Eerdmans, 224 pages
“Just tell the truth,” says Richard Lischer in the title sermon of this collection. It’s a sermon for Epiphany that coincidentally fell on the 88th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. While expounding on the witness of John the Baptizer, Lischer’s words carry us through riveting stories laced with social and biblical commentary until we come to the message he wants us to hear: Just tell the truth. That’s when the trouble starts. And, with the candor of an honest pastor, I can’t tell you what the cost of your discipleship will be. But I do know this: John told the truth. Martin told the truth. And so can we. That sermon alone is worth the entire collection – and not just for you – but for the church that needs such truth telling for its flourishing.
Whether the church will survive, must less flourish, post-pandemic is of great speculation. I do not doubt that if it does flourish in ways that resemble Jesus’ call to love our neighbors, sermons of the kind Lischer offers will be essential. The hope of the gospel is proclaimed without flinching in the face of death — something Lischer himself has faced with the death of his son. In these sermons he follows his own directive – just tell the truth – with new urgency. These sermons combine the finest story telling with acute attention to Scripture and a keen eye on the signs of the times. If that were not enough, Lischer is a fine writer who elevates preaching to a literary art. One often walks away from conventional “literary” sermons impressed but unmoved. These sermons will move you to do something in response to the gospel. Lischer reminds us that when preachers “just tell the truth” about Jesus, the trouble begins. And so does the hope.