DINNER WITH A PERFECT STRANGER
An Invitation Worth Considering
Sorting through his junk mail, Nick Cominsky almost accidentally tosses an anonymous letter that comes to his office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Strangely it is typed and has no return address, yet it uses Crane paper and a matching envelope. It says, "You are invited to a dinner with Jesus of Nazareth Milano's Restaurant Tuesday, March 24 - Eight o'clock."
The invitation stumps Nick because he cannot figure out who could have possibly sent it. He has no relationship with a church or interest in anything related to organized religion. When Nick calls the restaurant, he can't get any answers about the origin of the invitation. He decides to play it cool and not say anything to anyone but to show up for the invitation.
When Nick walks into the restaurant, the maitre d' leads him to a table where a thirty-something man in a blue business suit is looking over the menu. He introduces himself as Jesus. The encounter begins a modern-day encounter with Jesus Christ through the eyes of a skeptic.
The various events of a dinner form the chapters for this short book, including The Menu, The Appetizer, The Salad, The Main Course, The Dessert, The Coffee, and the Bill. Each section allows Nick to question this stranger about some of the key questions about life, such as pain, faith and doubt.
As in a real spiritual situation, Jesus never pressures Nick but simply is available and patiently answers his questions throughout the meal. The book is like eavesdropping on a back and forth conversation with an unbeliever explaining the reality of Jesus Christ.
Here's an example of their conversation:
Nick says, "Just because you claim to be God doesn't mean that you are."
"No. But it does mean that I wasn't just a good religious teacher. Either I told the truth about who I am, or I lied, or I was insane. Those are the only real options. Good religious teachers don't claim to be God."
He looked off across the room, not seeming to focus on anything in particular. He shook his head almost imperceptibly, then looked back at me. "People distort the truth because they reject the final proof I've already given."
"That I rose from the dead."
Step by step Jesus answers Nick's big questions about life. Nick moves toward becoming a Christian, yet the ending isn't totally predictable. Hesitant to conclude the evening, Nick wonders if he will ever have another opportunity with Jesus for dinner. He smiles and says it depends on Nick. Then Jesus asks Nick to give him the last business card in his wallet. He scribbles something on the back and returns the card to Nick saying, "That'll tell you how to reach me."
As Nick shakes hands to say goodbye, he notices the scar on his wrists and reluctantly departs. The card simply says "Revelation 3:20." At home, Nick rummages around for a Bible and turns to the Scripture. He learns how he can have dinner with Jesus again.
Every fiction story plays the "What if" game, in which the author sets up a particular character and a trial or problem that hopefully is resolved through the novel. DINNER WITH A PERFECT STRANGER, subtitled "An Invitation Worth Considering," has the central theme of "What if you could spend an evening with Jesus?" While the conversation is imagined, it is realistic in the types of objections raised and how they are patiently answered in the book. While cloaked in fiction, this little book is catching on in the marketplace as a popular tool. The story and format alone become a simple apologetic message for pre-evangelism yet couched in a highly readable format.
I recommend DINNER WITH A PERFECT STRANGER. For Christians, it will sharpen your insight into how to talk about your faith in today's world.
--- Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin, writer and editor in Scottsdale, Arizona. His latest book is BOOK PROPOSALS THAT $ELL, 21 SECRETS TO SPEED YOUR SUCCESS (Write Now Publications). http://www.bookproposals.ws.
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