Monday, December 22, 2008


December 22, 2008

Reading has replaced writing in recent weeks hence my silence in blogging. I have been dipping into Feasting On the Word, a commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary edited by Barbara Brown Taylor and David Bartlett. Each entry includes commentaries from four perspectives: theological, pastoral, exegetical and homilteical. When you consider that the lectionary offers readings from Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament and Gospel, that makes for sixteen substantial comments on any given Sunday or Feast Day. It is a great resource for preachers and others and the first volume or two are out now. I’m not a disinterested bystander as I am published in a book for the first time as one among many contributors.

Jeffrey Salkin, who taught Sunday School for us this fall has published Righteous Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible, a series of reflections on sacred relationships, especially between Jews and Gentiles. This is the only time I have had a book dedicated to me, an honor I share with Richard Burnett, currently rector of Trinity, Columbus, Ohio with whom I was in seminary.

I have enjoyed again James Alison’s fist book called Knowing Jesus, a great introduction to Girardian thought as applied to the Gospel.

On the fiction front I enjoyed Tolstoy’s War and Peace fro the first time since I was twenty. One wag seeing me reading in the gym commented that it was probably the same as when I read it before to which I was able to respond that I am not the same. It took me a while to get into the story but a majestic story it is moving seamlessly between the personal and the political, between the heat of battle and the intricacies of freemasonry, between theories of land management and the relationships of emperors, between theories of history and the accidents that make it up. I was reminded of Paul Johnson’s marvelous work called The Birth of the Modern in which he writes a history of the years 1815-1830 from perspectives of English villages, French alliances, particular industries, personal reminiscences from diaries and the like. In other words a multi layered and multi perspective history, avoiding over simplifying complex events. Both Tolstoy and Johnson, without using the phrase, are describing the effects of a butterfly flapping its wings and changing the weather. They show history to be less a matter of cause and effect and more like what happens to an ecosystem when a stone is thrown into a pond. In this way they both point to good theology.

Marilynne Robinson’s Home was another well written and worthy novel which I did not particularly enjoy. John Le Carre’s A Most Wanted Man on the other hand was fabulous. My theology group is looking at allegiance and apologetics this year and the intricacies of allegiance and identity are front and center in this book in which Le Carre returns to Hamburg as his primary setting and which is among the strongest of his novels.

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