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My First Book!

Oh, I like looking at that.

I can hardly believe it. I’ve been writing for decades. I’ve written short stories, academic papers, sermons, presentations, blog posts, a novel, and non-fiction memoirs and travelogues. I’ve been fortunate to have both academic articles and short stories published. But it’s been a waiting game to see whether a publisher would ever pick up one of the book-length manuscripts. Now it’s finally happened — a publisher said YES, and it wasn’t the manuscript I expected! But I’m SO happy that Novalis Press took a chance on Pairings: The Bible and Booze. One of the editors wrote: “I loved it! In fact I couldn’t put it down.”

Pairings will be out soon in Canada and the US, and will be coming out in French a few months later (translated by my friend Sabrina Di Matteo). It’s the first time I’ve signed a book contract. I even received the Press’s standard advance (completely unexpected for someone used to academic publishing). I admit it: it’s a thrill!

Not long ago they sent me some possible book covers. The one I picked (see above) is the choice the Press went with as well. It kind of looks like a Bible, doesn’t it? I love the retro feel, the woodcut approach. And the old-school Bible colour.

So what’s in the book? Here’s what my pitch said: “The manuscript represents the latest biblical studies research. Its commentary on popular biblical texts – arguing tongue-in-cheek for why they should be twinned with certain drinks – is a delicious “taster” for both. Pairings feels like an excellent dinner conversation shot through with a gentle sense of humour.” I added that “Pairings: The Bible and Booze turns our natural curiosity about dissimilar items and our thirst for the old truths into a lively and inspiring book about the Bible.”

See for yourself….here’s the Table of Contents! Each chapter offers up two tasty suggestions – one alcohol and one alcohol-free – to match a passage. Some biblical studies types, friends of mine, have seen the pairings. They often disagree with my choice of drinks…but that’s part of the fun! You may have other pairings to suggest too, once you start to read. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

I hope to hold a physical copy in my hands very soon. I can’t wait. Look for more news in the coming weeks!

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Peopled by the Book

Peopled by the Book

When I was at Wilfred Laurier University for our church’s 2012 Synod Assembly my friend Tim Hegedus handed me an article and said “you have to read this.” I’m so glad he did. It was by our mutual friend, Allen Jorgenson, who is assistant dean of Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, and a professor of systematic theology there. It turned out to be one of those pieces that are wonderful to spend time with….interesting, provocative, and thoughtful. Like a really good conversation that leaves you thinking and maybe even changed.

Allen believes that scripture is not just something that we can take or leave, assent to or feel guided by, but that the relationship is much more dynamic and – more to the point – much more guided from THAT side (the side of the scriptures) than by THIS side (the side of us readers). Thus his title: “peopled by the book.” As he says “Scripture…cannot be construed as a bill of goods that we accept – or not – rather, it is the communal means by which we are spoken into being by the God of life.”

He also speaks in the article about how we are all “predisposed to relate with those who think like we do”, so perhaps I should admit that some of the reason I liked the article so much is that many of these thoughts are similar (if better expressed) to thoughts I have been turning over and over for years. One of the chapters in my doctoral dissertation was on Ricoeur’s ideas about rhetoric “creating worlds”(based in turn on Gadamer, at least, as well as I understand him) and I tried to bring this view of the creative power of words to bear on Paul’s use of rhetoric in 1 Corinthians. As well, I’ve been especially aware of the specifically creative power of scripture since reading Hans Frei’s “The Eclipse of Biblical Theology,” which makes a similar point to Jorgenson’s article, again however, with much less elegance. Especially Frei-like (in thought, at least) was the phrase in his conclusion: “Not only is this a book that we read, but it is a book that writes us into the book of life by including us in its very plot. Scripture scripts us.” I will be reflecting on that quote for a long time.

There are tons of memorable, well-turned and descriptive phrases here. I love the idea that scripture equals “the visitation in the present of the church catholic” and that “empowerment is at the heart of the redemption that is reading scripture.” And the image of scripture being “rather like a lung” is a jarring and original idea that really helps explain the back and forth of the process he describes.

I was glad that Tim Hegedus (himself a professor of New Testament at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary) passed on this article, and very happy to have spent some time with its thoughts. There’s been some talk at Concordia’s Dept of Theological Studies where I lecture recently about how we have Biblical Studies and we have Theology, but we don’t talk much anymore about Biblical Theology. It seems to me that such an article is really very important for our understanding of Biblical Theology, which is after all, at least in my opinion, what Luther was all about. Perhaps that’s one of the gifts we Lutherans can offer the wider church and academic community both.

Allen G. Jorgenson. “Peopled by the Book,” Word & World. Vol 29, no 4, fall 2009: 325-333.