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Monday, March 24, 2008

RevGalBookPals Discussion--"Bread and Wine"

Greetings, friends, on this Easter Monday! It is the fourth Monday of the month and time for our RevGalBookPals' discussion of Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.

When we began considering a book for the day after the most important event in the church year, we wanted to find something that would be appropriate for the season of Lent, but also something we could discuss after Easter. This book of essays and poems seemed like a good possibility, and I hope those of you who read it were able to find some points of connection. It includes a wide array of writers, some of whom are women, although it contains a fairly large number of deceased white males. I found the theology being expressed, on the whole, tended to be orthodox, but your mileage may vary.

There were definitely essays with which I found myself in disagreement, particularly where atonement theology is concerned. I imagine if this were not the day after Easter, we could foment a debate on fine theological points. But given that we try to be as inclusive as possible here, and that we may be feeling limp this Monday, I thought I would mention a few of the pieces that touched me particularly and invite you to do the same in the comments.


"Followers, Not Admirers" -- Soren Kierkegaard

I love Kierkegaard's contrast between those who are admirers of Jesus and those who are actually followers, particularly the idea that really following will irritate the admirers! Do we not see this in church all the time?

"Truth to Tell" -- Barbara Brown Taylor

This essay is full of quotable quotes, the kind that cause you to wince. Here's one:

A cross and nails are not always necessary. There are a thousand ways to kill him, some of them as obvious as choosing where you will stand when the showdown between the weak and the strong comes along, others of them as subtle as keeping your mouth shut when someone asks you if you know him.

"Remember Her" -- Ernesto Cardenal

Cardenal records the reflections of a worship group in Lake Nicaragua on the story of the anointing women. I am pretty sure I've read some of this piece before, perhaps in the book "The Women Around Jesus," but since the book is at the office, and I am at home, I can't confirm this. I love everything about their discussion, including the natural conflating of the various gospel accounts of the woman who anoints Jesus. My perspective (my big exegesis paper in seminary plumbed the depths of the Mark pericope) differs from and is enriched by all the comments from Cardenal's group, whether I like them or not!

"God the Rebel" -- G.K. Chesterton

Jesus as insurgent: it's a politically lively notion in our current climate, isn't it? I think it's hard for nice church-going folk to hold onto that picture of our Savior, and I appreciate Chesterton's exploration of the idea of God in rebellion against God's own self.

"The Cross and the Cellar" -- Morton T. Kelsey

Kelsey explores what resides in our depths and much of what he says resonates with me. Along with several other writers in this collection, he points out that the people who participated in Jesus' trial and execution were ordinary, more like us than not.

He writes:

The cross symbolizes what ordinary people do when they fail to see the monsters dwelling deep within their lives.

I expect to continue pondering this one long after Easter.

"A Cosmic Cross" -- Paul Tillich

Now, you knew your UCC gal would go for Tillich, didn't you? ;-)

I very much relate to Tillich's "ground of all being" view of God. As he explores the idea of the shaking of the ground in the earthquake at the crucifixion, he reminds us that we are not saved for material security but for re-imagining what grounds us: the self-surrendering love of God.

"The Greatest Drama" -- Dorothy Sayers

In the section on the Resurrection, there are a number of essays that assert the bodily resurrection, and belief in it, as an absolute necessity. I was about to get tired of the book when I reached Sayers and read this:

" was not that old, limited, mortal body, though it was recognizably like it."

She loosens the terms just enough for movement and grace rather than insisting on locking down the Christian mind to thinking in one way only. I like that.

"Waiting for Judas" -- Madeleine L'Engle

I won't repeat the Judas story she tells but will simply encourage you to read it. It's one of the most hopeful things I've ever heard.

"The Feast of Freedom" -- Jurgen Moltmann

The final section of the book, "New Life," seemed weak to me, or perhaps restricting. So it's probably not surprising that the one essay I wanted to highlight is about freedom! Moltmann encourages us to revolt against the powers of death, in forms ranging from the obvious (hunger and oppression) to the more subtle, described as "the soundless death of the apathetic soul." He urges us to see that our faith contains two parts, both a protest against death and a freedom from death. We must resist the powers of death as conceived by humankind (again, both collective and personal) while at the same time celebrating that death has no power over us. Isn't it much easier to focus on one at a time? We might devote ourselves to social action, as the former, or we might spend our time worshiping and giving thanks that death has no more sting, but really, we need to embrace both. (That may be over-simplifying, but I hope it gives some idea of Moltmann's point.)


Those are my favorite essays from the book. What touched, provoked, challenged or inspired you? I hope you'll leave a comment and tell us.


  1. I so loved using this book last year; this year I couldn't manage it. Now I am feeling inspired to do the readings post-Lent.

    I see that I have many pages turned down from '07. It seems that my favorites included Eckardt's Merchandising Truth, Guardini's Believing is Seeing --Thomas is one of my favorite characters in the Bible and one for whom I have always felt a great affinity, and I was intrigued by Guardini's thesis that he got what he asked for but "it must have been a concession he deplored having recieved," Wendell Berry of course, and Pascal's Mystery of Jesus, Moltman's Prisoner of Hope, Kreeft's Shared Hells, and the Chesterton selection. The last four convey so magnificently the suffering of Christ who has been our companion even to the point of sharing the sure sense of complete abandonment by God. Chesterton's final sentence about that has stayed with me all year: "in which God seemed for a moment to be an atheist."

  2. I haven't finished--having only just reached the resurrection section (I only read one essay per day...or, well, several if I'd skipped some days).
    It's too early for me to think about them right now other than to say ditto the atonement stuff a lot of the time. There was one particular quote I loved but I'll have to go get the book to share it. If I'm going over there I might as well either go back to bed or take a I'll be back later.
    Thanks for a good start, Songbird!

