Not sure why (although holidays and extended daylight may have something to do with it), but December seemed to be a month in which I knocked over a bucket-load of reading, listened to a tonne of music, and enjoyed more flicks than usual. Here’s my exploits:
- Sun of Righteousness, Arise!: God’s Future for Humanity and the Earth by Jürgen Moltmann. (A bit hit and miss, even for this Moltmann fan.)
- The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. (Recherché!)
- Coming to Terms with Power by Briony Martin.
- What Happens in Holy Communion? by Michael Welker.
- Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications by Paul Tillich. (Yes, there’s still a few of us around who read Tillich occasionally.)
- Church in the Round: Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church by Letty M. Russell.
- Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change by Adam Kahane.
- Resisting Dictatorship: Repression and Protest in Southeast Asia by Vincent Boudreau. (A good read.)
- Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson.
- Resurrecting Excellence: Shaping Faithful Christian Ministry by L. Gregory Jones & Kevin R. Armstrong.
- God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now by John Dominic Crossan.
- Radical Forgiveness by Antoinette Bosco. (Disappointing)
- Teachers As Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare Teach by Paulo Freire. (A thought-provoking read.)
- Living at the Edge: Sacrament and Solidarity in Leadership by Penny Jamieson. (An honest book.)
- Power and Christian Theology by Stephen Sykes. (This book is outstanding. Possibly the best on the subject!)
- Jesus, Paul, and Power: Rhetoric, Ritual, and Metaphor in Ancient Mediterranean Christianity by Rick F. Talbott.
- The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho. (Not Coelho at his best.)
- The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder.
- Church, Community and Power by Roy Kearsley.
- Gustavo Gutiérrez: Essential Writings by Gustavo Gutiérrez. (Gutiérrez is a much better thinker than I remembered.)
- To Share in the Body: A Theology of Martyrdom for Today’s Church by Craig Hovey.
- Ordination: Celebrating the Gift of Ministry by Stephen V. Sprinkle. (Very helpful.)
- The Eucharist and Ecumenism: Let Us Keep the Feast by George Hunsinger. (‘Certainly among the boldest and most important studies available on the subject’.)
- Systematic Theology, Volume 2: The Works of God by Robert W. Jenson. (Brilliant and disturbing.)
- Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri by The Sixteen.
- You Get What You Give, The Foundation, Pass The Jar – Zac Brown Band and Friends Live from the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta by Zac Brown Band.
- The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens.
- No Better Than This by John Mellencamp.
- Contra by Vampire Weekend.
- The Band Perry by The Band Perry.
- Christmas Chants by Gregorian.
- Lady Antebellum and Need You Now by Lady Antebellum.
- Go by Jónsi.
- The Suburbs by Arcade Fire.
- Pink Moon, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, Family Tree, Time of No Reply and by Nick Drake.
- Doo – Wops & Hooligans by Bruno Mars. (That this kind of rubbish ever makes it onto the charts only supports Calvinism’s claim about total depravity.)
- Live At The Troubadour (CD +DVD) by Carole King & James Taylor.
- Make The Light by Kate Rusby.
- Concertos & Romance by Janine Jansen.
- Plastic Beach by Gorillaz.
- This Is War, A Beautiful Lie and 30 Seconds to Mars by 30 Seconds to Mars.
- Darkness at Noon by Hawk & A Hacksaw.
- Gloria: The Sacred Music of John Rutter by The Cambridge Singers.
- Cloudburst and Other Choral Works, Light & Gold, and The Complete A Cappella Works, 1991–2001 by Eric Whitacre.
- Christmas in Russia.
- High Violet by The National.
- Alas I Cannot Swim and I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling.
- Christmas in Russia: Russian Orthodox Vespers by Don Kosaken Choir.
- Heretic Pride, Life of the World to Come, The Sunset Tree, We Shall All Be Healed and Tallahassee by Mountain Goats.
- Beautiful River by Brigham Young University Concert Choir.
- Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons.
- Bach’s Weihnachts Oratorium conducted by Helmuth Rilling.
- Marc Cohn, The Rainy Season and Burning the Daze by Marc Cohn.
- How I Learned to See in the Dark by Chris Pureka.
- Downtown Church by Patty Griffin. (Stunning!)
- God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise by Ray Lamontagne & The Pariah Dogs.
- Gossip in the Grain and Till the Sun Turns Black by Ray LaMontagne.
- The Promise by Bruce Springsteen.
- One Thing at a Time by Graeme Furness.
- Leave Your Sleep (2CD) by Natalie Merchant.
Brewing: Sumatra Mandaling
Reading: Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson; Home by Marilynne Robinson; Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (The Terry Lectures Series) by Marilynne Robinson; On My Country and the World by Mikhail Gorbachev; The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist by Angel F. Mendez Montoya; Theology of the Reformed Confessions by Karl Barth; Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People edited by Dorothy C. Bass; Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church by Mark Driscoll (I confess that some skim reading was required here, but this is proof that I read widely!); The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables edited by Richard N. Longenecker; Counterpoint by R.S. Thomas; The Parables of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon; Between Two Worlds: Understanding And Managing Clergy Stress by Andrew R. Irvine; Theological Controversies in the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, 1865–1915: The Rise of Liberal Evangelicalism by Peter Barnes.
