might be something here to meet his inner restlessness." Myself I hadn't thought of this meeting in terms of a generation gap, or conservative versus radical, yet "as a ruler of the Jews" (John 3:1) this picture is highly plausible. (p.52)
Selwyn's writings will also appeal to those who struggle with Christian faith, who have questions, feel that they are failures or are lost in the mire of Christian doctrine and dogma. There is a clarity here which will help to enlighten, a simplicity which sees the wood despite the forest of trees. Hidden in a footnote, for instance, is this marvellous gem reflecting on the nature of the Trinity: "For myself, I have found it sufficient to speak of the three aspects of God - as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - as God always and everywhere, God then and there, and God here and now." (p.162) It doesn't say everything but certainly sets you thinking your own thoughts. And there is room for the mystery of God. In reflecting on the meaning of the resurrection in today's world Selwyn writes, "If the modern no-nonsense mood of scientific materialism requires us to reject the resurrection out of hand, so much the worse for the spirit of our age. Mighty movements require sufficient cause to account for them." (p.145)
But perhaps the most significant audience to whom this book will appeal are those who know very little of the story of Jesus. There are those who will have missed out on Bible in Schools, those who have perhaps attended the odd secular funeral, often nowadays tinged with new-age spirituality, those who are searching for a faith which will make sense of their lives: young people, those bruised by involvement with fundamentalist sects or disillusioned with the churches they have known. This book is for them. Here is a Jesus who lived life to the full and offered hope to those who followed him - all expressed in the vivid language of someone who has had more than three score years and ten to reflect on that man.
Thank you Selwyn for this gift - for sharing your faith in
this Man and your talents as a writer. The invitation of this
book is, I suggest, irresistible - Meet the Man!
Meet the Man is available from Epworth Bookshop
Freephone 0800 755 355
or P.O. Box 6133, Te Aro, Wellington.
Or from Church Mouse Press
The cost is $21, which includes post and packing.