Jurgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel have been married for over fifty years and, as M. Douglas Meeks points out in his introduction, have sustained "a fruitful theological partnership." He is an ecumenical theologian, and she's the leading feminist theologian in central Europe. They are both advocates of the theology of reconciliation, peace, and what happens at the margins of societies. This excellent collection of essays on suffering, violence and God; the cross of Jesus; embodiment; spirituality; and friendship were originally given as the Cole Lectures at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and at St. Paul School of Theology in September 2002.
In "Experiencing God Physically," Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel uses the Markan account of the woman with the flow of blood and her encounter with Jesus as an occasion to ponder the meaning of healing in the church and the faith that opens itself to the importance of healing in Jesus' ministry. She notes: "We have forgotten Jesus the physician who heals people of everything that makes them ill. This beautiful and wide-reaching image includes our whole physical, mental, and spiritual existence. Unfortunately, through our church-image of Jesus, that is, as the one who forgives sins, this healing image has been pushed into the shadows. Forgiveness of sins touches only part of our existence our consciousness, our moral substance and this can leave us empty, split, cut up. Healing the word alone can reach into the last threads of our existence and touch us deeply."
In an essay on "Friendship The Forgotten Category for Faith in Christian Community," she looks at the friendship images in the New Testament, especially solidarity with God, and goes on to discuss the church as a community of friends. But her best point comes last:
"In the past, family images have often proclaimed the unity and equality of Christians male and female and feared strangers. Today on an overcrowded planet, as Sallie McFague observes, the old ideal of friendship with strangers presses forward again. Friendship with strangers and those who are different as individuals and as nations and cultures. After centuries of hierarchical and polarizing models, such friendship models are needed for the survival of humankind. 'If humans do not become friends, then they will not survive.' (McFague) Friendship breaks through barriers of class, race, and gender. This fear of strangers that lingers in all of us could mellow into a curious, creative attraction for the other."
This is a salutary approach for a world where fear and insecurity are dominant.
Writing about his book The Crucified God, Jurgen Moltmann describes Christ as the brother to victims and the redeemer of the guilty. He also ponders the meaning of "Globalism, Terrorism, and the Beginning of Life." But his best piece here is "Praying with Open Eyes" where he argues that Christian faith is not blind faith. Attention becomes an all-important spiritual practice in times when frightened people, like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, want to sleep rather than watch with Jesus. Moltmann concludes that watching is a valid form of praying in these tense times.
All of the essays in this sturdy little volume are theological gems.