A retired Bishop once reminded me that more often than not, pastors who use the Revised Common Lectionary will preach from the Gospel or Epistle Reading rather than the Prophets. Indeed, many times, the Old Testament is merely read during the Lectionary in mainline churches, with the themes present seemingly too evangelical to touch. Dr. Allan R. Bevere, himself a United Methodist pastor, presents nineteen of his sermons based in the Old Testament. They are not about connecting the dots, so to speak, between Christ and the Old Testament, something which is a usual past time of many preachers; his task is about connecting the dots between the Old Testament and our lives.
I sincerely hope that there will be a follow-up to this book. I don’t mean to say that this book is lacking, but the greatly majority of his sermons are drawn from the historical books. Maybe rather, the so-called historical books, given that Bevere shows them to be rather prophetic in examining our own lives today. He provides great insight through personal stories, illustrations, and good scholarship, but more than that, he ties all of these things nicely together to deliver to his congregation, to which the reader is seemingly invited to partake in, a meaningful message. Again, this is not about proclaiming Christ in the Old Testament, but about proclaiming the Christian life, hope, and connection to the Old Testament (which, of course, is made possible only through Christ). Make no mistake, this is not some soft peddling of Old Testament themes. The sermons, longer if read aloud (and really, they should all be), provide a challenge to the Christian today, not in pondering how to be better people, but how to tackle the life and calling God has given us, whether it is in a land of plenty or a sea of destruction. Bevere’s book serves to draw sharply the Christian into the life of these historical figures and places them as a foundation of our faith.
He tackles a variety of issues, from hopelessness to living wisely to pursuing God’s calling, showing that the Old Testament does have something for us today. The layout is is pastoral, even to the closing prayer, but these sermons are fodder for the heart, serving as devotionals, or, perhaps, reflections to be shared. If there is a follow-up, I would love to “hear” more regarding the use of the prophets in our lives, especially considering other books by Dr. Bevere. Until, then, I’ll enjoy his prophetic turn of the familiar stories of the Old Testament.