reviewed by Donald G. Dawe
The Invitation, as its subtitle tells us, invites readers to enter “in dialogue with Jesus as we know him in the Gospel of Mark.” It is not one more historical-critical commentary on Mark’s Gospel. Nor is it another attempt at finding “the historical Jesus.” Rather it is a tool for entering into personal dialogue with Jesus through reflection on the Gospel of Mark, organized into 52 segments that each includes seven thought-probing questions.
But the authors do not leave us floundering to find a way to enter this dialogue. The book is oriented around the process of dialogue and provides concrete guidance in it. The book is unique in providing not just ideas about Jesus, but a practical invitation to encounter him. When people open themselves to the questions Jesus raised, they touch his redemptive power. What we need is not simply information but a personal relationship to Jesus. In a clear simple text this book unfolds means for group process to facilitate this dialogue. The authors, a layman and a minister, have the wisdom of long experience with dialogue, both in the church and in the business world. They are sensitive guides to the spiritual and emotional, social and economic, ethical and cultural quandaries of our time.
The Invitation builds on a theology of Jesus as risen Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit. Functionally, that means we do not relate to Jesus primarily through historical recollection or doctrinal affirmation. By faith we encounter Jesus Christ as present reality, not a shadowy figure of the past or a set of theological ideas. We enter into an I-Thou relationship with the Lord. So The Invitation is not limited to those already in the church but is open to the questioning, the uncertain, to all of us who feel the threat of non-being in a world of tragedy and fear.
The Invitation is the promising start to The Living Dialogue series that will bring us into dialogue with Paul, Moses, Hosea, and Jesus as met in John’s Gospel. This series will provide a means for letting the Word speak out of its own reality, not one we give it.
Donald G. Dawe is Dabney Professor of Systematic Theology, Emeritus, at Union-PSCE, Richmond, Va.