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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Book, Movie, Video

B O O K
Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers, translated and illustrated by Yushi Nomura, contains a treasure-trove of inspired advice from the Christian hermits of the fourth and fifth centuries. Nomura, a Japanese artist and theologian, studied these Egyptian ascetics while attending Yale Divinity School in 1978. Under the guidance of Henri J.M. Nouwen, who taught there at the time and provides an introduction to this volume, Nomura assembled this wonderful collection. The Desert Fathers, or Abbas, emphasized the importance of everyday spiritual practice as a restraint of the compulsive, self-centered self. Through the rigorous disciplines of humility, silence, love, compassion and service to others, they sought to bring to the fore the divine presence within themselves.

It wasn't easy. The demons they faced are the same ones we face today. "Abba Isaiah said: When someone wishes to render evil for evil, he is able to hurt his brother's conscience even by a single nod." Nothing good can happen when we succumb to the dangerous force field of rage and vengeance. The antidote is a rich devotional life. Or, as one of the Abbas put it: "Constant prayer quickly straightens out our thoughts" (Orbis Books).

M O V I E
Bread and Roses gives names and faces to the "invisible" people who enter the buildings of our cities every night to clean offices. These service workers, many of them Latinos and African Americans, are on the bottom of the economic ladder.

Ken Loach is a British director whose recent films — My Name Is Joe, Carl's Song and Land and Freedom — have made political statements. His latest is a riveting drama based on a real-life "Justice for Janitors" campaign in Los Angeles in 1990. It revolves around the political empowerment of Maya, a recent immigrant from Mexico. She and her co-workers stage a campaign to unionize their cleaning company. They know they can do better than a $5.75-an-hour wage with no health insurance, sick days or holiday pay. The demonstrations are orchestrated by Sam Shapiro, a union organizer who knows the right tactics to get the attention of the companies whose offices they clean. As we left the theater, we were reminded of a piece of advice given by Dom Helder Camera, a Latin American theologian: "We must carry a reverence for justice as a mother carries a reverence for her unborn child" (Lion's Gate Films, R-language).

V I D E O
The Face: Jesus in Art is a two-hour documentary that examines the ways in which painters, sculptors and artisans worldwide have imagined the face of Jesus from the early third century through the contemporary era. His countenance has been conveyed in illuminated Bibles, paintings, sculptures, icons, mosaics, stained-glass windows and pieces of cloth. The variety of images shows the struggle artists have had in portraying the One who is viewed as both human and divine (Kultur — not rated).

It wasn't easy. The demons they faced are the same ones we face today. "Abba Isaiah said: When someone wishes to render evil for evil, he is able to hurt his brother's conscience even by a single nod." Nothing good can happen when we succumb to the dangerous force field of rage and vengeance. The antidote is a rich devotional life. Or, as one of the Abbas put it: "Constant prayer quickly straightens out our thoughts" (Orbis Books).


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October issue

OCTOBER issue:

Older adults: Assets to our church

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