It has been a while since our last post and that has been both intentional and by necessity. We wanted to allow time for everyone to see that last review of Chris Smith’s spectacular new book Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish – I asked you to re-send my reflections, and almost begged you to buy the book. If you haven’t yet read that review I hope you do as it shared much of dearest things to our hearts (the role of reading, learning, Kingdom vision and missional outreach) and explained why Reading for… is such a great book to enjoy and from which to gain missional energy and vision and quite a bit of helpful insight. I don’t mind featuring a quintessentially Hearts & Minds-ish column for a while, hoping many read it. I think it’s one you should save and send, discuss and hopefully act upon. That is, buy the book!
But, also, we’ve been out on the road at a string of complicated set-ups, traveling to three out-of-town locations to create three different displays (and doing workshops at two of the events.) Beth and I have relied on the kindness of others to help lug some heavy boxes after midnight and some hard-working staff back at the store to order and compile, box and re-box, carry and stack, lug and load, box after box after box. And don’t even ask about our spooky encounter with bad brakes in the big green van heading North on Route 15. We are grateful for God’s protection and rejoiced when we at last pulled into Dallastown in the middle of a very late night.
HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, 30% OFF SALE – FOR A VERY LIMITED TIME
So, here’s a bit of a tribute to those trips – we’re told people like to hear this kind of summary of some of the places we go and the books we sell here and there. Setting things out on display tables with our crates and shelves in special pop-up book rooms does remind us of some of our favorite books to promote, or special books that some groups need.
Ergo, here we go: a FIVE DAY SALE, ANY BOOK MENTIONED, 30% OFF while supplies last. This sale expires at end of day Sunday, June 19. 2016.
SELLING BOOKS WITH LOCAL LUTHERANS
Our first big set-up last week was with our good friends at the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.) This is the denomination in which Beth grew up and her home church has produced a number of active lay delegates, folks doing dedicated social service, and a few ministers of Word and Sacrament and it is fabulous to see old friends. We respect so much of what they do and the space to set up at Messiah College is grand. It took four of us 12 hours to do the big display (just to give you a sense of how much and how good we try to make it.) It was a good event – they did their denominational business, worshiped well – ah, our local Lutherans know how to worship well – and there was a good spirit in the place, busy as they were. They don’t push books much at their event, so not many particular titles sold well. I don’t do any stand-up book announcements (I know, they don’t know what their missing) so sales are sort of smattered all over the room, from spiritual formation to congregational revitalization, from memoirs and light-hearted stuff to a few books of Biblical and theological studies, social concern and children’s books. We even sold a silly board book Dancing With Jesus which (features a host of miraculous moves) and includes dance steps.
One book they did announce, though, is for a project they call One Synod One Book – yep, they attempt to get every parish on board reading together. How cool is that? In past seasons they’ve used the lovely God in a Bag of Groceries and the important The New Jim Crow; last season they read the new edition of Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution. Although the Synod invites folks to buy them at a discount from us, we suspect most parishes either don’t do the program or they get the books elsewhere. Still, it is exciting to think of even a handful of churches with reading groups and book clubs, learning to deepen their love for God, their hunger for justice, through talking together around the printed page. I wonder if your own church might take a lesson from their good idea?
At the Synod gathering they announced next season’s One Synod One Book selection, a meaty study of the gospels, Telling Tales About Jesus: An Introduction to the New Testament Gospels by Warren Carter (Fortress Press; $39.00.) We sold a good handful at the event, and hope that others will buy multiple copies soon. It’s a fascinating introduction to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bringing together contemporary critical scholarship and a high regard for the power of the Jesus stories for daily life and discipleship and for faith communities in their mission in the world. His explanation of much about the nature of the political background of the Roman Empire is informative and his showing the different purposes of the four different accounts is helpful.
We’ve got plenty here, still, so if you are interested, right now is a time to order it at this extra 30% discount. When this sale ends, we will continue to sell it to ELCA book groups at 20% off, but for the next few days we offer this extra BookNotes savings.
