This year, I've been re-reading several books by Adrian Plass. I've enjoyed them, again. The books make me laugh, as he makes fun of Christian stereotypes and cliches - 'Christianese' and 'Christian' mannerisms. But he does not do it to simply criticize or to get a bunch of cheap laughs. Beneath the jokes, and every now and then coming through loud and clear, there's the message of the real, true, genuine love and grace of God that sometimes gets hidden behind the superficial, silly things we Christians say and do.
Plass has written much more than just the Sacred Diary series, and I might write about some of the other books later. Trying not to make an unreasonably long post here...
The first three of the Sacred Diary series were published in the late 1980's (in the picture, they're all in one volume):
- The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾ (1987)
- The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal (1988)
- The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn (1989)
The rest of the series has come out with longer intervals - one per decade, actually:
- The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Christian Speaker Aged 45¾ (1994)
- The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, On Tour (2004)
- The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass: Adrian Plass and the Church Weekend (2013)
Though the protagonist of these books has the same name as the author, they're not exactly autobiographical books. The book Adrian is an ordinary Christian man but with an extraordinary talent for getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and making things complicated. For example, he reads a Christian paperback called 'Goodness gracious - in God's name, what on Earth are we doing for Heaven's sake?' The book talks about having faith and being so tuned into God that you can move mountains - so Adrian decides to practice moving a paper-clip. Unsurprisingly, it does not work. Why would God want him to move a paper-clip?
The book Adrian has a wonderful wife, Anne - the voice of reason, sense and love. They have one son called Gerald, who makes a lot of the jokes. In the first book, he's a flippant teenager and keeps making anagrams of people's names. These quotes are from the first Sacred Diary:
Found a note from Gerald on the breakfast table, suggesting that when I go out to change the world at the end of the week, I should bear in mind the important fact that Billy Graham is an anagram of 'Big rally ham'.
Asked Gerald to get the numbers for drinks as the worship session ended.
He said, 'Right, you cuddly charismatics - hands down for coffee!'
Through the series, Gerald grows into an adult - an adult with real faith and discernment below the flippancy, sometimes expressed in parodies and sometimes plainly.
There are plenty of minor characters, who show the various aspects of Christendom: faith and doubt, legalism and grace, and so on. Some are susceptible to all new trends and fads, some resistant towards change. What counts, at the end of the day, is acknowledging that God loves me undeservedly, and to know that sparks our love towards God. The God who loves broken, silly and weak people - and who loves even those who don't yet realize how they need Him.
To end with, one more of my favourite quotes from the first book. This spoken by Frank Braddock, the Plasses' neighbour:
'He was a nuisance then,' said Braddock, 'and he's a nuisance now. He won't let you work out cosy little systems and call them "churches", and he won't let you get away with having four meetings a week to discuss what you're going to do in next week's meetings. If that's what you want, you'll find Jesus a real pain in the neck. He says awkward, difficult things, like "Love your enemies" and "Invite the people who really need it to dinner", and "Love God before anything else". He's terrible like that. They couldn't pin him down then, and you can't pin him down now, but I'll tell you something...'
Braddock leaned forward in his chair and stabbed the air with his pipe stem. His eyes were filled with excitement. Amazed to see Everett Glander and Uncle Ralph listening like small children.
'...if you want to pay the cost, there's no one else worth following, and nothing else worth doing!'
For information on the real Adrian Plass, author and speaker, check out his website: http://www.adrianplass.co.uk
There are some free videos to watch, some writings to sample, and a list of the books he has published.
If this sounds like your cup of tea - it probably is. Heartily recommended.