A series of meditative essays on the joys and challenges of a spiritual life.
Even as a young boy, debut author Kurtz was drawn to pursue a “spiritual journey,” which eventually led him to Roman Catholicism, then back to Lutheranism, the religion of his parents. He was then given the opportunity to preach monthly before a Lutheran congregation in Maryland, and these brief reflections are the outgrowth of that experience. Kurtz’s ruminations are wide-ranging, covering moral topics such as forgiveness and loyalty and more doctrinal subjects, such as the character of Jesus’ kingship, the true nature of discipleship, and the deep meaning of Jesus’ prayer. Jesus is the focus of the author’s attention, and through impressively sensitive analysis, he depicts a man who’s paradoxically fully human and fully divine. Kurtz dwells at length on Jesus’ temptations, training his investigative eye on the famous dramatization in the Gospel of Luke, which he uses as a model for others to grapple with their imperfect natures. There’s also an edifying vignette on Mary as the “first Christian,” whose real God-given mission was not merely to birth Jesus, Kurtz says, but to raise him in preparation for his ministry. It also memorably parses the conversion of Saul to Paul, asserting that his transformation into a disciple kept his sinful nature intact. The thematic core of the essays seems to be the human encounter with imperfect sinfulness, and a short introduction to Martin Luther’s significance functions as the book’s climax: “Luther battled against despair and depression because he was caught in the vise we are all in—the need to justify ourselves versus the need for total reliance on God.” Kurtz writes with admirable clarity about complex subjects without a hint of doctrinal stridence. Although the book is spangled with autobiographical references, it’s more a philosophical discourse than it is a memoir. The author’s essays are too brief to achieve full scholarly rigor, but this is a minor failing, as they seem designed to be read by a lay audience. As such, this book could serve as a solid, quick introduction to both Christianity and Lutheran thought.
A set of philosophical but accessible ruminations on Christian life.