Lent Talks and BBC Radio 4
Six well-known writers and broadcasters offer insightful and at times unorthodox perspectives on the life and death of Christ
Lent Talks: A Collection of Broadcasts by Nick Baines, Giles Fraser, Bonnie Greer, Alexander McCall Smith, James Runcie and Ann Widdecombe
Reviewed by Martin Poole
Given some recent very critical comments by Radio 4 presenters concerning the relevance of the God slot in the station’s programming, it seems strange to be presented with a book of six Lent talks bearing the BBC Radio4 logo and be asked to use these as a basis for reflection and consideration during Lent.
However this slim volume – 65 pages – can be a tool for the Christian who wishes to come at the familiar events of the Passion from a fresh angle using the distilled thoughts of two crime writers, a playwright, a former cabinet minister, a bishop and a parish priest. What emerges is as varied as the contributors themselves and often unorthodox, but nevertheless thought-provoking.
A strength of the book are the five Questions For Reflection which conclude each talk and allow the major ideas presented to be chewed over. They enable Lent to not only be observed but harnessed as a time for profound thinking – drinking in, as well as giving up.
Liberties are taken as crime writer James Runcie pronounces that Palm Sunday involved the “stealing” of the ass and colt in his murder mystery approach to Easter, whilst playwright Bonnie Greer somehow weaves Solomon Northrup (12 Years a Slave) into the Passion.
Perhaps the most authentic contribution for me comes from Ann Widecombe, who seeks to relive the sense of betrayal and disappointment experienced by the followers of Jesus as a result of his decision to take the way of the cross. She affirms that “sometimes we must be prepared to let people down… if by doing so we do what is right” - a principle that can be observed in her own political life.
Our parish priest Giles Fraser dwells on the nature of sacrifice writ large in the biblical narrative, leaving our second crime writer Alexander McCall Smith to reflect on a society that has transformed itself from Christian to one now even hostile to the faith. The final talk culminates in a challenge by bishop Nick Baines to capture a vision and purpose for the communities which each Christian inhabits.
There are undoubtedly many other resources for Lenten contemplation and certainly many more biblically based, but I am happy to suggest that the pondering over these talks will not be a wasted exercise for any reader.
The Revd Martin Poole is a Retired Baptist Minister who pastored churches in Penarth South Wales, Godalming Surrey, and Eastleigh Hampshire