Christ in a Choppie Box
Michael Sadgrove, Sacristy Press (2015)
Michael Sadgrove was Dean at Durham Cathedral between 2003 and 2015 and this volume contains some of his best sermons from that time. Sadgrove is very highly regarded by none other than Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and it is easy to see why after sampling these very well crafted and thought provoking sermons.
For those of you who are wondering, a choppie box refers to the feeding trough of the pit ponies in that part of the North East. In Durham Cathedral the Nativity scene was adorned with just such a choppie box made by a pitman so that the infant Christ’s manger was literally a feeding trough complete with attendant pit pony. A wonderful anecdote that is typical of the author’s approach: witty, memorable and informative.
The sermons included in this collection offer a huge range of themes and topics, from digital lambs to the ten year anniversary of 9/11 to Holocaust Memorial Day. They are all accessible with catchy titles that belie their deep scholarship and theological mastery. The book can equally be read right through from cover to cover or dipped into to sample individual sermons or subjects. It may be that you particularly want to see what Sadgrove has to say about Pentecost or Holy Week and so seek out those particular sermons accordingly. Whilst the book contains no index, its contents page is fairly specific and informative.
Apart from the sermons themselves Sadgrove has written an extremely practical and useful chapter on “The Art of Preaching” itself. For those of us who purport to get up into the pulpit and preach to a congregation, this essay offers some fascinating insights into the background and mechanics of preaching. It even includes the “Ten Deadly Sins of Preaching” among which are speaking too soon, being too long, jokiness, playing to the gallery, lack of shape and direction and being boring. If any of you own up to being guilty of committing any of these offences then reading this book would be time well spent.
Reviewed by Ray Taylor