Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review Preaching the Luminous Word

Preaching is not an easy task. Trust me, as someone who has preached Sunday after Sunday, week in and week out for sixteen years I can attest: preaching is hard work. Why is it so hard? Well for starters as soon as you finish one sermon you have to begin another one. It's also difficult to preach an authentic inspirational and Biblical sermon that sounds fresh and new each week. I must say I do envy larger congregations that have a head pastor and maybe an associate or two which means that one could rotate sermon assignments, do I wish I could preach every other week rather than every week! But alas, pastors rise to the occasion and crack open their Bibles and lectionary notes for the following week and get started once again.

Preaching can be both life-giving and light giving at the same time as the preacher provides fresh insight and words about the Word made flesh. Preaching also can provide light and direction in a world that can often be full of darkness. Ellen Davis, who serves as the Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School, has published a collection of Biblical sermons and homiletical essays that provide both life and light to the preached word. I have come across Prof. Davis' name before, but never had the opportunity to read any of her work or hear her preach. I was both pleased and inspired by this sermon collection and now wish that I heard these sermons live.

I have read a lot of sermons in my life but Prof. Davis' sermons  are some of the best. I found that she has a razor sharp eye on the text and both keeps the reader's attention and focus on the task at hand. Many pastors fall into the trap of including everything in their sermons; details, too many quotes from other sources, and one too many stories. Davis keeps her focus on the Biblical text and therefore keeps her readers or hearers attention on the Biblical text as well. She states in the preface that she enjoys preaching on Proverbs and the Psalms which is also quite unique since many pastors, including myself, feel more comfortable in a narrative section of Scripture, for examples the many stories in 1-2 Kings for  or one of the gospel parables.

Another bonus of this sermon collection are the four homiletical essays that are included:

Witnessing to God in the Midst of Life: Old Testament Preaching 

Holy Preaching: Ethical Interpretation and the Practical Imagination 

Surprised by Wisdom: Preaching Proverbs 

"Here I Am": Preaching Isaiah as a Book of Vocation 

Each of these essays provides much food for thought regarding the craft of preaching. I certainly will read and re-read these essays again as food for my heart, mind, and soul as I continue my own preaching and teaching vocation.

If you are interested in a preacher's preacher and want some good sermons to read and reflect on than pick up a copy of Preaching the Luminous Word, you won't be disappointed.

For more information about this book click here