Of Seeds and the People of God
Preachers mount the pulpit steps terribly burdened by the conviction that they are somehow responsible for the growth and spiritual well-being of their congregants. How, they ask themselves, can mere words communicate the reality of God, bring life to a congregation, or foster spiritual growth? This study argues that effective sermons function much like Jesus' parables--by bearing witness to divine power. Parables and preaching both testify to something beyond themselves: to a life-giving dynamic that far outstrips the force of words alone. Preachers are not go-betweens or gatekeepers for the kingdom of heaven: rather, they imitate Jesus by dying to themselves in the very act of proclamation, relying directly on God for their sermons to bear fruit. As well as offering a novel interpretation of Jesus' agricultural parables, Of Seeds and the People of God presents a Christ-shaped theology of preaching. Beyond exegesis or rhetoric alone, faithful proclamation is a question of spirituality, of preachers and listeners together yielding to God's gift of new life. Michael Knowles has written a stunning and demanding book on preaching. His central point is the life-giving power of God, which is exemplified in Jesus's agricultural parables. Over and against 'how to' books, Knowles advocates homiletical helplessness as a primary virtue, which involves putting to death our reliance upon rhetorical techniques. Preaching is testimony to what God does rather than to what the preacher does. The book is richly exegetical, theologically expansive, and ultimately deeply practical because everything is cast upon the practice of God. --Andrew Purves, Professor of Reformed Theology, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, PA Studies of homiletical method are legion. Michael Knowles offers us something finer, richer, and more honest: a deep consideration of the God of life, whose cruciform Spirit graces our inadequacy and failures in the pulpit to bear faithful witness to a power that is not our own. Professor Knowles's approach is at once profoundly scriptural, traditionally sensitive, theologically grounded, and spiritual in the most authentically Christian sense. Only an author of seasoned wisdom and great compassion could have written Of Seeds and the People of God. May it find its way into the hands of all who preach, particularly those doubtful that their preaching makes a difference. It does--as surely as we depend on the trustworthy God 'who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.' --C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ How does preaching convey the life-giving power of God? In an age of self-absorbed preachers and preaching, Michael Knowles answers with a 'parabolic' and 'cruciform' homiletics of dependence, dying and rising with Christ, and testimony that points away from the preacher. A must-read for those serious about the possibility of Christian preaching today. --Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary's Seminary & University, Baltimore, MD Michael P. Knowles holds the George F. Hurlburt Chair of Preaching at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In addition to shorter studies in homiletics, pastoral theology, and biblical interpretation, his previous publications include We Preach Not Ourselves: Paul on Proclamation (2008) and The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name: The God of Sinai in Our Midst (2012).
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