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Sacred Signposts: Words, Water, and Other Acts of Resistance

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In our increasingly secular world, what good are the church’s sacred practices, and why do they even matter anymore? With insight, wit, and unsparing honesty, Benjamin Dueholm in this book explores the crucial place and power of Christian practices in ordinary, everyday life. Drawing on modern-day realities and ancient roots, firsthand experience and centuries of history, In our increasingly secular world, what good are the church’s sacred practices, and why do they even matter anymore? With insight, wit, and unsparing honesty, Benjamin Dueholm in this book explores the crucial place and power of Christian practices in ordinary, everyday life. Drawing on modern-day realities and ancient roots, firsthand experience and centuries of history, pop culture and high theology, Dueholm offers a visionary account of the critical, radical, life-affirming role that seven “sacred signposts” play in today’s post-Christian world.


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In our increasingly secular world, what good are the church’s sacred practices, and why do they even matter anymore? With insight, wit, and unsparing honesty, Benjamin Dueholm in this book explores the crucial place and power of Christian practices in ordinary, everyday life. Drawing on modern-day realities and ancient roots, firsthand experience and centuries of history, In our increasingly secular world, what good are the church’s sacred practices, and why do they even matter anymore? With insight, wit, and unsparing honesty, Benjamin Dueholm in this book explores the crucial place and power of Christian practices in ordinary, everyday life. Drawing on modern-day realities and ancient roots, firsthand experience and centuries of history, pop culture and high theology, Dueholm offers a visionary account of the critical, radical, life-affirming role that seven “sacred signposts” play in today’s post-Christian world.

