Grace: It's Our Way of Life

As Episcopal Christians we
Worship at home daily and together weekly;
Study the Scriptures, our tradition, and what it means to be a disciple today;
Serve our families, our parish, and our world in the name of Christ.

Everything we do is done with an ethic of Welcome
because we are only here by Grace.

08 February 2010

Sermon, V Epiphany, Year C, 2010



Okay, so I have to apologize for opening with a really old joke. It still works though, at least live. And yes, I do say "boys". The joke is about three men. One, this joke is that old. And two, I don't know any female ministers who would have these questions.

Evangelism is always a concern for every church and everyone who would purport to follow Christ. It is hard to preach about evangelism between the "Do not oppress thy neighbor" ethic of modernity and the absolutist cramming Jesus and a smile down his neighbor's neck, so often the mainline has said nothing or something so squishy as to be nothing. Having a deep faith often means silence and storytelling and ambiguity, but it never means the lack of engagement that so much of our theology and preaching really hide.

So my Discipleship Class on Wednesday nights asked me for a top ten list of books for the Life. Here is a beginning draft:

Celebration of Discipline - R. Foster
The Way of the Heart, Out of Solitude, The Prodigal Son, or Reaching Out - Henri Nouwen (take your pick)
Holy the Firm - Annie Dillard
The Inner Experience - Thomas Merton (though there are others)
Anything that isn't Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Everything Belongs or Things Hidden- Richard Rohr
The Holy Longing - Ronald Rolheiser
Prayer - O'Hallesby
For the Life of the World - A. Schmemann
Surprised by Hope - N.T. Wright
The Eternal Now - Tillich
The Cost of Discipleship - Bonhoeffer
The Mystery of Christ (and Why We Don't Get It) - Capon
Natural Spirituality - Joyce Rockwood Hudson
The Kingdom of God is Like . . . - Keaton
The Other Side of Silence - M. Kelsey

One of the problems with such a list is the thinness of it. Where do you put Rowan Williams, Eugene Peterson, Tozer, Hauwerwaus, Springfellow, Walter Wink, or the Biblical studies work of Bailey, Herzog, Malina, Crossan, Borg, Meeks? What writings do you include of Gregory of Nazianus, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Basil, or the other Apostolic fathers? What of Edwards or Taylor or Pusey? Do you recommend that anyone who isn't Dominican read Aquinas or Fransican read Bonaventure or Don Scotus? I hesitate to put in such a list the Eldridge's work or Gary Thomas' Sacred Marriage or Brian McClaren or Tony Campolo. Should the list include Carlo Carretto or Belden Lane? Or do you let people discover them on their own? There are few books for the priesthood that I would put above Bill Countrman's Living on the Border of the Holy, even with its terrible cover. Karl Rahner has shaped my thinking for ten years now, but what one work do you pick out? And we haven't even gotten obscure yet, or medieval. Gustavo Guiterrez is neither, but his We Drink from our Own Wells should be read by anyone claiming to have a grasp of current theology or Biblical studies. So here is the first draft. I may replace it soon.

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