The Selected Sermons of Dr. Roger Bourland is a compilation of the works of one of America’s best and best-known preachers. In 1976, Dr. Bourland received the Outstanding Preacher Award from the United Methodist Church and was also a speaker on The Protestant Hour, a popular radio show that reached countless American homes each week. Now his son, Joe Bourland, has compiled some of his father’s best and most popular sermons into one volume for the enjoyment and spiritual nourishment of readers.
The sermons are divided into six sections. The first cover sermons Dr. Bourland gave when he was a “pack preacher.” For several years, Dr. Bourland was a pastor in Green Bay, Wisconsin and consequently had several of the Green Bay Packers players and coaches in his congregation, including Bart Starr. I’m not a football fan, but it did me good to hear about your friendship with these men who are considered role models for our youth. He often spent time with them, even exercised with them, and best of all, he talks about how no child in his congregation will believe that church is for “sissies” when he has the memory of a 250-year-old professional football player. pounds sitting. next to him in the church.
The second and third sections of the book are sermons compiled while Dr. Bourland preached first in Green Bay and then in Omaha, Nebraska. The fourth section covers many of his sermons from his years in The Protestant Hour. The fifth section is very special because it is for special occasions, entitled “The Seasons”, it includes sermons for national and liturgical holidays, including for confirmations, Thanksgiving and Advent, as well as the very special sermon that the Dr. Bourland preached at his his Joe wedding.
The final section is a series of sermons that Dr. Bourland preached during Advent based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. By using each of the three ghosts that Ebenezer Scrooge comes across as a focus for each week, Dr. Bourland shows us how Christmas is not just about gifts, but about being sensitive to the people around us, realizing that Christmas is not always easy for others and to be good Christians in our compassion for one another.
Dr. Bourland’s sermons are not heavy on moralizing and there is no sin and condemnation focus here. He talks about sin and even about sexuality, but when he does, he does so in a sincere and practical way. In fact, we could say that this entire collection is about practical Christianity. Dr. Bourland does not believe in fundamentalism, and makes it clear that the Bible was written for people living in biblical times and not directly for us today; by extension, it says there is no point in trying to predict when the world will end. based on the scriptures. Instead, he urges us to live each day as if it were our last so that we are prepared for what may happen.
Although many of these sermons were preached forty years ago, they are still extremely relevant today. Dr. Bourland preaches on the Cold War and the fear of nuclear war, which remains a major concern today. It tells us not to focus on these things, but to get used to waiting for Jesus’ return. Tells us:
“So we must enter into moments of creative waiting. These are times of expectation and hope and search. What happened before is no longer part of us. What will come next has not yet been revealed. God pushes us and we know that it is wrong. standing there on the mountain, looking up with your mouth open.
“There is a wonderful thing about that. We come to see that this kind of thing has always been part of God’s eternal plan for his people. We watch and wait as the Spirit of God ebbs and flows around us.”
Sometimes Dr. Bourland gives us very close readings from the Bible, especially in several of the sermons that focus on the Psalms. At other times, he turns to other sources to help illustrate his points and shed new light on familiar stories. For example, in his sermon on the parable of the prodigal son, he brings Shakespeare’s King Lear as a reference.
As a Catholic, I found several of Dr. Bourland’s sermons on John Wesley and his preaching interesting in order to better understand Methodism. And I was happy to learn that Dr. Bourland clearly believes in ecumenism, even referencing Catholic beliefs that are valuable, especially the power of confession.
In an era of random shootings and terrorism, we urgently need to hear what Dr. Bourland has to say about the importance of non-violence. He illustrates this point by talking about a camping trip in the desert he made when he considered carrying a gun with him to protect himself. Decided not to bring the gun, only to get within fifteen feet of a bear on a trail. Fortunately, the bear got away due to the noise he and his family made, but Dr. Bourland makes an excellent point here:
“What would have happened if I had stuck a gun in the Quetico? I wouldn’t have shot that bear, but I’m sure the chemistry between us would have been dramatically different. The potential violence changes everything.
“Creative nonviolence is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It removes unfounded fears and fosters a love of peace among people of good will.
“True strength simply did not have to assert or prove itself. True strength is gentle and kind. Such was the strength of the Lamb.”
One final theme that I will discuss in the sermons that really resonated with me was what Dr. Bourland has to say about patience. I was able to fully relate to him when he described his own impatience and how he hates meetings, and I loved when he described Jesus as one of the most impatient people of all. Then Dr. Bourland revealed that those of us who struggle with our own impatience don’t necessarily have to be so concerned about it. He affirms:
“What is patience in the New Testament? The patience that Paul speaks of as a mark of God’s people is something so different and so much more important than what I originally thought I can kick myself for never having felt before. Testament word means steadfastness. New Testament word means tolerance. New Testament word means perseverance. New Testament word means enduring pain, evil, or suffering without showing a long face or needing revenge on someone. Jesus talks about power. Turn the other cheek when someone slaps you. The secret behind that is that in Christ, there is nothing inside that will make you slap back. Patience! The New Testament word means being able to hurt without burning with anger. New Testament word means to be able to take whatever life brings without losing heart, courage, or balance. The New Testament word means power to have r such a long vision of life that neither the great things nor the things that can destroy you. That is patience and that is a gift. “
Dr. Bourland has much, much more to say that he can help us today. In this age of fear, anger, violence, and political strife, we all need to pause and remind ourselves of what it means to be a Christian – to get along with one another and to focus on our relationship with God. Anyone looking for a little comfort, some good advice, or a better understanding of the Bible and what it means to be a Christian will benefit from the life-giving words of this book.