In an age when the so-called prosperity gospel holds sway in many Christian communities or the good news of Christ is reduced to feel-good bromides, it would seem that death has little place in contemporary preaching. Embracing the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 as a metaphor for preaching in the Spirit, acclaimed homiletician Luke Powery asserts that death is the context for all preaching. In fact, the Spirit leads preachers to the context of death each Sunday in order to proclaim a word of life that ultimately breathes hope into people's lives. Yet many preachers avoid death because they are at a loss of what to say about it and do not realize its vital connection to the substance of Christian hope. As a result the church is too often left with sermons that are fundamentally devoid of hope.
Dem Dry Bones aims to remedy some of the theological and homiletical shortcomings in contemporary preaching by looking closely at the African American spirituals tradition. Through this study, Powery demonstrates how to preach in the Spirit so that proclaiming death becomes an avenue toward hope. In short: no death, no hope.
"Luke Powery integrates close readings of prophetic literature and the spirituals, and makes a major contribution to our understanding of the interrelationship of music and homiletics. He attends carefully not only to the words of the spirituals but to their musical idiom and affect, thus deepening the conversation that needs to go on between music and theology. Through the course of his discussion Powery illuminates the relationship between death and hope in ways that resonate with the depths of the gospel. An important book for all who are interested in the intersections of preaching, music, and theology."
—Thomas H. Troeger Yale Divinity School
"Like a master artisan at a kiln firing pottery, and like the majestic prophetic voices of old, Luke Powery, as scholar and homileticist signals an artistic, engaging clarion call reminding us of the importance of authentic preaching which must help congregants and the world reckon with death and the daily death-dealing enterprises (personal, societal, natural meteorological events). Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope engages African American Spirituals and Ezekiel 3's infamous 'valley of the dry bones' as metaphor to problematize contemporary preaching, amidst life's paradoxes and chaos, critiquing prosperity gospel messages that fail to deal with death; without such heightened awareness and preaching, Powery notes that the faithful cannot know resurrection hope. This is a must read for those who tarry with the God's people, particularly those in faith communities, as they make their way from birth to death on earth, towards eternal life."
—Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan Shaw University Divinity School
"Powery provides a powerful contextual counter narrative to contemporary prosperity preaching by resurrecting the social historical synergy of death and hope in the lived experience of the faithful. Dem Dry Bones should be required reading in seminaries and churches as a tool for recovery of effective, life affirming preaching."
—Teresa Fry Brown Candler School of Theology