January 17th, 2012 – by Mark
Noted Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann is speaking this week during our School for Leadership Training at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, where I teach. Something like ten years ago, while I was director of the London Mennonite Centre, London, England, I wrote a few paragraphs about Brueggemann basically for in-house use for our book service, in order to promote Brueggemann’s books. I happily did this because I believed what I wrote:
No one writing on the Bible is more consistently provocative, interesting, challenging, and imaginative than Walter Brueggemann. I imagine there is no Scripture scholar in America who sells more books or informs more sermons. For those Christians who yearn for serious, biblically informed engagement with our contemporary world there is no one more stimulating to read than Brueggemann. The man rarely writes a boring page. He is thoroughly knowledgeable as an Old Testament scholar–not to mention reasonably informed on theology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and several other fields–and yet he writes with such verve that he is a joy to read.
One of the most famous American preachers once said at a conference on preaching that if there was only one book every preacher should have, it was Walter Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms. I would almost go so far as to say that if there is any one author every preacher should have in her (or his) library, it should be Walter Brueggemann. Any preacher who does not use Brueggemann as a companion in preparation of sermons is cheating herself and her congregation!
I was at this point fairly naive about the web. I had no idea people would draw a quote or two from my brief comments within a biographical sketch written about Brueggemann or use it as material by which to introduce Brueggemann at various events around the U.S. where he was the main speaker. But those things happened. I still believe the words I wrote. In fact, hearing him in person this week, after having read many of his books, I continue to be struck by his prophetic, provocative, humorous, illuminating engagement with the Scriptures. Wow, he is a gifted man.! He has been and is a great gift to the Church. (I will offer a few critical comments in a later post.)