The books I have read so far were Required Reading, but this was my first elective book, and I managed to pick a good one from the pages and pages of possibilities!
This book goes passage by passage through Mark's gospel, drawing out themes of discipleship. In my formal reflection that I submitted, I summarized the message of this book as: The world we are living in is full of injustice. Jesus' mission was to overturn the social order and bring justice to the world. And Jesus calls all who would follow him to do the same.
Each chapter deals with a passage from Mark, working all of the way through the 16 chapters of the gospel. The chapter starts by giving context - what was going on in Mark's world as he was writing, and how might his original audience heard these words? - and then goes on to look for examples of "The Word in Our World". I found here that I didn't necessarily relate to all of the examples given (I found many of them to be U.S. based), but at the same time my brain was working overtime while reading and I had no trouble coming up with other examples on the same issues.
I was a little bit skeptical coming into this book, as it is written by committee; and having seen how committees work, I don't know how they managed to end up with such a cohesive, engaging, and read-able book! Ched Myers wrote a book entitled Binding the Strong Man, and this book was later written to make the material more accessible to the lay reader. In the introduction to this book, the group of authors describes themselves as follows:
"Our group represents a spectrum of church traditions: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and "free ecumenical." We live and work in Los Angeles, Tucson, and Washington, D.C. We are male and female, lay and clergy. None of us are professional academic theologians, though we all take the task of critical theological reflection seriously. We are of middle-class, European-American background, yet we are deeply committed to defecting from our dominant culture entitlements in order to participate in the work of justice and peace in solidarity with the poor in the U.S. and abroad."
This book takes many of the themes from a book I read last year, Compassion and Solidarity, and expands them and digs in more depth than was possible in that book.
There was much in this book that I could relate to personally with my experience of living overseas in Tanzania, from the more profound: "To be in relationship with these brothers and sisters is to become a divided person, tied to the worlds of both the privileged and the oppressed." to the every-day: "No one who has lived in a poor country can enter a First World supermarket without being overwhelmed with anger and sadness."
I could probably go on a lot longer here, but let me just finish by saying that this is a book that I will probably go back to and re-read in the future, as there was way too much to absorb the first time around.
Next course weekend is coming up in a week. I can't wait!