Preaching as Weeping, Confession and Resistance

Christine Smith, Westminster/JohnKnox, 1992

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        Smith writes from the perspective that preaching is an interpretation of our present world and an invitation to a profoundly different world.  Preaching is a form of weeping in a universe filled with human suffering and oppression; it is a form of oppression where the preacher can call on communities into painful and honest confession, and it is a form of resistance, moving people to actively resist the attitudes and structures of oppression, of ‘isms’.  Smith sees three worlds that converge in the act of preaching; the world of the text, the world of the preacher and community where proclamation occur, and the larger social context in which we live out our faith.  Preaching is a theological act (mediating biblical perspectives) as well as an act of naming.  Smith’s three descriptions of preaching are those of weeping, confession and resistance (the Christian response to the real world).

        Smith identifies six areas of redemptive activity (handicappism, ageism, sexism, heterosexism, racism and classism).  Each of the chapters names a type of violence; describes her experience that moved her to passionate feeling; identifying the realities of our social and political life; adding a sermon on the particular issue (eg women standing at the cross, ‘Standing at a Distance’, Good Friday, Luke 23:44-49).  Smith’s close fellowship ecumenically, especially with Latin American struggles, adds powerful perspective to her presentations; it is a book that will bring preaching into a new partnership with the congregation.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.