Wrestling for Blessing. By Marilyn MrCord Adams. New York: Church Publishing, 2005. 144 pp. $20.00 (paper).
Spirit-charged sermons are often public wrestlings with Scripture and the "nitty-gritty worst that life offers" (p. 23). One hears of the promise of God's mercy and goodness up against life as it is experienced. "These sermons were preached for those who find God's Goodness problematic" (p. 8), while they are yet testimonies to that Goodness, a word Marilyn McGord Adams likes to capitalize us proper to God. They witness to God's gracious-ness and compassion, bodied forth in Jesus, for all who sillier and experience oppression-not least gay and lesbian Christians, but all those who are different, or even "unclean" in the eyes of others, yet beloved of God. Jesus comes "welcoming the queer, the misfits and outcast, as vanguards of God's real world order. You say 'leper' but I say 'clean': you say 'bleeding woman' but I say 'faith making whole': you say 'traitor', tax-collector', 'sinner', but I say 'disciple'" (p. 125).
These are "occasional sermons," preached at various times in the church year and in several churches in the Diocese of Los Angeles (where and when I was bishop) and in New Haven and at the Yale Divinity School (where Marilyn and I also overlapped for a couple of years). The period extends from 1987 to 2002, with most of the sermons coming from the 1990s. On the front cover of the book is a Jacob Epstein sketch of Jacob wrestling with the angel while the story of that night (Gen. 32:22-31) begins her introduction. We are given the dates and locales, but the sermons are not dated by time since they engage existential questions of theodicy in particular settings.
Marilyn McGord Adams is a formidable analytic and philosophical as well as historical theologian. She was Professor of Philosophy for a number of years at UGLA and then came to Yale's Divinity School and Department of Heligious Studies as the Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology. She is now Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. With her philosopher husband she edited The Problem of Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) and expanded her thought in Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999). …