Reading a book of sermons should not have the same impact as hearing them preached from the pulpit. After all, listening to the mellifluous tones of a preacher speaking heartfelt words is an irreplaceable experience. But reading sermons provides a different experience, one that can be just as powerful. As Peter J. Gomes, author of The Good Book points out in his inspiring collection simply entitled Sermons, by looking at the discourses, the reader is able to form a special connection with the words and the preacher who offers them by taking control of the text. The reader may stop to refer to the Bible or pause at length to ponder how the words relate to him or her. However, this caveat Gomes offers on the differences between written and spoken sermons is ultimately unnecessary. These texts, transcribed straight from Gomes's preachings, have an oral quality to them that allows the reader to "hear" the words as Gomes "speaks" them, giving his ideas that much more force.
In his introduction, Henry Louis Gates Jr. describes Gomes as "a cross between Cotton Mather and Martin Luther King Jr. [Gomes], clearly, was a man of words, but a man of words with a difference." The Harvard preacher gives us no less--words that make a difference--in his compilation of 40 sermons, each built upon the Christian calendar, taking us from Advent to Christmas. (The number is no accident, 40 being an important biblical number: the great flood lasted for 40 days, the children of Israel wandered for 40 years; Jesus fasted for 40 days. ) The range of sermons--from "The Art of Impatient Living" to "Growing Up" to "Acts of Reconciliation"--offer biblical wisdom in a modern context, using current references such as Donald Trump, artist George Segal, and Julia Child. Political and social history, humor, and wit infuse the sermons making them relevant and interesting to today's audience. Gomes offers his readers a pathway to the Bible, opening to them the happiness and inspiration it can bring to their daily lives. --Jenny Brown