This book consists of imagined monologues by women who met Jesus. The author adds personality and life experiences that bring these women to life. Despite being mostly fiction, they are consistent with what’s in scripture and make it more real. For example, the women who touched Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8:43-48) talks about life with continual bleeding and pain and how that affected her life as a Jewish woman (see Leviticus 15:25). The author brings to life how much courage it must have taken to try to touch Jesus and how it felt to be cured.

In addition to this story, there are many others, including the bride of Cana, Mary and Martha of Bethany, and even Pilate’s wife, who encountered Jesus in a dream (Matthew 27:19). For me, however, the most powerful stories were actually the monologues by women who did not meet the human Jesus. Prisca and Phoebe give wonderful testimonies about how they came to know the living Christ after the Ascension. These stories suggest that even us living in modern times can come to really know Christ.

After reading this book, I have a different viewpoint about women and Jesus’ ministry. Women are crucially important to Jesus’ life story, and Phoebe as the first deacon (ever) indicates how important they were also to the early church. For that time period, Jesus’ interactions with women and ideas really were radical, and in many ways they still are.

Vibha Sazawal

By Vibha Sazawal

It’s important not to judge this book by its cover. With its title “Gospel Memories“, you might think this book is about quaint gospel sermons told to a child. There’s nothing quaint, though, about this book by Episcopal Bishop Jake Owensby. Bishop Owensby has lived a hard life. His mom survived the Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen. His father was abusive. He lived in a car for a while. He had a cleft palate and couldn’t speak well; this conditioned is treatable but he didn’t get it treated until he was an adult. Chapter 1 talks about how life isn’t fair. Bishop Owensby doesn’t think that his past shapes his future. Instead, he argues that his future is actually reshaping his past. This sounds crazy but give him some time to explain. Our future is defined by God’s grace, not our past. And God uses our life experiences to transform us into our new lives in Christ. We can use the Gospel as a guide to understand what’s happened to us and how it helps us achieve a new life in Jesus. In the book, Bishop Owensby explains how Bible verses can be used to interpret and understand his life. If you are experiencing painful life experiences, or you have experienced them in the past, perhaps the Gospel also includes stories that can help you understand and overcome them.

A Journey Through ActsThe Way of Love emphasizes seven steps, and one of them is Learn. Is there an easy way to add daily scripture reading to your life? Luke|Acts by Bible Society UK is a narrative version of these two books, which scholars believe are really 2 parts of the same book by the same author. The book has chapters but not verse numbers.

The translation used is the Good News Translation — a translation that emphasizes simple words and getting the basic gist across. I wouldn’t want to use this translation in worship — the NRSV is more accurate and profound — but for daily light reading I really like it.

Another great resource for daily spiritual practice is the Forward Movement. They have many books in which scripture or devotional readings are broken into small chunks for daily use.

I recently finished A Journey Through Acts, and I really liked the commentary and reflections that came with each scripture reading.

by Vibha Sazawal

The Way of Love emphasizes seven steps, and one of them is Worship. Certainly the best form of worship is to gather together as a community, in our case every Sunday at St. Thomas Parish. But what if you are traveling and cannot make it to church? How about reading a sermon by Most Rev. Curry instead?

If you liked the Royal Wedding sermon, you will find many more fabulous, thought-provoking sermons in Crazy Christians by Most. Rev. Curry.

https://smile.amazon.com/Crazy-Christians-Call-Follow-Jesus/dp/0819228850

To some people, welcoming refugees from dangerous places sounds crazy. Questioning “America first” sounds crazy. Getting arrested on behalf of people you don’t know sounds crazy. But maybe that’s exactly what Jesus is calling us to do! All the sermons shine a light on Most Rev. Curry’s vision for a loving, life-giving, and liberating relationship with God.

smile

Perpetua’s Journey: Faith, Gender, and Power in the Roman Empire
by Jennifer Rea and Liz Clarke

This graphic novel would be an excellent gift for teens or anyone who is interested in Christianity and feminism. Perpetua is an early Christian martyr who lived in Roman Africa. Her diary is a treasured piece of early Christian writing. The first part of the book retells Perpetua’s diary in a detailed illustrated format, as a graphic novel. Perpetua’s conversations and visions really come to life vibrantly. I could not put the book down.

The second part of the book is a detailed commentary that places Perpetua’s diary in context. We learn what historians know about Christians of this time period, and also about Roman families, attitudes towards women, religious practices, and more. For example, we learn that Perpetua is sent to the animals in the gladiator arena not just as a punishment, but also as a sacrifice meant to appease the Roman gods who may be angered by her refusal to worship in the usual Roman way. Also, Perpetua’s community of Christians gave a voice not only to women, but also to slaves (such as Felicity). The entire narrative acts as a scathing critique of Roman society and presents an egalitarian alternative.

Lost and Found, Parables Jesus Told
by Mary Hoffman
Illustrated by Jackie Morris

This British book is now available in the US. Beautifully illustrated, it tells the stories of 8 parables from Matthew and Luke. The stories are told in an easy narrative style that is suitable for young readers while still retaining the sense that a deeper meaning lies within. There is a small amount of commentary for each parable, just a paragraph or two, which sparks further discussion on what the stories might mean.  This book would be an excellent gift for children, or anyone who likes good stories and vivid, expressive illustrations.

This book would be an excellent gift for anyone spiritually inclined, not just Episcopalians. The book contains selections from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, annotated by The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, PhD. The selections are very well chosen. Each one can stand on its own as a short, eloquent prayer. Many come from parts of the BCP you may not normally read. Some come from other Anglican prayer books, such as the New Zealand Prayer Book.

The annotations are interesting and informative. Did you know that Prayers of the People began with the 1549 Prayer Book? Or that the first part of the General Thanksgiving is supposedly from a private prayer by Queen Elizabeth I? Regarding the church year calendar, Rev. Canon Robertson tells us “Time matters because we matter…We are beloved of God, and the days and seasons of our lives are all part of the divine design.”

This book is short, well laid out, and designed for lay readers. It really is a little treasure chest!

by Vibha Sazawal

 

The Ultimate Quest, by Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware

If you know someone who loves Star Wars, the Harry Potter books, Battlestar Galactica, role-playing games, or anything else that could be considered “geeky”, you may want to get that person this book.

The Ultimate Quest has two Introduction sections. The first introduction explains a little about the Episcopal church for geeks. Introduction 2.0 explains a little about geek culture to Episcopalians. The rest of the book presents the Episcopalian life as a fabulous adventure quest, a real one. Spoiler alert: Jesus already won. But we still get to choose our role — priest, deacon, laity — and wear costumes, like albs, as appropriate.  And most importantly, we must “partner with God … to help make things as right as they can possibly be.” (p. 146)

This book can be quite silly at times. On p. 133 it compares the early disciples to Sokka, Katara, Suki, Toph, and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. (If you don’t understand that reference, no worries. At all.) But there are plenty of other books that introduce The Episcopal Church in a more traditional way. Rev. Ware’s book is contemporary and fun.

If you would like to write a book review for the Phoenix, contact phoenix@stthomasdc.org

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