Zion First Tuesday Class discussed this book for the second time this past Tuesday. Sadly Pastor Mark shared that Reverend Craddock is ill and no longer is strong enough to preach. Previously Craddock was Professor Emeritus of Preaching and New Testament at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also Minister Emeritus at Cherry Log Christian Church in Cherry Log, Georgia. In 2001 he was named by Newsweek one of the top 10 preachers in the country. I really enjoyed his book and am so sorry to hear this news.
Originally when Mark hinted he wanted to share this title I didn't want to hurt his feelings but I had no desire to read a whole book of sermons. Now I love my church and our pastor is a great guy and a very good preacher, but I am always ready to go home by the end of service and I couldn't imagine myself sitting for hours reading sermon after sermon. I was so wrong. This is narrative in an easy comfortable style. Each chapter begins with a New Testament reading then Craddock talking about his interpretation, thoughts, and insights. So much brilliance. My responses ran from, “hmmmm,” “really?” to “I think that way too!” He presents his material in a conversational manner, is never heavy handed or judgmental, and I never once felt like I heard echoes of Bible-thumping. So there you have it, a great read to make one ponder and do a little introspection. It's a very pretty book too. The cover is classy with an interesting picture and lovely type. If there is a significance to some of the letters in the title being white I wish someone would enlighten me. It looks like they are like that for a reason but I couldn't figure it out nor why three of them are in italics. Anyone?
The first line to capture my attention was in the first
chapter on page 5. Craddock says, “I get sick and tired of people always thumping the Bible as though you can just open it up and turn to a passage that clears everything up.” The second one was at the bottom of that same paragraph, “I run into so many people who carry around a forty-three-pound Bible and say, “Just do what the Book says.”” When I read those thoughts I said, Me too! After all I live in the middle of the Bible-thumping belt. All my life I have been surrounded by those who profess to know exactly what a “good Christian” is and I particularly love it when they are saying such things with a raised eyebrow insinuating that you may not be one of them. Craddock makes so much sense and makes me feel at home.
My favorite sermons were numbers 8 “What God Wants This Church to Do” and 13 “Who Am I to Judge Another?” The first is based on Matthew 28:16-20. Craddock begins this sermon with a story about going with his family to a Star Wars movie which leads into thoughts about prequels, sequels, having doubts, and knowing what to do. On page 44 he says, “There have been times and places when and where people have been emotionally coerced, socially coerced, even militantly coerced into following Jesus...because somebody misunderstood what it means to make disciples.” He also said he has known some to coerce even at funerals which he calls, a “sub-Christian” thing to do.
Chapter 13 is based on Romans 14:1-12 and on page 74 Craddock gives his interpretation as thus:
“Paul said, If you want to eat just vegetables, just eat vegetables. If you want to eat meat, eat meat. But quit picking on each other. Stop forcing everybody else to fit into your pattern of eating meat, not eating meat, drinking wine, not drinking wine, keeping the Sabbath, not keeping the Sabbath. In other words, Paul said, Knock it off. Whatever you do, whether you drink or not, whether you eat or not, whether you keep the Sabbath or not. Do it to the honor and the praise of God and not in some self-righteous way to judge someone else.” Yea Craddock!
There are so many other good chapters too and if you read this book you will think about the “disease of the successful,” what is integrity, how to approach reading the Bible and many other things to make you go hmmmm. He truly preaches the love of God and how to be a humble witnessing servant. I wish I could know him personally and can only hope I meet him some day.