Books, like sermons, are not born in isolation, but in community. I have been aware, in the writing of this one, of the many saints who have helped to guide, encourage, correct, and sustain me in the process. For these especially, I am grateful:
• For Thomas G. Long, teacher, friend, and colleague—who helped me refine many of the ideas in this book while advising my doctoral dissertation, and whose support and encouragement have always made me want to become my best homiletical self.
• For Bernard Boyd (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and F. Wellford Hobbie (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia), beloved professors who, though now deceased, live on in my memory as liberating teachers. The first encouraged me to read the Bible with my mind as well as my heart. The second encouraged me to preach the gospel.
• For the four congregations of the former Episcopal-Presbyterian Shared Ministry in central Virginia, who taught me to ask the right questions and who patiently trained me in the ways of contextual ministry.
• For seminary students and local pastors, who have willingly shared with me their own contextual stories and sermons and who, in the process, have taught me much.
• For Princeton Theological Seminary, which generously granted me an early sabbatical so that I could write this book.
• For David Bartlett, Fred Craddock, Janet Weathers, James F. Kay, Linda McKinnish Bridges, Rick Osmer, Carol Lakey Hess, Thomas Troeger, and Nancy Lammers Gross—valued colleagues who have also been cheerleaders and loving critics along the way.
• For my editor Cynthia Thompson, who has been an encourager as well as a wise and knowledgeable guide.