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
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