WHAT I'M READING
BY THE REV'D CANON ART GOING, CANON FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Here’s what I wrote last month to set up my reading for 2017: For my own commemoration of our Reformation heritage and as an invitation to devote my reading in the next year to the (re-) acquisition of traditional wisdom, I’ve chosen a motto, a biblical tag line for the next year: Hold fast what you have (Rev 3:11)It’s about the high cost of amnesia! It’s about hearing, being attentive, not forsaking, not forgetting the deep wisdom of our forebears. Like walking along the Potomac and marking the parade of monuments. Only now through the Word and written words of all the saints. . . . I want to be a rememberer. That's the pathway to wisdom.
Hold fast what you have. Here’s what we have—three heritages: the heritage from the early church, from the Reformation, from the various renewal movements that have awakened God’s people to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout 2017, many Christians, Anglicans among them, will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—revisiting its themes and (one can hope) reclaiming its vitality of preaching and teaching. I’ve decided to go back to the roots of the Reformation this year and read one treatise or sermon from Martin Luther each month, chronologically.
So, at the end of January and February, I’ll be starting where Luther started, in his early Lectures on the Psalms. I remember the first time I was in Wittenberg, in Luther’s home now turned into a museum, and being struck by a large display that charted out how, for the first two and half years of his teaching ministry (1513-1515), Luther began with the Psalms. His early rediscovery of the gospel began in the Psalms! That should say something to us. [If you're encouraged by Luther to reengage with the Psalter, you might also want to pick up Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible, with its beautiful passages about Christ in the Psalms. Or Tom Wright’s The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential. Essential! Certainly that should not come as a shock to Anglicans, whose own tradition of daily prayer centered on Cranmer's monthly calendar of all 150 Psalms, now reclaimed in the ACNA’s new daily lectionary.
If you're interested in going with me in reading something from Luther each month, I’ll be happy to send you the schedule.
Of course, Anglicans have always been not only a Reformation church, but a church rooted in the ancient church. The English reformers were happy inheritors of a heritage that lives on in liturgy, creeds, church year, ancient hymns and prayers. Cranmer, Hooker, and Andrewes all draw deeply from the wells of the Fathers in the shaping of new liturgies, in their commentary on Scripture, in their prayer life.
For my own reading in the Fathers, I’m taking up the invitation from Bishop Steve to join a group of clergy in the Triangle to gather monthly to read and discuss Augustine’s Homilies on First John. Here’s what Bishop Steve wrote us: This past season I have been in a small reading group with a close pastor friend and a prof from Duke Divinity School, reading sermons from some of the Church Fathers (Ambrose and Augustine so far). This exercise is reinvigorating me to the power and importance of the teaching pulpit in forming faithful disciples of Jesus. I find myself spiritually encouraged by the messages, challenged to be a better student and preacher, and stirred up by the example of pastoral leadership centered in faithful teaching. The beauty and power of God’s word in challenging and changing us is incredible, and I find myself savoring what I read for weeks afterward.
Reformation, early church, and then the third heritage—the heritage of the great revivals and renewal movements—the witness of those who made faith in Christ alive and urgent, the most personal thing of all so that one could not live without it. My connection this month to that tradition comes in the form of a new little book by one of our own. Aaron Damiani, formerly curate at the Church of the Resurrection in DC and now church planting rector of the Church of the Incarnation in Chicago, has just published a wonderful little guide to Lent, The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent. Aaron begins by making the case for Lent [helping us become rememberers!], then tracing out the path of Lent in chapters that recall the invitation to Lenten discipline of the Ash Wednesday liturgy: the mountain of fasting, the valley of prayer, the adventure of almsgiving, the cup of confession. In the final section of the book, he offers suggestions to pastors on how to lead others through Lent. This would be a marvelous book for church staffs or small groups during Lent this year.
Finally, I’m also trying to focus each month on a book that speaks specifically to pastors. This month it’s Zack Eswine’s The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus. I’ll confess that I’m tired of triumphalist hype and am glad to find a book like this that deals honestly with the struggles and temptations of ministry, redefines ambition, and seeks to reshape our work. I’m looking for books like this to commend especially to young clergy and to ordinands. Share your suggestions!