Following the Call, Edited by Charles E. Moore. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2021.
Summary: A collection of 52 weeks of readings working through the Sermon on the Mount, meant to be discussed and lived out in community.
Charles E. Moore has edited a collection of readings organized into 52 weeks of readings with contributions from a wide range of Christians throughout history, from Augustine to Tim Keller, from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr. The readings follow the Sermon on the Mount, section by section, portraying how a wide range of believers have understood and sought to live under this challenging message of Jesus.
A reading at the end of this collection of readings articulates the intent in creating this set of readings. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
“This word, whose claim we recognize, this word, which issues from his saying ‘I have known thee,‘ this word which sets us at once to work and obedience, is the rock on which to build our house. The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it. Jesus has spoken: his is the word, ours the obedience. Only in the doing of it does the word of Jesus retain its honor, might, and power among us. Now the storm can rage over the house, but it cannot shatter that union with him, which his word has created” (p. 332).
The assumption throughout is that this is a kingdom manifesto, describing the way Jesus’s followers will actually live, rather than some unrealistic ideal. Furthermore, and this is emphasized in the subtitle, the Sermon on the Mount is meant to be lived together and the book is written to be discussed together. Each weeks readings, from one to four writers and covering five to eight pages, are meant to be read, along with the pertinent portion of the Sermon, in a small group. A study guide at the conclusion of the text offer several probing questions and additional scripture passages to aid discussion. The aim is that a group would help one another take steps to live out the Sermon week by week.
The readings are offered in four sections with an introductory article to each section by Moore. They are:
Kingdom Character (Matthew 5:1-16). A highlight in this section was the short reading from Oscar Romero on persecution. He observes: “It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world in any way” (p. 71).
Kingdom Commands (Matthew 5:17-48) Jen Wilkin writes on law and the place of obedience and offers this example: “We don’t train our children to obey us so that they can gain our favor. They already have our favor. We, being evil, train and equip them to obey because it is good and right and safe. And how much more does our heavenly Father love us?” (p. 87).
Kingdom Devotion (Matthew 6:1-18) William H. Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas offer these convicting words: “Those who are being formed by praying, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, holy be your name’ are not permitted to about the holiness of God by attempting to put a leash on God, then dragging God into our crusades and cruelties” (p. 195).
Kingdom Priorities (Matthew 6:19-7:28) Dallas Willard challenged my own understanding of the teaching about pearls before pigs: “Pigs cannot digest pearls, cannot nourish themselves upon them….The reason these animals will finally ‘turn and rend you’ when you one day step up to them with another load of Bibles or pearls, is that you at least are edible” (p. 287).
This is but a tiny sampling of the rich fare offered in these readings. You may wonder if you will find enough to discuss in the few pages and short passage for each week. I suspect once you get going, if there is good trust and spiritual openness among you, that you will find there isn’t enough time.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.