Monday, June 6, 2011

How to meet authors ~ Roberta C. Bondi

I'm writing a series of posts to answer a question posed by Helen of Helen's Book Blog:
"How the heck do you meet all these authors? That's awesome!"
Roberta C. Bondi
Roberta Bondi was one of my seminary professors when I was at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.  She and Bill Mallard co-taught a class on the history of the church that gave me a good grounding for the whole process of doing theology by knowing the basis of previous theological ideas.

So one way to "meet an author" is by attending a university or seminary.  Most professors are expected to "publish or perish," so — ta-da! — they are authors.

A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer ~ by Roberta C. Bondi, 1998, religion, 9/10

The other day, I mentioned to my friend Donna that I may do a series on the Lord's Prayer for the Seekers Class at St. Luke, a church that occasionally invites me to teach or preach.  Her pastor is in the middle of such a class, she told me, showing me the most recent study sheet.  It started with their Lenten Luncheon series, and the group wanted to keep studying.  The upshot of that conversation was that I decided to attend the luncheon discussions with her.

The book they are using (see below) is only 112 pages long, so I read Donna's copy in a couple of days.  Although Willimon and Hauerwas have each written some pretty good books, this is not one of their better ones.  So Donna and I got out our copies of Roberta Bondi's book, A Place to Pray, which I first read in 1999 and have taught a few times over the years.  It is much better than the one the class is using.  Since I also bought the companion video series, Donna and I set it up on my porch to view during lulls in our recent Neighborhood Yard Sale.  I would pause the video whenever neighbors stopped by to look over my books.

Bondi put this study together in a unique way, with each chapter written as a letter to her friend.  From what she writes, we can infer what her friend has said (or written) in the meantime.  Here is a deep friendship.
"Dear friend, how grateful I am for the gift of your own existence in my life, for such a friendship in which we can talk openly about our lives with God and the hard and happy things for which we pray.  May God always keep in our hearts the knowledge that these words spoken between us are, after all, as much a part of prayer as anything we do" (p. 49).
One more quote from this book:
"As for us, ours is a God who loves, and if we love this God who is love, we long to express that love by imitating God, that is, by loving those whom God loves in the way God loves, in an appropriately human manner" (p. 128).
I rate this book 9 of 10, a very good book.

Whenever it works into the conversation, I try to share insights from Roberta Bondi's book in the study I'm attending with Donna.  Yes, I also use the notes I took while reading Donna's copy of their study book:

Lord, Teach Us: The Lord's Prayer and the Christian Life ~ by William H. Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas, 1996, religion, 7/10

One good thing about this book is that it raises questions for a class to discuss.  Throughout the book, however, I got the distinct impression that they tossed the book together, and no one edited it to smooth the edges.  One minor slip — the index shows scripture in the order it's printed in the Bible, except Colossians and Philippians are out of order.  Another is that, in making Jesus "perfect," they overstep:
"There is nothing that we go through here on earth that Jesus has not also endured" (p. 36).
I know what they meant to impart, but this is just silly and likely to make thoughtful people pause.  It's too broad.  Jesus did NOT birth a child, I can imagine some new mother thinking.  Jesus did NOT have cancer, I imagine from a suffering patient.  Jesus did not even get old, like many of us in that class.  C'mon, guys!  You can do better.

Rated:  7/10, good because it encourages discussion.  By the way, I also met Will Willimon and talked to him after he preached.  That's why I expected more from this book.   (Check — another author I've met.)

I don't want to end on a low note, so I'll leave you with one especially good quote from this book:
"Too often, we are conditioned to think of prayer as asking God for what we want — dear God, give me this, give me that.  But now, in praying that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are attempting to school ourselves to want what God wants" (p. 66).

Those words by Willimon and/or Hauerwas remind me of my favorite title:

To Love As God Loves ~ by Roberta Bondi, 1987, religion, 9/10.

Ha!  We now come full circle, right back to my seminary professor.  Thanks, Roberta!


Helen's Book Blog said...

I like books that are in the form of letters though I haven't read many of them. I find the letter style easy ot read and very conversational

Mary Beth said...

Hi Bonnie! Welcome to RevGals!

Beth said...

I'm going to look for the Bondi book, Bonnie. I love so much how she speaks of how the words between her and her friend are "as much a part of prayer" as anything they do. How wonderful to have that kind of spiritual friendship!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I hope you find it, Beth. It's easy to read, yet deep enough to spend time pondering.

Jan said...

I love Roberta Bondi's books!! And Welcome to RevGals!