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The Heart of Black Preaching.

The Heart of Black Preaching. By Cleophus J. LaRue. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000. 260 pages. Paper. $19.95.

As a Lutheran pastor of Norwegian descent speaking to a congregation of similarly Midwestern, middle-class moderates, the mention of "Black preaching" has always caused my curiosity to stir, like catching a whiff of something great simmering in a kitchen just out of reach. As an outsider to that tradition, I have nonetheless yearned for an effectiveness that I have associated with Black preaching. For whatever reasons, my impression of Black preaching has presumed an authenticity, responsiveness, and interactive style that yields effects I have yearned for in my own preaching.

In this book, Cleophus J. LaRue opens a door for not only Midwestern Lutherans but all the curious to learn from his tradition. With crisp writing, LaRue welcomes the whole church to identify and receive for their own use the gifts that Black preaching offers for the building up of God's people. In five clearly composed chapters, he offers a portrayal of the significance of Black preaching within the life of one part of Christ's body in America. He shows us how that significance has been present throughout the history of the African American church, illustrates how that distinctiveness continues to be present in contemporary communities of faith, and gives examples of this preaching through a brief collection of sermons.

From the very beginning, LaRue insists that the distinctive power of Black preaching lies not in style but in connections made between the story of salvation history woven throughout the Bible and the experience of African Americans through many seasons of American history. LaRue identifies the theme throughout Scripture of God who calls us from oppression to freedom and who champions those excluded from justice. Beyond simply hearing those stories as the history of long ago, LaRue sees in Black preaching a consistent connection between those stories of God's active love and God's present call to our experience and lives. As in Deuteronomy the Hebrew child was taught to think of the Call to Abraham or the Exodus not just as the story of the Patriarch's time but as his own story, LaRue sees in Black preaching an awareness by preacher and among listeners that the same themes passed down through Scripture are ready handholds to experience God's grace in our day. LaRue insists that while many would bind Black preaching's distinctiveness in styles or techniques of speaking, its enduring distinctiveness lies in this hermeneutic of making salvation history one's own.

LaRue opens an inviting door into an aspect of preaching that can find its way into pulpits not only in African American communities but in Midwestern Scandinavian and Southwestern Hispanic and Californian Asian communities of faith. Preaching that names God's saving story as our story offers a word of grace with potential to change all who would hear.

Eric Finsand

Chatfield Lutheran Church

Chatfield, Minnesota
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Author:Finsand, Eric
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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