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Father Brown, Clarence Jordan, and the Drama of Redemption

By Steve Krout
September 2020

Flambeau: “I am a lost cause, Father, you know that.”

Father Brown: “I do not believe in hopeless causes. The Lord gives hope eternal.”

-Father Brown, “The Folly of Jephthah”
 Season 8, Episode 5

I love the BBC adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, starring Mark Williams as the quirky priest and amateur detective, that started airing in 2013. Throughout the series, themes of mercy and redemption flow through the stories. Father Brown, a confessor who has heard the sins of many and has solved the most ghastly of crimes, never loses hope that even the most wicked of individuals can come into the light of the Lord and be changed. The greatest example of this is seen through the unlikely relationship between Father Brown and Hercule Flambeau, a notorious art and jewel thief. Flambeau, played by the fabulous John Light, has appeared in one episode every season and seems most times to be a criminal without a conscious. But, as Father Brown observes in season 8, “there is a part of him that craves redemption.” For this reason, Father Brown befriends the thief and continually puts his own life in danger for the sake of Flambeau’s soul. And that craving for redemption, I believe, exists in all of us–whether or not we are consciously aware of it. Even more so, God desires our redemption and is “unwilling for any to perish” (2 Peter 3:9).

“God will seek us–how long? Until he finds us,” Clarence Jordan passionately declared in a sermon titled “God’s Destination for Man.” He continued, “And when he’s found the last little shriveling rebellious soul and has depopulated hell, then death will be swallowed up in victory, and Christ will turn over all things to the Father that he may be all and in all.” Clarence believed “that this earth is not the only stage for the drama of redemption” and that the love of God would pursue us beyond this physical life. This seems to have been the driving force behind Clarence’s life and ministry for he goes on to say later in the lesson, “His love is such a precious thing to me that I covet it for all people.” And, given the bombings and shootings that Koinonia endured in the early days, Clarence was willing to put his life in danger for the sake of other people’s souls.

In some ways, Father Brown and Clarence Jordan couldn’t be more different: Father Brown is a fictional Catholic priest from England that solves mysteries and Clarence Jordan was a real life Baptist preacher from Georgia that farmed the land. Yet, both inspire me for the same reason: their participation in the redemptive activity of God. Both men are models of mercy. 

I have known the pursuing love of God in my own life and, in the nearly six years I’ve lived at Koinonia, I’ve witnessed it in the lives of countless individuals. The longer I bear witness to the drama of redemption, the more I agree with Father Brown: The Lord gives hope eternal. There is no one beyond God’s mercy and God’s mercy moves outside of time and space. I am neither a Catholic priest nor a Baptist minister, an amateur detective nor a farmer but I desire to use my own life and gifts to partake in the redemptive work of God. And, to quote Clarence a final time, “The thing that has meant the most to me in this life is to try to be an implement in God’s hand, an agent of his in shedding his love abroad to people. That is my highest joy on earth.”

Father Brown played by Mark Williams
Clarence Jordan Cottonpatch
Clarence Jordan

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