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Following Jesus: Finding our way home in an age of anxiety, by Henri Nouwen

17 January 2020

Rachel Mann finds that Nouwen’s 1985 Lent talks remain apposite

THE great Dutch writer Henri Nouwen died in 1996. Since then, there has been a steady stream of posthumous writings, often old lec­tures and notes, which have ampli­fied his stellar contributions to prayer and popular theology. Nearly 25 years after his death, some might fear that the law of diminishing re­­turns must apply. It is a token of Nouwen’s brilliance, how­ever, that this book, based on his 1985 Lent talks in Cambridge, Mass., still feels timely and fresh. Lovingly tran­scribed by his editor, Gabrielle Earn­shaw, Follow­ing Jesus offers a power­ful response to our age of anxiety.

The book is structured around Jesus’s call to discipleship. Each chapter takes an aspect of that call­ing — from “Invitation” through to “Cost” and on to “Reward” — and patiently unfolds its implications. Nouwen’s capacity to present an­­cient wisdom and half-glimpsed truth with pungency is embedded in sentence after sentence.

In Chapter One, Nouwen takes a single phrase of Jesus’s, “Come and see,” and carefully leads his reader through its layers of implication. By the time he has finished the chapter, one is convinced that this simple phrase is an invitation to dwell in God, who is “our room, our house” and “like a woman holding us in her womb”. His theological astuteness never departs from orthodoxy; rather, one discovers that orthodoxy is richer than we presume.

These lectures were delivered just a few months before Nouwen gave up his tenured post at Harvard to join L’Arche, and it shows. He wrestles with a fun­damental ques­tion — how best to follow Jesus in the modern world? — in a genuinely lively way. His ultim­ate answer — that it is in obedient service shown towards those who challenge us most — is hard-won, beautiful, and full of hope. This book, excellent for Chris­tians new and old, reminds us that peace in anxious times can always be found in Christ’s abundance.


Following Jesus: Finding our way home in an age of anxiety
Henri Nouwen
SPCK £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

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