Lenten Book Club – Dethroning Mammon

Last year I attempted to start a book club at Lambeth Palace for Lent. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book that year was ‘I am With You’ by Katherine Greene-McCreight. While four of us met a couple of times over wine and cake, it was not to last. Our monastic lives were, ironically, too full to follow through to the end.

Against all common sense, I decided to try again this year. The plan was to meet once a week for 6 weeks around ‘Dethroning Money: Making Money Serve Grace‘ – the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2017 which he wrote himself. There was no wine this time… just lattes and babycinos. And to my surprise, we managed to keep going to the end.

It may seem strange to have a Lenten devotional book around the topic of money but it made more sense as we read through it. If we are to truly put Jesus on the throne of our lives, we need to battle that which tries to compete.

“We give Mammon authority as though it were divine when it is a fraudulent misrepresentation of inevitability. Reality, history, ultimate value and eternal hope are not found in the economy but in God himself, who has acted once and for all decisively in Jesus Christ. Christ who overcame death is not subordinate to the economy.”

It also may also be strange for some that this book is written by a guy who lives in a Palace. I saw some of the social media reactions. Perhaps because of the cardinal sin of talking about yourself as a positive example when preaching or writing, Archbishop Justin didn’t mention that a cottage on the Palace grounds is for a family seeking asylum from the Middle East. And that he and his wife also house a motley crew of young adults, who spend their days praying, studying and serving in charities (and occasionally causing problems for Palace staff).

Each of the six chapters is centred around a key text of Scripture and could be a series of sermons. I remember Archbishop Justin preaching on many of these passages, mostly in Eucharist services at Lambeth Palace; The Death of Lazarus, Zacchaeus and the Tax Collector. Mary Anoints Jesus, Jesus washes the Disciples Feet, The Message to Laodicea. He is able to creatively draw out ways of seeing the text in a new light, but still engaging with academic thought. This is possibly why I enjoyed his preaching so much, as it combined the Pentecostal-style preaching of my teen years and the expository preaching of my 20’s.

At the moment I’m reevaluating a lot of things when it comes to money (hello budget!) so reading this book with others’ was particularly helpful. There were sets of questions throughout the book that guided us along, too. Some more spiritual, others more practical. As we read through and discussed those 6 chapters during each week of Lent, we discovered:

what we value
what controls us
what we hold onto
what we receive
what we give
what brings us true joy

This is a challenging book which is deeply insightful but thoroughly practical. It can be read any time of year, though I loved having it as my Lenten devotional.

“When Mammon is dethroned, and Christ takes its place, we do not have cruelty, but love and grace. We do not have shortage but abundance and human flourishing. To say these things is to advocate money being mastered and Mammon being dethroned in both the hearts of the individual and the systems of society.”

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