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Friday, March 25, 2016

"God For Us" (Greg Pennoyer and others)

TITLE: God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter (Reader's Edition)
AUTHOR: Greg Pennoyer and others
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2014, (192 pages).

If Christmas is about "God with us," Lent is about "God for us," so begins this reflective journey and companion volume to Advent. Two reasons are given as to why Lent is harder to grasp. Firstly, Lent is not as joyful as the Christmas season of singing and celebration. Secondly, Lent is mixed with self-denial, sadness, and suddenly that Easter joy. Challenged by these, Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe bring together a host of writings from spiritual writers such as Ronald Rolheiser, Beth Bevis, Richard Rohr, Lauren Winner, Scott Cairns, James Schaap, Luci Shaw, and Kathleen Norris.

Ron Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and President of Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, sees Lent as a paradox expressed via a tension between anticipation and fulfillment. He sees the seasons of play as being sweeter when there are seasons of work. In the same way, Lent is both fasting and feasting. Following this, Beth Davis, program coordinator of Seattle Pacific University, looks at the feast and fasts of Lent, showing us that Lent is a way in which Christians can mindfully and spiritually prepare themselves for the glory and fulfillment of Easter. Each week, she responds to the contributions of each writer by describing the history of the feasts, Shrove Tuesdays, Ash Wednesdays, Lent Sundays, the Holy Week, and Easter. These provide us the background as each of these Lenten remembrance events.

Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and well-known spiritual director writes about Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and the first week of Lent, telling us that it is the beginning of expecting, working, and being led into greater opportunities in life and in truth. Lauren F. Winner, an Episcopal priest and popular author writes on the second week of Lent, reflecting on grief; living waters; flaws; creation; family; and more. She is able to draw from her Jewish upbringing when writing upon the Sukkot, and other Jewish festivals. Scott Cairns, a poet and professor of English at the University of Missouri takes over the third week of reflections, beginning with the Sunday of the Holy Cross and gives us a taste of living waters in the midst of spiritual dryness. James Schaap, a teacher at Dordt College, follows up with some devotions from the Fourth Sunday, noticing pine trees, the premises of an old church, and in turn, letting them re-direct our focus back to Christ. Luci Shaw, writer-in-residence at Regent College, encourages us along, especially for those of us who are facing difficulties. Reminding us of Jeremiah and Paul, who also had their fair share of challenges, there is good news because God is there with us. Come Holy Week, Kathleen Norris takes over. She reminds us about the uncertainties faced by Jesus and the disciples at Palm Sunday. Who would have imagined that after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus would be arrested and crucified at the end of the week? Who would have thought about the very disciples deserting Jesus. Norris tells us that "death tests our faith." The retelling of the salvation story keeps alive our faith. Just like the Mary Magdalene and all the witnesses testify of the Risen Christ, our faith is renewed and revitalized as we remember the Resurrection.

This book is a devotional and insightful description of the days of Lent. The editors have stitched together a collection of devotions from some of the best spiritual writers of our era. Readers can use this devotional as a guide through Lent. Together with the historical background provided by Beth Bevis, we will get a better sense of why Lent us such an important part of the Christian calendar. We do not simply fast for fasting sake. Neither do we deprive ourselves of certain luxuries just to transport ourselves back to the wilderness experience of the saints of old. We do so with an eye on the cross. We maintain our anchor on Christ even as we think about how life and the remembrance of each day of Lent fits together. At the end of it, all the authors have encouraged us to hang on to hope even as we are enduring the tough days of life. The significance of the Resurrection is made more complete in us as we go through the journey. This book is a good companion to take along as we embark upon this spiritual expedition.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Paraclete Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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