Occasionally I post a book review of a book I have read recently. But, today I want to offer a book recommendation rather than a book review. The reason for the shift in approach is that this is a lesser known book and it I want to more a more informal style to focus on the why I think it is worth the read, rather than to analyze its content. I read the book along with some other friends in a pastoral peer group. I do not know if I would have run across it without the recommendation of a member of the group – but I am glad I did.
The book I want to recommend is Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos. It is religious fiction with several powerful theological connect points. This is not one of the theological allegories like I encountered in my fundamentalist youth. Is a fun and lively read where significant truths emerge. It is written in a style that makes it accessible to both people of faith in Christ and those outside of faith who are seeking spiritual truth. The heart of the author’s premise is that we have all at some level shaped our perception of Jesus on who we are and how we see the world and our need to seek the real Jesus. As the story unfolds, Matt rather comically introduces you to a wide range of images of the Jesus that our religious and social culture crafts to meet their own agendas. As you laugh at some of the images, you discover others that can make you feel a bit uncomfortable because they look like the kind Jesus you have fashioned for yourself – whatever that looks like in your life story. The book also confronts the struggle to deal with suffering and invites you into a Communion experience with Peter and Mary built around them claiming time not to just talk about remembering – but claiming time to really remember the life, the ministry, and the gift of Jesus. You find the real Jesus in an intimate personal encounter far away from the flash and the polish of the cultural creations.
Yesterday morning my pastoral peer group was able to stage a Skype call with Matt. He gave us the opportunity to pepper him with some of our questions and answered us with the same honesty and humor that pulses through the book. I am glad for the encounter with Imaginary Jesus and its author. I look forward to using it in a small group context in our church in the days ahead. I highly recommend it to you.
Grace and Peace, Tom