An Audacious Invitation

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A Compelling Reflection on the Gospel According to John

Walter Farquharson Jeff Cook

224 PP | 6" x 9"
ISBN: 978-1-77064-687-2

An Audacious Invitation is a startling new commentary on the Gospel of John by former United Church Moderator Walter Farquharson and long-time United Church minister Jeff Cook. Walter’s reflections paired with Jeff’s point-counterpoint responses allow the reader to participate in an energetic dialogue that will both surprise and inspire. Here we discover a Jesus of love and compassion and hope, a compelling call to a new way of living.

Walter Farquharson, Author

Walter Farquharson grew up on his family’s farm at Zealandia, Saskatchewan. He has studied at the University of Saskatchewan; at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon, from which he received a Doctor of Divinity degree; and at New College, University of Edinburgh. In 1961, he became minister of the Saltcoats-Bredenbury multi-congregation pastoral charge. Now actively retired, he and his wife, Joan Casswell, still reside in Saltcoats.

Walter was Moderator of The United Church of Canada from 1990 to 1992. In 2007, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. Walter is also well-known as a hymn writer, and for his considerable skills as a presenter.

Jeff Cook, Author

Jeff Cook received a BA (Honours) in English Literature and an MA in Journalism (University of Western Ontario) before obtaining a Master of Divinity degree from Queen’s Theological College. Jeff and his wife, Carol Fletcher, have served in team ministry at Transcona Memorial United Church, in Winnipeg, since 1988. Jeff has served on numerous committees at all levels of The United Church of Canada and, in 2012, was a nominee for Moderator.

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Media Reviews

Donna Sinclair, journalist and author of The Long View, The Spirituality of Gardening, The Spirituality of Bread, and A Woman’s Book of Days I and II

We need this book in the same way we need poetry on the muddy, complicated road of life. In despair over environmental disaster? Furious with wrong-headed politicians? An Audacious Invitation will help you sing instead of throw things. Walter Farquharson – with Jeff Cook as his willing accomplice – pulls stories out of his own life and Jesus’ life and the lives of Jesus’ friends’ and attaches them to our own experiences. Then we are pulled along, mud metaphorically falling off our boots, by the insights these two share so generously. This is wisdom without pedantry, poetry without obscurity, and whimsicality without ever, ever lacking in substance.

It is written with obvious delight in word and phrase. The poet seeps through on every page. It is sheer pleasure to move this way through the Gospel of John, guided by two assured companions. And none of this negates the practical fact that one day – when you are feeling hopeless, but you must, somehow, find something good to say – you will reach for this book. What you need will be here.

Ron Klusmeier, composer and musician

An Audacious Invitation by Walter Farquharson and Jeff Cook to take a deeper look into the Gospel According to John caught me off guard. When Walter first told me about the plans to write a reflection on the poetic musings of “John Gospelwriter,” I thought to myself, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

When it comes to theological study, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. I need to read and re-read things many times before they “stick.” I am not an academic.

After decades of experiencing Walter’s friendship and mentoring, I should have known better than to react (admittedly, with my “inside” voice) with such blasé indifference. My friend has demonstrated to me time and again what a wonderful teacher/theologian he is for all who have ears to listen.

Walter’s uncanny ability to weave gospel truths into our here-and-now through story-telling and poetry have frequently renewed and revived my faith when the cynical, doubting part of me wondered, “Why bother?”

Another reflection on John? Who cares? Well, thank goodness Walter and Jeff care.

In An Audacious Invitation we are invited on a journey that offers new glimpses of timeless truths about our faith story and, perhaps more importantly, about ourselves. It is true that I, as usual, had to read pages over and again. However, the surprising part of that experience was that doing so was often the result of an “Ah!” moment revealed through the insights of a teacher/poet. With running commentary from Jeff, Walter boldly shares a poet’s playful-yet-profound insight on the one gospel that is “not-like-the-others.”

Jeff’s input to this project is certainly not an afterthought. He had me hooked when I read of the theological stages of his life beginning with “my six-month fundamentalist stage” right through to “my contemplating-becoming-a-contemplative-hermit stages of theology and discipleship.” The willingness of both writers to expose their personal journeys is a theme that runs throughout the book. I found that to be touchingly evident when, reflecting on John 15:1–17, Jeff writes, “The image of God working lovingly and patiently through the vineyard is warm and intimate… I have experienced God pruning me of beliefs and prejudices and attitudes.”

On my first reading, I quickly realized that my dear friend Walter Gospelteacher has done it again: My faith journey has been renewed and revived with new wine through this invitation to “dance upon the shore” with the rest of the “motley crew”! Thank you, Walter and Jeff – and Amen.

Michael Schwartzentruber, author, editor, former publisher and president of Wood Lake Publishing

I’ll be honest. John has never been my favorite gospel. Not by a long shot. Not with its too-frequent references to “the Jews,” its convoluted “prayers” that seem more like pointed sermons or admonitions aimed at the disciples, its “Father” God and its all-knowing, prescient Jesus who seem hardly human – or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I grew to love An Audacious Invitation more and more with each turn of the page. This book is filled with light and love and compassion and I know that I will return to it again and again for the spiritual insight and nourishment it offers.