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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

23 June 2005

How about a Rousing Game of Book Tag?

What's book tag? Read on.

I'm fifth generation in this round: Bob Waters tagged me after Bunny Diehl laid the burden on him. Bunny caught it from Jordan Ballor at the Acton Institute. Kathryn Judson started this affair.

Kathryn's rules were simple:
Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn't like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?

Bunny added:
1) one book must be something you're a bit embarrassed to admit is on your favorites list, 2) all books would be suitable for adults and 3) one book changed the way you look at the world.

With these in mind, we begin.

1. Almost every piece of serious literature and many of the lighter and fluffier delights I've consumed have changed my perception of the surrounding world. There's one well to which I've returned constantly: Since my sixth birthday (16 January 1957, if you're curious), I've owned—and used—a hymnal. Specifically, I have The Lutheran Hymnal. Since that time, I've also kept Lutheran Worship as a companion. Once upon a time, many Lutherans owned their own hymnals, bringing them to church on Sunday and using them in family devotions and personal meditation throughout the week. I thank my parents (especially Mom) for teaching me to read at a tender age and both of them for placing in my hands the songs and prayers and lections of the Church.

2. Short, (bitter-) sweet, full of parent-child and child-parent love, and able to bring at least a few tears whenever I read it to child or grandchild, Robert Munch's Love You Forever with illustrations by Sheila McGraw draws together the generations, despite our many differences. Dad gave it to me right after Laura was born and now that he's gone, the refrain is sweeter (and more tearful) than ever: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." It also has humor and the ability to change your worldview.

3. Since I've lived in a number of U. S. regions, I guess I could pick and choose. I think it should be ... Willa Cather. Her strong midwestern roots nourished all she wrote; Death Comes for the Archbishop covers the southwestern United States, where I roamed the mesas, deserts, mountains, and canyons for years. This book, while fiction, also helps understand some of the history of Western Civilization.

4. To understand why so many of us have such huge collections of book that it's difficult to make such a list, I suggest Tom Raabe's Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction. I'm delighted to have an autographed copy following our meeting at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis.

5. The difficulties of maintaining doctrinal fidelity balanced with individual care and corporate responsibilities in parish ministry are wonderfully expressed in The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. A revised edition includes the final chapter not in the original American publication.

6. Dad wrote it; I rewrote and edited it; it teaches solid Lutheranism: I suppose I shouldn't ignore What Do Lutherans Believe? A Study Guide in Christian Teaching by Walter W. Snyder and Walter P. Snyder.

7. I consider the Middle Earth books of J. R. R. Tolkein as a unified whole, and one I've read a number of times. However, a lesser-known book, the collection The Tolkein Reader shouldn't be ignored. In my opinion, the essay "On Fairy Tales" is almost worth the price of the book by itself. In it, Tolkein coined the word eucatastrophe—something spectacularly, far-reachingly, overwhelmingly good and applies it especially to the Gospel, most of all, to the Resurrection.

8. Maybe not totally "embarrassing," but I'm a Tony Hillerman junkie. His Navajo cops Leaphorn and Chee are three-dimensional, and I lived in Gallup, New Mexico long enough to vouch for his geographic and cultural veracity. He keeps his mysteries mysterious and his plots moving. More embarrassing, but fact-filled and fun, I admit to owning and regularly perusing the Bathroom Reader series from "Uncle John." I'm especially fond of some of the historical and cultural special editions.

9. The Innocents Abroad—see the world through the eyes of a soft-hearted cynic, the inimitable Mark Twain. We've all had Ferguson attempt to guide us through life's passages.

10. Counting collections, I'm already past ten books. Ten hundred or ten thousand might still come to mind. Maybe since its tales are so much the fabric of our culture, and because so many of them are rip-snorting good yarns, I'll close out with Edith Hamilton's Mythology, the definitive "small" collection of Graeco-Roman myths and legends with a few Norse tales for dessert.

Now let's pass the buck: I tag Balaam's Ass, Glen Piper, and Dan from Necessary Roughness.


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