Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday morning preacher: The Interpreter's Bible (1952)

If there is one resource I consult every time I am preparing a sermon, it is the 1952 version of The Interpreter's Bible. (You will notice the volume for Luke/John is missing from the shelf, there.) It remains the best comprehensive commentary I have ever seen.

Talk about don't judge a book by its cover! I think most mainstream church libraries have a set of these dull-looking grey-covered volumes on their shelf. Do NOT get rid of them! They are a treasure! They are insightful, thoughtful, and literate. They're also beautifully written.

Here, for example, is an excerpt from the commentary for this Sunday's gospel, the parable of the widow before the unjust judge, told by Jesus to encourage the disciples "to pray always and not to lose heart."

Do we covet cheap, quick, and easy answers to our prayers? If prayer were an Aladdin's lamp, bringing by instant magic anything we might fancy, no one would pray; for the world would become a topsy-turvydom in which prayer and life alike would become impossible...We are impatient folk. We must "get rich quick," and we must have canned music when learning music for ourselves becomes too painstaking, and we must fly in six hours the journey which our forefathers slowly compassed by covered wagon against many foes. But are we stancher in soul than they? So the parable was told lest we should weary in prayer, and to remind us that God is faithful in wisdom and love.

A topsy-turvydom! Isn't that great? And it's pretty clear that in 60 years we haven't changed all that much, with our "get rich quick" schemes and desire for instant gratification.

So don't discount those old, grey books. They're just what they used to be: an amazing resource for delving deep into the Word of God. Look for them in a church library near you.


songs of a soul journey said...

There is an edition of Encyclopedia Britannica from the '60s that some people feel is unparalleled in scholarly, short articles on topics. If I could find a set, I would get it!

Unknown said...

Truly, these are wondrous volumes, poetic and funny and rich with stories, quotes and ideas. Every sermon I've ever preached began in the pages of the 1952 Interpreter's Bible, and was the better for it. They are worth reading whether you're preaching or not, as supplement to an adult ed class or just for the pure pleasure of it.

I purchased my set on eBay, back when my ministry began, and it was sold to me by a Lutheran pastor who was retiring. He had used them long and well, and I'm doing the same.