Thursday, February 24, 2011
I just started reading Eugene Peterson's much anticipated (and judging from the first several pages, much to be enjoyed!) memoir 'The Pastor'. Peterson has so often provided me with counsel and caution, wise reflection and revealing rebuke, that I never miss the opportunity to open the pages he pens and drink deeply. More on this work as I make some further progress.
He is not alone as master of memory and instruction. Last week I read 'The Memory Chalet' by the late postwar historian Tony Judt. His naked, honest recollections of life in London and as a Holocaust era Jewish intellectual is one of the finest books I've ever read. Judt was struck down by Lou Gherig's disease and succumbed last August. With his passing we lost a master historian and teacher. This can be seen not only in the magnitude and scope of his published work on history, but, in this final collection of essays, his assessment of the advancing disease robbing him of his physical capabilities while leaving his mind perfectly intact. It is gripping. More than anything, Judt is a wonderful writer, his deployment of the written English language exact and a generous service to a generation whose capacity to write is degraded not only by inattention to the written word but by its addiction to texting. In fact, Judt's remarks on the use and abuse of language are some of the finest counsel he offers.
This book was preceded in my reading by a new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written by Eric Mataxas. Bonhoeffer, had he lived, might well have provided us with a much needed memoir of courage in the face of tyranny and a theology of Church and State which might yet inspire and inform. His martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis remains an ample testimony, together with his incisive and essential books, 'The Cost of Discipleship' and 'Life Together'. Metaxas' account of Bonhoeffer's life is compelling, matching well the adventurous and principled faith of the book's subject.
In the memory of others we can be encouraged to more carefully treasure the people we know and have known, the experiences we have been given, and see these all, both hard and tender, as mercies all, entrusted to us as a stewardship to conform us to Christ and call others to him. The One who said, "Do this in remembrance of Me" calls us to be a people who 'Never forget'.
These three books appear to be great aids to obeying that summons.
Pictured from top to bottom: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Tony Judt, and Eugene Peterson