Feasting on the Word (concluding thoughts)
Among preachers, there are books known as “Monday books” because they need to be read thoughtfully at least a week ahead of time. There are also “Saturday books,” so called because they supply sermon ideas on short notice. The books in this series are not Saturday books. Our aim is to help preachers go deeper, not faster, in a world that is in need of saving words.
–Feasting on the Word
I continue to utilize the 12-volume Feasting on the Word commentary series most weeks in my sermon preparation. As I described at greater length here, the 12 volumes cover the three-year lectionary cycle (A, B, and C), split into four volumes per year. Each week offers four different “perspectives” (theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical) for each lectionary passage in the Revised Common Lectionary.
As far as its layout and usability in Logos, I covered that here. My favorite part about having Feasting on the Word in Logos is that I find Logos to be the most robust e-reader currently on the market. It syncs seamlessly across devices and platforms, and easily allows for highlights and notes to be made directly within the text.
In this final post, I want to interact a bit more with some of the content of the series.
The diversity of the contributors is a strong point. They come from different vocations (preachers, professors, Bishops), and reflect diversity in race, sex, and denominational affiliation, as well. I’ve found this refreshing.
There is a general evenness in style, tone, and substance across the volumes I’ve used. As one might expect with a commentary series with this many contributors, some entries end up being more helpful than others.
While I have found the “Exegetical Perspective” and “Homiletical Perspective” sections to be of some value, the “Homiletical Perspective” and “Preaching Perspective” are the ones I use most often. Each of these help the preacher imagine how she or he might orient herself/himself and the congregation to a given text. For example, the “Homiletical Perspective” on John 1 begins with a description of Rembrandt’s “Holy Family” painting, then goes on:
I can imagine a sermon that would begin with a description of Rembrandt’s painting and that would develop the idea of the necessary dialogue between Mary’s studying the Bible and studying the child, the Word made flesh. Like Mary, we come to understand the Word more and more fully as we oscillate between the book and the child, between the Word through words and the Word made flesh.
Few commentaries offer homiletical suggestions this practical. The “Pastoral Perspective” for the same passage is worth quoting at length. After quoting Eugene Peterson’s rendering of John 1:14, preacher Frank Thomas writes:
I love this rendering of this text because of the choice of the word “neighborhood.” The Word was made flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. Neighborhood reminds me of the place where I grew up and the people with whom I grew up. I remember the street corner where we played baseball that had four sewer covers; one sewer cover was first base, another second, another third, and the final one home. I ran around those bases thousands of times, dreaming that I was a professional baseball player. I remember the playground, where what seemed like millions of kids played basketball, Ping-Pong, pool, volleyball, dodgeball, and tons of games. I remember block parties, where all the neighbors would sit out on the front lawns with the streets blocked off, and all day we would just have food, games, and fun together. I remember the girl across the street. That’s what I think of when I hear, “The Word was made flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” The Word was made flesh and moved into my south-side neighborhood.
He concludes, “When Peterson says that the Word was made flesh and moved into the neighborhood, I hear that the Word moved into my neighborhood.”
There is much for the preacher to mine and adapt and re-contextualize in the above, in a way that fits one’s own setting. Reading Pastor Thomas’s writing above makes it easy to think about Jesus moving into our neighborhoods, too. (Which immediately raises interesting questions for congregations–would we be a good neighbor to him? Would we need to change anything about our community life? Would we recognize him?) I find that Feasting on the Word is constantly suggesting good questions for reflection and stimulating even more.
There is a claim in the series introduction that, “Wherever they begin, preachers will find what they need in a single volume….” While the exegesis and theological analysis in these volumes is substantive, I still find myself turning to more in-depth commentaries for exegesis, before using Feasting on the Word to think through how to move from passage to sermon. That has been how I’ve most benefitted from the commentary.
I’ll continue to use the commentary series on a regular basis. While I love print books, there are advantages to the electronic version, and Logos integrates Feasting on the Word with any other Logos resources you may have. For those who preach regularly, this set is well worth checking out.