Walter Wangerin is a master storyteller. To make sense of life and faith, he tells stories. Compulsively. He is also a Christian pastor who has spent most of his working ministry in the most deprived parts of the southern USA, in communities where he has had to earn his right to be heard. This book is a compilation of his thoughts, struggles, reflections and some of the parables that he has used to put the Gospel into the language of the late 20th century. It is also one of the most moving books I have ever read. The most memorable aspect of this book is the parables. The central stories of the Christian Gospel are transposed into the streets of the modern city. Without doing disservice to the heart of the message, these tales shine a new light on the stories of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, showing the presence of God among the homeless, the abused, the mentally ill - the outcasts of society - and calling the rest of us to look again and see God's hand at work where we least expect it. The stories range from the sublime (the tear-jerking "Advent Monologue") to the downright ridiculous (the Uncle Remus-esque story of Moses Swope, the boy who believed EVERYTHING...), each one told with sensitivity and love, and with an astonishing - in places almost childlike - simplicity of language. Interspersed with these tales are prayers and meditations, anecdotes from the author's family life, and two or three longer, more detailed pieces taken from sermons and reflections for special occasions. In many ways these are the most moving part of the book. In one, Wangerin tells an audience of fresh-faced, middle-class, newly ordained ministers how he came down to earth with a bump at the start of his own professional ministry, and how he fought to "learn the city" and earn his right to be heard as the only white man in the congregation. In another, he cries out for Christians to re-learn the gift of telling stories, of using them to create a place in which God's love can minister and God's words teach and rebuke - a manifesto not unlike that of J.R.R. Tolkien, although made all the more poignant for Wangerin's long experience as a minister, guide and carer to the poor. In "Ragman", Walter Wangerin has achieved something rare for a writer of "Christian books": he has produced a volume which will comfort, challenge AND uplift, which engages head and heart in equal measure with the Gospel. I don't know anyone, of the many people I have recommended this book to (or given it as a present), who hasn't been touched by it.
This book was intriguing and spiritually uplifting. From the beginning when I read about the Ragman that came to heal I was captured. The Easter story written as a play was moving and the to learn about the story of the Easter Lilly brought me to tears. This book is for all ages. It teaches us about Christ's unconditional love and his unfailing servanthood to us.