Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: A Resurrection Shaped Life: Dying and Rising on Planet Earth by Jake Owensby

I received a copy of Jake Owensby's new book A Resurrection Shaped Life: Dying and Rising on Planet Earth to read and review. Owensby is the fourth Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Western Louisiana, author of several books, and regular blogger. 

I wasn't sure what to expect going in - I've never read anything else Owensby has written, but the title and theme intrigued me. This is a short read, just over 100 pages. Chapters include themes like "Growing Beyond Our Past," "The Meaning of Suffering," "Mending Loss and Sorrow," and "Just Us." I think resurrection is sometimes a hard 'concept' for both seekers in spirituality and for long-time disciples to grasp. We want to believe in resurrection, but we have a hard time finding evidence of it in our own lives. Even perhaps believing in the resurrection of Jesus is easier than believing in our own resurrected lives, because we can keep Jesus' resurrection at a safe distance on the pages of scripture, but we can't help but notice that our own lives seem remarkable not full of new life. I think Owensby does a really remarkable job of bringing resurrection close to us, and helping us understand what resurrection looks like in the here and now. 

I really enjoyed this book. It was a balm for the soul. Some highlights: 

On repentance - "When we repent, we admit that the sorrows, the losses, the wounds, the betrayals, and the regrets of our past have made us into someone we don't want to be anymore." (7)

On suffering - "One way in which ... new life emerges is in our unguarded engagement with the suffering of others." (21)

On shame - For some people "life is a ceaseless striving to be something they aren't yet. To arrive. The problem is that they never really arrive so long as they believe that being lovable is something to strive for and achieve." (38)

On grace - In some views, "grace enters the universe as a repair kit," but for Owensby (in line with other theologians,) "when God decided to bring the world into being, Jesus was God's very first thought. That's because the creation is about love from its inception." (42) 

On sorrow - "I don't for one minute believe that the resurrection diminishes the importance of our mortal suffering. On the contrary, the resurrection saturates even the most sorrowful moments of our lives with significance. Following Jesus is all about learning to care with abandon." (57) 

On the Parable of the Foolish Virgins - "No one else can ... engage this Kingdom for you. I can't lend you my extra oil. I can't just tell you about it. You have to be there. The genuine encounter is always personal." (61) 

On reconciliation - "Nothing degrades our human dignity like our refusal to recognize it in each other." (74) 

On justice - "Would your life be worth living if you didn't do whatever it takes to pursue the dream of God's justice for all?" (92) 

On heaven and hell/Parable of the Talents - "A carefree life comes much closer to hell than to heaven ... The only path to blamelessness is to be uncaring. To care is to invest in what's going on around you, to take risks, to suffer loss, to be accountable, and to commit." (100-101)

Finally, "Life is not about being endlessly Carefree. It's about being unguardedly, relentlessly caring. At the end of the day, our tears will be wiped away. But the point is that we have shed tears ... Tears of love. We have not protected ourselves from Pain and sorrow and loss." (103)

There are brief sets of study guide questions at the end of each chapter for personal or group use. I definitely recommend giving this book a read!

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