One of the events that takes place each month at St. Andrew’s Duncan is called the Nifty-Fifty Lunch and it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a lunch (this week we had ham with all the fixings) during which a whole lot of folks (mostly retired) spend time in fellowship. Each month they ask a speaker to come and talk for 10 minutes or so about whatever they feel like. This month it was my turn to speak. I went over 10 minutes.
I talked about how I used to own a bookstore and how books have long been important to me. I suggested a bunch of titles that people might want to consider borrowing from our awesome church library. I covered books on prayer, spiritual living, healing, history, great past writers like Augustine, and a few biographies. See the photo for specifics.
You probably know the story of how Jacob fought God in Genesis 32 and how that meant an end to eating ham…well at least for a while. For me that fight has largely taken place through reading, and to be very specific reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Some of my friends ask me when I will stop talking about him and when I will stop recommending his books (not yet!). He constantly wrote about God and the way humans relate to God. His probing was deep and powerful and intense. Here are a few Dusty quotes from a website with many: “Power is given only to those who dare to lower themselves and pick it up. Only one thing matters, one thing; to be able to dare!” To lower oneself as Jesus did in coming to the earth and as he did in accepting our punishment and taking on our sin and dying on the cross. “To love someone means to see him as God intended him.” God loves each and every one of us, no matter how fallen, how debased, how broken, he sees our dignity and our worth. “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” This is a powerful statement about our times, just look at the papers. Finally, great news for the lowly preacher, “There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it.”
I believe God can speak to us however he chooses to and through whatever medium he chooses to, for me this has meant that books are key to my faith. Not just books that are as outrightly about religion and spirituality, though those of course help. All books build me up, I read leadership books to be a better leader, I read prayer books to be closer to God and to better understand myself at a core level, I read preaching manuals to hone the craft, I read fictional books that heighten my empathy with others and broaden my view of human nature and the world, I read all sorts of non-fiction books to get a sense of the state of the world (and all its wonderful glorious awe-inspiring complexity) and human nature. All of them offer potential sermon illustrations.
The truth is that all of them are potential avenues to encounter something or someone beyond me. Be that just the author of the book and an insight into the way their mind works, or be it something more, like seeing God in a David Adams Richards character. I trust that God is a God who reaches out, who wants to be known who searches and knows us and would have us search and know him. For me reading is a crucial part of this relationship, for you it may be something else. Please leave a message as to what it is so that others might be able to discover a new way of encountering God on a regular basis.