As I head into these wonderful summer months of sabbatical for me, I anticipate doing much reading along the lines of spiritual theology. These months are a gift to me as we prepare to fully launch our new Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation.
First I plan on completing the text The Life Journey of a Joyful Man of God: The Autobiographical Memoirs of Adrian van Kaam. Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2011. Fr. van Kaam was, and continues to be, my mentor in the ways of the Lord. I studied under him for four years at Duquesne University and then stayed in connection with him until his death in 2007. He was, without question, the greatest witness of Christ I have ever known and his memoirs are a treasure to me and to the whole church.
Then, in order to keep myself grounded in the written word of God and further connected to the living Word of God, a group of friends and I will travel through Acts for Everyone by N. T. Wright. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. Every explication of the events in Acts brings forth solid and life-giving theology by Wright.
One of the readings I am cherishing the most this summer is an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount by John Wesley. Mr. Wesley covered pretty much the whole of Christianity in his 13 sermons entitled “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.” I highly recommend reading them in the Outler version: The Works Of John Wesley, Volume 1, Sermons 1-33. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984. Outler’s notes help open Wesley’s world and thoughts in amazing ways.
This summer I am also taking the time to read Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986. It is difficult reading, but well, well worth it. Writing in the middle of the 20th Century, van Balthasar anticipated the pillaging of the Christian faith for selfish ends (using God for personal-exaltation) that would threaten to derail Christianity by the end of the century. Commenting on this “ascension” of our own egos, van Balthasar wrote, “If this were all, Christ would be nothing more than the perfect man, perfecting others, bringing the aspirations inherent in human nature to appropriate self-realization. That, however, is not the heart of faith in Christ…” (p. 56)
To prepare for a new course I am teaching this fall, I am working through a delightful new text by Philip Sheldrake, Explorations in Spirituality: History, Theology, and Social Practice. New York: Paulist Press, 2010. It is an outstanding overview of Christian Spirituality. I especially appreciate how Sheldrake is helping me better understand Julian of Norwich and St. Augustine.
One “re-read” will be important to me this summer. I am going back over Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright, New York: HarperOne, 2008. In three decades of pastoral ministry I never once taught or preached on the ascension of Christ. Wright has not merely reproved me for my omission, but truly inspired me to give deep and long consideration to the ascension and to the window it opens into the nature of heaven.
A small theological work that I am really looking forward to reading this summer is Experiences of God by Jürgen Moltmann, Fortress Press, 1980. Moltmann has expanded the traditional threefold path of the Christian life into a fivefold process. Many theologians writing today consider this text to be a critical word on the necessity of grounding our work for the Lord in deep contemplation of/with the Lord.
By way of journals, I will seek to soak in at least one of the articles in the Spring 2012, Volume 5, Number 1 edition of Journal Of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care. This particular issue is on “The Formative Reading Of Scripture” and the highlight article is Susan Muto’s, “The Art and Discipline of Formative Reading: Revisiting Holy Scripture with Humble Receptivity.”
Then finally, before making a sacred pilgrimage back into God’s mountains in southwest Colorado, I will go through Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies: Revealing Their Natural History by Carolyn Dodson and William Dunmire, University of New Mexico Press, 2007.