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Fall 1997 · Vol. 26 No. 2 · pp. 91–92 

Book Review

All Are Witnesses: A Collection of Sermons by Mennonite Brethren Women

ed. Delores Friesen. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1996. 179 pages.

Reviewed by Lynn Jost

This collection of sermons preached by Mennonite Brethren women contributes a valuable resource to our common life. Editor Delores Friesen, professor of pastoral counseling at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, uses the image of the women who witnessed the empty tomb to organize the book’s four sections: all are witnesses (1) to what we have seen and heard, (2) of God’s redeeming love, (3) of Christ’s empowering grace, and (4) to the Spirit’s reconciling power. The book will serve as a benchmark of the state of preaching in the MB Church as well as a patchwork quilt displaying the variety of approaches common at the turn of the millennium.

All Are Witnesses promises to be a resource for building denominational unity in a community with a dearth of sermon collections. All Are Witnesses introduces readers to forty-two preachers. As we read, we learn to appreciate the rich resource of fine preachers in our circles. We are reminded that God chooses to use women as the channels of divine proclamation, hopefully hastening the day when the church will no longer discriminate in its selection of leaders on the basis of gender.

This book has all the strengths and weaknesses of any collection of sermons. We are limited to words on a page when we all know that a sermon is an oral/aural event in a specific time and context. Yet the collection offers us a window into a much wider variety of preachers than we could experience. I found that the preachers moved me to enjoy a well-turned phrase, to thrill at the testimony of God’s work in real lives, to feel encouraged by the grace of God, and to be challenged by the call to faithful discipleship. Readers will probably best experience the book by reading a single sermon in a sitting, devotionally reflecting on how God speaks through each communication.

These sermons also serve as mirrors that reflect common pitfalls for preachers. As the sermons indicate, we MBs tend to be most comfortable preaching about personal concerns, though the fourth section offers six sermons that address God’s world agenda for justice. By attempting to avoid promising too much in God’s name, we risk reducing preaching to human reflections rather than proclamation of the divine. In trying to be biblical, we often quote longer scripture passages, usually losing the hearer in rhetorical detour. In aiming to be creative, our approaches may simply be clever. In our use of conversational tones and narrative, storytelling styles, we easily neglect the potential value of more eloquent rhythms. {92}

This collection offers readers sermons that encourage and challenge. It unites by introducing us to new and familiar witnesses among us. All Are Witnesses challenges all preachers to faithfully witness to the powerful word and act of God.

Lynn Jost
Assistant Professor of Biblical & Religious Studies
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas

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