The biggest seller at the Lutheran gathering was, not surprisingly, October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day That Changed the World by Martin E. Marty (Paraclete; $19.99.) Dr. Marty is one of the preeminent Christian writers and leaders of the last 50 years so a new book by him is a treat and a treasure. He’s a Lutheran, so a new Martin Marty book was perfect to feature – it was greatly appreciated (by those who saw it, at least.) With the upcoming celebration of the 500th anniversary of the eve of the Protestant reformation, this is a great first salvo of what I suspect will be a big topic in religious publishing this year. I thought it was fantastic, and funny, even, that a Jesuit (James Martin) wrote the forward. Another Catholic has a blurb on the back and Richard Mouw (a Presbyterian) offers a lovely endorsement. I have to admit not everybody understood my comments about the curiosity of Catholics endorsing this book; perhaps our Protestant churches, for better or worse, don’t know much about what happened in October 1517. Yikes!
An important Lutheran scholar, Timothy Wengert (who has his own book on Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses) has been doing a major project, leading a team doing annotated editions – big, expensive, glorious, hardbacks with Fortress Press – of the complete works of Martin Luther. We didn’t sell any of those (even though we were told a Fortress Press editor was around who might have pushed them, but I gather never visited the large book room, a great disappointment.)
But what we really hoped we would have sold were the brilliant paperbacks, oversized, handsomely done, excerpts of the big annotated hardback texts. We had four of Luther’s must-read volumes in these good translations with lots of helpful study notes and annotations in the big margins: The Freedom of the Christian, Treatise on Good Works, The Bondage of the Will, and The Larger Catechism. We commend these classics of the Protestant reformation, these brilliant writings from this legendary Christian leader. The annotations help and the handsome feel of these study editions makes these really nice to have and useful for groups.
These regularly sell for just $14.99 each but we have them on sale, now, at 30% OFF – until June 16, 2016. There will be more released in this series.
OFF TO LANCASTER TO STUDY ‘MERCERSBURG THEOLOGY’ WITH AN ECUMENICAL CREW
We boxed up these books at the end after midnight in the muggy, soft rain, and struggled to stay awake heading home. Early the next morning we repacked and selected a different array of titles to set up – again, lugging in during a crazy downpour – at Lancaster Theological Seminary at their annual Mercersburg Society Conference.
Now is not the time to explain all of the fascinating fascination with the “mediating theologians” of 19th century Germany and how they influenced the likes of Pennsylvania German Reformed folks like Nevin and Schaff – who taught at Mercersburg, PA, before they moved their seminary to what became the now-Ivy League Franklin & Marshall, and the beautiful, small, UCC seminary across the street. Suffice it to say that these “high Eucharistic Calvinists” are of interest to UCC friends seeking substantive theological discourse and renewal within their own denomination, and that there is a growing interest within conservative PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) folks. To have Dr. Annette Aubert from Westminster Theological Seminary lecturing about her sophisticated, scholarly book, The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology (Oxford University Press; $78.00) at an admittedly pluralistic/liberal seminary like Lancaster, with rigorous conversations with Barthians (and, for instance, Church History professor Dr Anne Thayer, with her PhD from Harvard — and a degree in science! –who edited Christ, Creeds and Life and Dr. Lee Barrett, who wrote a book comparing Kierkegaard and Augustine, Eros and Self-Emptying) was tremendous. You should pick up on sale, now, his great, contemporary translation of the Heidelberg Catechism, published by Pilgrim Press; it is usually $9.99 but on sale it is only $6.99, until Sunday, or as long as we have some left.
You can read my ruminations about and book ideas from last year’s Mercersburg Society conference here. My daughter Stephanie and I were delighted to again serve this feisty, fun, interesting academic conference. To be invited to do three workshops about books was a real honor that I did not take lightly. And what a joy to again be with the Right Reverend Dr. Nathan Baxter (former dean of the National Cathedral) and other ecumenical participants. Kudos to Mercersburg Society President Dr. Carol Lytch for hosting such a curious and (let us pray) consequential event.
If you want to come up to speed about this revival of Mercersburg theology, we invite you to buy The Mercersburg Theology and the Quest for Reformed Catholicity by Brad Littlejohn (Pickwick Publications; $25.00) Brad is a young and brilliant participant who has served as general editor of a set of Nevin and Schaeff’s stuff in an ongoing study series published by Wipf & Stock. Brad’s own book may be the best intro to this of which we know — substantive and important. Get it now at 30% OFF, while supplies last, until June 19, 2016.
