Have you ever taking a moment to visit the church library? We have a fascinating array of subjects represented: we have books on Christian, Hinduism, and Buddhism as well as on many other topics. We also have a growing list of Great Courses videos on everything from The Night Sky to Comparative Religion and Music Theory/History. There is good stuff there, and I hope it grows!
We call Christian faith a journey. But rather than traveling on the soles of our feet, the journey is moving our mind and body to be in step with our soul. So we are always learning, growing, and questioning. Which is why I mention the library. I hope that you will avail yourself of the opportunity to use it and the wisdom contained there. Even more, with this article, I am hoping to begin a new routine for our newsletter. We have a whole congregation of readers. I see the fascinating books you carry. The problem for me with books is that I will never have a chance to read them all! Book reviews help me sift the wheat from the chaff. I would like to encourage you to write down a few words about the books that you read. Writing a review every now and then will elevate our common discourse. You will note that I will not try to give you a play-by-play of a book, but will try to encapsulate the theme and then most importantly, explain what the book means to me.
To start this new tradition I would like to review for you the second book I read after coming to the faith. It remains a favorite of mine, and I read it every year or two. (We have a copy in the church library.) It’s a little book that was based on the first in a series of three radio lectures by C.S Lewis during the Blitz of London. The lectures were published separately as The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality. By now, you have guessed it; the book is Mere Christianity.
First of all, Lewis does not begin by explaining the Christian Faith. He shares how he came to a life a faith slowly, over several years. Then, the last bit, quite humorously, while riding in the side-car of a motorcycle driven by his brother! Starting with his life as an atheist, he illuminates reasonable, logical ways to view the fundamentals of what people of faith believe. This is not necessarily an easy book to read, as Lewis intends you to reflect, question, and think. You also may have guessed by the title “Mere” he intends it to be a discussion of the basic tenets of the faith believed by all of us. In doing so, he goes to great pains to avoid the finer points of one denomination or tradition over another. Some may chaff at the lack of references to the Bible. I find it refreshing and a hint that faith ought to spring off the pages of scripture and live in your own heart.
This book led to a major aha moment in faith for me. It was in reading this book that it first dawned on me, years ago, that our essential goal in faith is to be-come more like Jesus. Two decades of showing up early to church to sit in the front row did not give me that. (Do you remember the days when churches filled up from front to back?) Even more, this book has shaped a great deal of how I relate to others. It enlightened my to the fact that boundaries that divide denominations and peo-ple of faith are utterly a waste of time. Lewis proves that “at the center of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks the same voice.” I hope we all spend our time listening for that Someone’s voice.