46 review for Sacred Signposts: Words, Water, and Other Acts of Resistance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    We have heard much in recent years about spiritual practices, those things we do that reflect and define our faith. Benjamin Dueholm suggests that "if nothing else, a religion is what it does" (p. 1). While I do believe that what we believe influences what we do, what we believe has little value if it doesn't lead to doing something. As James suggests, we should be not mere hearers of the word, but doers of the word. Our author, who is an Evangelical Lutheran pastor serving in Wauconda, Illinois, We have heard much in recent years about spiritual practices, those things we do that reflect and define our faith. Benjamin Dueholm suggests that "if nothing else, a religion is what it does" (p. 1). While I do believe that what we believe influences what we do, what we believe has little value if it doesn't lead to doing something. As James suggests, we should be not mere hearers of the word, but doers of the word. Our author, who is an Evangelical Lutheran pastor serving in Wauconda, Illinois, takes us on a journey through a series of sacred signs, practices of faith, which he calls "holy possessions." The subtitle includes the words "and other acts of resistance." Much is being said in this particular moment in time about resistance, which is often couched in political terms. In fact it's usually directed at a particular office holder. While the author understands that these holy possessions have political implications, this is not his starting point. He wants us to consider how our faith practices inform the way we live in the world. It might be surprising to some to hear this message from a Lutheran pastor, but I think Luther would approve. His point is simple. Our faith practices form us and the world in which we live. He writes: They offer a pointed critique of the unjust and unhappy reality in which they take place and they offer the outrageous possibility of an alternative. An d they do this, as often as not, despite the bet efforts of Christians to thwart them" (p. 2). Dueholm writes to a Christian community struggling to make sense of life in a post-Christendom age. No longer do we live in a world that incorporates religion into its ethos. It is in this context that these sacred signs enable people of faith to live faithfully and resist those elements of our reality that are unjust and lead to unhappiness. The book is composed of seven chapters that explore the Word, that is Scripture, which he calls the "archive of the inconsequential." It may be that, but it is also that which "prepares us for the work of all the holy possessions that follow" (p. 35). It sets the table for the journey. From Word we move to "The Water," that is, baptism. It is baptism that marks insiders from outsiders. It is the signpost of initiation. As a Lutheran, the author assumes the rite of infant baptism, a rite different from my own tradition, but not my own experience. What it does, however, is raise the question of boundaries, and that is an important question for churches that seek to be open to all. The next holy possession is the Meal, the Eucharist. As one who is part of a tradition that gathers weekly to the Table and sees the Table as central to our life together, I especially enjoyed this chapter. He recognizes the diversity of practice, but the centrality of the meal. He emphasizes Christ's presence at the meal. He notes our struggle with our practice, especially our concern for health and hygiene, which he suggests is an expression of our fear of the other. He notes that "fear of biological contagion is hard to distinguish from social contagion. Yet, here stands the Meal as a sign of community. This chapter is well worth the price of the book. The next possession is confession, and our struggle with the reality of sin, which leads to a conversation about forgiveness. We move from this focus to ministry. As a pastor, he understands the blessings and challenges of this calling. He notes that when it comes to ministry, much is a mystery. As for the examples of leadership that we find in scripture, they are not, he suggests, encouraging. Consider that in Scripture leaders get killed, rejected (or worse ignored), if heard, the results are unpredictable and often unwelcome. More often than not leaders in Scripture fail. Despite the challenges, he suggests that "somebody has to do it." Those who answer the call experience life on the margins, but "to leave the margin is to fail, and to stay there is to be absurd." Perhaps, but then Dueholm declares: But Christianity is absurd, so there we are" (p. 118). Yes, there we are. The next stop is "Prayer, Praise, and Worship." This is, he suggests the "people's work," the liturgy. The danger is for us to try to make this practice, this holy possession, useful, and thus impoverish it. We can, he writes, "make worship yet another task or else make it into a spectacle for us to consume." The worship he invites us into as holy possession is something different. In his mind, prayer and worship critique that culture, and create an alternative to it." Unfortunately worship is too often an act of consumption, but it needn't be. As a holy possession, worship and prayer are intended to form us as the people of God. May it be so. It should not surprise us that a Lutheran would conclude with a meditation on the cross. The theology of the cross was central to Luther's vision, as well as Bonhoeffer's. I know we struggle as Christians with the cross. We either turn away or beautify it. But here is a vision of the suffering God that has great value in our day. This practice, the suffering of the cross, is a possession that "can only be imposed. It is difficult to fully describe what Dueholm has in mind. Thus, I will simply say, that this a chapter upon which it is wise to meditate. There are many books written on Christian practices. Some are how-to books. This is not one of them. This is an invitation to dive more fully into the Christian faith, and let it transform us. It is beautifully written. Katherine Willis Pershey in her endorsement on the book cover speaks of the "breathtakingly beautiful prose," but notes that it is much more than that. She highlights his theological genius. I think Katherine is on to something. It is both beautifully written, and though not lengthy, it is theologically deep. This is a book that will speak to many, and thus is highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I heard the author speak about this book and asked if I could read it now before it is published. I am glad I did. This is not one more book about faith practices and how to add them into our daily lives. This is a reflection on the "holy possessions" of the church. (Phrase from Martin Luther) This book gave me new insight into the official and unofficial sacraments which mark the church as a place of reconciliation and resistance within the world. I appreciate Dueholm's use of contemporary and I heard the author speak about this book and asked if I could read it now before it is published. I am glad I did. This is not one more book about faith practices and how to add them into our daily lives. This is a reflection on the "holy possessions" of the church. (Phrase from Martin Luther) This book gave me new insight into the official and unofficial sacraments which mark the church as a place of reconciliation and resistance within the world. I appreciate Dueholm's use of contemporary and ancient examples of the use and misuse of the church's holy possessions. I highly recommend reading this book, especially in a group. I would encourage a discussion that includes both clergy and congregation leaders. That is what I hope to do on my second reading!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret D'Anieri

    Any book that has “sacred” and “resistance” on the cover already starts at a “3” for me. This is a book to be savored, and I will go back to it again. Worth it just for the chapter on ministers (lower case) - that whatever we call ministry is a call to be “expatriates from the kingdom of usefulness”. Of clergy he writes: “As we’ve seen with the words, water, meal and the movement of pardon, the holy possession of ministry begins with something stubbornly ordinary: People. They are not necessaril Any book that has “sacred” and “resistance” on the cover already starts at a “3” for me. This is a book to be savored, and I will go back to it again. Worth it just for the chapter on ministers (lower case) - that whatever we call ministry is a call to be “expatriates from the kingdom of usefulness”. Of clergy he writes: “As we’ve seen with the words, water, meal and the movement of pardon, the holy possession of ministry begins with something stubbornly ordinary: People. They are not necessarily, or even usually, terribly impressive. They are not even necessarily gifted at being Chrisians ... A desire to do good and be useful is typical, and typically frustrated.” Only complaint is of the formatting, with sidebars that repeat the text and suggest the whole book is not to be savored. Annoying and unhelpful.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Mider

    Often moving and always wise, Sacred Signposts offers a learned but accessible vision of Christianity in a post-Christian era.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Kuhn

    Biblically-grounded, thought provoking and a fresh reminder of the both the spiritual and physical ways Christianity feeds our souls. Used this for a One Book, One Church reading as well as Adult Education.

