The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann
Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 392 pages
The Tears of God: Jesus as Passion and Promise: Cycle C Sermons for Lent and Easter Based on the Gospel Texts
by Susan Andrews
CSS Publishing, Lima, Ohio. 114 pages
Reviewed by Cynthia J. Bolbach
Does preaching matter anymore?
That may seem to be a heretical question to pose to a Presbyterian audience. I confess, however, that I sometimes wonder, and worry, whether the proclamation of the Word, although intended to be the central point of our worship, doesn’t sometimes get buried amidst the flurry of announcements, the time with children, the praise band’s number, or the PowerPoint stewardship presentation. And I also wonder whether many pastors, faced with a week that includes innumerable committee meetings, heavy pastoral care responsibilities, and other time-sucking obligations, simply lack the wherewithal to really confront the text and craft a sermon that brings it to life in today’s world.
But now comes reassurance, in the form of two collections of sermons, one by Walter Brueggemann and the other by Susan Andrews. “The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann” and “The Tears of God” are different in approach: Brueggemann’s is a hefty collection of 67 sermons preached from 1972 through 2009, while Andrews’ book consists of a series of Lent and Easter sermons based on the lectionary Cycle C Gospel texts. What is common to both, though, is the preachers’ audacity and willingness to grapple with the text, to take the bold step of proclaiming God’s Word. As Andrews puts it, “preaching takes both courage and humility. Nothing trivializes God more than a sloppy sermon or a lazy pastor.”
It’s undoubtedly true that a sermon, at its best, is preached and heard by a particular audience, at a particular place, and in a particular time. The sermons in these two collections, however, still resonate even when being read months or years after they were preached. The first sermon in Brueggemann’s collection was preached on Christmas Eve 1972, as the bombing of Vietnam resumed. “The skies are always filled with bombers,” Brueggemann says, a dose of reality that hits home in 2012 as concretely as in 1972.
Dip into these sermons, and you will find challenge, inspiration and reassurance. You will find encounters with God that will enrich and support you.
CYNTHIA J. BOLBACH, a lawyer, ruling elder and moderator of the 2010 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), died Dec. 12, 2012. This uncompleted review was submitted to the Outlook book editor one week before her final hospitalization and death.