Surprised by God: Teaching Reflection Through the Parables

by Christina R. Zaker

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



Surprised by God provides an in-depth look at the foundational elements of theological reflection. The first chapter will engage the reader in reflective activities that cultivate a sacramental imagination open to the God of surprises. This chapter builds the foundation that reflective practice aims to attune our hearts to values and beliefs bigger than ourselves. The second chapter defines theological reflection, looks briefly at a number of methods employed in ministerial contexts, and offers suggestions on how to cultivate the space and habitus of reflection. The conviction that theological reflection is an important tool for any person as they navigate life is at the heart of the best practices shared throughout chapter2.


Chapter 3 turns to look at the parables of Jesus. Here we explore how parables offer a lens for reflection that draws its framework from the unique ways Jesus’ parables surprise and invite his listeners to collaborate in the reign of God. We will examine my favorite parable as an example of the pattern and explore how the parables offer a provocative lens for theological reflection. Chapter 4 lays out what I see as the lens of parables. Here we will discuss the important questions to ask to move theological questions to ask to move theological reflection through dialogue to action. Our neighbor from Old St. Pat’s Edward Foley, OFM Cap notes, “The shifting spiritual terrain and even hybridity of believing in the twenty-first century requires …a certain methodological agility here.” The lens of parables provides a scaffold that is simply enough to be layered over other patterns of reflective practice, but provocative enough to challenge practitioners to further critical depts. Of belief and action.


Chapter 5 points out the importance of reflection as spiritual practice and suggests that theological reflection through the lens of parable does the important work of turning this practice toward questions of justice and solidarity. Chapter 6 provides examples of how the lens of parable can be adapted for a variety of settings. Academic, ministerial, and even secular adaptations are highlighted to show the lens of parable is an adept framework for reflection and growth.


Zakar believes that theological reflection is a good tool as a spiritual practice for any person. She encourages each of us to ponder our deepest values and how we become a part of the bigger story of our world. Theological reflection through the lens of parable lays us open to the God of surprises and challenges us to respond! The author writes with belief and clarity and invites us to engage with her in the theological reflections that are provided. At the end of the book in Appendix A, the author provides a preliminary outline of a method for reflection. Zakar is in charge of the field experiences in the University and wrote this book in the midst of Covid. It is a great book to have in your heart and on your shelf.