Can anything nearly 500 years old be a good resource for youth ministry? I’d have to say, “Maybe so,” having been given the opportunity to review The Christian Year of Grace, written originally in German by Johann Spangenberg, a contemporary of Martin Luther and published by Concordia Publishing House.
What Luther did for teaching Christian doctrine in the catechism, Spangenberg does for teaching the Bible in this book. Basically, this book is a question/answer treatment of the Epistle and Gospel lessons in the one year (historic) lectionary (the Scripture lessons assigned for the Sundays in the church year and festival days). The lessons assigned in the traditional lectionary are nearly the same today, 500 years later. The author deals with the nuances of the Biblical text by asking questions. Then he provides an answer.
This could be an excellent resource for teens serious about Bible study and/or interested in Reformation history. Especially if a church uses the traditional one year lectionary in worship, The Christian Year of Grace could provide an excellent outline for a youth Bible study. Even if a church uses the three year lectionary, this piece could be a valuable tool in teaching the Bible. For example, one could do a four week study of the traditional readings for Advent. This book is a solid resource and helpful reference tool. And, I believe, can be used effectively with youth and young adults.
The book could make an excellent curricular resource for our Lutheran High Schools and universities, perhaps as an elective course. The text may challenge the reader and the reader may come to some different conclusions. But, the questions inspire other questions, open up opportunity for conversation and build links to our historical past. The book could also be a resource for family devotions, particularly where the children are older. And for one’s personal scriptural growth, the book can be a great guide.
Of added interest is a very helpful introduction by Robert Kolb detailing the evolution of these kinds of Reformation resources, particularly this format.
It may seem a little weird to call attention to an academic book five centuries old as a resource for youth ministry, but I found it fascinating. At the time I was reviewing it, I was also engaged in preparing a Bible study on a traditional lectionary text and found Spangenburg’s insights kind of intriguing. This may not be the first resource you go to but it is a rich source and a solid reference work.