Ron Miller is Chair of the Religion Department at Lake Forest College and Co-Director of Common Ground, an adult education center headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois. This top-drawer calendar book contains a saying from Jesus, a short commentary, and a prayer for each day of the year. These pithy aphorisms are taken from The Gospel of Thomas, Lost Gospel Q, Secret Book of James and the New Testament.
These wisdom teachings are not the exclusive property of Christians, Miller notes. "They belong to the world and have often been better understood and practiced by Hindus like Mahatma Gandhi, Buddhists like the Dalai Lama, and Jews like Martin Buber than by millions of us who call ourselves Christians." Jesus scholar Marcus Borg provides a laudatory introduction, and we agree with his praise. This collection stands head-and-shoulders above the many other meditations on Jesus.
What makes it unique is its emphasis upon the unconventional nature of the man from Nazareth as expressed in his sayings and aphorisms. Jesus usually cuts across the grain going against the standards of his day, which measure a person's deeds or pay homage to the past. The quotations in Wisdom of the Carpenter have a mystical dimension to them that makes them very experiential and subtle at the same time. For example, "Love your brother like your soul; guard him like the apple of your eye" from The Gospel of Thomas salutes the closeness we feel to soul friends who help deepen our spiritual journeys.
The final quality which makes the material so distinctive is Miller's references to other religions in his brief commentaries. For instance in his remarks on Luke 23:34 where Jesus says "Heavenly Parent, forgive them, for they know not what they do," the author states: "Like Gandhi bowing to the divine in his assassin, Jesus forgives his executioners. It's important for us to know that people need forgiveness, even those who crucify us and cause our suffering, the very ones we want to consider 'our enemies.' " This salty paperback is a fine resource for for those looking for something unusual for their reading during Lent.