Tuesday, April 15, 2014

book review - Theology from Exile: The Year of Matthew, Commentary on the Revised Comon Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity

I've got a number of promised book reviews to get up here on my blog... and here is one.

Theology in Exile: The Year of Matthew is volume 2 of a series of commentaries on the lectionary readings.  Let me make a few disclaimers.  I preach from the Revised Common Lectionary almost every week.  For those who are unfamiliar with the lectionary, it is a selection of scripture readings including a gospel reading, epistle, psalm, and history (usually but not always from the Hebrew Scriptures) for every Sunday in the church year over a three year cycle.  The idea is that through that three year cycle all of the major themes of the Bible are lifted up.  The downside of using a lectionary is that there are some passages that are never read in worship.  The upside is that the lectionary pushes the preacher to consider passages which may be ignored because they are difficult or challenging to the preacher's theology.  It also does push the preaching in a certain arc.

some of my commentaries
I also love commentaries.  I understand that the books in the Bible were written centuries ago in situations radically different from the world in which I live.  I need to understand that setting to address those scriptures in a meaningful way.  I also know that men and women of great wisdom and deep commitment have spent centuries wrestling with the meaning of those words and applying them to their lives.  A wise preacher tries to listen for their experiences and advise.  So, I have lots of commentaries.  Some are on individual books, others are series, and I have one series that addresses the weekly lectionary readings.  Some of aimed at scholarly work while others are directed at preaching.  I am always looking for another to add to my collection.  When this one became available for free for review.  I jumped on it.

The author, Sea Raven, is an associate at the Westar Institute (home of the Jesus Seminar) and is part of the Unitarian Universalist tradition.  Her blog is found at  http://www.gaiarising.org

I was looking forward to getting a more liberal perspective as the vast majority of my commentaries reflect a mainline view.  That you get and it is very helpful.  She poses 4 questions that permeate the series and which I find very helpful...
  1. 1)  What is the nature of God? Violent or non-violent?
  2. 2)  What is the nature of Jesus’s message? Inclusive or exclusive?
  3. 3)  What is faith? Literal belief, or trust in God’s realm of distributive justice-
  4. 4)  What is deliverance? Salvation from hell or liberation from injustice?
She does choose a format that I find less than helpful though.  Rather than address the 4 lections for the week individually as is done in the excellent series Feasting on the Word, she treats the readings together, focusing on the common themes which presumably underscore the choices made by those picking the passages.  She does focus more on the gospel readings but I wish she had either just excluded any reference to the other passages or addressed them all separately.

All in all, I found the volume a helpful addition and it will be used when I come around to year two of the lectionary (beginning in Advent of  2014).

Disclosure of material connection:  I received this book for free from the author or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network.  I was not required to write a positive review and the views expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16CFR part 255.

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