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A Way in the World by V.S. Naipaul My rating: 2 of 5 stars I admire Naipaul's writing. He may be the best living writer in the English language. But I did not enjoy this particular novel. It is a series of autobiographical reflections on revolutions from colonialism experienced in his native Trinidad and Africa and also a series of sketches of different figures from the histories of those revolutions and further back in history--particularly Sir Walter Raleigh and Francicso de Miranda. The sections set in Trinidad and Venezuela are a haunting picture of centuries of their history. But the... Continue reading
To God Be the Glory 2 Chronicles 5:1-14 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 17 September 2017 "I play the notes as they are written but it is God who makes the music." That was the belief of Johann Sebastian Bach, the greatest composer the world has ever seen. I was reading about Bach this week as I prepared for this, my first sermon in our autumn series Reformed, in which we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Guided by the adage "the church is always reformed, always reforming," we... Continue reading
Thursday James Longenbach Because the most difficult part about making something, also the best, Is existing in the middle, Sustaining an act of radical imagination, I simmered a broth: onion, lemon, a big handful of mint. The phone rang. So with my left Hand I answered it, Sautéing the rice, then adding the broth Slowly, one ladle at a time, with my right. What’s up? The miracle of risotto, it’s easy to miss, is the moment when the husks dissolve, Each grain of rice releasing its tiny explosion of starch. If you take it off the heat just then, let... Continue reading
This fall our worship series is entitled Reformed as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation with a focus on various doctrines of the Reformation and what they might mean to us today. First up this morning was Soli Deo Gloria--Glory to God Alone. In my sermon prep I was reading about Johann Sebastian Bach, as he signed all his compositions Soli Deo Gloria. When Katie, my Associate Minister, asked if I'd do the conversation with the children in worship, I said I would, "And I'm going to talk about Bach." Here's how that went. Kids... Continue reading
The Interfaith Prayer Book: New Expanded Edition by Ted Brownstein My rating: 3 of 5 stars This has been my devotional book the last few months. It has been enjoyable to experience the prayers of different faith traditions and thus enrich my own spirituality. View all my reviews Continue reading
In this week's Brainpickings email, curious thoughts on the connection between empathy and time. Continue reading
An interesting piece on Angela Merkel's father, who was a pastor. The piece is well written, leaving me wanting a longer, more in-depth profile. The closing image of the article is profoundly moving. Continue reading
This is the best introduction and summary of Barth I think I've read. The critique is also very good, though I don't fully agree with it. Continue reading
Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses: With Introduction, Commentary, and Study Guide by Timothy J Wengert My rating: 3 of 5 stars Timothy Wengert's translation is easy and engaging to read, and his introductions and commentary are informative and helpful. A good refresher as the 500th anniversary of the theses approaches. My favourite segment was from Luther's 1518 sermon on indulgences, which reveals Luther's fun, fiery pen: Although some now want to call me a heretic, nevertheless I consider such blathering not big deal, especially since the only ones doing this are some darkened minds, who have never even smelled a Bible,... Continue reading
The Revelatory Body: Theology as Inductive Art by Luke Timothy Johnson My rating: 2 of 5 stars Johnson begins the book: Two simple convictions animate this exercise in theology. The first is that the human body is the preeminent arena for God's revelation in the world, the medium through which God's Holy Spirit is most clearly expressed. God's self-disclosure in the world is thus continuous and constant. The second conviction is that the task of theology is the discernment of God's self-disclosure in the world through the medium of the body. Therefore, theology is necessarily an inductive art rather than... Continue reading
David Brooks writes that in our crisis of national solidarity, we need to reconnect with the land. Continue reading
This essay argues that it was not philosophical ideas that gave rise to religious liberty but the changing nature of the political state which made society open to toleration. A point from the conclusion: Finally, the history of how religious freedom came to be is a reminder that commitment to liberal values alone is not enough for liberalism to flourish. It requires a suitable political and economic foundation. Continue reading
Here is a good paragraph from Links by Nuruddin Farah. "Truth-telling" sits awkwardly on evil men, Jeebleh thought. Caloosha's distended belly was filled with sentiments of war and wickedness, which was why he looked so ugly, and so unhealthy. Attrition retarded his brain, evil dulled his imagination, did not sharpen it. Continue reading
Links by Nuruddin Farah My rating: 3 of 5 stars A fascinating read. This story is set in Somalia during the long civil war, after the American presence. The main character is a Somali exiled to the United States during the dictatorship who returns to honor his deceased mother and reconnect with the people he hasn't seen in decades. It is a mesmerizing account of how he falls into the violent chaos of the city. ***Spoiler Alert*** There was so much mystery and tension that I kept waiting for there to be some dramatic turn or revelation near the end,... Continue reading
This delicious paragraph: Books, moreover, are often the way in which our friendships with our fellow students and teachers begin and in which these friendships become cemented. I’m not a big fan of Francis Schaeffer, but he can be a point of contact—something to agree with or argue about. The same is true for all writers who tackle big questions. Read Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and John Stuart Mill, and not just because you might learn something. Read them because doing so will provide a sharpness and depth to your conversations. To a great extent, becoming an educated person means adding... Continue reading
David Brooks writes about how race, the issue on which the Republican Party was founded, is now ripping it apart. Continue reading
An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira My rating: 4 of 5 stars With very precise language the author crafts a rich and even mysterious story about a painter's encounter with the Argentine frontier. I will now definitely read more of Aira's work. An example: Travel and painting were entwined like fibers in a rope. One by one, the dangers and difficulties of a route that was tortuous and terrifying at the best of times were transformed and left behind. And it was truly terrifying: it was hard to believe that this was a route... Continue reading
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy My rating: 3 of 5 stars Often beautiful sentences and rich characters populate this mess of a novel. I believe it is supposed to be a mess, but that doesn't stop me from think it is messy. I came away from reading it with a heavy sadness about the deplorable state of our world. The last novel I read that gave me insight into Kashmir was Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown. The Kashmir elements of Roy's novel are much more difficult to take. Horrible things have transpired in the last thirty years,... Continue reading
A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism by Kristin Kolbes Dumez My rating: 4 of 5 stars A revelation that Katharine Bushnell, an evangelical feminist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century developed a complete theological reconstruction and new interpretation of the Bible that anticipated developments of the 1970's sometimes as often as 80 years before. Dumez is trying to recover this forgotten figure and use her as a resource to help 21st century Christian women in the global church to draw simultaneously upon Christian faith from an evangelical hermeneutic and the feminist... Continue reading
We Need a Holiday Esther 9:20-23 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 20 August 2017 Sidnie White Crawford, a Hebrew Bible scholar who teaches at UNL, gives this introduction to the Book of Esther: The Hebrew book of Esther is an exciting, fast-paced story that has captured the imagination of Jews over the centuries, although it has been less well-received by the Christian church. It contains all the elements of a popular romance novel: a young and beautiful heroine; a wicked, scheming villain; a wise older father figure; and an inept and laughable ruler. In... Continue reading
The conservative writer R. R. Reno has an excellent essay on Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which is kinda surprising. An excerpt: So it was for me the first time I read On the Road more than twenty-five years ago. A bohemian fellow traveler of sorts, I had already been on my own road, hitchhiking many times across America. The book had a paradoxically sobering effect as I read it one day on the front porch of a hostel in France, outside of Chamonix, overlooking a meadow in late spring bloom. When I finished I felt a judgment on my... Continue reading