Posts Tagged ‘biblical meditations’

“Listening to God’s echo in our lives, approaching Scripture as if God were speaking to us, is the beginning of midrash.”
For a fresh and vibrant experience of reading Scripture, open Sandy Eisenberg Sasso‘s highly readable Midrash: Reading the Bible with question marks. In this book Rabbi Sasso provides a straightforward discussion of the Jewish tradition of midrash —interpretation of Scripture— and how this practice can nourish one’s spiritual life.

Rabbinical tradition teaches that the revelation of scripture is the beginning of a conversation, a process of seeking and listening for meaning. As Rabbi Sasso writes, “By dwelling in the text, by interpreting it and making it come alive, the people came to encounter the divine and continue a conversation begun long ago at Sinai.”

To guide readers through the process of reading and creating midrash,Rabbi Sasso shares ten examples from the tradition, each followed by a personal story. Readers experience the ongoing conversation with Scripture, and the importance of our contemporary stories. A particularly helpful section reflects on midrashim on the theme “God was in this place and I did not know it,” where Rabbi Sasso engages with Scripture related to finding glimpses of the holy in ordinary places.

Why should we read and practice midrash? “Midrash lets us glimpse the light of the old souls who saw the glow of the holy in the words of Scripture. It invites us to find that light within our own souls and bring it to illumine the sacred narratives.” We come to see the value of our own stories, and the many ways that Scripture can speak into our lives, as it did for our ancestors.

A lovely, rich, and inspiring read, Midrash: Reading the Bible with question marks would benefit Christian and Jewish readers, as well as secular individuals interested in the many ways to understand the Bible.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.


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Author Joseph F. Girzone has written a lovely book of meditations on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. In The Wisdom of His Compassion, Girzone reflects on 44 passages from the gospels, arranged in order from the Annunciation to the Last Supper. With his reflection, Girzone tries to imagine the feelings and perspective of Jesus. He also shares with the reader personal stories, illustrating the gospel at work in his own life.

In his preface Girzone writes that “Jesus’ love needs nothing but knows only how to give,” and that this love points us toward the mercy and compassion of God. If we can take time to imagine the loving response and abundantly compassionate perspective of Jesus, perhaps we can have a deeper sense of how to emulate his behavior.

I appreciated that the meditations offered words of challenge, not only comfort. For example, Girzone writes of the Samaritan woman at the well: Jesus “handpicked her to be a missionary, an apostle to the Samaritans…. Can you imagine picking a person like that to be a reader in church, or even to be on the parish council?” He helps us to see the gap between the teachings of Jesus and the behavior of the followers of Jesus.

This book is tender and brimming with love. It also provides a very practical tool for inspiration; the volume is small enough to carry around, yet it contains gospel stories from throughout the ministry of Jesus. If you had a craving for guidance, you could open the book to any page and find a story that nourishes.

A retired priest, Joseph F. Girzone is the author of more than a dozen books, including Jesus: A new understanding of God’s son. He is the founder of the Joshua Foundation, dedicated to teaching about the life of Jesus.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received in exchange for this review.

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In Lazarus, Come Forth!, author and peacemaker John Dear has written an inspiring and accessible study of the lessons in the gospel of John. The subtitle captures the book’s main idea: “how Jesus confronts the culture of death and invites us into the new life of peace.” John Dear extends this invitation inspired by Jesus and helps readers to see the transformative possibilities of accepting this invitation.

Dear writes that the life of Jesus “was a risen life even before the resurrection,” for, without fear of death, in his ministry he continually confronted a culture of death. He demonstrates this quality in all of his interactions, not only the dramatic raising of Lazarus. With the story of the adulteress we see “the days of stoning, killing, executing—and bombing—are over. God’s fullness of life requires humility, humaneness, nonviolence, and compassion.” Clearly we are not fulfilling these mandates today. Many of us are still choosing a culture of death. In Dear’s powerful words,

“We’ve all missed the point. Jesus does not weep because Lazarus has died. Jesus weeps because everyone in the story—and all of us—believe not in the God of life but in the culture of death.”

We cannot claim to love a God of love and mercy while simultaneously remaining comfortable with a culture that normalizes violence. Any reader would be prodded toward self-reflection after reading this volume.

Walking in the struggle against violence has to be a continuous effort, but it can be done. How can we choose love and nonviolence? One way is to “touch the wounds of the world—the wounds of the poor, the wounds of the suffering.” Throughout this book, Dear offers examples from Scripture that reinforce and strengthen the message that eating the bread of life requires the choice of nonviolence, and that this path will grant life in its fullness.

I highly recommend Lazarus, Come Forth!, a powerful and inspiring addition to Dear’s body of work. His writing is compelling and reflects his commitment to living the gospel imperative to love God and to love one another. John Dear is a Jesuit priest known internationally for his work for peace and justice. I encourage you to visit his website, where you can see the schedule for his current book tour as well as other speaking engagements. Articles, speeches, and sermons also are available on the website.

May we all go forth inspired to love and to serve, with our hearts full of hope for transformation.

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