We have every major book we could find about Mercersburg, although we have now on sale a few of the big Mercersburg Society study volumes in extra quantities so we can sell them now at 30% OFF, too. (Yes, why supplies last, up until Sunday.)
- The Mystical Presence: The Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper by John Williamson Nevin, edited by Linden J. DeBie ($44.00)
- Coena Mystica: Debating Reformed Eucharistic Theology John Williamson Nevin & Charles Hodge edited by Linden J. DeBie ($29.00)
- The Incarnate Word: Selected Writings on Christology John Williamson Nevin edited by William B. Evans ($34.00)
We were thrilled to finally get to meet and hear Peter J. Leithart, a rock star of sorts in some neo-Reformed circles. (See his very cool Theopolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies HERE.) As was no surprise for those that knew his work, even his blogged column at First Things, Leithart was provocative, thoughtful, learned, eloquent, and kind. He has studied Mercersburg stuff well, even as his he stands on different ground to appropriate it than the UCC and RCA folk there at the Society gathering.
Dr. Leithart has written bunches of books – from Deep Comedy to a small biography of Jane Austin, from a collection of wedding sermons to his justly famous Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom and several Bible commentaries. We stock them all, and offer them even now at 30% OFF, this week only.
Might we most heartily suggest these two, though, all offered this week at our 30% OFF sale:
Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience (Brazos Press) $20.00 This is brilliant, nothing quite like it in print. I love books about the spirituality of the ordinary, and believe strongly that reading about the doctrine of creation — the reality of God’s good world, here and now, as a created order upheld by God’s own Word — is vital. This is neither a straight, typical study of the Trinity, although you will learn about that anew, nor a standard affirmation of God’s presence in the daily, although it gets at that “creation regained” worldview and the nearness of God in the world quite nicely. But it is more.. It does just what is says in the title.
Listen to what the brilliant John Frame writes:
This is the most delightful book I have read in a long time. One of its
delights is its clear, gracefully written prose, which easily engages
the reader. The book presents a cogent case for a highly significant
point: the whole created world images the divine Trinity. Leithart
argues this thesis comprehensively, demonstrating that the divine
perichoresis–the mutual indwelling of the three persons of the
Trinity–is reflected in every area of human life, including perception,
thought, language, sex, time, space, music, and imagination. Leithart’s
argument has the potential, therefore, to bring major change to our
study of all these areas of reality, and thus to all the ways we live in
Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, Mission (InterVarsity Press) $30.00 This is his latest and perhaps his most significant yet. If you buy serious theology books at all, this is one to add to your collection. And if you don’t, it is one that may still fascinate you.
I simply can’t improve upon the learned consideration of James K.A. Smith, who calls it “monumental” and writes:
When you read Peter Leithart, you suddenly realize how timid most Christian theologians are, tepidly offering us a few ‘insights’ to edify our comfort with the status quo. Leithart is like a lightning strike from a more ancient, more courageous Christian past, his flaming pen fueled by biblical acuity and scholarly rigor. In this book, he does it again? Here is the City of God written afresh for our age, asking a question you didn’t know to ask but now can’t avoid: Why is the cross the center of human history? Couldn’t God have found another way? Leithart’s answer — this book — is a monumental achievement.
Matthew Levering of Mundelein Seminary offers a rave analysis, and then says,
Leithart’s dazzling biblical and ecumenical manifesto merits the closest attention and engagement.
Reformational philosopher and theologian Craig Bartholomew says,
Peter Leithart is one of our best and most creative theologians. In this wide-ranging book Leithart shows that doctrine is not some abstract entity disconnected from contemporary life but is in fact deeply relevant and pregnant with social and political insights. Leithart is biblically, theologically and culturally literate — a rare combination — and thus able to produce the sort of work we so badly need today.
