Book review of the days before easter

the days before easter  

W.A. Poovey, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 128 pages

Softcover

 

A brief review by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

Some books I struggle to read through only once; others I might read twice; and a few rare ones I’ll keep going back to and read several times. the days before easter, in my humble opinion, is worth reading over and over again. It is one of my all-time favourite books to read during the season of Lent.

   Although the volume is a mere 128 pages, the content is incredible. Not only is it well written—Professor Poovey has organized the material in a well thought out fashion that holds the reader’s interest as if it were a fast-paced, page-turner novel.

   After a brief “About this book,” the content is divided up into three parts: Part 1. The Story of Lent, Part 2. Preparing for Easter, and Part 3. Devotions for Lent. In Part 1, there are eleven short chapters titled respectively: A time for reflection, A time for repentance, A time for rejoicing, Four men tell the story, Prophecy fulfilled, Origins of Lent, Customs of Lent, Hymns of Lent, Poetry of Lent, Sustenance of life, The end of Lent. Part 2 consists of eight brief chapters: Let’s have a Seder, Fasting and sacrifice, Who were the people? Symbols of Lent, A Lenten prayer list, A book for Lent, I am Pilate, Meditation for Lent. Part 3 contains forty-seven devotions—four the forty days of Lent, plus the Sundays—all based on the Book of Isaiah. One critique I have of the chapter A time for repentance in Part 2 is that Professor Poovey could have added some comment about the need for Christians to repent of the anti-Semitism and ant-Judaism of centuries past, which were incited no less by Christian leaders during the season of Lent. Another critique I have of the chapter Let’s have a Seder in Part 2 is that although the author tries to be sensitive and respectful toward the Jewish people and this important meal of Judaism’s Passover festival—he even advises Christians to consult with a local rabbi in planning a Seder—he stops short of actually counselling Christians to attend a Jewish Seder in a synagogue or Jewish home.

   All-in-all, this small tome, and albeit older and out of print, still is worth reading by pastors and laity alike for a wealth of information on the season of Lent.   

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A friend and colleague of mine e-mailed me today to let me know that the folks at SermonCentral.com have chosen an older sermon of mine as “top sermon.” You can read about it here, and there is a link to the sermon as well.

Book Reviews

A Hidden Wholeness The Journey Toward an Undivided Life: Welcoming the Soul and weaving community in a wounded world Parker J. Palmer, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, 260 pages $23.95, Paperback

 

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

Parker J. Palmer is, among other things, a Quaker by faith; as well as a passionate and gifted teacher and writer. This volume is a helpful resource and handbook for teachers and students; clergy and parishioners; and employers and workers from a variety of backgrounds who are interested in improving the quality of their lives both individually and collectively.

   Reflecting on the content of this work, there are three insights that ring true and are worthy of further examination and practice, if the Spirit so moves.

   First, Palmer suggests that the soul is like a wild animal. A wild animal is shy of human beings or predators and keeps them at a safe distance to ensure survival and safety. The human soul is also shy according to Palmer, and cannot be forced to come out and reveal itself to others—especially when it feels threatened or coerced to do so.

   Second, the human soul opens up and reveals itself only in an environment where silence and careful listening are practiced; sharing is purely voluntary not demanded; confidentiality is kept; and folks are not to fix, nor advise, nor save, and not set each other straight; open rather than direct or confronting questions are asked; paradoxical truth is explored where differences of perspective are respected and valued.  

   Third, the coming out and revealing of the human soul and the inner teacher is most likely to happen in the context of a circle of trust group or clearness committee; which, if the ground rules are clear and observed can assist people in living an undivided life and discern their vocation.

   The last section of the book also includes a helpful reader’s and group leader’s guide to put into practice Palmer’s teachings. An added bonus is a DVD with even more resources to get to know the book and author better.   

As I Journey On: Meditations for Those Facing Death Sharon Dardis and Cindy Rogers, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 128 pages, Paperback

 

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

Sharon Dardis, a registered nurse working with the dying, and Cindy Rogers, a teacher and writer, have provided readers with a wide spectrum of stories of the dying and their loved ones.

   The work is very reader-friendly and was born out of Cindy’s mother’s request to assist her in her journey toward death. The authors’ endeavour to view the process of dying and death not as a taboo, but rather as a necessary part of life. They presuppose questions like: What is a good death? How does a dying person and their family best prepare for death?

   Each chapter has a theme title, and includes an introductory quotation from various sources, including the Bible. The wide variety of chapter theme titles and quotations remind the reader of the diverse ways in which human beings journey through dying and death.

   After the theme title and introductory quotation, the format of each chapter consists of: a story, a brief prayer, a question to ponder, and a resolution with the title, “Today I will.”

For example, in the chapter with the theme title of “Memories,” the introductory quotation is from Isaiah 49:15-16: “Yet I will not forget you…See! I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” The story told is about a children’s grief group that was asked by Sharon Dardis, the facilitator, to bring a memento of their deceased loved one. There was one boy who did not bring a memento. However, what he shared with the group was how his grandpa taught him to wiggle his ears—much to the delight of everyone present. This prayer was included after the story: “Lord, keep me alive always in my loved ones’ memories. Help me today to continue to create moments that last and to remember that sometimes it is the smallest event that bears the most lasting mark. Amen.” (p. 98) Rounding out this chapter was this Question To Ponder: “How do I want to be remembered?” And this Today I Will: “Create one lasting memory with a loved one.” (p. 98)

   The book concludes with a helpful Bibliography, stating the sources consulted for each of the chapters. This wee volume shall be a beneficial resource to the dying and their loved ones.