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For book club, we are reading 1 & 2 Maccabees.  We’ll discuss the books this Sunday after church.  The Maccabees books were written between the time when the Old Testament prophets stopped giving messages from the Lord and before John the Baptist arrived. Because they were written at a time without prophetic activity, Jews and Protestants do not recognize these books as Scripture.  They do give important insight into Jewish history.  In the 2nd century BC,  Alexander the Great conquered much of the ancient world.  After his death, Antiochus Epiphanes inherited rule of the Jews and began to persecute them violently.  Without prophets, without a son of David on the throne, how would God’s people respond?

Mattathias, a priest who left Jerusalem, led a revolt, hearkening back to his ancient forebearer, Phinehas (Numbers 25).¬† Phinehas was commended for his zeal, executing a public sinner in the presence of all Israel. ¬†The ‚Äúzeal of Phinehas,‚ÄĚ a version of which is celebrated in Maccabees, is very different from the zeal of Old Testament Daniel.¬† In 1 Maccabees 2, Mattathias murders a man who would offer an apostate sacrifice.¬†Then, the rebels flee to the wilderness.¬†Because the pursuing troops follow them on the Sabbath, the fleeing Jews ‚Äúdid not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places, for they said, ‚ÄėLet us die in our innocence.‚Äô‚Ä̬†After 1000 Jews are slaughtered ‚Äúinnocently,‚ÄĚ Mattathias concludes that to adequately fight, they will have to set aside the Sabbath law through the battles.¬† They were fighting to be able to keep the Jewish laws; then they give up those laws so that they can be the killers instead of the killed.

Later, Mattathias says, ‚ÄúDaniel, because of his innocence, was delivered from the mouth of the lion.‚Ä̬†Then were the slaughtered thousand innocent or not?¬† Is there a place in Mattathias‚Äô understanding for the righteous‚ÄĒlet alone the Lord‚ÄĒto be a suffering servant (Isaiah 53)?¬† Mattathias gives examples of triumphant Jews (2:52-60).¬† Each example gets to see the enemies of God die.¬† ‚ÄúAnd so observe, from generation to generation, that none who hope in him will lack strength.‚Ä̬† How hard, then, to see Christ pass the cross to Simon of Cyrene.

It’s striking how intertwined in Maccabees are the theology of glory and the unwillingness to see hope all the way through to martyrdom.  How different is Hebrews 11:13-16!  When the Christian writer of Hebrews describes the faith of Jewish heroes, he sees sacrifice and exile and persecution. 

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

How do Christians today face similar temptations to the Maccabean Jews?  How does the New Testament change the way we answer those temptations?  Do you think the Maccabean Jews could have seen in the Old Testament the answers the Christians found?

Evening in the Palace of Reason

The next book for book club is James R. Gaines' Evening in the Palace of Reason.  This history recounts Johann Sebastian Bach meeting Frederick the Great.  Frederick set the changing tastes of Europe at the time and "old Bach" was seen as a curmudgeon of the old ways.  Frederick's court, including Bach's own son, set a musical test they thought the old master couldn't pass.  Not only did Bach compose a masterpiece answer, his A Musical Offering testified to his faith.  This book not only tells the story of that encounter but of the conflict between worldviews, between faith and reason, between parents and children.

The Hiding Place

Alena has written some thoughts since we will miss the June 3 discussion of The Hiding Place.

I‚Äôm so thankful that the book club chose to read Corrie Ten Boom‚Äôs¬†The Hiding Place. I‚Äôm only sorry that I‚Äôll miss the discussion of this moving autobiography! I had never read this story before, and I found the deep faith expressed by Corrie Ten Boom and her family incredibly inspiring. Their trust in God‚Äôs goodness amidst the darkest of times, their love both for the vulnerable and for their persecutors‚ÄĒand the ways in which the Lord worked through their suffering‚ÄĒare a powerful testimony. Their family was steeped in the Scriptures, and this was a profound reminder of the strength imparted through God‚Äôs Word. I enjoyed hearing about their practice of morning Bible reading‚ÄĒpunctual down to the minute!‚ÄĒthat included the family, shop employees, and anyone who wanted to join in. I marvel at Betsie‚Äôs eyes of faith that saw in every hardship an opportunity to share the Gospel with the hurting. I wonder at her thankfulness to God in all circumstances, and at His faithful response to her thanksgiving. Hebrews 12:1-3 speaks of how the example of the Old Testament saints can inspire us: ‚ÄúTherefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run¬†with perseverance¬†the race marked out for us,¬†fixing our eyes on Jesus,¬†the pioneer¬†and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,¬†scorning its shame,¬†and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.¬†Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.‚ÄĚ The Ten Booms took heart in the Suffering Servant, and have joined that great cloud of witnesses who point us to Him.

Next Book: Mission at Nuremberg

We will meet April 22 to discuss Mission at Nuremberg.  This history tells of the LCMS pastor called to be chaplain to the Nazi war criminals on trial after WWII.   If you want to hear about the book, check out this podcast interview. 

Next Book: Humor on the Way to Heaven

Book Club takes up Janet Gillespie-Orsborn's Humor on the Way to Heaven for our March 25 meeting.  We met Janet last year and she's now married former member Larry Orsborn.  The book talks about caregiving at life's end and the positive role humor can play in that care.

Next Book: A Wrinkle in Time

Book Club takes up Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time for the February 25 meeting.  There's a ton of commentary about this book on-line.  If anyone has a favorite, post it in this thread for those who have read the book before.

February Nominations

Nominations for February’s book club include:

Humor on the Way to Heaven by Janet Gillespie-Orsborn is renominated.  Janet is married to Larry Orsborn and visited Holy Cross last year with him.

Andy Andrews’ The Noticer is also renominated.

Rev. Jonathan Fisk‚Äôs Broken: ¬†7 ‚ÄúChristian‚ÄĚ Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible is nominated.

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is nominated.

Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is nominated.


Humor on the Way to Heaven has a youtube video to tell its story, here.  The book is written from the experience of caregiving at life's end, shining a light on the humor that can be found even in the midst of grief.  The book is available in e-format and paperback.

The Noticer is available in every format, but not through our libraries.  The Noticer is part fiction, part allegory, part inspiration.  This book is about perspective, imagining a mysterious old man wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and leather sandals who shows up in people's lives when everything seems to be going wrong.  The old man offers a little perspective, noticing things that might just change some lives.

Broken is written by an LC-MS pastor, published by CPH.  It also has a video to explain what it’s all about here.  The book challenges rules that many Christians think they ought to live by, which are actually contrary to truly following Jesus.  It is available in ebook and paperback.

Hillbilly Elegy is a recent NYTimes bestseller, a memoir about growing up in Kentucky and Ohio.  The book is often noted for explaining recent political trends; it also has a lot to say about the religion and culture of Appalachia.

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic scifi/fantasy novel just over fifty years old, now set to be released as a Disney movie.  The author, Madeline L’Engle is an American Episcopalian.  Though a tale about young children and for younger audiences, there is plenty here for adults to discuss, especially before its release as a movie.