OFF AGAIN TO THE PENN CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
The next leg of our Hearts & Minds book-selling road trip was to the lovely Susquehanna University – where I bumped into a sharp grad student from Taylor University who heard me speak at their leadership conference last February — to serve the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ at their annual gathering. They are a fun and pleasant group, their convention more leisurely then some, with good workshops and book announcements and time to browse. It’s a lot of work setting up these huge displays, and to be welcomed with such care is lovely. It was funny, too, seeing some clergy there who had been at Mercersburg event the day before, from an academic conference with papers mostly about the 19th century to the progressive ethos of this small denomination who says “God is Still Speaking…”
We thought you might like to see a few of the titles we sold well there, random stuff that we promoted at my workshops, or things that – frankly – we didn’t sell so well and have an abundance of now, overstock in the retail lingo. We offer these now at 30% OFF, while supplies last. As we’ve said above, this sale lasts through the end of day June 19, 2016.
Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing Andy Crouch (IVP) $20.00 Once again, this is a must-read, exceptionally well-done book, a personal favorite and one I am committed to promoting. It seems easy enough to explain — the four quadrant balance of vulnerability and power, and the need to understand how we can be strong and weak, culturally influential by taking meaningful risk in the world. But it doesn’t seem to grab most people, and it’s harder to sell then it should be. I have even said I’d give people their money back if they don’t think this is wise and thoughtful and good and important.
At the UCC event I even played this video clip to illustrate how articulate Andy is and how interesting and important his book is. Please, get this now, on sale, as it is surely one of the best books of the year. By the way, the theme for the Penn Central UCC tribe this year is “risking the new.” So there ya go.
[And, as an aside, some of you will be glad to know that in my workshop on reading, I suggested that for many of us the most “new” thing we could do would be to read old books. I cited C.S. Lewis, naturally, even though I don’t fully agree with his formula of reading two old books for every new one. It was fun poking around that whole business a bit, using phrases like “chronological snobbery” and “ancient future.” My Mercersburg Society friends — at least one who was friends with Karl Barth so many decades ago — would have been proud.]
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit James K.A. Smith (Brazos) $19.99 Yes, once again, I said this is the Book of the Year, incredibly important, potent, needed. I don’t know who needs this more, independent, evangelical community churches with their general distaste for sophisticated liturgy and seeker-sensitive piety or stodgy but often theologically fuzzy mainline churches. Across the spectrum, I hear no one saying this sort of stuff with such power and clarity and conviction and urgency. This is a readable and practical version of his heavier, serious works, Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom. You need this book, and I urge you to get a few. I’m not kidding.
Watch this great talk he gave at Bioloa University for an example of the stuff he’s talking about. You want the book, then, for sure!
Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus C. Christopher Smith (IVP) $17.00 Needless to say, I promoted Smith’s Reading for the Common Good but to do so had to set up the story with his previous, remarkable, very good 2015 book, Slow Church. I’m thrilled to offer it now, at this deep discount. Hey, talk about risking something new: how about reading a book calling us away from speed, efficiency, success, growth? How about this counter-cultural call to pay attention to our place, to care for community, for taking the notions of the “slow food movement” and applying them to church life, living out congregational life and mission in slower, more authentic, more Christ-like ways? What an amazing book, now with a study guide. We’ll do the discount even on that if you want.
At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete) $17.99 We sold a nice number of her earlier works by this thoughtful Wheaton College grad — Between Midnight and Dawn was her literary prayer book for Lent and Holy Week and her Light Upon Light is her literary guide to prayer for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. This one, At the Still Point, like the others, brings together all sorts of poets, writers, and literary works, but this one arranged for daily devotional reading during the long weeks of what some churches call ordinary time. It has beautiful endorsing blurbs by Leland Ryken and Kathleen Norris. (Pretty great, eh?) You should get this now, while we have some left at this bargain price. Kudos to Paraclete Press for doing such handsome volumes.
Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World Dennis Covington (Little Brown) $26.00 I can’t tell you how moving this book was, full of spunk and adventure and pathos and brilliant sentences and haunting episodes. I trust you know his 1995 American Book Award winner, Salvation on Sand Mountain, to this day one of the most unforgettable books I’ve ever read. What a great writer, her exploring through first hand memoir how violence and faith and hope and goodness can flourish, even as he wanders around war zones, crossing borders in the Middle East, and bringing back reports that are harrowing and humane and, hinting at hope.
