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Fall Book Discussion: "Jesus and the Disinherited" by Howard Thurman
October 24, 9:30am-2:00pm @ The Sanctuary at Woodville
249 Wood St., Hopkinton MA.
Our fall gathering will be focused around themes of social justice, mercy and healing as we reflect on Christ-like ways to respond to the intolerance and division so prevalent in our culture today. The day will offer time for reflection, for conversation around the book "Jesus and the Disinherited," and for connecting with fellow spiritual directors around the table. Bring a lunch, and beverages will be provided. There is no cost for this retreat day, but it's helpful if you register. If you are interested in the topic but have not read the book, come join us anyway for the themed discussion. Please email Leslea to register for this timely day of conversation and listening for the Spirit's quiet whisper.
In spiritual direction, I frequently ask people where they find God. Despite their varied answers, what I often sense is that they feel God is distant, looking down from the heavens, elsewhere. That his kingdom is where we go after we die, to be experienced at some date in the future. I so wish they could get a sense that God, who is Love, is near and his kingdom is at hand. In “God Soaked LIfe,” Chris Webb says that God’s kingdom is not a far off, remote and future promise, but that it is here, now. That we live in a God soaked world, where his presence permeates our lives and activities. He writes with passion and joy about God’s delight in us and in Creation, which he calls “God’s great act of hospitality.” Webb invites us to let go of earthly notions of hierarchies and politics and reframe what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of heaven.” Through stories from his life and ministry, he invites us into honesty as the path to freedom, and paints a portrait of God’s intended purpose for us: to be drawn into deeper, more loving community with him and with others.
There is much about this book that is beautiful and appealing, but one chapter in particular has stayed with me, shocking me with the depth of both its caring and its daring. The chapter on honesty includes a story about a woman who came to Webb for counsel, wanting to simply talk to someone about a deep betrayal in her life. He listened deeply and heard her pain and the hatred she couldn’t let go of, and then did something I’d never conceived of: he encouraged her to pray her honest feelings through one of the most vindictive of the Psalms and to pray what she had just spoken about this man: “I wish he were dead.” She was taken aback, but agreed to speak to God about what was true for her. Amazingly, over the next few months, she found that God met her through that Psalm and brought healing and freedom. I was awed by his boldness and the way he listened and responded to both the woman and to the Spirit in their midst. I know I am sometimes tempted to move too quickly to talk of forgiveness, when the individual may not be ready. His story reminded me once again that each person, each situation is unique, and inspired me to pray for the boldness that’s required to be a sacred listener in each precious life that’s before me.
IVP calls the book “an invitation into the community of God’s people,... the daily experiences of God, and a new life of love and service in the broken world around us.” Indeed, the last chapter provokes deep thought about when and where to act and speak out against injustice, and encourages us to look for the broken and humble, for there we will find Christ. Each chapter includes an “Over to You” section with scripture readings and reflection questions, which makes it ideal for a small group discussion. I read and discussed it with my women’s group, and though we have been meeting for years, we found ourselves having new conversations around the topics of spiritual formation included in this book.
Reviewed by Leslea Linebarger.