Friday, February 13, 2015

Bread and Wine~ Lent and Easter Readings

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

Bread and Wine is a collection of seventy-two readings spanning all the themes of Lent and Easter. 
There are poems, prayers, meditations, excerpts from sermons and essays and lengthy theological tomes. 

The authors come from all over the world, from all ages and times. 

There is Kahlil Gibran, an early 20th century Lebanese poet raised as a Maronite Catholic. 
There is George MacDonald, a Scottish fantasy author and minister in the 1800s. 
There is Ernesto Cardenal, a Nicaraguan poet and cultural activist.
There is Walter J. Ciszek, a Jesuit priest who served within the Soviet Union.
There is Edna Hong, a Kierkegaard scholar and translator as well as a novelist. 
There is Peter Kreeft, a contemporary philosophy professor at Boston College. 

The material is arranged under five main headings, and I'll give you a few examples from each one. 

This section calls us to Come near to the Cross, Hear His words, See Ourselves, Repent, and then Go Forth. 
    The first selection is a poem by Oscar Wilde, with that plaintive cry "How else but through a broken heart can the Lord Christ enter in?" 
    Walter Wangerin speaks about Christ as the perfect Mirror, the one that terrifies and startles with its clarity- and yet heals us too. 
    "This mirror is made of righteous flesh and of divinity- and this one loves me absolutely."
     Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes about surrender: "Everything is yours, everything is from you and for you. Mine is to be satisfied with your work..." 
    Edna Hong describes the way Lent strips the soul and then Christ supplies His fullness. 

We are tempted to drowse like the Apostles when we should be awake, to use force like Peter to move the Kingdom forward, to distance ourselves from the common sinners who crucified Christ, to deny our Lord with words and deeds. 
     Phillip Berrigan calls us to "Watch, learn, act- for formula for a faithful and sane life." 
     Fleming Rutledge calls us to find ourselves in the crowd at Good Friday, "... you will also come to know the depth of your own participation in sin. and at the very same moment (this is the glory of Good Friday) you will come to know the true reality, the true joy and gladness, of the the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord." 
     Kahlil Gibran shouts in a whisper- "He came to make the human heart a temple, and the soul an altar, and the mind a priest." 

     Jurgen Moltmann: "At the point where men and women lose hope, where they become powerless and can do nothing more, the lonely, assailed and forsaken Christ waits for them and gives them a share in His passion. He is like the brother of the friend to whom one can confide everything, because he knows everything and has suffered everything that can happen to us- and more." 
     Mother Theresa, writing from Christ's perspective: "Do you thirst to be cherished? I thirst for you. That is how precious you are to me. Come to me and fill your heart and heal your wounds." 

    Thomas Howard meditates on the Crucifix. "It focuses things. It may even come to our rescue if words fail: the corpus, bowed in agony but with arms stretched wide, says, not in sentences but in its very shape, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.' " 
     Paul Tillich says: "No longer is the universe subject to the law of death out of birth. It is subjected to a higher law, to the law of life out of death... Since this moment the universe is no longer what it was; nature has received another meaning; history is transformed and you and I are no more what we were before."

     C. S. Lewis addresses this as only he can: "Something new has happened in the Universe, something as new as the first coming of organic life. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?"
     Karl Barth: "Even in blooming and healthy life, there is a yawning chasm, a deep pit that cannot be filled by any art of power of man. Only one word is sufficient... 'Jesus is victor!'-that is, resurrection." 

New Life~ 
      This last section began with a delightful surprise for me- a John Masefield poem! "The Everlasting Mercy."
      Alfred Kazin describes encountering the New Testament as a young Jew: "I tasted the rightness of each word on my tongue. It was like heaping my own arms with gifts. Surely I had been waiting for him all my life, our own Yeshua..."
As with Plough's Advent/Christ collection "Watch for the Light," this is a great choice if you want to hear various voices all coming together around Christ.
Obviously, this devotional does not stay within the confines of contemporary Evangelicalism. It's not a paragraph a day by popular people.
You may even have reservations about some contributor's theology, but every selection in here will prompt you to reflect. 
And if you let it, "Bread and Wine" will provide sustenance on the road of repentance and Resurrection rejoicing. 

I thank Plough Publishing House for providing me with a review copy. 

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