As Ron Rash writes, “In his newest book, Dennis Covington addresses questions of doubt,
faith, and belief with the same uncondescending and unflinching manner
as in Salvation on Sand Mountain, but his scope is larger now, venturing into some of the world’s most brutal places in a search for faith, and hope. Revelation is a marvel.”
Christian Practical Wisdom: What It Is, Why It Matters Dorothy C. Bass, Kathleen A. Cahalan, Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, James R. Nieman, Christian B. Scharen (Eerdmans) $30.00 Wow, what a book, what an amazing contribution to the conversation about practices and uniquely Christian lifestyles, ways of being in the world. This focuses on wisdom, and, as the subtitle promises, “what it is and why it matters.” This is well worth every dollar, with over 300 pages in what Stephanie Paulsell (of Harvard Divinity School) calls “A beautifully written and much needed exploration of Christian practical wisdom.” This asks what (in the words of reviewer Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung of Calvin College) “dancing, imagining, and collaboration have to do with ‘gaining a heart of wisdom’ in what Charles Taylor calls ‘our secular age’? This creative and compelling case for Christian practical wisdom practices what it preaches. The authors “show” and “tell” how a more holistic kind of knowing — beyond academic expertise — is essential to an authentic and living theology.” This collaborative work by five distinguished scholars of Christian education invite us to really understand why wisdom matters and how we can renew an interest in it, in the academy and in our churches. As esteemed Christian educator Mary Boys says, “This substantive and beautifully composed book deserves to be read slowly, allowing the authors insights to take root and germinate.” Want to ponder deeply and live well? This is a very impressive book.
Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity Norman Wirzba (HarperOne) $25.99 I was surprised this didn’t sell well – it’s Norman Wirzba, people, theological voice of the land and place, friend of Wendell Berry, author of lovely radical books like Keeping the Sabbath and Making Peace with the Land and, recently, the brilliant From Nature to Creation. A book by a localist, a mainline theologian (he teaches at Duke) on love, and on how love is truly the heart of the Christian faith. Mainline folks who have generally been less hung up on proper doctrine have had this as their mantra, and this articulates it as well as anything, with good theological insight. I have before quoted this blurb by Eugene Peterson:
Love is one of the most hackneyed and trivialized words in our language. Wirzba wants to rescue this essential word from the dust bin of the everyday and restore it to usefulness. Connecting love and the hope of heaven, he provides a most satisfying and convincing conclusion.
Buy it today at our limited time 30% off deal and live with it for the summer. You won’t regret it.
The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs Peter Enns (HarperOne) $25.99 Well, just the hard-hitting title is enough to make you ponder, eh? I’ve met Enns a time or two and enjoyed him a lot, and have appreciated his previous books. So, I enjoyed plugging this, with a tiny bit of trepidation and some personal pathos, I’ll admit, as Enns is on a journey away from his creedal emphasis (he taught at Westminster Theological Seminary which subscribes rigorously to the details of the Westminster Confession) to a view that has earned kudos from writers and leaders such as Brian MClaren, Rachel Held Evans, and Richard Rohr all who have knowingly crossed conventional theological boundaries. Still, I think he is mostly right — many seriously Reformed thinkers have rejected as inconsistent with the best of Christian thinking the scholasticism behind Westminster — and his story of doubt and a painful exit from his previous faith community to a new home in more mainline circles is not tragic, but it is hard, and a bit worrisome. This is all indicative of much going on in evangelicalism and what some call post-evangelicalism in our time. It’s a worthwhile book in its own right; it is also valuable as an important glimpse into a recent movement.
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living Krista Tippett (Penguin Press) $28.00 This was naturally of interest among our mainline friends, and we are happy to commend it to you here. This beautifully written book emerges from Tippett’s acclaimed NPR show, “On Meaning” and expresses much she has learned from these many years of interviewing deep, good people.
This isn’t just a collection of Ms Tippett’s fabulous interviews (although that in itself would be great) but this is her reflection upon all she learned and pieced together from the remarkable people she interviewed over the years. She arranges the book somewhat as a memoir, dipping into her own childhood, but comes back to five main themes: words, the body, love, faith, and hope.
Becoming Wise is surely a beautiful, gentle, grand book.
Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life Paul F. M. Zahl (Eerdmans) $18.00 This is an older book that we really appreciate, and sometimes we bring to events where folks need a thoughtful, grace-filled theological vision for their ordinary lives. He looks at grace in every zone of life, from family life to international affairs, from one’s deepest faith convictions to public and social concerns. The great Peter Gomes, chaplain at Harvard, had a blurb on the back — who called the book itself an “act of grace” — as did Ligon Duncan III, who called Rev. Zahl “a formidable scholar, an admired colleague, and a courageous churchman.” This is a passionate, witty, important work, and we are glad to have a few copies left. Does the word theology maybe scare people away? It shouldn’t — this is just wonderful reading! By the way, we have this at a lesser expensive price to begin with (it now sells for $23.00, I believe) so with our 30% OFF deal, it’s quite affordable.
The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle N.T. Wright (Baylor University Press) $34.95 I’ll admit I didn’t succeed in convincing folks to take this (perhaps because of it’s salty price – I still think it is brilliant and very useful. We’re willing to sell them at this good discount to get a few into reader’s hand — it is the best deal for new copies you will find anywhere. I don’t like putting it like this, but some say that Tom is too conservative for most liberals and too liberal for most conservatives, which means all camps should read him. At any rate, this clearly organized book summarizes 5 key issues in Pauline studies and clarifies where he stands, in response to the questions of critics and recent reviewers. Yes, it’s Wright’s clear response to these chief questions, but it is equally a wonderful overview of the current discussion about the New Testament. You could read a chapter a day for a week and quickly accomplish nearly a semester’s worth of a fine course on Paul. Fantastic.
The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance Bethany Hoang & Kristen Deede Johnson (Brazos Press) $19.99 Once again, Brazos Press gives us a truly remarkable book, nicely bound, with great writing, rooted in solid Biblical commitments, but with relevant, urgent vision. This introduction to the Bible’s story of justice and its exploration of how we can be people who persevere with hope is perhaps the best thing I’ve seen on the subject. There are a lot of good books like this and this one surely deserves to be widely read. We’re sad it didn’t sell better among our mainline friends — perhaps they don’t know the stellar work of IJM with whom these women work. It is a groundbreaking book in some ways, and we’ll gladly sell it here on sale now just to move a few out the door. If you know anyone interested in the way God desires justice or how we can be people who respond to God’s call to do justice, don’t hesitate getting this as a great resource. Kudos to Brazos and the wonderful, gifted, passionate authors.
Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World Kent Annan (IVP) $16.00 I hope you may recall our telling of two other books by Kent over the years (Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle and After Shock, both set in amidst his hard and redemptive work in Haiti. This book steps back a bit to look at the deep stuff underneath the activism — “truthfully and beautifully rendered”as one review put it. What kind of people do we need to be to take up God’s suffering in the world, to take up the work of serving the hurting, to take up the Micah 6:8 challenge, to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God. If his other books have been, in a way, about mercy and justice, this one is about walking with God. What does that look like? What kind of practices allow us to be loving and kind? Can our spirituality form in us a “long obedience in the same direction” so we can sustain our passions and cares? This would make an excellent follow up to the above mentioned one by Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson, or, a great prelude to it. It’s a gem, a holy book about a holy project. Highly recommended.
Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us Shane Claiborne (HarperOne) $17.99 This is hot off the press and I so wish I could have promoted it more at these events. Books sometimes take some time to become known and few even knew this was coming. We were taking pre-orders a month ago, and we thank those who bought it early. For the next few days we will again offer this at a deep 30% discount – what a tender, careful, important book. Shane told me how hard he worked on this, how much research and conversation and heartbreak went into it, and I think it is a very readable, valuable resource. Please order it today!
How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World Robert Joustra & Alissa Wilkinson (Eerdmans) $16.00 My super smart friends at the Mercersburg Society conference snapped this up, realizing it drew on the seminal work of Charles Taylor, using his secularization theory as a lens through which to view pop culture stuff from The Walking Dead to Mad Men, Game of Thrones to House of Cards. How do we live in hope when the cultural malaise in our times is deepened by stories of dread? What a brilliant, serious, interesting work — I hope you saw my short review of it previously. This is amazing, rich, mature. Get it cheaper than usual, now, before the end times hit. You snooze, you lose.
Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks Walter Brueggemann (Westminster John Knox) $15.00 Walt Brueggemann sells a bit at these sorts of events, and we take his stuff anywhere we take Biblical studies. This is one of Brueggy’s books published last year and we feature it often. His newer one is the short and helpful Chosen? Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (WJK; $14.00) but as the Reality Grief Hope one is a sequel to his 1980s classic The Prophetic Imagination we really think it is important. I think his call to lament and grieve as a prelude to subversive hope is nothing short of a necessity in our time. If your pastor hasn’t read this yet, buy it for him or her immediately. And get one for yourself, too. By the way, folks love his Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No the Culture of Now (WJK; $14.00) and it very readable. Yay.
Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering Makoto Fujimura (IVP) $26.00 I have reviewed this at great length here at BookNotes before and hoped it would catch the attention of those seeing the big stack at our three different book displays. Yes, we took it to each, and proudly explained that we know Mako and have heard him talk about this book, his friendship with Martin Scorsese who is making a film — has been wanting to for over 30 years — of the Japanese novel Silence about which this book is an extended meditation. As it says on the beautiful back cover, in koan-like cadence,
In this world of pain and suffering,
God often seems silent.
But light is yet present in the darkness.
And silence speaks with hidden beauty and truth.
Talking the Walk: Let the Language of Theology Live Again Marva Dawn (Marva Dawn) $26.99 The local Lutherans brought Marva in to speak to them early this past Spring and we were delighted to connect with her again, if only briefly. (She is one of the great, great Christian writers of our time, and we are so honored that she once went out of our way to visit our bookstore in Dallastown!) This is a nearly unknown book of hers, originally published by Brazos, in a handsome hardback. It offers short mentions on various theological terms and why they are important for our faith and practice, in our lives and in our congregations. What a great book! Marva is one of the short list of authors that I will read anything she writes. This is one I bet you didn’t know about, eh? Get it from us, on sale, while supplies last.
The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms Timothy Keller & Kathy Keller (Viking) $19.95 I would hope that most BookNotes fans know that we esteemed the exceptionally intelligent Presbyterian church leader from NYC, and appreciate his no-nonsense, thoughtful, but always applicable Bible teaching. In this often tender year-long devotional, he and his wife ruminate on the Psalms, known as the Bible’s songbook (and a prayerbook Jesus surely would have known and used.) Two decades ago Keller began reading the entire Book of Psalms every month and these insights are drawn from his accumulated years of study (and, with important input from his wife who herself uses the Psalms, including during times battling a chronic illness.) Mainline parishioners often don’t buy as many serious books as do those in more evangelical churches its seems, but folks always like to hear about a good devotional. It was nice to be able to share these with those seeking a way into the practice of daily quiet time and Bible reading.
Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead Sara Miles (Jossey-Bass) $21.95 As you might guess, the edgy and beautiful writer Sara Miles – she is coming to the Welcome Table, an O and A congregation near Lancaster Seminary in late July – is popular among mainline folks these days. Her remarkable story, stunningly told in Take This Bread, of her conversion to Christ after receiving communion for the first time and her subsequent desire to start a food pantry in the sacred space of her San Fran Episcopal church, is well worth reading whether you agree with her opinions or not. This sequel to that book is oddly named, has a less than appealing cover, and is hardback, so it doesn’t sell as well, but I’ll tell you it is every bit as powerful and moving and inspiring as her first one. It is, doubtlessly, one of the most stimulating books I’ve read in years, and we were eager to promote it at our recent gigs. Alas, it languishes. Why o why? Folks, read this book! Again, agree or not with all of her radically inclusive theology and lefty politics, it is a very moving memoir and a delirious call to action in the world of hurt and need. If you like Anne Lamott or Nadia Bolz-Weber, you should read Sarah Miles.
Read these reviews to hear of how movingly it is written:
“Sara Miles is amazing, a wild, unique, funny Christian who puts her lack-of-money where her mouth is, which is in loving Jesus and taking care of God’s children. I love her work.”
“One of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read.”
