Below are the Book Study Lessons from our Tuesday Study Group that I have been able to upload to this site.
In this study we read through Richard Beck’s book Trains, Jesus, and Murder – The Gospel According to Johnny Cash. The book grew out of a bible study Beck leads at a local maximum-security prison. In the book, Beck shows us how Cash, like Jesus, brings us into the presence of the marginalized and forgotten people of our society – the imprisoned, the heartbroken, the beaten down, Native Americans, common laborers, drug addicts and those who have never felt the love of Jesus. For the men that Cash sang to and about or the men that Beck leads in bible study, sin and its consequences and the promise of one-day being free are not theoretical ideas to be discussed, but an ever-present reality that is lived. In many ways, Cash’s songs are a psalmody for our time. This Epiphany study covers seven weeks.
In his book, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment – Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus, Rev. Robert F. Capon takes us on a unique and adventurous look at Jesus’ parables in the larger light of their entire gospel and biblical context. Rev. Capon reminds us that when we begin to dig deeper into the actual parables themselves, we begin to realize that they are strange, bizarre, complex, and disturbing. They are not tidy moralistic stories but try to upend tidy moralistic notions. Bad people get rewarded, good people are scolded, God is often compared to an irritable person, fairness is absent, and the idea of who should be first or be rewarded is turned upside down. The very purpose of the parables, it appears, is not to be nice but to disturb our religious understandings and that is a challenge. As a companion to this study, I have used the blog posts of the Rev. Aiden Kimel at Eclectic Orthodoxy. This study covers approximately ten weeks.
In his book, Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenges us to be crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God― like Jesus. The book is a collection of his addresses delivered at the Diocesan conventions of the Diocese of North Carolina. The Epiphany study covers five weeks.
In her book, His Great Name, Joanne Ellison takes us on an exploration of the different names that the Hebrew Scriptures use for “God.” These various names convey a sacred understanding of the different ways in which God interacts with and relates to his people. This Epiphany study is six weeks.
In his book, Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, Fr. Stephen Freeman (OCA) seeks to awaken us to the Reality of God’s living and active presence in our lives. God is not confined in a heaven distanced from our present existence or only found at the end of time but is truly transformingly present in the here and now. We simply must open our eyes. This Eastertide study covers six weeks.
In his book The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus, Rev. Scott Gunn of Forward Movement begins with the two very foundational commandments of our faith: Love God and Love your Neighbor. Matt. 22:37-39. Or as John tells us – God is love, and when we love we are of God, and when we do not love we are not of God. 1 John 4:7-12. In looking at these verses, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says we are part of the Jesus Movement that is “built on the unconditional love of God for the world and the mandate to live that love.” This book is the practical guide to cultivating certain ancient Christian practices so that we may live into that love and be the Jesus Movement to and in the world. These seven practices are: Turn. Learn. Pray. Worship. Bless. Go. Rest. The Eastertide study covers seven weeks.
In her book, Bad Girls of the Bible – And What We Can Learn from Them, Liz Curtis Higgs takes us on a wonderful adventure looking at the ten best-known femmes fatales found in Scripture. Mrs. Higgs has a wonderful insight into these women and their struggles and personalities, and what they can teach us today. Her blog on this book is HERE. This Epiphany study covers eight to ten weeks.
In his book, The Creed – What Christians Believe and Why it Matters, Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson leads us through a discussion of the origin and purpose of the Nicene Creed and then will lead us through a discussion of each statement in the Nicene Creed showing us where it came from, what it means, and why the statement is integral to our Christian faith today. Dr. Johnson is a former Benedictine monk (Roman Catholic) and spent most of his career as the professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University. As additional background material for our discussions, I have also used the Early Christian Creeds by J.N. D. Kelly, Clues to the Nicene Creed by David Willis, and various other secondary sources. This Epiphany study covers eight weeks.
In this study, we read through abridged excerpts of Søren Kierkegaard’s book Works of Love as found in Provocation – The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Here Kierkegaard explores the outworkings of the duty to love your neighbor as yourself. I have personally found these excerpts to be the most profound discussion on this greatest commandment. This lesson covers four weeks.