  6. 5 out of 5

    J.D. DeHart

    Sacred Signposts is clearly organized and thoughtful. This book makes a wonderful reflection piece for believers and I would gladly add it to my theological shelf. The writing is accessible and provokes devotional thought.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Sacred Signposts is a lovely book, at once challenging and refreshing. Benjamin Dueholm moves through the seven "holy possessions" of the church, meditating on the role of each in history, in daily life, and in witness to our present age. He shows how these sacred signposts are acts of resistance both against the world and against our own constant tendency to conform to it. Benjamin reaches past the cliches, inviting us to consider the way these gifts mold and change us as a church just by our p Sacred Signposts is a lovely book, at once challenging and refreshing. Benjamin Dueholm moves through the seven "holy possessions" of the church, meditating on the role of each in history, in daily life, and in witness to our present age. He shows how these sacred signposts are acts of resistance both against the world and against our own constant tendency to conform to it. Benjamin reaches past the cliches, inviting us to consider the way these gifts mold and change us as a church just by our participation in them. How, even in doubt, even in division and dissension, we can participate in them and be the church in a way that does not require us to articulate it. This Advanced Reader Copy was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    T. Anderson

    A few years down the road, I'll read Sacred Signposts again. The topics this gifted writer touches upon as he explains the traditional practices of the church will remain relevant. I have the sense that in a different place and setting, this book will offer new insights beyond those offered in my first read through. Not that I agreed with every single thing the author had to write. I'm also a pastor, and have my own opinions and experiences. There's good wrestling available for the reader from th A few years down the road, I'll read Sacred Signposts again. The topics this gifted writer touches upon as he explains the traditional practices of the church will remain relevant. I have the sense that in a different place and setting, this book will offer new insights beyond those offered in my first read through. Not that I agreed with every single thing the author had to write. I'm also a pastor, and have my own opinions and experiences. There's good wrestling available for the reader from these words - more a provocation for thinking than a fight to see who's right or wrong - thus my plans for a second read through. I especially appreciate the author's treatment of smoking as a way to view human complexity and his description of the church as an instrument of welcome in this era of identity politics. 4.75 stars - very well done.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Noah Dodd

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom Murphy

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robby Jones

  12. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Pfab

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vickie Donnell

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fred Becker

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leah Wyckoff

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ross Carmichael

  20. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Connell

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam Gratch

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jean Bardy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mike Burke

