The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

For full reviews, visit the Brussats' Web site, Spiritual Rx.

The Unexpected Teachings of Jesus: Encountering the Gospels All Over Again
by John Coleman is an excellent, soul-stirring collection of meditations by the pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Erie, Pa. Anyone familiar with Jesus' parables knows how intriguing and unsettling they are. They twist and turn in our consciousness and challenge us to see ourselves afresh. Coleman offers many provocative and out-of-the-box interpretations of Jesus' teachings.

The author gives us many fresh slants on the man from Nazareth, who always found time for prayer when he was most busy. Jesus also evidenced joy in the classroom of the road, openness in his treatment of the woman at the well, and gratitude for the extravagant gesture of love by the woman who anointed his feet. Coleman returns again and again to the way the Gospel logic (such as the last shall be first) goes against our conventional thinking. He marvels at the way Jesus never lets us off the hook. Coleman admits to having difficulty wrapping his mind around the fact that Jesus was a criminal who broke the law by blasphemy and healing on the Sabbath. Does your image of our Lord allow for a criminal element (Jossey-Bass)?

Last Orders
revolves around four men who gather at a London pub to mourn the death of Jack (Michael Caine), their charismatic butcher friend. They have promised him that they will scatter his ashes in the ocean. His closest buddy is Lucky (Bob Hoskins), who served with him in World War II. The other three are Vince (Ray Winstone), Jack's middle-aged son; Lenny (David Hemmings), a former boxer; and Vic (Tom Courtenay), a stoic undertaker.

Writer and director Fred Schepisi's screen adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel by Graham Swift is quite moving as these men struggle with their emotions. They retread the past, share stories and try to express their regrets over lost dreams and squandered possibilities. Through it all, their affection for Jack shines through (Sony Pictures Classics, R — sexuality, some language).

Hearts in Atlantis
is a fascinating coming-of-age drama. Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) lives with his widowed and self-absorbed mother (Hope David) in a small Connecticut town in the 1960s. Everything changes in the boy's life when Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), a well-read and well-traveled man who is very tight-lipped about his past, moves into the room upstairs and they become friends. This engrossing drama sets before our eyes the magic and heartbreak of growing up. Brautigan teaches Bobby to keep his eyes open, to stand up for what he believes in, and never for one second to take for granted the abundant surprises that life brings his way. "Ah, what a world," Brautigan says with a hint of respect for the beauty and terror it contains (Warner Bros., PG-13 — violence, thematic elements).


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February issue


Embracing diversity