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Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Birkholz. Feasting in a Famine of the Word (2016)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Aug• 23•16

Birkholz, Mark W., Jacob Corzine, Jonathan Mumme, and Jonathan M. Fisk, eds. Feasting in a Famine of the Word: Lutheran Preaching in the Twenty-First Century. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2016. Pages:xxiv+299; ISBN: 978-1-4982-0316-6

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9781498203166This collection of essays is written by a diverse group of contributors ‘to equip preachers.’ The spectrum of writers include pastors, homilitians, and theologians from all over the world. Though all essays are written from the Lutheran Perspective, it still is a good resource for anyone, Lutheran or not.
The first essay by John Bombaro (‘Is there a Text in the Sermon? A Lutheran Survey of Contemporary Preaching) deals with the issue of the place of scripture in preaching, while in the second one by Mark Birkholz (‘Certainty in the Sermon: Patterns of Preaching from Peter and Pentecost’) is an exegetical study of the sermons in Luke-Acts. Paul M.C. Elliott (‘The Israel of God in the Sermon: Connecting Old Testament Texts to a New Testament People’) deals with the relationship between the Old and New Testaments in contemporary preaching. The essay by Richard J. Serna Jr is historical in nature. Taking the case of Richard of Cusa, he inquires in the factors that gave preaching the prominence it had in reformation times.
Not only history but theology also is important in reformation preaching. Roy Axel’s essay (‘Systematic Theology and Preaching in the Thought of Johann Gerhard’) explores the place of theology in preaching. Preaching on difficult theological topics like ‘election’, ‘free will’, ‘original sin’, etc are the concern of Esko Murto (‘Gloomy Revelations or Comforting Doctrines’).
Jacob Corzine (‘Assuring the Faithful: On Faith and Doubt in Lutheran Preaching’) deals with the issue of preaching to those who already have faith in such a way that their faith can be sustained. Jonathan Mumme offers us a study of the model of Paul in 1 and 2 Corinthians on how the preacher deals with the issue of differentiating between the hearers and himself/herself.
Daniel Schmidt is critical of many methods of north-American preaching (‘Present Preaching’). He argues that the criterion for a good sermon is not its content or its delivery but its foundation that is living God. Another contribution that deals with the North American homiletical practices is Gottfried Martens’ article, ‘The Path from Text to Sermon.’
The contribution by Steven Paulson (‘Preaching as Foolishness’) is quite radical. He doesn’t consider preaching as persuasion nor instruction but it is creation—preaching is creative word.
Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt explores the relationship between preaching and pastoral care in his essay ‘Paranesis in Preaching.’ The essay by Jeremiah Johnson ‘Learning to Lament: Preaching to Suffering in the Lament Psalms’ seems to tow similar lines. He suggests that preaching is applied pastoral care. Pastoral care comes again in the article by Jacob Appell, ‘Preaching as Physician for the Sick in Spirit.’
The place of preaching in Liturgy is the concern of three articles (1) John Pless (‘Liturgical Preaching’), John Kleinig (‘The Real Presence and Liturgical Preaching’) and that of David Petersen (The Preacher’s Tongue and the Hearer’s Ear: Compelled by the Spirit).
The very brief overview of the contents of this book is sufficient to convince that here we have a very useful compendium of essays that helps us to learn new things and reformulate our own convictions. It has indeed fulfilled the goal set for the project, ‘to equip preachers.’ This, in my opinion, should be in the reading list of every homiletics student.

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