Friday, December 13, 2013

DAILY FEAST: Meditations from Feasting on the Word: Year A (WJK) -- A Review

DAILY FEAST: Meditations from Feasting on the Word, Year A.   Edited by Kathleen Long Bostrom,  Elizabeth F. Caldwell, and Jana K. Riess.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.  Xii + 561 pages. 

       There are a myriad of devotional texts that will guide you through the year, bringing insight and inspiration. Among these many choices is a series of books that are based on the lectionary commentary series, Feasting on the Word.This series, published by series of lectionary commentaries From Westminster John Knox Press and edited by David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor has proven to be quite beneficial, bringing together commentary from four perspectives -- theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical. Daily Feast, now available for Year A of the lectionary cycle, brings the insights of this series to the devotional reader.

     Beautifully bound in a light brown leather bound cover, this volume brings the Daily Feast series to a close. As with earlier versions, this is an aesthetically pleasing and theologically rich devotional resource. The editors suggest that it would be of use and interest to pastors, educators, church members.  Anyone who picks it up will have their lives spiritually empowered.

As with the earlier volumes, Daily Feast is a year-long lectionary based devotional that follows the liturgical calendar.  Therefore, in seasons like Epiphany, where the number of weeks in the season vary, one may find more options than may be needed.  Of course, it also begins in Advent (rather than January 1) and ends with "the week leading up to Proper 29.  Users of this devotional will also find, besides the daily readings, special readings for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, each day during Holy Week, Ascension Sunday as well as the Seventh Sunday of Easter, and All Saints Day. For those who are involved in preaching or teaching from the lectionary, these readings will propel them toward the readings for Sunday morning.   

The editors have laid out the devotional in a way that leads us to Sunday.  Therefore, to give an example, the readings for "The 'Week Leading Up to the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany" (note the important words "week leading up to"), begins with a page laying out excerpts from the four readings for the week.  In this case:  Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and Matthew 5:1-12.  In each case we have one to three verses printed, with the expectation that the users of the devotional will read the full text from their own Bibles.  For each day of the week, beginning with Monday, one will find the listing of the reading of the day -- for this Monday it would be Micah 6:1-8.  Then one will find a reflection, which is an excerpt from one of the longer commentaries in Feasting on the Word.  In this case it is the text written by Carl J. Dempsey. Following the reflection is a response, which is written in the form of a question(s)m and then a brief sentence prayer. The prayer for this day is:  "Teach me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you every day, O God, of Israel. Amen" (p, 98). The devotional for Sunday is laid out somewhat differently.  Each text is given with a reflection drawn from Feasting on the Word. Then, in conclusion there is a response statement or question inviting one to reflect back across the week, followed by a prayer.      
How one uses the devotional is up to the individual.  The Editors offer a few suggestions -- it can be used as a foundation for daily meditation, for journaling, preparing for preaching or leadership (they suggest that a copy might be made available for liturgists and choir directors), in preparation for teaching, for reaching out beyond the church, and for committee or staff meetings.  Because these devotions are excerpted from Feasting on the Word, those who have access to the commentary series might want to delve deeper by reading the full essay in the commentary.   
Having had experience with the devotional for Year B, I can say that this is one of the more thoughtful and rich devotions available. Therefore, Westminster John Knox is to be commended for building on their well received Feasting on the Word commentary series, and providing such a wide variety of resources that include the Worship Companion and this daily devotional.  For those who work with the lectionary, this is a true blessing..  

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