  24. 4 out of 5

    Conrade Yap

    Are the Church practices of old no longer relevant in our new era? Should we still observe them or should we abandon them in favour of new rituals? How should we adapt to a post-Christian world? Should we resist adapting and maintain the historical approaches to the rituals? Right from the start, author Benjamin Dueholm shows us the tensions between the old and the new; the traditional and the modern; the liberal and the post-liberal; etc. He tries to use inclusive languages pertaining to God, u Are the Church practices of old no longer relevant in our new era? Should we still observe them or should we abandon them in favour of new rituals? How should we adapt to a post-Christian world? Should we resist adapting and maintain the historical approaches to the rituals? Right from the start, author Benjamin Dueholm shows us the tensions between the old and the new; the traditional and the modern; the liberal and the post-liberal; etc. He tries to use inclusive languages pertaining to God, using "cultural idioms" we are familiar with. He marries the two by letting authors of old keep the gendered identities as they had used while he adopts a more inclusive or more neutral language. Put it simply, historically and theologically, he tries to keep to traditions. Practically, he is less strict, even though he claims to stick to his professed traditions. In doing so, Dueholm carefully meanders between the two sides of the ritual divide to show us how "holy possessions" the Church has received from the past can still be relevant for the present times. In other words, these six "sacred signposts" still matter. He claims that "historic preservationism can make people authoritarian, reactionary, and defensive," while "dumpster diving" makes us "diffuse and marginal, light in commitment and ready to claim any enthusiasm in the world for Christ." What we should do instead is to "renew our focus" on these six rituals of Words, Water, Meal, Confession and Forgiveness, Ministry, and Worship. If we can do this well, these holy possessions would: Enable the Church to move outward toward helping a world in need of healing Resist the world by pointing people toward a better one Breathe a new understanding of what our present world means Shine on our common inheritance Start a journey of reconciliation Salvage, not savage our precious history .... Dueholm calls the Words as "the archive of the inconsequential." Beginning with an observation of our modern attention-seeking culture, we note that without an anchor or foundation, our efforts will be built on sand rather than rock. The Word of God helps us begin the week strong and steadfast. It is the holy manual of life for us from our Creator God. Christians can be distracted by secular society's disdain for the Bible that they too fall into the trap of building their lives upon secular ideas and ideals. We forget that the Word is living. Dueholm makes a powerful argument on behalf of the small and insignificant through the example of the dying mouse pup. He contrasts the way the world measures success and significance and how God still makes time and gives attention to the smallest of details. It is the very Word of God that stands against all the powers and principalities of the world like mustard seed faithfulness against mountains of rebellion. The act of baptism is how believers are initiated into the Church. The water and the word are two of the most powerful symbols of God's presence. If the Word creates us, baptism of water gives us a new identity. We belong to a new family, a heavenly one. We are united in one common grace. We are changed from the outside in and from the inside out. This evokes themes of inclusion, acceptance, belonging, mutual obligation, unity, and humanity restored. We welcome the immigrant, the refugee, the immigrant, and our own people. The Holy Communion symbolizes more than mere bread and wine. It marks a relationship that is celebrated and enjoyed. It begins with an invitation, proceeds with remembrance and ends with a declaration of God's coming. In fact, the whole Bible is filled with meals and instances of events with meals as a gathering point of narrative. People meet to eat which is a familiar ritual happening all over the world today. We learn themes of sharing, of community, of being present with one another even as God is present with us. Dueholm points out the union of Christ's divinity and humanity. He even calls it "a miracle of the church today." The fourth holy possession is "Confession and Forgiveness." We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have hurt and offended one another. The most fundamental act of being human is to learn to confess to God our wrongs and to seek forgiveness from one another. With this, we could find new freedom from selfishness and sinfulness. The fifth holy possession is ministry. Like Jesus, we are called to serve rather than to be served. Ministry is about people, not activities. It is about giving rather than receiving. It is about being useful for God through acts of service for others. Titles, positions, and structures are there to help us serve people. In ecclesiastical tradition, this holy possession begins with "ordination" which Dueholm calls the "bureaucracy of grace." This chapter is particularly helpful for clergymen and all in various areas of ministries. Finally, the holy possession of worship is our end goal. We don't serve for the sake of serving. We do so for the sake of glorifying God and the declare the reign of the Kingdom of God. Dueholm describes it eloquently as follows: "Worship is older than the Bible, maybe as old as humanity itself. In traditional religious societies, worship organizes life. It marks out space and time, distinguishes the sacred from the ordinary, preserves collective memories, and reinforces social relationships. It enacts a great cosmic exchange, with humans offering up animals, incense, or words to ensure divine favor coming down." My Thoughts First, this book is a bold defense of Christian rituals that define us. Dueholm begins with a fairly neutral stance, but could be seen as too accommodating of culture initially. Lest anyone starts to label the author as a liberal or post-liberal, it is important to note that amid the nuances and statements of expressions from both sides, the author has a firm conviction that sees the gospel as hope for the world and the legitimate source of salvation for all. With each succeeding holy possession described, the reader would notice the growing conviction that the rituals of the past are most relevant for the present. Second, we learn from Dueholm a refreshing way to engage the secular culture with historical Christian symbols. I like the way he expands the space between to invite both the religious and the secular toward constructive dialogue. There are things that people from both sides have misunderstood or misinterpreted. Christ didn't just die on the cross for people of the Christian faith. Christ died for all. Perhaps, what we need is a new language, a new approach, or simply a new stance to strike up constructive conversations to increase understanding of the Christian's role in society and the world's need for Christ. Don't dispel or belittle the tradition simply because they are old. See their relevance with new perspectives. This is what the author has brilliantly done. Finally, this book is a subtle critique of the secular culture of today. Even though secularalism has dominated the cultural climate of today, they are by no means flawless. Dueholm claims that "these secularizing developments contradict each other" as well as "themselves." Secularism has not just divided the religious from the rest of society, they have unwittingly divided everything else. The Church and Christians are challenged to be the bridges of the gospel to heal the world. Author Benjamin Dueholm is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church at Wauconda, IL. Rating: 4.5 stars of 5. conrade This book has been provided courtesy of William B Eerdmans and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Hawkinson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Reynolds

  27. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Hughes

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fred

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sherri

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  31. 4 out of 5

    Kyrsten

  32. 4 out of 5

    Craig Kind

  33. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  34. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  35. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Brewer

  36. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  37. 4 out of 5

    Janet McCuistion

  38. 4 out of 5

    Benedict

  39. 4 out of 5

    Mary Shaima

  40. 4 out of 5

    Santi Ruiz

  41. 5 out of 5

    John

  42. 4 out of 5

    Jean Doane

  43. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  44. 5 out of 5

    Caroline White

  45. 5 out of 5

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  46. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Pedersen

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