Love Makes Things Happen: An Invitation to Christian Living
Jennifer Strawbridge, Jarred Mercer, and Peter Groves
SCM Press, 2022, £14.99. ISBN 978-0-334-05993-6
Love Makes Things Happen, follows on from Love Makes No Sense, from the same editors. The first volume is an ‘invitation to Christian theology’, including fundamental doctrines such as incarnation, creation, sacrament, and scripture. This second book works to link those doctrines to Christian practices like prayer, worship, eucharist, baptism and mission. The basic argument of the book is that the practices are natural expressions of doctrines when they are properly understood. The book consists of ten chapters, the title of each locating love and interpreting it as an invitation. We begin with ‘Love in God’s Presence: An Invitation to Prayer’, and work our way through ‘Love in Offering … Worship’, ‘Love in Listening … Scripture’, ‘Love Incarnate … Sacraments’, ‘Love in New Creation … Baptism’, Love in Thanksgiving … Eucharist’, ‘Love in Proclamation … Evangelism and Mission’, ‘Love in Self-Gift … Justice and Reconciliation’, ‘Love in Politics … Public Faith’, ‘Love in Hospitality … Welcome’. The topics stand independently of each other, and so the book could be dipped into rather than read all at once. Each chapter ends with questions for further reflection, which are predominantly designed for personal reflection, or possibly group study.
All six contributors have practical experience of ministry and academia, a valuable combination for a book such as this. Each chapter is clearly signposted and explores a basic doctrine before posing practical questions. At just 126 pages in length, it will be an inviting read for many congregation members. No topic is explored in depth, however, and that characteristic might be frustrating to some.
In places the book offers some simplistic propositions that would have merited greater exploration. Martha, for example, is ‘scolded’ by Jesus, in spite of the pages of feminist scholarship that provide alternative interpretations. Christians’ ‘primary obligation is to the heavenly city … this is not controversial’, writes Simon Cuff in his chapter on public faith. Again, a number of worthy environmental theologians might beg to differ. In places, then, the book should be read pensively. In the areas it covers, Love Makes Things Happen offers a helpful introduction to its key ideas, particularly for Christians who have not previously considered how what we believe links with how we behave. For preachers, who may wish to use the book as the basis for a sermon series, each chapter concludes with a useful bibliography enabling them to explore the subject in greater depth.
Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, endorses the book, saying that it ‘breathes life into theology’, and offers an ’invitation to situate lived Christianity within the study of God.’ It does so successfully. It is grounded in Scripture and tradition, and in a well-reasoned way, points to Christian discipleship. It offers a useful basis for individual and group study, and possible sermons series.
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