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.
on January 3, 2012
The Character of Our Discontent was not the book that I expected it to be. Unlike finding a raccoon in a box this surprise was pleasant.
Discontent is a collection of sermons that span the Old Testament. Initially I had expected that the sermons would be little vignettes of the characters of the Old Testament, a who's who of God's chosen lot. Instead the focus shifts sermon to sermon as the text allows. Instead of a picture of who Moses is we are presented a picture of what he did, what the action speaks to today, or what an eloquent flaming shrubbery has to say about life for Christians today.
The sermons are short. Staccato. However brief each is packed with anecdotes and other little tidbits and stories that bring to life the intentions of the scripture and highlight the insights of Bevere. Some are humorous, others, like that of a Hungarian survivor of WWII, are wrenching and powerful in their own right. It is apparent that Bevere is as good an editor as a preacher.
Concluding each sermon a prayer is offered which connects the scripture to the present as well as lending further practicality to the texts themselves. Always the prayer points back to the message so we have Bevere mirroring the word back to God. "This was the point God, help us to do it."
I enjoyed this little book so very much that I am tempted to wrap this review up here and leave my hangups hung up, but in all fairness what is troublesome in the work is not in the words but rather in the formatting. Each sermon opens with a chapter number and title. Then in text underneath is the listing of the scripture which will be preached upon; but there is no text. Bevere often refers the what is in the scripture, but he never once gives the text in full. I did feel at times that I should have my bible on hand as I was reading. Were the scripture blocked in italics the reader could quickly review the scripture to prepare for what comes ahead.
My only other issue, and this is purely aesthetic is that prayer at the end of the sermon. It is separated by a bold header (PRAYER:). It is just a preference but like having scripture at the start I would have preferred to have the prayer set apart in italics to break the monotony of the print type.
Overall this is a wonderful book that I would recommend to pastor and layman alike, to him who already loves the Old Testament and to him who has yet to relish its delights. And without a doubt it is better than a raccoon in a box.
Propter Sanguinem Agni,
This book was provided to me free of charge by the publisher. They asked only for my honest opinion. Nothing weird or anything like that. I am only disclosing this information because it is illegal if I don't. I'm pretty sure that I would go to prison, probably for life, seeing how reviewing a product you are given for free under the guise of having purchased it yourself is similar to murder. O laws, like whitewashed tombs!
on June 9, 2010
Allan Bevere writes with the conviction that the Old Testament provides meaningful insights for Christian life today. He develops a portrait of several Old Testament characters in this sermon series. He explains how out of THEIR discontent grew Moses' friendship with God, Joshua's service to God, and Jeremiah's hope in God. The author describes other characters as well, but his title reveals the main goal of the book ~ The Character of OUR Discontent. Bevere challenges us to model the godly character of our Old Testament predecessors in our less than ideal life situations. He begins each sermon with relevant Scripture verses and ends it with a thoughtful prayer. The chapters read smoothly with a healthy balance of explanation, illustration, and life application. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about biblical characters or who struggles to trust in God during circumstances of discontentment.