And God Spoke to Abraham
Fleming Rutledge, Eerdmans (2011)
And God spoke to Abraham is a collection of 55 sermons by Fleming Rutledge, a highly respected American Episcopalian teacher and preacher. The sermons were preached in a variety of settings over a 35 year period from 1975 to 2010 and are all based wholly or mainly on Old Testament texts, ranging all the way from Genesis to Malachi. Rutledge has written a thought-provoking introduction in which she explains her approach to the Old Testament, how she hopes the sermons will be read, and how she understands the roles of preacher (seeking to preach from the biblical heart more than the preacher’s own agenda) and hearer. Rutledge is a passionate and committed believer in the importance of preaching from the Old Testament, not least because she feels that it is vital in order for us to have a complete picture of God. She hopes that this collection will encourage and inspire those readers who are preachers to have a similar commitment. She also envisages the collection as being a helpful devotional and educational resource for laypeople. The sermons themselves are not especially long (typically five to eight pages) and easily read in a single sitting. The style is not expository in a verse-by-verse sense, but they are solidly based in the text. Rutledge wears her scholarship lightly, yet you can sense the deep study that lies behind the text. The tone is at the literary, crafted, end of the preaching spectrum and perhaps a little highbrow in its references, which may not be to everyone’s taste. However, what shines through are Rutledge’s wisdom, warmth, imagination and humanity. I found the sermons rich and nourishing, a useful resource for my own preaching and, even more importantly, affirming of faith in the living God, the God who spoke to Abraham.
Reviewed by James Leach