Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Book Whose Every Chapter Satisfies

OK, name a book you’ve read in which you come to the end of every chapter and say,

Ah . . . Ah ha. Yes.

I’m reading such a book now. It’s not a page-turner like most of what you find on fiction best-seller lists. It’s not a serialized cliff-hanger, either, like Dickens used to turn out. It’s simply a book that satisfies.

Every. Single. Chapter.

James Martin’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage is such a book, and I’m reading (actually listening to) it now. The reason it satisfies is not that it is the best Life of Christ ever written, a life merged with personal travelogue, biblical scholarship, imaginative prayer, and joyful reading (Martin’s happily non-ironic voice).

The reason every chapter of Jesus: A Pilgrimage satisfies is the artful armature on which it is built. Everything in each chapter points to the final passage, the Gospel reading on which the chapter is based.

This reverses the usual pattern of: quote Scripture, then analyze Scripture. Instead, Martin gives us all of the personal experience and expert analysis he can muster before reading the passage. So that when we come to the end of the chapter, we say, every time—

Ah . . . Ah ha. Yes.

I find myself moved. Not thrilled or seduced (as with page-turners or cliff-hangers). I am moved. 

It’s brilliant. 

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