Saturday, November 26, 2011

LHP Review: Doctrine at Prayer and in Life





Bell, John L. 101 Things They Never Told Me About Jesus: A Beginner's Guide to a Larger Christ. Chicago: GIA/Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, 2009. 144 Pages. Paper. $15.00. (LHP)


Lawton, Liam. The Hope Prayer: Words to Nourish the Soul.  Chicago: GIA, 2009. 252 Pages. Cloth. $21.95. (L)


Doctrine remains important.




And especially in inspirational and devotional literature.


Not another book about what we already know, but one about what we overlook.

In Ten Things They Never Told Me about Jesus, John Bell explores facets of the personal life, relationships, and ministry of Jesus, which are seldom the stuff of preaching or conversation, but which are all rooted in the Gospels and are necessary if we are to be freed from the passive stereotypes that still dominate thinking about Christ.
Much of the book is rooted in encounters with people on the periphery of religious life and in situations where politeness was not a prerequisite for discussing faith. (Publisher's website)

My personal comfort level was stretched as a reader of Ten Things. Bell writes to comfort the afflicted, but especially to afflict the comfortable. His orthodoxy is not in question. For me, his clarity is. A case in point is the end of chapter 7. Just when it sounds like he is going off of the deep end (92-92), he clarifies the uniqueness of Christ (93). Still unclear for me is the "salvation status" of those he commends while he maintains that Christ is unique.


I love that Bell can ask humbling questions (74ff). I appreciate that he can make us uncomfortable with the uncomfortable humanness of Christ (120ff). I wrestle with the propriety of his Bibliography (137). I would not necessarily endorse any of the titles personally, save one. Bell makes his readers think. That would be a very valuable quality in a guest speaker. He is uneven in such shock-value thought-provoking questions in print. There is more chance for misunderstanding (not unlike sarcasm in email; see 10, 40, 82, 84, 107). There is much in this brief volume that would benefit from fresh eyes and ears that could improve a second edition.


In preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord, I commend to your attention a revision of "O Little Town" (35).

Liam Lawton's writing provides a marked contrast to John. L. Bell.


Liam Lawton is widely known for his spiritual and inspirational music, which has touched the lives of many thousands of people across the world. In The Hope Prayer, he has created a beautiful book of over forty new prayers-each one expressed in his distinctive and illuminating voice. Including selected song lyrics, this book will take the reader on a comforting journey of the soul, across all kinds of terrain.

Here are prayers of friendship, love, death, healing, illness, calm, inspiration, marriage, Christmas, providence, remembering, working, celebrating life-all brought together through the theme of hope.

The Hope Prayer is a book to be treasured, offering strength, sustenance and wisdom for today's challenging world. (Publisher's website)

Where Bell excels in afflicting the comfortable, Lawton's strength is the gentle and caring way he comforts the afflicted. 

Lutheran readers will kindly disregard Marian references and prayers to saints and angels (128, 162, 176, 206, ). Mysticism and pilgrimage also influence Lawton's prayers and meditations (19, 24, 26, 189ff, 219ff).


Lawton's challenge is also one of clarity: specificity. Many prayers have unclear yet assumed references to the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They could sadly be taken out of context. 


I focused upon the content of his prayers and meditations in a Christian context. My favorites were

the Prayer of the Musician (54ff), his confession of Christ in the midst of darkness (113, et al), Prayer of Forgiveness (199), and Prayer to Jesus (202).



GIA continues to present the whole Church with unique, thought-provoking, and comforting resources. I personally would appreciate more that helps me as a Lutheran Christian re-embrace the publisher's original Gregorian Chant content.



The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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