Listening: Songs of Love & Hate by Leonard Cohen; Beneath Southland Skies by Mike Brosnan; Mass in G Minor by Vaughan Williams; In Buenos Aires Volume 1: 1973 Concert by Bill Evans Trio; Symphonies Nos. 7 ‘Sinfonia Antartica’ & 8 by Vaughan Williams; God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise by Ray Lamontagne & The Pariah Dogs; Trouble and Gossip In The Grain by Ray LaMontagne; August & Everything After, Recovering the Satellites, This Desert Life, Across A Wire: Live In New York City, Films About Ghosts, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall and Hard Candy by Counting Crows; So Much More, Hope for the Hopeless and Brett Dennen by Brett Dennen; Supply And Demand and Last Days At the Lodge by Amos Lee; Stop All The World Now, Sound The Alarm, Australia by Howie Day; You Can Tell Georgia, Take My Blanket and Go, Stompin Grounds, Sessions From Motor Ave., Paris In The Morning, Only Four Seasons, Last Clock On The Wall, Julie Blue, Joe Purdy and Canyon Joe by Joe Purdy.
Watching: U2: Go Home – Live from Slane Castle; Abandoned; Law Abiding Citizen; Salt; Saw VI; Alice in Wonderland; The Matrix; When Did You Last See Your Father?; Pink Floyd: Pulse; Robin Hood; Love Happens.
Brewing: Sumatra Mandaling.
Drinking: Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2009; Waipara Hills Pinot Noir 2008.
[Image: Elizabeth Kaeton]
From the reading chair: Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief by Christopher Morse; Secular Christianity and God Who Acts by Robert J. Blaikie; The Calvin Handbook edited by Herman J. Selderhuis; Studies in Theology by James Denney; Institutes of the Christian Religion: 1541 French Edition by John Calvin, edited by Elsie McKee; Markings: Poems and Drawings, and Berlin Diary by Cilla McQueen; Practical Theology: An Introduction by Richard R. Osmer.
Through the iPod: The Astounding Eyes of Rita, Le Pas Du Chat Noir, Astrakan Cafe, ECM Touchstones: Conte de l’Incroyable Amour, Le Voyage de Sahar, Thimar, Barzakh, and Khomsa, all by Anouar Brahem; Available Light by Dave Dobbyn; Arvo Pärt: I am the True Vine by Paul Hillier; Britten Choral Works by Choir of King’s College Cambridge
On the screen: The Wire (Season 1); Mary and Max .
By the bottle: Olssens Nipple Hill Pinot Noir 2008
From the reading chair: In the Beauty of the Lilies, by John Updike; A Broad Place, by Jürgen Moltmann; An Educated Clergy: Scottish Theological Education and Training in the Kirk and Secession, 1560-1850, by Jack C. Whytock.
Through the iPod: Jewel, Lullaby; KD Lang, Watershed; jj, jj n° 2; Lucinda Williams, Little Honey and West; Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be; John Hiatt, Same Old Man and Slow Turning.
On the screen: Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man ; Disgrace 
In the glass: Two Degrees Pinot Noir 2007.
I’m still appreciating the offerings from the pen of Frederick Buechner. And I completely dig his take on wine:
‘Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale. It is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses. Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs. As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one’. – Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking. A Theological ABC (San Francisco: Harper, 1973), 95–6.
These words reminded me of the first time I ever heard Robert Jenson speak. It was at Ormond College in Melbourne about 7–8 years ago. I recall the conviction with which he spoke of the centrality of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church. I also recall the passion with which he condemned the use of individual shot glasses and highlighted the need for congregations to drink from the one cup, and to fill it with the best wine that we can afford. This conviction finds echo in his Conversations with Poppi about God, where he writes: ‘the wine should be the very best’ and dissolvable bread should be banned. The meal should be appetising, and not like those baptisms ‘when they just dribble a couple of drops on the baby’. – Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold, Conversations with Poppi about God: An Eight-Year-Old and Her Theologian Grandfather Trade Questions (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), 33, 34. [Reviewed here]
I’m into sharing meals that make ‘the timid brave and the reserved amorous’. I believe that God is as well. Sounds like the kind of meal we ought to be having more often too.
'Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu', by Guy Maestri
Best books: Geoffrey A. Studdert Kennedy, After War, Is Faith Possible?: The Life and Message of Geoffrey “Woodbine Willie” Studdert Kennedy (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2008). (Reviewed here)
Best music: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Gurrumul [2008: This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time]; U2, No Line on the Horizon ; Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 ; The Panics, Cruel Guards ; Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie .
Best films: The Reader 
Best drink: 2007 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir
Best book: Kim Fabricius, Propositions on Christian Theology: A Pilgrim Walks the Plank (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2008).
Best music: Archie Roach, Charcoal Lane; Morrissey, Years of Refusal .
Best films: Seven Pounds  ♦♦♦; The Wrestler ♦♦♦♦; Frozen River ♦♦♦½.
Best drink: Two Paddocks Pinot Noir (2007).
Best books: Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy: Food and Stories. New York: Ecco, 2007 (this one is easily among my favourite books of the year); Marcia JoAnn Bunge, ed. The Child in Christian Thought. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001; David H. Jensen, Graced Vulnerability: A Theology of Childhood. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2005; and Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.
Best music: Malcolm Gordon, One Voice; and U2, The Golden Unplugged Album
Best films: Death Sentence (2007)
Best drink: Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon (2006)