Academic journal article The Hymn

Wonder Reborn: Creating Sermons on Hymns, Music, and Poetry

Academic journal article The Hymn

Wonder Reborn: Creating Sermons on Hymns, Music, and Poetry

Article excerpt

Wonder Reborn: Creating Sermons on Hymns, Music, and Poetry by Thomas H. Troeger. Oxford: Oxford University, 2010. 208 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-539888-5. $24.95.

As a preacher, musician, and hymnwriter, Thomas Troeger is uniquely qualified to explore the intersection between aesthetics and homiletics. The first chapter of his book mounts a persuasive argument for preaching beauty, reflecting and addressing the beauty of the Creator. His work is "part of my lifelong ministry to preach sermons that widen the church's narrow sympathies, that draw upon enduring beauty to give witness to a 'God worth our love,' to reclaim the fullness of our humanity, and to nurture a hospitable ecclesial environment for the artistic and creative imagination" (20). His intent is, in part, "to demonstrate how hymns, musical compositions, and poems can serve as the 'text' for a sermon in the same way that preachers regularly use a passage or theme from the Bible" (23).

As a hymnwriter this reviewer was prepared to cheer Troeger's ideas; however, as a preacher I approached with some caution. In the second chapter Troeger presents a rationale for sermons on hymns followed by three of his own examples. Troeger describes hymns as midrash, "a concept rooted in the history of biblical interpretation that allows for multiple readings of scripture in light of contemporary Ufe" (32). By this definition the term midrash could easily be applied to sermons as well. At their best both hymns and sermons seek to interpret scripture (and more broadly, God) in a particular context. When the two interact with one another they can powerfully illuminate their antecedent, as in the first two example sermons Troeger includes. He describes them as being "about" the hymns "There is a balm in Gilead" and "Christ the Lord is risen today," but really the hymns were not the subject of the sermons. …

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