I have many favorite authors. Some are theologians. Some are pastors. Some are missiologists. Some are novelists. Not all are Christians. The ones I appreciate the most make me think the best.
One of my favorite writers is a United Methodist Bishop by the name of Will Willimon. I am not sure when I first began to read Willimon but it has to have been at least 35 years ago. I like Willimon because he is a contrarian and a provocateur. He's been a pastor, a university chaplain (Duke University) and now is a Methodist Bishop (Alabama). If you ask Willimon what he is he will tell you that he's a preacher first. He says that he is called to be a truth-teller of Jesus Christ. A Pulpit and Pew Research Center study discovered that he was one of the most widely-read authors among mainline Protestant pastors. Willimon feels most at home behind a pulpit. If you've heard him you will never forget it. Sometimes Willimon rubs people the wrong way. He offends the Left and the Right pretty evenly. He has always challenged me. Maybe I inherited a tiny bit of his spirit. I hope so to be honest.
A new Willimon book was released last week. My copy, ordered months ago, arrived on time. It is simply titled: The Best of Will Willimon (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2012). This book includes one gem after another. I encourage you to get it and read it slowly, whether or not you have ever read Willimon before now. Here is one quote, taken at random (literally):
To read Scripture is to risk transformation, conversion, an exchange of masters. You might think of Sunday morning as a struggle over the question, Who tells the story of what is going on in the world? Scripture reading can be uncomfortable, as we are made by the Bible to see things we would have just as soon ignored, as we hear a word we have been trying to avoid. Reading is not only a formative activity, but also a potentially disruptive means of existing in our culture, of defamiliarizing and making the normal seem strange and the strange seem normal, of having delightful respite from conventional, culturally sanctioned accounts of "the ways things are." Therefore, the primary interpretive question is not, "Do I understand this passage?" but rather, "How is this text attempting to convert me to Christ?" Behind all Scripture is not simply the question, "Will you agree?" but rather the more political, "Will you join up?"
I will likely give you some more Willimon in the future but chew on that and if you are moved by it get the book.