Mt. Pleasant Township pastor authors book based on obscure Biblical verses
The Rev. David Ackerman enjoys preaching “outside the box,” he likes to say.
Many of the subjects of sermons Ackerman now delivers each Sunday as pastor St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Trauger can be found in his newly published book — “Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary.”
The book is composed of sermons developed by Ackerman since 2009, which focus on portions of the Bible not frequently explored as part of the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary — a collection of readings in keeping with the liturgical year, he said.
“The Revised Common Lectionary is very popular among Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Methodist and United Church of Christ congregations,” Ackerman said. “My book offers alternative readings to hopefully enlarge various congregations' usage of a wider range of scripture.”
Sermons penned by Ackerman in the book focus on what he said are lesser explored readings from the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms, Epistles/New Testament and Gospels for each Sunday of the liturgical year, along with several midweek and holiday observances, he said.
“I'd preached through the Revised Common Lectionary for five cycles, or 15 years, and that's when I decided to start thinking outside the box,” said Ackerman, who in 1992 earned a master's degree in divinity from Harvard Divinity School at Harvard University.
“I wanted to provide people with a tool for them to get to know portions of the Bible, which aren't covered in that cannon,” he said.
Ackerman — who at month's end will mark 20 years as St. Paul's pastor — spent a full calendar year from 2009 to 2010 “workshopping” the sermons each Sunday that he considered for inclusion in the book, he said.
“I made some revisions based on feedback I'd received over that time,” he said.
One Sunday, while relaying the story of Balaam, which is found in Numbers Ch. 22 of the Old Testament, Ackerman's wife, Marsha, sensed the sermon was one worth adding to his evolving work.
“It's probably my favorite story in the Bible, and I'd never heard it preached before,” said Marsha Ackerman of the scriptures, which relate the words of a talking donkey.
“I've been going to church all my life, so I told David if I'd never heard it preached, then that's a story to include in the book,” she said.
Ackerman said his wife also suggested he shorten some of the book's sermons to make them more digestible.
“I think (Marsha) helped me further develop the book,” he said.
The Rev. Nancy Mears, a former member St. Paul's and current pastor of the First United Church of Christ in Irwin, received a rough draft of the book from Ackerman in 2009 to review.
“Back then, it was simply called ‘Year D,' because the lectionary has readings for a ‘Year A,' ‘Year B,' and ‘Year C,' then it starts again,” Mears said.
On Sundays from summer of that year through Advent in the weeks preceding Christmas, Mears preached nine of Ackerman's sermons, she said.
“I'd actually encountered a few verses I'd never even read before. I had to do a little bit of digging to develop a sermon,” Mears said. “In some places, I found them to be very preachable. I think one of the comments I heard most often was ‘I don't think I've heard that before.'”
Because much of the content in Ackerman's book focuses on more obscure Scriptures, he provides commentaries and recommendations for pastors written in a language also accessible to laypersons for possible use in Bible studies and devotionals, he said.
“If these passages are never dealt with, many of them may linger in the backs of people's minds and they may never get talked about,” Ackerman said.
An aspect of the book, which Mears said is a highlight involves Ackerman's selection of texts with a careful eye toward continuity and complementarity, she said.
“With what David has done, when I could find that all lessons point to the same theme or message, I was delighted,” Mears said. “David Ackerman is one brilliant man, extremely humble, extremely educated and very caring.”
Regarding the book, Marsha Ackerman expressed much joy in her husband's accomplishment.
“It's a big accomplishment for a small-town minister,” she said. “It's a huge accomplishment.”
“Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary” will be officially released on June 28 in the United States and the United Kingdom.
It is available for pre-order on Amazon.
More information can be found at beyondthelectionary.com.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.