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Keeping Watch for Kingfishers: God Stories

By Jenny Wilson

Sacristy Press, 2021, £12.99. ISBN 978-1- 78959-073-9

Review by Liz Shercliff, Reviews and Resources Editor

Keeping Watch for Kingfishers: God Stories

This collection of thirty-three sermons is a gift for preachers seeking inspiration. Jenny Wilson skilfully intertwines visual and literary art references with biblical texts to create often evocative sermons that both interest and nourish the reader. The book’s cover and title serve to illustrate its character. The photograph of a kingfisher hangs in the South Australian Museum. The photographer watched a pair of kingfishers from a bird hide for five days. They didn’t stop finding food and bringing it to their young, even during monsoon rain. The sermongoes on to a poem that compares prayer to one of these birds:

Prayer is like watching for the
Kingfisher.
All you can do is
Be there where he is like to
appear, and
Wait.

As well as bringing together classic novels like Middlemarch and To Kill a Mockingbird, the writer ensures good and broad theological content with references from people such as Walter Wink, Alister McGrath and Lucy Winkett. These are rich sermons, well-crafted from engaging introduction to captivating end. Let me give you a taster: ‘I love you,’ says God … ‘let me say it again another way’ is the introduction to a sermon on Matthew 18:1-14 - Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God, stumbling blocks and lost sheep. The sermon references Walter Brueggemann, Rowan Williams and Emily Dickinson in support of its simple message ‘I love you’ says God.

Sermons are organised under six themes: On Praying; Novels- Windows on the Soul; Jesus’ Encounters; Saints and Festivals; Coming Home and The Jesus Narrative. Although they are linked, each sermon also stands alone, perhaps indicative of the fact they are cathedral sermons, where congregations might include as many visitors as regulars. I particularly liked the groupings of sermons that tell Jesus’ story beautifully and concisely - Jesus’ Encounters and The Jesus Narrative. They might provide the basis for a short sermon series in Ordinary Time. The section called Novels - Windows on the Soul demonstrates the use of novels in preaching, though the choice of literature needs to be relevant to the sermon’s hearers.

To me, the value of this book is not to provide a resource of sermons that can be raided by others. Rather it offers a challenge. Jenny Wilson sets the preaching bar high and seems to invite the rest of us to see whether we can reach it.

 

Save 10% on the RRP when you order this book from chbookshop.co.uk. Add the voucher code PREACHER22 at the basket to receive the discount:

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