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A long, green season

Dear friends, 


In the life of the Church over the past weeks, we have experienced many of the important high points of our lives as God's people:  the celebration of Easter with its Good News of Jesus' Resurrection;  His appearance to the disciples before ascending to heaven; Pentecost when the Holy Spirit appears to remind us that God's Spirit is always present among us just as Jesus promised; and this past Sunday when we celebrated Trinity Sunday...our "Name Day" as it were, when we reaffirm the power of God's Unity and Trinity--that sacred mystery we proclaim each Sunday when we say the Nicene Creed together.    A lot of our story as God's people was told in these celebrations over the past few weeks. 


Now we turn to what the Church calls "Ordinary Time."  Ordinary time can be understood as the season when we focus on living out our Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in our lives.   No special holidays to focus us, but rather God's invitation to ask every morning: 

  • How am I serving Christ in all people today?  

  • In my work? 

  • With my family? 

  • In all the communities of which I am a part? 

  • How am I living and growing in my faith and in my relationship with God? 


For me, the long, green season signals a time for growth and learning, a time to deepen my understanding of God and our world.  Long summer days for reading, contemplation and prayer while walking by the sea, or in the forest.  Many of you depart for summer places and are offered this opportunity along with those of us who stay here, the chance to read and reflect in the lingering sunlight we enjoy over the New England summer.  Reading is one way to learn and grow and change; to gain perspective on our lives and the complex world in which we live.  


In this spirit of learning and growing, I am sharing my summer reading list, with the usual disclaimer that I may not get to everything, due to the demands of ministry and surprises that may intervene and suggest other additions to the list.   If any of these books spark your interest, I welcome a conversation and a reading partner!  Please let me know. 


Theology/Philosophy/Culture


Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works by James K. A. Smith (2013)   Some of you may recall that last summer I read Smith’s “How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now” (2022) and we then used that book as the basis for our Wednesday Bible Study.  Smith teaches philosophy and theology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and is a valuable voice of cultural curiosity and criticism from a Christian perspective.  I am excited to read this book about embodied worship and liturgy. 


How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, by James K.A. Smith (2014)  Yep, Smith again.  This is his short companion book that serves as a really helpful guide to the next book!


A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor (2007).  I attempted this tome (over 800 pages) a few years ago, but did not understand Taylor’s argument very well and had not done as much thinking about the context and process he explains…a world in which believing in God is one option among many for we moderns (or perhaps post-modern) people.   With the companionship of Smith’s book (above) I am going to tackle Taylor again, as Taylor is probably one of the most important voices in our time about how to understand religion and secularism. 


The crisis of narration, by Byung-Chul Han (2024) Han is a South Korean-born philosopher and cultural theorist living in Germany. He explores the move from “storytelling” to “storyselling” that is, how capitalism appropriates  narratives that used to bind and create community.   The person who gave me this book said “you will underline almost every sentence!” and that is indeed the case so far. 


The Uncontrollability of the World, by Hartmut Rosa (2020) German sociologist Rosa argues that the driving cultural form of modern life is the desire to make the world controllable, and that “it is only in encountering the uncontrollable that we really experience the world” and can be moved, touched, and feel alive.  I can already see that this and the Han book will be an interesting conversation “trinity” with Smith’s Imagining the Kingdom! 


Forgiveness: An Alternative Account, by Matthew I. Potts (2022)   “Potts explores the complex moral terrain of forgiveness, which he claims has too often served as a salve to the conscience of power rather than as an instrument of healing or justice.“  Matthew Ichihash Potts is a professor at Harvard Divinity School and the Pusey Minister at Memorial Church, Harvard University. 


A Sacred Argument: Dispatches from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Encounter, by Christopher M. Leighton (2024)  Chris Leighton is the founding director of the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS) in Baltimore.  I am hoping to have him come to Trinity in Fall 2024 to discuss his life’s work, this book, and the challenges of interfaith conversation in today’s world. 


Bible 


Reading Genesis, by Marilynne Robinson (2024) “is a powerful consideration of the profound meanings and promise of God’s enduring covenant with humanity…and God’s abiding faith in Creation.” 


Hebrews for Everyone, by N.T. Wright (2023 20th Anniversary Ed) A first peek at this to see if we might use it for a fall Bible Study. The Sunday lectionary beginning in October will feature readings from Hebrews, so this way to deepen our understanding and listening.


Fiction (finally!!) 


A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki (2013) novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest, Ozeki writes in the voice of a 16 year old girl as she tells a multi-layered story “meditating on time and memory, impermanence and uncertainty, resilience and bravery.”


The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016 and is now being made into a television series.  “..tale of love and betrayal…a blistering exploration of identity and America.” I like to begin with the original book before I see a movie or other production! 


North Woods, by Daniel Mason (2023) “A sweeping novel about a solitary house in the woods of New England, told through the lives of those who inhabit it across the centuries.” 


Happy reading, 

Nancy+


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