Wrestling with the Word: Preaching Tricky Texts

Kate Bruce and Jamie Harrison, SPCK (2016)

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This book gives ideas and examples of how to preach on tricky texts in the Bible and is divided into three sections. Section one offers a robust defence of preaching against modern criticisms. Section two, the largest section, contains sermons from 15 preachers, grouped around five themes, followed by a description of the homiletical strategies found in each sermon. Texts are drawn from both Old and New Testaments. Section three features sermons by Justin Welby, the late Ruth Etchells and an article by David Day on the ‘Application Emphasis Movement’. The roll call of contributors is an impressive one, including festival speakers, broadcasters and theologians.

The brief first section instils a sense of purpose and belief in preaching, helping preachers develop their own theology of preaching.

David Day acknowledges that his discussion on application applies to all texts and not just tricky texts. The piece addresses the extent to which every sermon should have an application, but leaves readers to draw their own conclusion.

The centre section of the book is compelling reading. I was drawn by the way each preacher dealt with the text, and the ‘homiletical strategies’ helped me recognise features I might otherwise have missed. Unfortunately the written sermons seemed flat and would have benefited from notation giving a sense of how the sermon is being delivered. Bruce, who intentionally uses movement in her sermons, includes notation which helps lift her own sermon from the page.

‘Wrestling with the Word’ is a treasure trove of ideas and preachers looking to broaden their portfolio of approaches to crafting sermons will be benefit from reading it.

Reviewed by Alan Irvin