(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In Inscribing the Text, twenty-six prayers and twenty-five sermons of Walter Brueggemann have been collected and edited by Anna Carter Florence, a teacher of homiletics at Columbia Theological Seminary. The sermons and prayers alternate throughout the book. The first prayer is a prayer of gratitude, a subject that is prominent throughout the collection. Brueggemann’s prayers, which were offered in a variety of settings, are short, pointed, thoughtful, challenging, and humble. They are based on his reading of a text from Scripture, mostly the Psalms. His sermons are also rather short and use the weekly lectionary texts; thus, most of the sermons include references to both the Old Testament and the New Testament (the book includes an index of Scripture references). The first sermon is a programmatic piece that was delivered at the Festival of Homiletics in Chicago, 2002. It describes Brueggemann’s approach to preaching, and the sermons that follow are embodiments of his method. Although these sermons were preached over a period of five years and were delivered in different settings, they address many of the same themes, which focus on society, paradox, and transformation. These common themes include truth, justice, righteousness, God’s faithfulness, God’s intervention, newness, imagination, hope, freedom, and openness.

Brueggemann’s first sermon offers a new paradigm for preaching. He begins by presenting four biblical examples of truth speaking to power: Moses demanding the pharaoh’s release of the Israelites, Nathan exposing David’s adultery and murder, Elijah pronouncing God’s judgment on Ahab and Jezebel, and Daniel interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Speaking truth to power is vital, but it is not so easy these days. Most preachers serve as pastors of local congregations and have been given the responsibility of administration as well as preaching. It is impossible to be an administrator and a prophet at the same time. Other factors make it difficult for the contemporary preacher to take on the role of prophet. In each of the biblical stories, the kings clearly represent power and the prophets...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Brueggemann, Walter. Cadences of Home: Preaching Among Exiles. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. The church is in exile, is “de-centered,” and needs a transforming encounter with God that will enable Christians to find “home.”

Brueggemann, Walter, and Patrick D. Miller. Texts That Linger, Words That Explode: Listening to Prophetic Voices. Minneapolis, Minn.: John Knox Press, 2000. A collection of essays that offer fresh insights from the Old Testament prophets and suggestions for preaching from the prophetic books.

Jensen, Richard A. Thinking in Story: Preaching in a Post-Literate Age. Lima, Ohio: CSS, 1993. Electronic media is producing a postliterate world that requires a change in preaching methodology. Preaching should focus less on ideas and more on story.

Winkler, Eugene. Review of Inscribing the Text. The Christian Century 121, no. 11 (June 1, 2004): 37-39. Praises the energy and creativity of the prayers and sermons in the work.