The Help

The Help is in the movies now and provides a good read as a book. I read half way through the book before seeing the movie and I can promise you that the book is the best, but the movie does a good job with the story. Fifty years ago, within the lifetime of a lot of us the reality of race relations was just coming alive in our consciousness here in the midwest. This book/movie will cause a lot of reflection.

Paul: A Novel

Walter Wangerin, a masterful storyteller, has used his skill once again in crafting a very engaging novel called Paul: A Novel. In it he uses scripture to bring us along with those early believers who faced terrible odds as they birthed Christianity. This is a book that will enlarge your gratitude for the risks they took for all of us.

Evergreen is Moving

Evergreen is Moving by Bob Gabbert is a novel that explores the possibility of many new realities. Peace in the Middle East, the first woman president of the US, the realization of a world that realizes that no peace is possible with the use of terror and war. Gabbert writes in a style that draws you into plots, possibilities, and hope. Hope that doing something different will really make a difference. This is a book that is hard to put down.

The Kingdom of God in History

Each time the Year A comes round I revisit resources to deepen my understanding of Matthew’s gospel in order to prepare for our weekly scripture study groups. A previous professor of mine, BenedictViviano, OP, wrote The Kingdom of God in History back in 1988 and it was republished again in 2002.  I marveled at how people down through the ages tried to understand Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God. This book reminded me of how history has been influenced by our understanding, or not, of this teaching. As we witness the masses gathering in Madison WI these days, I ponder how our this teaching influences  our actions today.  I will email Fr. Viviano to pose this question and encourage him to revisit the question in light of what has happened in the years since he wrote this helpful book.

The Strange Woman

 The Strange Woman by Gail Corrington Streete. Louisville, Ky. Westminster John Knox Press. 1977.
When we know how something came into being, and the part it played in the survival of those who wrote the bible, we can than use this insight to move into our new reality with greater survival skills. This book will help you to understand how power and sex became so influential in the formation of the bible. We then can be free to go into the future, standing on the shoulders of those who blazed the trails for us, grateful for what we have been given, and better able to give to those who come after us.

Engaging the Powers

 Walter Wink is one of my favorite authors and his Engaging the Powers ranks as one of his best in my view. This award winning work is one I go back to often as I prepare my study guides. The index of gospel passages in the back of the book helps to go directly to the passage you are studying or meditating on at the moment. The subtitle; Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, gives you insight into this thought provoking book. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN published this book in 1992.

The Cultural World of Jesus: Cycle A

 In cycle A we work in the gospel of Matthew. The Cultural World of Jesus: Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A by John Pilch is the first of three books that can really help you get the sense of the times of Jesus.. This often opens up deeper insights into what the text is saying. It is hard in our 21st Century Western culture, to understand many of the parables and teachings because of lack of knowledge of those times. These books will go a long way toward bridging this gap. 1995, Collegeville, MN. The Liturgical Press.

Paul: A Critical Life

 Paul: A Critical Life by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor O.P., Oxford Univ. Press, NY. 1996.
Paul might have felt right as home with us as we struggle with the issue of impeachment. There were those who truly felt that he needed to be discredited and removed from his ministry, because of his teaching that allowed Gentiles to become Christians without becoming Jews first. This book will immerse you in the details of this struggle, and give you a deepened appreciation for Paul’s courageous struggle with those who put their trust in the law over their trust in God’s unconditional love. Paul realizes that once we put our trust in the law, we inevitably loose Jesus the Christ. This is not an easy read, but one worth the time and effort.

Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls

 Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls by Hershel Shanks, Random House, NY. 1992.
Hershel Shanks who is the editor of The Biblical Archaeology Review and the Bible Review, has given us this overview of the dialogue on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He presents thirteen scholars and their considered evaluation of these documents. The book begins telling the story of how and where they were found. Then he moves on to examine their relationship to Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and the Bible in general. Finally, there is a look at the methods used to reconstruct the scrolls and their impact on the scholars themselves. If you want to enlarge your understanding of these important documents, this readable book will enable you to do just that.

Noah’s Flood

 Noah’s Flood by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, NY. Simon & Schuster, 1998.
In a remarkable joint effort, over a span of many years, scientists of numerous disciplines have pooled their information to bring forward what can be known about the ancient flood stories of the many cultures in antiquity. With the advent of undreamed of technology, and cooperation by peoples formerly separated by the cold war, this study of the great flood dated around 7,000 BCE is made possible. The book reads like a mystery story. It examines the data from ocean, sea, desert, mountains, cultures, and more. Here is an example of what can be accomplished when people are drawn together by a common quest that transcends barriers of time, place, culture, ideology or theology.

The Holy Web

The Holy Web by Cletus Wessels, O.P. Fr. Wessels’ book has been “rumbling around in me for many years”. He says that “I owe much to my many students and colleagues over the years. It is my hope that his work will repay all these people and excite many others”. I am sure that if you treat yourself to this book, you will not be disappointed. The subtitle, “Church and the New Universe Story”, gives you the thrust of this work. With contemporary science challenging us from many sides, most recently the human genome project, we need to have guides such as this book to help us begin to think through the many new questions and opportunities that seem to come daily anymore. More and more we realize that all that is, is in a “web of relationships”. Just how to live creatively in this web is the new story that is unfolding before our eyes.

When Jesus Became God

When Jesus Became God by Richard E. Rubenstein In the three hundred-year period after the Resurrection, it must have been terribly difficult to make sense of all the conflicting claims about Jesus in the very early churches. No agreed upon form of the Bible yet existed. Creeds were being hammered out amidst murder and mayhem even among the bishops, and the struggles for safety from hostile neighbors was ever present. Rubenstein’s very approachable book is a wealth of information about this creative and dangerous time. The sub-title says it succinctly: “The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome”. I think you will find this book very interesting.

For the Life of the World

For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann If the challenge of today is seen as secularism, Schmemann sees the answer in a renewal of the sense of worship. Worship calls us to the awesomeness of creation and leads us naturally to the sense of wonder at what or who caused all this to be and holds it in being. He comes to this through his Eastern Orthodox appreciation of the sacraments, which he sees as a ritual expression of this wonder and awe. If secularism is the belief that our space and time holds the answers to all our needs and questions, than worship expresses the opposite. Thomas Merton called this work, “a powerful, articulate, and indeed, creative essay in sacramental theology”. It is all this, and more.

Jesus Through Jewish Eyes

With our new emphasis on what we call “Jesus’ Bible”, I am recommending Jesus Through Jewish Eyes compiled by Beatrice Bruteau. Nineteen contributors were invited to tell us how Jesus would look to them as Jews of the 21st century. Each contributor was to suppose that they could go back to Jesus himself, before Christianity, before all those theological elaborations, when he was simply a Jew among Jews. What would he be like?  Could a modern Jew imagine that, and if so, how would the view come out?

The World is Flat

A new book that really makes clear the rapidity of the changes in our world is The World is Flat. The amazing variety and speed that we are faced with at work, school and home, really highlights the ever increasing need to take time out to renew ourselves. Where do I go to find such a place? How do I slow down enough to make sense of the changes?