22/05/2015

Faith in the Fog (by Jeff Lucas)


I do like Jeff Lucas’s books. He writes with honesty and self-deprecating humour, on issues that many shy away from. Years ago a friend introduced me to one of his books; since then, I’ve started collecting them wherever possible.

I put ‘Faith in the Fog’ on my wishlist last year, and was very pleased to receive it for Christmas last year. It’s partly anecdotal, charting the author’s journey to Christian faith, which was often punctuated by difficult questions and serious doubts. It also encourages people to keep hold of what faith we have, to look to Jesus, and to remember that God is with us, no matter what.

The book is - in essence - a study on the passage of the Bible where the resurrected Jesus sees some of the disciples after a fruitless night of fishing. He suggests they throw their nets one more time, which results in a good catch, and that prompts them to recognise him. He cooks breakfast for them, and then has an important chat with Peter. (John chapter 21).

Jeff Lucas says that this is his favourite passage of Scripture, one he ponders often. He starts with an anecdote, the time he wanted to visit the Sea of Galilee with great anticipation, only to be stopped by the guard: a priest, who would not allow him to go any further, because he was wearing shorts. The story takes a chapter to tell, charting Lucas’s disillusionment with other Biblical places he had visited, and the image that the priest was giving to tourists: that God was angry with people who wear shorts.

It’s a great introductory chapter, told in the author’s highly readable style, with detours and asides, weaving a story and making his points with gentle thoroughness. In further chapters, he goes on to think about the disciples themselves: what made them go out fishing? Was it wrong of them to do so? Why didn’t they recognise Jesus? Why was this episode so significant for Peter?

There are no definitive answers given - as Lucas says, at the end of his foreward, he’s neither analysing the Biblical text nor is he trying to push any agenda by looking at them. Instead, he invites the reader to think through these and many other questions. He gives some of the historical and cultural contexts, to aid in the discussion, but manages to do so in a friendly way, neither condescending nor directly educational.

I’ve been reading it in the past couple of weeks, around a chapter per day. It’s not the kind of book to read straight through, as there’s a great deal to think about; I could only process so much at a time. The Bible passage on which the book is based is one I’ve read many times; I’ve heard sermons about it too, although I don’t remember the content of them. But never have I thought so deeply about it, or gained so much insight into what might have been going on in the minds of these weary disciples whose worlds had been turned upside down by recent events.

At the same time, Jeff Lucas talks about some of his own insecurities and worries, many of which resonated strongly. He describes the times when he wondered what he was missing, when everyone else in a church service was apparently lost in worship, and he felt nothing. He talks, too, about his frustration with some sermons - including his own - and the encouragement he’s received, sometimes at unexpected moments.

I thought it an excellent book, and was sorry to reach the end. I would recommend it highly to anyone, particularly those who might feel as if they’re ploughing through the Christian life rather than coasting; where God is sometimes hard to find amidst the fog of confusion and the mire of everyday life.

Highly recommended.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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