BRUXY CAVEY. Reunion: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners. Harrisonburg, VA. Herald Press, 2017. Pp. 207. $21.99 (U.S.)
Part One of this book begins with a personal story that will make some readers want to shut the book and throw it across the room. For others, the ironic anecdote will make them laugh out loud and settle in for a good read. By exposing that he has a tattoo of “Leviticus 19:28” which reminds him of the good news of Jesus, Bruxy Cavey immediately reveals that he does not follow traditional church standards. The anecdote illustrates Cavey’s radical understanding of the gospel that he eloquently reflects on in his book, Reunion: the Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners.
Cavey describes the “Good News” in three parts, dividing the gospel down into one word, three words, and 30 words. Writing for a broad audience ranging from new believers to mature Christians, Cavey attempts to get back to the heart of the church: Jesus.
Jesus was the focus of Sunday school stories and Bible songs that I heard every week. Even so, I was still confused and misguided about what was so “good” about the Christian faith. In fact, hearing the word “evangelism” made my stomach clench anxiously like it does before a job interview. I didn’t want to tell people that they are doomed unless they “turn to Jesus” and “get healed.” This “Gospel” made me uncomfortable.
Reunionput my mind at ease. The engaging way Cavey unpacks the gospel message introduces the reader to a lover who will transform their lives. Cavey writes to help the reader fall in love with Jesus, and not just feel obligated to tell other people about him. As Cavey points out, when you love someone, it is easy to talk about him or her.
What stuck with me most after reading Reunionwas the refreshing way Cavey expresses the terms and phrases we hear repeatedly at church. Those of us who have grown up in church are familiar with Christian jargon. Terms like “sin” and “grace” and “gospel” are tossed around without explicit explanation. Cavey, with an intentional and gifted use of words, takes this church lingo and spells it out in down-to-earth terms.
Both the words and the style of Cavey’s writing are easy to read. His style is engaging, with abundant and thorough analogies, anecdotes, and direct addresses to the reader. The reader feels the suspense as Cavey builds up his major point with a “drumroll” and one can’t help but smile at some of the images, such as describing Jesus as “God’s heart walking around” (56). Young adults especially will find the conversational tone attractive and easy to follow. Among the stories, Cavey cites ample Bible passages to support his points so the reader can investigate for herself. The content is dense, but with Cavey’s intentional words and flowing style, it does not read like a textbook.
It is easy to praise the many strengths of Reunion, but there were a few times I raised my eyebrows in question. While reading, I was constantly aware that I was interpreting through a believer’s lens. I kept thinking about my non-believer friends who are interested in Christianity, but do not have the foundational background with years of Sunday school lessons and Vacation Bible School. Although Cavey valiantly seeks to be inclusive for all readers (from non-believers to mature Christians), I feel both extremes may walk away lacking.
The mature Christian reader may feel unchallenged because of the simplicity of the message. In other words, if read through the lens of a cradle Christian such as myself, this book and message confirm the core of what has been already established, namely that God is love. This is not to say the book is all old news; in fact, Cavey shares lots of radical ideas, especially regarding religious systems. The mature Christian will probably benefit most from the last half of the book where Cavey goes into more detail about living the gospel.
On the other side, the non-believer may experience frustration and doubt because of the unquestioned generalizations made about truth and Christian ethics. For those without a background of Christian faith, I question whether this book can itself be that foundational starting point. Certainly, anyone seeking truth and an understanding of Jesus will be able to find it in this book. However, I eagerly recommend Reunionto a reader who is somewhere in between the extremes, especially to the reader who is questioning some of the traditional lessons of the church. I believe many young adults would fall into this category. If you have a relationship with Jesus that needs rejuvenating, this book is for you!
One other eyebrow-raising moment came regarding the interpretation of “going the second mile.” I grew up learning that this action was a third-way, nonviolent act of defiance in order to bring shame on the oppressor. Cavey emphasizes the love and relationship between the Roman soldier and the Jewish servant, and totally ignores the shaming aspect. While it is not a wrong interpretation, it is incomplete. Throughout the book, Cavey (perhaps to a fault) emphasizes Jesus’s cozy love rather than his powerful and radical love. In Cavey’s defense, the radical nature of Jesus is portrayed well in the last section of the book regarding the Kingdom of God and religion. Despite the limitations of Reunion, Cavey still effectively invites the reader into a deeper exploration of God’s revelation through Jesus.
As Cavey reminds us, a relationship of love is two-way. So is reading this book. Cavey reveals truth of who Jesus is, and readers must do their part as well. I encourage readers to engage fully with the book: pray for understanding, explore the cited biblical verses, ponder and discuss the ideas. Starting with an explanation of why he got a tattoo, Cavey unpacks the gospel as being more than the traditional Jesus’s death and resurrection. The good news of love is revealed through who Jesus is, who God is, and who we are. This is an exciting message to spread!
Author: Lydia Haggard
Lydia Haggard is a student at Eastern Mennonite University studying Bible and religion. She is an active member of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Mennonite Church in Norristown, PA. When not studying, Lydia enjoys spending time with friends, volunteering in the community, and reading.