The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers
of Walter Brueggemann, edited by Edwin Searcy, offers a collection from this professor of Old Testament at Columbia Seminary, Decatur, Ga, who has started classes with a prayer for 41 years--a practice that invokes "God's guidance and the teaching presence of the Spirit, acknowledging that the learning now to transpire is not any ordinary learning such as the transformation of information, but rather is an exercise in faith, obedience and praise." Searcy, pastor of University Hill Congregation, Vancouver, B.C., notes that these prayers bring to mind the speech of the psalms and the prophets.

We immediately notice Brueggeman's reverence for God. He honors the mystery of the Creator and the subtle ways in which grace is revealed. These prayers repeatedly point out the strategies we have come up with to push God to the periphery of our daily activities. In one of many bold images, Brueggemann asks God "to re-brand us, transform our minds, renew our imagination." All too often we are enslaved to other brands--"winning with Nike, pausing with Coca-Cola, knowing and controlling with Microsoft."

Another daring and creative prayer asks: "Be our primary disease, and infect us with your justice. Be our night visitor, and haunt us with your peace."

There is a social edge to other prayers that contain references to trouble spots around the world (Fortress Press).

Winged Migration
is a glorious celebration of birds in flight, conveying the beauty and the amazing feats of strength and endurance of their long-distance journeys. Director Jacques Perrin and a crew of more than 450 people used gliders, helicopters and balloons to film migrating flocks from above, below and alongside.

The filmmakers follow bird migrations through 40 countries and seven continents. The birds face rainstorms and blizzards, periods when there is nothing on the dry ground to eat or a long flight over the ocean where a ship is a godsend for the exhausted travelers. In one of the most frightening scenes, some mountain birds hear a rumbling sound and barely escape an avalanche. There are lighter moments: grebes skating across the top of a pond, pelicans dive-bombing into the ocean, proud parents with their offspring riding on their backs.

Humans are both allies and enemies. A boy releases a goose whose foot is caught in webbing. An old woman feeds hungry birds. But hunters also shoot down those in flight. A factory sends vile chemicals into the water, and a few unfortunate birds get stuck in the muck. In the Amazon, a boat glides through the water carrying colorful birds in cages. A beautiful blue parrot manages to undo the latch on his cage and flies free. A mother nesting in a farm field can't escape an approaching vehicle.

Poet Coleman Barks reminds us that all the mystical traditions honor birds: "Birds represent our longings for purity and freedom and they carry messages of ineffable joy" (Sony Pictures Classics, not rated).


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February issue


Embracing diversity