(Proclamation 3. Aids for Interpreting the Lessons of the Church Year, Series A). Marianne H. Micks. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986,64 pp. $3.75.
Those pastors whose preaching schedule is guided by the Common Lectionary will find Micks's Epiphany aid very helpful. She offers brief comments (about two pages) on each of the Scripture readings, including exegetical detail and interpretive suggestions on the possible direction of the sermon. Although Micks seeks out the unity of the readings, she acknowledges that such unity is frequently not present: "No thematic connections between this and the previous readings are readily apparent, and the preacher would be wise not to force any…" (p. 27). Obviously the pastor will want to consult additional commentaries and other biblical studies, but Micks's is a fine guide that conveniently pulls together the commentaries for a Sunday's readings.
Micks writes well, and her interpretations are usually carefully grounded in the text and pertinent to our lives. For example, commenting on 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, she writes: "What I think is most important for the preacher to communicate—and probably the most difficult—is that this letter is written to real flesh-and-blood people. They too had to worry about the cost of groceries. They too had aging relatives and terminal diseases. They probably even had rebelling teenagers determined to sample the night life of Corinth" (p. 28).
At one point Micks suggests that preachers "sit down under the text" (p. 37). That certainly is a good, humbling image for the preacher. However, it's regrettable that Micks, the professor, does not assume a similar posture. She is rather enamored with the cut-and-paste criticism that attempts to determine which text is "authentic," or needs to be "relocated," or can be taken "seriously. " Literary criticism of nonbiblical literature at one time was also enamored of such criticism, but it now generally acknowledges that such assignments or reassignments of texts at a distance of hundreds and thousands of years is often highly speculative at best and a sign of modern pride at worst. Besides, such criticism may not be a very useful way of "getting at" the text. One wishes that biblical critics might learn the same lesson and be more modest in their claims.
Epiphany is one of a series that covers each season (Advent-Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost 1, 2, 3) of the liturgical year for the A, B, and C cycles of the lectionary. Although these commentaries are sometimes tantalizingly brief, this series is a very helpful resource.