Tuesday Reading Roundup

Prototype: What Happens When You Discover That You’re More Like Jesus Than You Think?
by Jonathan Martin

It was an oversight that left this off of my listing for the last Roundup, because clearly I was already reading it. This morning I finished this book with my appetite whetted rather than satisfied. I would love for Martin to write both a memoir and a novel, and I would read both of those and perhaps be closer to satisfied, because he is a fantastic storyteller.

Jonathan, if you somehow read this, (1) no, you are not too young to write a memoir (as Lauren Winner proves) and (2) the novel can be about anything and your stamp will be on it (in a great way).

Everyone else should listen to the Renovatus podcast. (I recommend starting with “Suffering” from 7/1/12.)

Contemplative Prayer
by Thomas Merton

Several years ago I decided that the monks had a good idea (#facetiousalert) when they made devotional reading part of their daily spiritual rhythms, and I’ve added such readings to my daily devotionals ever since. This is the current book in that position.

According to Douglas Steere’s Foreword (not to be confused with Thich Nhat Hanh’s Introduction), this was Thomas Merton’s final book before his death. I honestly don’t know if that means it was published or completed or mostly completed and then pulled together posthumously, but it is at least a symbolic culmination of Merton’s life and teaching. It is deep and intense and knowledgeable in a way that makes me think, “I could return to this book once every eight months or so, for the next several decades, and it would be a new book every time.” Which is why I shared a lengthy quote from it two days ago.

Crossing to Safety
by Wallace Stegner

I discovered Wallace Stegner at a church rummage sale over ten years ago, with this very copy of this very book. He’s one of those ‘writer’s writer’ types, supposedly, someone whom writers know and read, but who never enjoyed a ton of wide knowledge and acclaim (crazy to say, since he won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award for two separate works). I apparently have something about books written at the end of people’s lives, because this was Stegner’s final novel, and all his wisdom and skill are deposited in it.

It’s also one of those books that I’ve been afraid to return to, because I love it so much that a re-read twelve or thirteen years later can only diminish my memory of it. Why do I love it? Because it’s a quiet novel which has a plot but which is about its characters. It’s also about friendship over time, and more and more I believe that maybe about the most important thing we have on earth.

“a bodily gospel”

Prototype by Jonathan Martin

When the future reign of God comes breaking into our present, there is more at stake than what we often call “spirituality”…This way of being human is not for people who think their bodies are cages and want to transcend the moment they are in. This way of being is not for people who don’t like to dance or make love.

This is a protest against the body-defying, world-denying principalities and powers that threaten to swallow us up. This is resistance to religion that is less substantial than the taste of crusty bread and sweet wine. It’s in favor of skin, in favor of laughter, in favor of music, in favor of sweat. It’s in favor of nakedness, but in protest to pornography. It’s in favor of touch, but in protest to being handled. It’s in favor of the soul, but in protest to its dismemberment from the body.

It is as greasy as the touch of an oily finger on the T-zone of a teenager’s face. It’s as intrusive as the hands of a brother or a sister washing the dirt off your feet as you sit in awkward silence. It is as mysterious as the slow descent of a body into an ancient baptismal pool at midnight, with prayers and hymns offered up all around. It is as beautiful and disconcerting as the gore that flowed out of Jesus’ side when it was torn by a spear, as spectacular as the lightning that flashed at Sinai, as plain and uneventful as a meal shared with a stranger.

It is high time we stopped sanitizing the scandal of a bodily gospel. Jesus’ new way of being human is exceedingly good news for the legions around us who are in need of healthy touch.

Jonathan Martin planted and pastors Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC. He’s a Pentecostal preacher who actually believes in sacraments and his podcast is excellent.