Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review The Best of Will Willimon

This Spring has been a wonderful time for reading and if you skimmed a few of my recent blog posts you'll see that the reading list is theologically diverse from Yves Congar to NT Wright to Rowan Williams to Will Willimon!

Earlier this Spring I reviewed Bishop Willimon's other new book called Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question which you can read if you click here. Therefore I am not going to repeat the introductory material about Bishop Willimon and his ministry which you can read in my earlier posting.

His other new book this Spring is called The Best of Will Willimon: Acting Up in Jesus' Name (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2012). This book is unlike his other monographs which deal with one particular theme such as preaching, vocation, or the role of the episcopate. Rather this book is a collection of short chapters on various themes which have interested Bishop Willimon. Some of the various topics are:

Good News
Following Jesus
The Church and the World

I'm not sure if these selections are from Bishop Willimon's blog which he regularly updates or if they are from his numerous books or essays. From a reading standpoint I wish the publisher included either a note or some information where these particular writings are from so that I can read the rest of them since I have a few of Willimon's books sitting on my shelf in my office. Needless to say I was drawn to his thoughts about pastoring, preaching, and of course following Jesus.

I was not disappointed either. Willimon has a pointed style, he draws you in with humor and then zaps you with the gospel message! I love it. Many pastors and bishops are not only good preachers but writers as well, since they are all servants of the Word; here I think of Martin Luther King, Jr., William Sloane Coffin, Frederick Buechner, Walter Brueggeman, and of course Will Willimon. Take the following for example:

"Sorry if you prefer your God to come at you in an exclusively spiritual, inflated, pale blue and fuzzy vagueness, hermetically sealed from where you actually live. In Jesus, divinity and humanity embrace." (p. 5)

or this one....

"Without humor, a bishop would be an insufferable bore, a district superintendent could be dangerous, and a pastor would be in a perpetual state of depression due to the state of the Church." (p. 164).

There are many more such poignant passages in this book. I caught myself laughing at several of them, especially ones about pastors, we are a messed up bunch and he knows it. The problem is that pastors don't know it and we walk around thinking that we know everything there is to know about the Church, humility seems to go out the door.

The Best of Will Willimon is not just a "greatest hits" type collection but a book that can be used as a daily devotional of sorts, taking one section per day and using it for reflection or journaling, or perhaps if it is read by a pastor for their clergy group. I also wish the publisher included a "Questions for Discussion" section or some questions for reflection as a way to get deeper into the chapters.

The wider Church is suffering from many things; dwindling membership, lack of funding, lack of vision, poor leadership, misuse of funds, but the Church is also grateful that there are prophets and preachers like Bishop Willimon and others who are faithful in their ministry which continues to feed and nourish us along our path to the Kingdom.