  3. I'm going to crack open my book, which I have used more than once during Lent/Easter, and look up my favorites, and come back. Songbird, some of yours have been some of mine, as well.

    As far as atonement, my two cents on that is: I'm not so much opposed to "atonement" as such, as I am to certain interpretations, especially as exclusive interpretations...

  4. here's the quote I found meaningful...way back in the beginning of the book.

    "It is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning."
    From Thomas Merton, To Know The Cross, chapter 9.

  5. I bought this so we could have this discussion and then my partner appropriated it for her Lenten reading. Guess this will be next Lent's reading. Besides I was reading something else.

    It is interesting that Chesterton's reading of Jesus as a rebel--Isn't that more or less what Crossens is advocating?

    Guess I will see what the resurrections sections have to get me through the next 40 days.

  6. Hi songbird, and all...
    I'm not through the book yet...but it kick-started a lot for me, and I made shameless USE of it twice, with long quotes from Amy Carmichael, whom I'd never heard of, on Calvary Love, for the Friday afternoon Solemn Devotions. And the Updike "Seven Stanzas" for the Easter Sunday sermon. It is SUCH a rich collection, wow. Great thanks to the choosers of it.

  7. I haven't read the book, I didn't read much of anything through Lent. Now after reading Songbird's intro & quotes and the comments, I wish I had checked out this book earlier. But I have put in a request from the library always just a little behind.

  8. I am an occaisional lurker who had this book on her shelf and saw you were going to discuss this. Thanks for the kickstart.

    I also found the poem by Updike to be thought provoking - I am glad for all the poems.

    It is disappointing to not get to hear from more women and minorities, but as a laywoman just starting down the path of reading theology, I liked the introductions to some people who I had only ever heard about.

    I thank all of you who preached through Lent - I imagine it must be a tough season.


  9. I have a couple of similar collections of short readings that I've enjoyed as seasonal spice - and am pleased to have added this one to my collection.

    Old friends (Tillich!) and new provoked thoughts (even when I thought some of the perspectives a bit stodgy).

    The phrase that resonated most with me is from a early Lent entry: (Walter Wangerin, "In Mirrors) mirrors of dangerous grace.

    If we could truly can see ourselves as God sees us - what might change in our lives? it's a's dangerous, it's all grace.

  10. Y'all, I'm sorry I've been gone all day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Muthah+, I'm amazed you felt well enough to read anything!
    Patty, welcome! I agree with your assessment. If you were putting together a resource, who might you include?
    Some of my deepest experiences of Lent came hand in hand with a little Lenten booklet written by members of the church I belonged to before and during seminary. We were fortunate to have a church member who got us started on the project. Reading personal stories of wilderness times, especially when I recognized the names of the writers, meant a great deal as I experienced my own desert seasons.

  11. I really enjoyed the parts I read and when Hubby borrowed it he loved it. His easter sermon was based on one of the essays. I think this is a book we'll use for a long time. Songbird, maybe we should use the advent companion next fall.

  12. i'm not a member, but i read y'all quite regularly. songbird, thanks for suggesting this book, because that's what prompted me to buy it. i probably only made it through about 1/3 of the selections, in total. i look forward to finishing the rest of it next year.

    i agree with you on madeleine l'engle's judas piece, and that it is the most hopeful approach ever. i took such comfort from it! it's funny that my sister and i were just discussing this yesterday, as she has a friend who is dying of a painful cancer and he is incredibly bitter toward everything relating to god. i have to believe in a merciful god.

    like patty, i found the updike poem powerful.

  13. I don't have my book with me, only the journal I took notes item that stood out to me was the essay (p. 41) regarding the cleansing power of blood to a body system. "Washed in the blood of the Lamb-y" language is hard for me. This gave me another window on it.

    Overall I was glad to read this book and for the exposure to many (for me) new voices.

  14. I didn't read as regularly as I should have, but I wanted it to be uplifting and not a chore. In preparing for a newspaper interview about Easter I read ahead to the resurrection section to have some more polished language on the tip of my tongue.

    I loved #48 "Merry Easter?" by Frederica Mathewes-Green. Never heard of her before, but I loved the seriousness with which she takes the celebration of Easter, and how she acknowledges that this can be a hard one to go through with children.

    In our Palm/Passion Sunday worship this year we played a slideshow of an activity the kids did in Sunday School where they dressed up in costumes and basically acted out the passion from just after the Last Supper through the resurrection. They'd set a scene and take a picture, then move on to the next. It wasn't intended to be used anywhere other than Sunday School, but I had someone set it to a reading of Scripture and we used it in worship.

    It was pretty amazing to see THAT story acted out by children, even Jesus on the cross. I read this offering the afternoon after we did this slideshow and the reading and the act in worship just really seemed to connect.

  15. I can't believe I missed the discussion on the book, but that is what happens when you have a district minister's meeting, and then have to get out of town.

    I have benefited from this book going through Lent. I used the BBT "Truth to Tell" for a devotional I had to do during Lent, giving her hte credit, while reflecting on what she had to say.

    So many of the writings were what I needed to read during this season.

    I am now ready to move into the Resurection readings. Yea.

    I wasnt bothered by the atonement theory or the "stodgy" readings. I guess that comes from my background or trying to take what I need and leave the rest.

    I did like Norris, BBT, and some others. I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't really bring forth the one's I liked. I'll try to get the book and the blog together.

    Thanks for the leadership here Songbird.

    Who knows what you will come back with from the Big Event and retreat.

    I also like your question of who would I use to put together a book?


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