In his book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis gives us a description of those individuals from Gray Town (Hell) who are being given the opportunity to enter Heaven should they simply relinquish their one true love in favor of God. Each character’s story allows us to contemplate those things in our lives that we also place before our love of God. This Lenten study is five weeks.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives us an account of our human condition from the perspective of a demon named Screwtape. The demon’s accounts are found in a series of letters written to his younger nephew Wormwood on how best to tempt a British man, called “the Patient,” into sin and, eventually, into Hell. Wormwood is an inexperienced devil, and Screwtape shares with Wormwood his knowledge, experience, and skill derived from his many years of tempting humans to abandon God. In preparation for the weekly gatherings, I have used a Study Guide created by the C.S. Lewis Foundation, the Spark Notes on the book, and a Study Guide of discussion questions by Alan Vermilye. John Cleese’s reading of the book is brilliant. This study covers eight weeks.
In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, Fr. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes about his encounter with Rembrandt’s painting of the same name based upon Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-32. Within his book, Nouwen explores three major themes: 1) how each of us is the spendthrift, prodigal, younger son, and the judgmental, resentful, elder son; 2) how Jesus perfects both the younger and the elder son; and 3) how we are ultimately called to become the loving, forgiving father. As additional background material for our discussion, Kenneth Bailey’s The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants. This Lenten study covers five weeks.
In his book, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, Fr. Richard Rohr writes about personal transformation and how the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not simply a historical event but is a present reality in which we are all called to participate. As Paul writes, we are crucified with Christ and Christ was raised from the dead so that we too might walk in a new and transformed life. Rom 6:4-11. Particularly during the Easter season, we are called to die to our old ego-centric “False Self,” and be resurrected and transformed into a new Christ-centric “True Self.” It is this Christ-centric True Self that is Rohr’s Immortal Diamond. This Eastertide study covers six weeks.
Dr. Albert S. Rossi is the resident clinical psychologist at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, and the professor of pastoral theology at the seminary. In his book, Becoming Healing Presence, Dr. Rossi tells us that we are called to love our neighbor, and one means to do so is to give them the healing and peace of Jesus Christ. To become this healing presence for others we must first be continuously healed and renewed ourselves through an active relationship with Jesus, because we cannot pass on that which we do not possess. In the book, Dr. Rossi points the way toward deepening our love for God and for each other so that others may experience Christ through us. For Dr. Rossi, the key to becoming a healing presence is simply to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11). For it is only in still waters (Psalm 23:2) that we can both see beyond the surface and also see a reflection of ourselves. This Eastertide study covers nine weeks.
In his book, Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are, Pastor Tim Sorens explores the question “What is the purpose of the Church?” His concern in this book is not what the church believes or how we worship on Sunday morning but having us think through how the local parish church can take practical and actionable steps to be the light and leaven where we live and work, and not simply an end unto itself. This autumn study covers eight weeks.
In Living His Story (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2021 Lenten Study), the Rev. Dr. Hannah Steele explores evangelism as a way of sharing God’s love with our neighbors in a post-Christian world. Evangelism is an invitation to others to switch stories and therefore to a changed life. Lent is the ideal time for us to recover and relearn our story so that we are then prepared to share the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This Lenten study covers seven weeks.
In this section, we are studying the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12 using John Stott’s workbook The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character. We will also be reading relevant excerpts from Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Gregory of Nyssa’s Sermons on the Beatitudes, and Kenneth Bailey’s chapter on the Beatitudes from Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. This study is for eight weeks.
In The Carols of Christmas, Alan Vermilye takes us through four well-known Christmas carols (one per week), providing us with a short history of the carol and a daily devotional about the respective carol. The carols being sung and discussed are O Holy Night, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This Advent study covers four weeks.
In her book Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep, Rev. Tish Harrison Warren takes us through her personal journey of a dark night of the soul when she experienced her own vulnerability, suffering, and God’s seeming absence. Within this darkness, she found strength and comfort within the final prayer of Compline: Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. In her book, she takes us through this prayer as a way to speak to God into the darkness and as a way to see the world around us more clearly and to appreciate the beauty that remains even within the brokenness of our lives. This Epiphany/Lenten study covers twelve weeks.
In his book, Being Disciples – Essential of the Christian Life, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gives us a series of short reflections calling us into the slow, deep simplicity of living into discipleship. It is a beautifully written contemplative book guiding us in the ways to become more like the One whom we worship. This Lenten study covers six weeks.
In his book Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams invites us to explore and reflect on the depths of meaning in three classic icons of the Virgin and her child from the Eastern Christian tradition. Advent is the ideal time to engage with the Holy Mother of God for it is through her that the Incarnation occurs. This Advent study covers one to two weeks.