28/04/2019

Never Mind the Reversing Ducks (by Adrian Plass)

In slowly re-reading my favourite authors, I reached the book with the unlikely title ‘Never Mind the Reversing Ducks’ by Adrian Plass. He is, in my view, one of the best current Christian writers. He uses gentle satire and humour, sometimes self-deprecating, underlying some thought-provoking and helpful ideas. His books of fiction can still make me laugh aloud; his non-fiction works, such as this one, give me much to ponder. I last read this in 2011.

The title is explained in the introduction. It’s taken from a spoof sermon the author wrote, poking gentle fun at a style of preaching that was popular some years ago. It’s not really relevant to the book itself, other than making it memorable. The bulk of the book consists of 92 short extracts from Mark’s Gospel, followed by Adrian Plass’s comments. The subtitle is ‘A non-theologian encounters Jesus in the Gospel according to Mark’.

It’s not the kind of book to read at one sitting (though no doubt one could). It is intended more as a study guide or devotional, and that’s how I used it. I read one or two sections each day for just over two months. I was intending to finish around the date of Western Easter; instead I finished on the date of Eastern Easter, a week later, which is more celebrated where I live anyway. This was appropriate, as I read the sections related to the Crucifixion on Eastern Good Friday, and those pertaining to the Resurrection on the Sunday. Mark’s Gospel does not continue beyond these key events.

Most Christian books I read, including this one, do not offer anything that I had not previously known or understood, at least subconsciously. Since I had read this one eight years earlier, there clearly wasn’t going to be anything new in it. But in most good books I find ideas or concepts that I need to think about again, or parts I had forgotten or perhaps skimmed over in the past. That was certainly true of this book. The Bible itself is an endless store of wisdom, insight and knowledge, and Plass’s commentaries and anecdotes tied in well, shedding different light on familiar passages.

There’s also a sense of rapport with a lot of good writers which I appreciate very much when it happens. Reading ‘Never Mind the Reversing Ducks’, there is almost a feeling that I am chatting with the author about the content, sharing a few thoughts, sometimes a tad frivolous, and finding Jesus in our midst as we do.

Having finished this book, I can’t say I recall anything specific to mention or to take into the future. There is more a sense of having gained a few insights, of appreciating afresh the crisp, factual writing that Mark used in his Gospel, conveying what happened without too much explanation or commentary. I also liked starting the day with Adrian Plass’s excellent writing. He might not have a degree or other qualifications in theology, but he has certainly studied God and his works, so in the broadest sense he is very much a theologian.

Definitely recommended.

Review copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

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