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David Wilbourne's review of Eavesdropping (Church Times 1st February 2019)
VERY rarely, rather than be reviewed, the book reviews me. In 2012, I was so blown away by Janet Morley’s The Heart’s Time that Archbishop Barry and I hand-delivered a copy to every cleric in Llandaff. Henry Martin’s Eavesdroppingis another such classic, simply journeying through Lent to Easter, exploring the motives, asides, nuances, and unsaid words behind the conversations in 49 Gospel scenes.
Each imaginative reflection, worthy of a Gerd Theissen or Jonathan Magonet, concludes with “How does this help with prayer?” Faced by Martin’s insightful, earthed, non-judgemental answers, I repeatedly found myself praying.
He is blisteringly honest, very perceptive, and has a genuine and original humour: Naaman’s servant cries “Get over yourself, Boss!” when his master baulks at bathing in the Jordan. There are gems galore: in answering prayer, Jesus does not torment us, but always displays the unexpected demonstration of costly grace; we need to dethrone any gods who delight in painful revenge; God will not sponsor any of our attempts to turn ourselves into superheroes; we shouldn’t feel guilty about unanswered prayer, as if we had fluffed up a Hogwarts incantation.
An artist as well as a writer, Martin invites us to sketch Jesus as he overturns temple tables; and the faces of our loved ones, surprised as the Risen Christ calls their name. Railing against an unhealthy obsession with confession, he suggests two modest alterations to the liturgy. That the response to “The Lord is here!” should be “But where am I?” And any Easter-morning liturgy should be led solely by women, limiting male voices to the response: “It’s an idle tale, we’re having none of it!”
Never mind buying it for every cleric; every intercessor needs either to read this book or stop.