Monday (5/20), I received a copy of Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place On Earth. I have been reading Frank Viola for a couple of years now. I am challenged and inspired by his spiritually pragmatic approach to allowing Scripture to teach him and continue to develop his theology, beliefs and practices. Most of his works are commentary, explanation and challenge to the status quo. In God’s Favorite Place On Earth Viola uses an element of historic, autobiographical fiction. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so I opened the book.
There are three sections to each chapter, the biographical memoir, “The Sacred Text,” and “Walking It Out.”
The Biographical Memoir
The opening of each chapter begins with Viola assuming the voice of Lazarus (the Lazarus that Jesus resurrected). Lazarus begins to reflect on his time with Jesus and the impact Jesus had upon his family. Viola literally puts skin on the Lazarus experience, allowing it to become “my experience.” The warm, reflective and contemplative memoirs led my spirit to walk in the dust, dine and experience Jesus in life.
The Sacred Text
This section is simply a printing of the biblical account that corresponds with the memoirs the chapter corresponds with. Viola masterfully and artfully leads us to encounter the text. I was impressed that he didn’t leave well enough alone. It is clear that Viola places great value and faith in the inerancy of Scripture to filter out anything he may have taken too much liberty with (which I don’t think he did).
Walking It Out
Viola proceeds to teach through his well developed and gentle gift of writing. There are various aspects of each account he inspires Christians to draw out of the Bethany experience. Viola focuses on practical aspects of Bethany that inspire a response of gratitude to Jesus rather than obligation. He addresses distinct joyful aspects of the Christian life and aspects that aren’t always moments of perceived triumph.
Two of my favorite quotes from God’s Favorite Place On Earth are:
“Cleansed lepers, resurrected humans, transformed servants, extravagant worshippers, brothers, sisters, fathers, and disciples all sitting around a table where Christ is Head -feasting, fellowshipping, and rejoicing with Him.”
This is Bethany!
Frank Viola, God’s Favorite Place On Earth p.13
“At bottom, Mary’s stunning act [anointing Jesus and washing his feet] wasn’t motivated by the things that often govern spiritual service today, such as guilt, duty, obligation, the desire to impress others, the thrill of being appreciated, and the need to satisfy restlessness.”
“No, she performed this shameless gesture for an audience of one. Her eyes had been opened to see the supreme value of Jesus Christ. And the Lord defended and commended her for it.’ p. 141
In the introduction Viola states, “In every generation, Christians face the same challenges namely doubt, discouragement, fear, guilt, division, rejection, and the struggle against consumerism and complacency.” p. 11
In my opinion, Viola addressed each of the areas in a creative, compelling and inspiring project called “God’s Favorite Place On Earth.” He made me want to be that place.
You can find out more and purchase the book through THIS link.