Hearing Mark Oakley was high on my list of Things To Do during my one day at Greenbelt 2019. Predictably enough I was slightly late, but plonked down my chair in the sun and listened.
He was speaking about preaching, reminding us that flights of poetic language, that “a fountain of biblical wisdom, images and ideas” serve to draw people into a sermon. And I love the sentence from this book’s introduction “But Jesus’ style of preaching is not ultimately informative but formative.” This may be true for those I preach with and for in church (please God) but it’s certainly true for me as I read and pray and prepare.
I also heard a clear call to dare. Mark quoted Lancelot Andrews (who was a Bishop of Winchester and thus close to my heart) begging that preachers preach to people “not what for the present they would hear but what in another day they would wish they had heard”.
I’m about to set sail into the rest of the book, which contains 50 sermons from Mark, all preached at St Paul’s. He claims not to like it much, but if he achieves the clarity and beauty of language, the inspirational construction of images, and the sense of divine that he did in his talk, it’ll be a formative experience for me. But frankly, if I’d never got beyond the introduction, this book has already given me fresh heart for the task I love – preaching.