by Jon White
This short volume packs a lot of good in its pages; and offers something for everyone from the curious seeker to a seasoned preacher. Built around the lectionary readings for year A from the Revised Common Lectionary; each chapter focuses on a particular season of the church year.
The opening of the book offers an overview of the text itself, drawing on modern critical interpretive tools to ask who was ‘Matthew,’ and what might he have been aiming to accomplish in writing this gospel and to place the text in the context in which it was created and received. The introduction offers an excellent and accessible overview for anyone seeking to delve a little deeper into Matthew.
There is a chapter for each liturgical season, including a chapter devoted to Holy Week and each is structured similarly, with longer sections on both context and meaning which the authors call “exploring the text” and “reflecting on the text.” In addition to those two sections each chapter offer a poetic reflection (“imagining the text”) and a series of responses for the reader to consider (“action, conversation, questions, prayer”).
The opening context section covers the stories and persons presented in the lections for that season, providing basic background, historical connections and parallels in the Hebrew scriptures. The sections titled “reflecting on the text” opens up some of the important themes behind the lections and thoughts on how those play out in our lives today.
The “action, conversation, questions, prayer” sections are very short but offer avenues for further exploration and reflection on the part of the reader. Especially for those using this volume to explore Matthew on their own, this section will likely be very useful not only for thinking about the gospel but also to see how this ancient text connects to our daily struggle to live out the faith and to follow Jesus.
Imagining the text is clearly meant as an invitation to readers whose approach is more creative (or Ignatian?). I thought the idea of an imaginative leaping off point was an excellent one; but I came away feeling that the sections failed to deliver fully on their promise. I commend the effort though as approaching scripture from a creative or imaginative perspective is too little done.
Overall, I’d recommend this volume as a good addition to your library. It would be especially useful I imagine for a book group or as an addendum to a bible study of Matthew. It would be an excellent resource for anyone teaching on the gospel, especially as it is being heard in this lectionary year.
Journeying with Matthew: Reflections on the Gospel is published by Westminster John Knox Press and is the third volume in the ‘Journeying with…” series.
The authors are :
- James Woodward, Canon of St George’s Chapel, Windsor
- Paula Gooder, author and lecturer in New Testament studies and Canon Theologian of Birmingham and Guildford cathedrals
- Mark Pryce, Bishop’s Adviser for Clergy Continuing Ministerial Development in the diocese of Birmingham (CoE)