I’m not Catholic, but in my parents’ home and in the reformed(Presbyterian) church I attended until I married, I grew up with a keen appreciation for the passing of the seasons and the celebrations of the church year. And this time of year, as we’ve entered the Lenten season, I find myself growing more contemplative. It’s a wintry time of examination but also of anticipation for the Resurrection.
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross is a book I pull out to read during Lent every year. It’s a fabulous anthology edited by Nancy Guthrie. Just as a side note, I have to say that I have really enjoyed all of Nancy Guthrie‘s work that I’ve read so far. As a teacher, she really helps to point me to God and Christ, and I value that. She’s definitely on my short list of folks I would love to have a chance to hear speaking in person.
This particular book is an anthology of essays and sermons, from a variety of time periods. Authors represented range from Martin Luther, John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards to more modern teachers such as R.C. Sproul, Tim Keller, and J. Ligon Duncan, III. My childhood pastor is even represented here.
The book opens with a brief but thoughtful preface by Ms. Guthrie laying out why she put this anthology together and why she believes these readings are so important. It was her closing paragraph that got me:
How we need to have our hearts broken again by our sin that put Jesus on the cross. How we need to have our confidence grounded by what Jesus accomplished on the cross. And we need to have our hope anchored in the promise of resurrection. I pray that is what you will experience as you read this book. May Jesus draw you and keep you near his cross.
Guthrie’s stated purpose is underscored by the very first selection, “True Contemplation of the Cross” by Martin Luther. With powerful imagery, Luther reminds us that Christ did indeed suffer on the cross for our sins, underscoring the immense and undeserved gift of salvation we as Christians have been given. From there, readings are set up in roughly chronological order taking us from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem up through the resurrection.
One thing I love about this book is simply its breadth. It’s filled with good teaching and the variety in voices from the authors is fantastic. In addition, while we hear much of grace, of goodness and of joy, this anthology goes to some of the dark places as well. The grace by which we are saved is indeed amazing, but we are also depraved sinners, and Christ bought our salvation at a price. Remembering that and thinking upon it makes the coming miracle of Easter all the sweeter to me.
I highly recommend this book for anyone’s library. And if you’re interested in readings for Christianity’s other great season of anticipation, Nancy Guthrie has also edited an anthology for Advent. It’s called Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, and it’s also excellent.
Book Information –
Title: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter
Author: Nancy Guthrie (ed.)
Publisher: Crossway Books, $12.99 (2009)