Zondervan, 2014, 368 pp., $17.74
Soon to be numbered among the classic volumes on preaching, Leonard Sweet’s Giving Blood will take its place alongside Fred Craddock’s Preaching and George Buttrick’s Homiletics as a text that will impact preaching in the 21st century. A 20-year project-in-the-making, Giving Blood is a metaphor within a metaphor—first recasting the purpose of preaching as a Christ-centered event and then redefining the meaning of metaphor as it has saturated our culture in visual and auditory (music) forms.
As Sweet, the E. Stanley Jones chair at Drew University, aptly puts it, we now are living in the age of the narraphor, which is much like the culture of first century Judea, as we hear truth in the form of story (parable) rather than the common methodologies most preachers use (e.g., points, illustrations, persuasion). We have, as preachers, simply failed to cast the biblical story—the epic narraphor—into metaphor and tell it, trusting the story to speak the Word of God.
Sweet, in his usual provocative style and insightful phrasing, parlays the metaphor of blood through the gospel message, into the preacher, and then into the world in a most persuasive homiletic. What makes this book so useful for the preacher is his solid, practical advice—almost a theological transfusion—as he deals with everything from how to craft a sermon to avoiding burnout to handing criticism and so much more. This is a book that is crafted at the cellular level but lived out as a full-body transfusion.
By the time pastors finish Giving Blood, they also will feel a new pulse for the craft of forming great sermons or at the very least will feel their hearts beating a bit faster when they feel Sunday approaching. This book offers hope to tired preachers and bored preachers, but especially to successful preachers. It will challenge and provoke at every level; by the end, the preacher actually will want to sacrifice some life-giving blood. Those who read the book will understand the metaphor.