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Scholar in a pulpit

12 June 2012

John Rogerson reads a US Protestant’s sermons and prayers

Inscribing the Text: Sermons and prayers of Walter Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann
Fortress Press £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.30

THIS volume contains prayers and sermons composed and delivered between 1998 and 2002. The format is that the prayers and sermons come alternately.

The prayers are best described as short, prayerful meditations on particular named passages (such as individual psalms) or larger stretches of text, such as Exodus 1-15. The sermons were mostly delivered in Presbyterian churches; but some were given at special conventions, or in the chapel of the Columbia Theological Seminary. Those delivered in churches mostly deal with the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. There are 24 sermons in all, and there is an index of biblical references.

Not surprisingly, the sermons mostly deal with the Old Testament, and include studies of Moses and parts of the Pentateuch, David, Elijah and Elisha, Second Isaiah, and the book of Lamentations.

A striking use of the New Testament in a Lenten sermon is the suggestion that the temptations of Jesus come not so much from Satan as voices within the Churches today. A striking Old Testament sermon suggests that the reason why the formula “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” does not go on to include Joseph is because of the latter’s exploitation of the Egyptians after the seven fat and lean years.

Again not surprisingly, the themes of justice and fairness feature commonly, as does the conviction that the moral and spiritual barrenness of human behaviour is met by the abundance of the grace of God. It is good to have these prayers and sermons from one of today’s most creative Old Testament scholars.

Canon John Rogerson is Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield.

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