Monday, September 19, 2016

Heads Up for Advent or (more likely) Lent

I've had Advent on my mind lately because I am working on an Advent series of articles for our Discover Hope Newsletter (don't subscribe yet?). And now I have news that could make a difference for your Advent. Or (given the general busyness of December) Lent.

When I was stationed in Chicago, we made great use of the wonderful group Bible study programs from Ascension Press, starting from their 20-week overview program The Great Adventure: The Bible Timeline (complete with color-coded bookmarks and bracelets). Saturday after Saturday, a group of about 30 came to our bookstore for the video series by Jeff Cavins. The year after that, they came for the 20-week program on the Gospel of Matthew, and after that, programs on the Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation and the Book of Psalms.
This summer I received a review copy of a new program from Ascension Press that follows the same format, but in a more compact way. Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel ofJohn is an eight-session DVD series led by Dr Edward Sri. Each of the video lectures considers a section of the Gospel of John, and focuses on one person with whom Jesus enters into conversation. The words Jesus speaks with his interlocutors in the Gospel are also meant for us, and Dr Sri's warm approach allows us to hear them that way.

The 30-minute talks by Dr Sri presume no academic background in Scripture study. (The Leader's Guide contains information like “How do I find a Scripture Reference in my Bible?” and “Why are Catholic and Protestant Bibles different?”) Practical suggestions for conducting a group study are also included, and in detail. The Leader's Guide offers well-formulated content related to some of the study questions, and also suggests a variety of approaches for a study group's prayer: vocal prayers, imaginative prayer, hymns... As with the other programs from Ascension Press, there is also a participants' workbook with outlines, summaries, discussion and reflection questions, life application suggestions and ample room for notes.

Blessed James Alberione would have loved the approach: not simply “informational” but a real invitation to discipleship, to a relationship with Jesus through his Word. The inclusion of well-chosen full-color artwork in the handbooks adds the dimension of beauty, which is so pivotal for a fully human appreciation of Truth that includes the imagination. The eight-session structure means that this series can easily be used as a parish program for Lent (just start about two weeks early so you finish before Holy Week).

While I highly recommend that you bring this program to the attention of your pastor and parish adult faith coordinator, why not form your own study circle with a group from your neighborhood and extended family? Just so you know: These lectures are so good, I used them in chapel as part of my prayer. Maybe you will, too.

I received a free copy of the program mentioned above in view of my posting a review. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible, as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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