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Gathered Around Words: An Invitation to Read Together this Fall

Erik in pinkI’m a reader, and I always have been.  The woman who cared for me before I was old enough to start pre-school used to put letter books in my hands and I’d sit happily while turning the pages. My dad used to have to bribe me to leave the house and play outside during the summer, because I was always parked on the sofa with my nose in a book. Books open up worlds of ideas and have been great companions to many of us in our faith. I think it’s no accident that the Gospel of John starts, “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)

As we return to the familiar rhythms of fall, a time many of us associate with classrooms and school, I’d like to invite you to consider finding a book to read with other members of St. Luke’s. Below you’ll find some of my recommendations, based on topics I’ve heard bubbling up around the congregation and themes I’ve spotted in our life together. In years past I’ve often picked the book and then waited to see who was interested. This time around I’m encouraging you to sign up for books you’d like to read, and once we get four or five people who’ve indicated an interest, we’ll pull you together and help you decide when you’d like to read the book, how often you’d like to meet, where you’d prefer to gather, and how the conversation will be facilitated.

On one level, my hope is that you’ll find something in these books to stretch your mind, expand your vision, and deepen your faith. On another level though, I’m hoping these books give you an excuse to gather with people at St. Luke’s that you already know, that you’d like to know better, or that you’ve been trying to get to know. Take a look at these suggestions, then look for the sign up posters in the back of the sanctuary on Sunday morning.

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Falling Upward“Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr

A fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life.

In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or “gone down” are the only ones who understand “up.” Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness. This book explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness, offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens, and explores how loss is gain.

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We Make the Road by Walking“We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation” by Brian McLaren

Explore what a difference an honest, living, growing faith can make in our world today.

The fifty-two (plus a few) weekly readings can each be read aloud in 10-12 minutes, and offer a simple curriculum of insightful reflections and transformative practices. Organized around the traditional church year, these readings give an overview of the whole Bible and guide an individual or a group of friends through a year of rich study, interactive learning, and personal growth. 

Perfect for home churches, congregations, classes, or individual study, each reading invites you to: 

  • Cultivate an honest, intelligent understanding of the Bible and of Christian faith in 21st century
  • Engage with discussion questions designed to challenge, stimulate, and encourage
  • Re-imagine what it means to live joyfully and responsibly in today’s world as agents of God’s justice, creativity, and peace

If you’re seeking a fresh way to experience and practice your faith, if you’re a long-term Christian seeking new vitality, or if you feel out of place in traditional church circles, this book will inspire and activate you in your spiritual journey.

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51fSgKq+1BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now” by Walter Brueggemann

In the midst of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative.

Discussions about the Sabbath often center around moralistic laws and arguments over whether a person should be able to play cards or purchase liquor on Sundays. In this volume, popular author Walter Brueggemann writes that the Sabbath is not simply about keeping rules but rather about becoming a whole person and restoring a whole society. Importantly, Brueggemann speaks to a 24/7 society of consumption, a society in which we live to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess. We want more, own more, use more, eat more, and drink more. Keeping the Sabbath allows us to break this restless cycle and focus on what is truly important: God, other people, all life. Brueggemann offers a transformative vision of the wholeness God intends, giving world-weary Christians a glimpse of a more fulfilling and simpler life through Sabbath observance.

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The New Parish“The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community” by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight J. Friesen

In a world of increasing mobility, fragmenting relationships and a loss of any real sense of covenant, we need learn again to attend to the various people and places where God has located us. 

“When . . . faith communities begin connecting together, in and for the neighborhood, they learn to depend on God for strength to love, forgive and show grace like never before. . . . The gospel becomes so much more tangible and compelling when the local church is actually a part of the community, connected to the struggles of the people, and even the land itself.” Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen have seen—in cities, suburbs and small towns all over North America—how powerful the gospel can be when it takes root in the context of a place, at the intersection of geography, demography, economy and culture. This is not a new idea—the concept of a pari
sh is as old as Paul’s letters to the various communities of the ancient church. But in an age of dislocation and disengagement, the notion of a church that knows its place and gives itself to where it finds itself is like a breath of fresh air, like a sign of new life.

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Slow Church“Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus” by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison

High-Speed Internet. Rapid Rewards. Quick Trips. Fast Food. Fast … Church?

The church is often idealized (or demonized) as the last bastion of a bygone era, dragging our feet as we’re pulled into new moralities and new spiritualities. We guard our doctrine and our piety with great vigilance. But we often fail to notice how quickly we’re capitulating, in the structures and practices of our churches, to a culture of unreflective speed, dehumanizing efficiency and dis-integrating isolationism. In the beginning, the church ate together, traveled together and shared in all facets of life. Centered as they were on Jesus, these seemingly mundane activities took on their own significance in the mission of God. In Slow Church, Chris Smith and John Pattison invite us to leave franchise faith behind and enter into the ecology, economy and ethics of the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loved the church.

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This is just a starting point … I could go on and on, as any of you who’ve seen the leaning towers of unread books on my desk can attest. You have books to recommend as well, and I’d be just as happy if any of you brought in sign-up posters of your own and starting recruiting for a reading club among our community. Let’s all keep looking for ways to offer invitations throughout our congregation into deeper relationship with one another and with the God who makes us one.

Happy reading!

Pastor Erik

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  1. Pingback: Sermon: Sunday, September 7, 2014: Forest Sunday, Season of Creation | By Proclamation

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