When I attend church the sermons are usually addressing and prescribing for a common lack that I don’t identify with- Don Miller
Going to Catholic high school and college means that I have eight years of Catholic religious education under my belt through HS-level and college-level religious studies courses. I know the bible really well, right? Funny thing is that religious studies never meant bible study. Mostly in those courses the bible was the pre-req and we read books like Siddhartha, Man's Search for Meaning, Jungian Views of Religion, and similar contemporary works that were saturated with theology.
Since starting to go to my new church (like 5 years ago--so not that new), the small groups and series have all been bible study. I've missed the broader scope of my college courses. Over last summer our small group did a series on Acts, and I mentioned to Mrs.Chaos that reading Acts yet again is sort of interesting, but I don't expect to gain much over the three times I've already read it. I long for something fresh.
God didn't stop inspiring writers 2,000 years (-ish) ago when the last page of the bible was written, so why just read and re-read? We have two millennia of prophets and philosophers and writers to read and be inspired by. Inspiration is in places you're not looking.
Two books I've read recently that I've loved:
"The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir" by Elna Baker. I doubt she expected people to find religious inspiration out of it, but what a wonderful book (a slightly weak ending, because she's too young for her memoir to have a true ending). A young mormon girl, who had a powerful moment of religious inspiration in her early teens, and then never again. She moves to Babylon (New York) and continues maturing into a liberal woman trying to keep her faith integrated into that new life. Religion means so little in her modern life, though it once meant so much.
"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Don Miller. Don's earlier best seller, "Blue Like Jazz" was a collection of essays and memoirs about how a young religious boy went to Reed college, had his faith challenged and lost and eventually regains it. They made a movie (I helped Kickstart it). BUT, Million Miles is about what it means when you take your life and turn it into a movie narrative. What happens if *YOU* frame *YOUR* life as a story? What happens when God writes your story? You have a goal; there is conflict to keep you from reaching it; you overcome that conflict.
One of the most common messages in church sermons is, "if you feel broken, you can be healed." My life is pretty great. I'm related to a different narrative. A common thread that speaks to me is, "if you don't feel broken, there is still much to be done." Or perhaps, "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
Our church is doing a summer series on modern day inspired and inspiring people--religious leaders, writers, and missionaries who lived in the past 100 years. I have been immensely excited and interested in it. Bonhoeffer. Mother Teresa. Billy Graham. It's great stuff - it was worth waiting five years. I hope I don't have to wait another five years for the next series