“When Jesus calls, Sara Miles follows him into the beautiful and messy diversity of human life, where people long to be fed, healed, and forgiven, and discovers the vibrancy of Christian faith that often eludes the institutional church. If this is what it means to be a ‘Jesus freak, ‘ sign me up!”
–Diana Butler Bass
“This is a love story unabashedly, a love story between one woman and Jesus. It is also the toughest, tenderest, most textured, poignant, and substantial love story I have ever read.”
“Sara Miles writes gorgeous prose . . . She’s way too wound up for toned-down liberals, and way too out-of-the-shrink-wrap for straight-laced conservatives, and she calls both of them to a new vantage point. She has actually experienced something, and Someone, and by hearing her story, you start to catch what she’s caught: which includes a sense of being caught, and caught up, and fed, and empowered to feed others. A beautiful, joyful, raucous, reverent book.”
“Oh, what a wonderful book! Its exciting and dynamic Christianity would have put me completely to shame were it not for the glowing warm-heartedness with which Sara encourages us into the faith life, the Church, of the future. Instead of shaming us it offers us a witness at once solid and tantalizing of what it is to be hooked into the Gospel.”
–James Alison, Catholic priest and theologian
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People Nadia Bolz-Weber (Convergent Books)$23.00 Oh my, what a book. Again, like Sara Mile’s three books, Nadia is a popular voice that is edgy and radical and all about God’s grace, being inclusive and caring and creative in reaching out to and within a carnivalesque, postmodern world. I suppose you’ve heard of her tatted up sleeves and chest, shown well on the cover of her memoir Pastrix, and her colorful cussing, which makes for a really interesting read. (Hey, she’s in the tribe of Martin Luther, so don’t start on the cussing bit.) This second book is better than her first, sharing much about her church (House of All Sinners and Saints), her passion for the lost and marginalized, and how her goofy congregation navigated all manner of surprising changes in their church plant. They were okay, naturally, with the trannys and addicts and underground hipsters who they hoped to reach, folks similar to their own style from their own scene. When fairly white-bread, middle age guys in slacks from the suburbs began to show up, it challenged them profoundly. How ironic — they had to stretch themselves around God’s grace to be welcoming to those people, so not like themselves. Can we do the same, show grace to those we would rather avoid? Ha – what a book! Thank you, Nadia, for your honesty and color. Why not buy this for your next book club – and hold on! You will be surprised by its sheer beauty and admittedly provocative stories.
Live Like You Give a Damn: Join the Changemaking Celebration Tom Sine (Cascade Books) $24.00 I have mentioned this before and I can hardly express how many heros and leaders I admit have endorsed it — pages and pages of celebrations for this feisty book collecting great stories of young social entrepreneurs who are making a difference. In some ways this is a long-time sequel to his famous Mustard Seed Conspiracy or the great The New Conspirators, but this time showing how even those outside the churches can teach us much. This lifts up a new generation (and in some ways new kinds) of activists and invites us to join God in Christ as He is “bringing heaven to Earth.” Can we allow the Spirit to ignite our imaginations? Can we be innovative in solving today’s pressing problems? This is good stuff. We are glad to offer it now at this discounted price, just this week. It’s a winner, written by a friend and conversation partner, so do check it out, please!
The Spirituality of Wine Gisela H. Kreglinger (Eerdmans) $24.00 This is another book I was so happy to tell about, a book to promote among foodies and wine connoisseurs, but also to theologians, sustainable agriculture workers, Bible teachers and more. This is a thorough, lovely book which carefully explores the connection between Sunday worship and Monday work, between field and faith, that studies wine in the Bible and in the vineyard. The author works in a family vineyard which goes back hundreds of years (in Germany) and has given us here a book unlike any now in print.
The story and theology behind this book makes great sense, and it is endorsed by all kinds of readers. I suggested in one of my workshop that it has as delightfully diverse a bunch of endorsers as I rarely see on a book. Raves come from Alice Waters (famous food and sustainability activist, cookbook writers, and founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley) and heady theologian from Tubingen, Jurgen Moltmann. Add a blurb from Carol Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food Movement and a lovely forward by Presbyterian Eugene Peterson, and you can see what I mean. What a great book! Buy it now on sale, while supplies last.
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