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Lucky: How the Kingdom Comes to Unlikely People Paperback – Bargain Price, March 1, 2011
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T.D. © AudioFile Portland, Maine
About the Author
Glenn Packiam is executive pastor at New Life Church, where he oversees spiritual formation and serves as the teaching pastor for NewLifeSundayNight. Glenn is also the writer of several well-known worship songs including "Your Name" and "My Savior Lives." He is the author of Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a Firsthand Faith and Butterfly in Brazil: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference. Glenn and his family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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But the second type of scripture work is illustrated quite well by this book. The author does a lot of the type of study that is part of the first type of study, but the focus is not the study, but the retelling. The author's research is to understand the text deeply, so that she or he can tell others about the text in a way that is modern and appropriate for the culture and people that are hearing it. And even more important, to use the "Theological Imagination" (as Eugene Peterson puts it) to help those of us that have heard the scripture before rediscover it in new ways. Some Christians look down on this type of work, but it is the essential work of teaching. Teaching takes an idea and learns to communicate it in a way that is understood, and hopefully can be acted upon.
Glenn Packiam a pastor in Colorado takes on the first part of the Sermon on the Mount from Luke, the "Blessed are the..." statements. In Luke there are four of these statements. The first couple of chapters of Lucky are background and story to set the stage for why Packiam thinks that these statements could be properly translated as "Lucky are the..." in modern English.
Packiam wants the reader to see that Jesus really is trying to turn our understanding of the world on its head. For me the point where my understanding was most turned on my head was a section about want and desire. It was in the midst of the "Blessed are those who hunger...". The author tells a story about riding in a cab. The Cabbie tells of his recovery from alcoholism and Packiam is profoundly moved by the change, but the continued struggle. I get understood that, but the following lines...."When you've been eating junk, hunger can be a good thing. For the addict, hunger is proof that he is recovering"
It is difficult in a prosperous country to understand that lack, can actually show growth. If I was a runner or enjoyed exercise I might understand the joy that comes from the pain of exercise (I really don't like running so I don't understand that joy that comes from that type of pain.) Intellectually I get it, but being open to the pain and struggle that show growth is tough. But that is the way the gospel works. Those things that are true are not always easy.
This is a very good retelling of the sermon on the mount. But even more important is the epilogue that encourages us not just to hear, but to be changed and to then go out and do likewise.
Originally published on my blog at [...]
As Packiam teaches about this Sermon on the Plain, he simultaneously teaches the historical application of the message while interpreting it in our contemporary setting addressing some of the major social issues of our day (human trafficking, poverty, hunger, and creation-environmental care to name a few). As accurate and engaging a job as the author does with teaching this passage of text, he explores several layers deeper by sharing the original stories of the Hebrew people, so the reader might further engage and connect with the irony of the Christ's words as he proclaims how lucky they are when they are poor, reviled, hungry, and persecuted.
In addition to the well-researched and explained context of the passage, Packiam also engages the reader with stories from his personal experience and integrates them seamlessly into the overall message of the book. This is an art form in itself; sometimes the retelling of personal stories can come off as somewhat indulgent and gratuitous, but in this instance that is not the case at all. It seemed each of Packiam's personal narratives were timely and relevant.
One of my favorite quotes from the book follows:
"By filling ourselves with whatever we can find in this world, we have buried a deeper hunger, one that reveals what we truly need. C. S. Lewis argued that God finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are too easily pleased. We're like a man starving in the desert, content to stuff his mouth with the sand within his grasp when a royal banqueting table is just a few yards ahead. We need a hunger that is not so easily filled, a hunger that comes from repeatedly turning down the things that others are filling up on. This is a good kind of hungry. But to be hungry at all is uncomfortable. Maybe that's just it: To be empty on the world requires a certain willingness to not get too comfortable here." (pg 99-100)
I have no criticism of the book and think it will appeal to a wide demographic. I've read quite a few books wedded to the social justice movement in recent years, so I felt a little tired in my reading at some point. I don't think there is anything new in this book, but what is there is important and it has been presented afresh. I think most people reading it will enjoy it and might be inspired and challenged to live more aware of their "luckiness."