Friday, June 2, 2017

Brief Book Review: The Redeemer

The Redeemer
Author: Jo Nesbø
Publisher: London: Vintage Books
571 pages, paperback
CDN $4.99

A brief review by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

In this continuing saga of police inspector super sleuth, Harry Hole, Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbø has given readers another page-turner.
   The novel begins with a quote from Isaiah 63:1, which refers to a foreigner from Edom, wearing garments stained crimson. This provides the reader with a wee clue concerning one of the main protagonists—or is he an antagonist?—in the novel.
   The Redeemer, like many, if not all of Nesbø’s novels, contains a rather complex plot, or series of plots, with numerous characters—elevating the drama, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats, wondering how the unraveling story will reach each conclusion.
   As usual, Harry Hole, the hero is portrayed as the maverick, unpredictable inspector who breaks most, if not all of the standard rules and regulations to solve the case. His colleagues and superiors are constantly, sometimes simultaneously offended and amazed by Hole. Hole has deep insights into human nature, figuring out motives and predicting behaviours when others are stumped. Yet he is also portrayed as a rather troubled soul, plagued by broken relationships and personal demons.
   The story ebbs and flows around three major protagonists, or are they antogonists?—two of them are brothers and members of the Salvation Army, Jon and Robert Karlsen. The third one is a professional killer from Croatia. The action begins when Robert Karlsen is killed by mistake.
   Nesbø keeps readers guessing about who the redeemer is and who are numbered among the redeemed by his concept of the book’s title. If you enjoy murder mysteries, I recommend that you read the novel to find out what happens next.   

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Clergy Comment column

Here is my article published in the May 4, 2017 Camrose Canadian Clergy Comment column.
   Last Sunday was the third Sunday of Easter. The gospel reading was Luke 24:13-35, the story of two followers of Jesus, Cleopas and an unnamed one. They are journeying from Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus, walking and talking about the passion and death of Jesus, looking sad and trying to process their grief.
   Suddenly the risen Jesus appears and engages them in a conversation. Yet, ironically, they don’t realize it’s Jesus. In their conversation with Jesus there are words of sorrow, disappointment, and uncertainty. Jesus then provides them with a brilliant interpretation of the scriptures, fulfilled prophecies concerning himself and the recent events. They arrive at Emmaus and invite Jesus in to eat with them. As they share a meal together, Luke tells us that “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Afterwards they reflect on their encounter with Jesus, recalling how their hearts were burning within them as Jesus opened up the scriptures to them.
   Each one of us is also on an Emmaus road journey. We, like those two followers of Jesus, travel through all of the different stages of the journey. As life events unfold, we move from adventure, joy and contentment through to sorrow, grief, doubt, despair and disappointment. Our eyes are kept from recognizing Jesus—even though he walks with us on our Emmaus road.
   We, like the two followers of Jesus, miss him as we journey through the daily events of our lives. Yet he is there with us, speaking through the people we encounter and the activities of each day. Sometimes our fears, doubts and disappointments prevent us from understanding the scriptures. Even then, Christ is with us and leads us through every stage of our Emmaus road journey.
   No matter how hopeless, hurt and uncertain we may feel, Jesus refuses to give up on us. His love is always there for us. We, like those two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus have much to learn as we journey on. We, like they, need his word and his meal, the Lord’s Supper, to open our hearts, minds and lives so that we see him with us in our life and faith journeys.
   As the events of the world and the church continue to unfold, our calling as followers of Jesus is clear. We, like Christians throughout the centuries are called to proclaim and live the words: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!” For we are a resurrection people, even in the most hopeless situations individually, as well as in the church and the world can become hopeful—thanks to the risen Christ!  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Prayer of the Day/Collect for 5th Sunday in Lent, Year A

Cross by Dim Lamp
Life-giving God: Long ago you breathed life and hope into your chosen people, and delivered them out of exile. You also show compassion to those who grieve the loss of loved ones, and promise them new life with a hopeful future. Help us to show compassion for those who are grieving in our midst, and to be bearers of your grace; through Jesus Christ, our cross-bearing Messiah, who lives and reigns with you and the life-breathing Spirit, one God, now and forever.    

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prayer of the Day/Collect for 2nd Sunday in Lent, Year A

Cross by Dim Lamp
God of love: You sent your Son, Jesus into the world to show how much you love the world through his suffering and death on a cross. In gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, help us to share this love each day with others by following him in the way of the cross; through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit; one God, now and forever.    

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Help Thanks Wow: A Brief Review

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
Author: Anne Lamott
Publisher: New York: Riverhead Books a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012
103 pages, ISBN 978-1-59463-129-0, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Anne Lamott is a popular author whom many praise, quote and speak and blog about these days. I hadn’t read her books prior to this one, so I thought I’d find out for myself what she had to say.
   In the “Prelude,” Lamott describes prayer as “private,” and “communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding.” (p. 1) She goes on to tell her readers that she’s not too concerned about how to name God—which may be an issue for some of her readers who believe that God should definitely be communicated with by employing specific names. She believes that one can speak with God in prayer about anything.
   Lamott is a creative writer. In this little volume, she seems, to this reader, to be a stream of consciousness writer. There is a flow to the writing. Her turns of phrase are attention-grabbers, unpredictable, humorous, insightful and more. Yet, at the same time, they are both her strength and her weakness.
   The writing is so colourful and busy that it goes off in far too many directions too rapidly and, at times anyway, for this reader more difficult to track. Overall, for Lamott, perhaps the chaos theory of existence is more attractive than the ordered theory of existence.
   Having said all of that, I do appreciate some of her turns of phrase. Here are three examples that may make readers of this review curious enough to explore Anne Lamott’s writings. 
   From the “Help” chapter, concerning seeking an answer from God: “Yet maybe if you ask God for help in knowing which direction to face, you’ll have a moment of intuition.”
   “The response probably won’t be from God, in the sense of hearing a deep grandfatherly voice, or via skywriting, or in the form of an LED-lit airplane aisle at your feet.” (p. 37)
   From the “Thanks” chapter, an insight into the nature of gratitude: “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk.” (pp. 56-57)
   From the “Wow” chapter, on the wonder, awe, and amazement of life: “Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal.”
   “What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in the music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath. That’s why they call it breathtaking.” (p. 81)
   So, if your prayer life has become stale, boring and dry and a bit too ordered; if you are looking for more creativity in your prayer life; you may want to read Anne Lamott’s book.