The surprise blockbuster, “The Passion of The Christ,” seems to have subtly changed the tone of this year’s Lenten season. On opening day, as the faithful and the curious flocked to movie theaters in Columbia and around the world, many churches passed out free tickets and biblical tracts.
Quiet chapels and foggy incense — the traditional markers of Ash Wednesday — gave way to a box-office boom as Lent moved toward a public experience instead of a personal one.
Still, the weeks preceding Easter are ones of spiritual reflection and meditation. The Missourian asked Columbia religious leaders and scholars to recommend books they thought would aid in soulful pursuits.
Here are six of their choices:
“Pierced by the Word”
by John Piper
Recommended by the Rev. Dave Cover of The Crossing
The book is divided into 31 short readings and prayers that discuss living a Christian life day to day, including “how to drink orange juice to the glory of God.” Cover said the book “is excellent for reflecting on the Bible in a way that both challenges and comforts us in our faith.”
“The Purpose-Driven Life”
by Rick Warren
Recommended by Michael Will, director of the Wesley Student Center
The book focuses on five purposes in life: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. “It is a great book for spiritual reflection and would work especially well during Lent,” Will said.
“The Purpose-Driven Life” is also the recommendation of the Rev. Dave Bensen of Campus Lutheran Church. The book’s 40 short chapters make for a quick read, Bensen said. “It fits in well with the season of Lent, in terms of examining our spiritual lives. It can be done on a day-to-day sort of a devotional,” he said.
“In the Grip of Grace”
by Max Lucado
Recommended by the Rev. John Drage of The Rock
Lucado uses a colorful narrative to dissect the biblical chapter Romans through the lens of God’s grace. Lucado asks, “Can anything separate us from God’s love?”
“The Passion of Jesus Christ”
by John Piper
Recommended by Scott Williams, associate pastor at Christian Fellowship
Piper examines 50 reasons why Jesus died on the cross. Alicia Casady, a sales associate at Lemstone Christian Books, said it is one of the most popular books right now and attributed its popularity to “The Passion of The Christ.”
“People are wanting to know more why this man would come to die,” Casady said.
by Kathleen Norris
Recommended by Steve Friesen, chairman and associate professor of religious studies at MU
Norris talks about how the language of religion can be intimidating and about her struggle and reconciliation with her faith through understanding such words as “idolatry,” “incarnation” and “evangelism.”
“Six Hours One Friday”
by Max Lucado
Recommended by Sarah Pierce, a staff member at Christian Campus House
It chronicles the last six hours of Jesus’ life — some of the most revealing hours in the life of Christ, according to Lucado. “Lent is about Jesus, so if you’re thinking about Jesus, it’s about what his sacrifice was for us,” Pierce said.