The following long quote that opens a recent essay by Brueggemann reminds me of why I have loved his writings over the years:
“As the Holy One of Israel, [YHWH] consecrates his people to obedience and service and separateness from the ways of the nations; as King, he rules the world with justice and the peoples with his truth; as Father, he exercises his power and authority, yet with compassion and love; as leader on the way, he guides his people on its way through history; as teacher, he grasps the pupil by the hand and instructs him, and subjects him to his firm but merciful discipline. It is this God to whomIsraelis urged to listen, the God who granted the inspiration and motivation to obedience in the glad good news of liberation from slavery and who provided the basis for allegiance and fidelity in the covenant at Sinai.
“Amidst all the feverish preoccupation with riches and power and comfort; all the bustling commercial activity and the ever-rising prices; the building of fortifications for defense and of fine houses for the privileged; the elaboration of cultic observances with their sumptuous festivals and celebrations, their pilgrimages and rites, their music and choirs, and, withal, the syncretism with the cults of nature and prosperity—amidst all there was one voice that was stifled and repressed. It was the voice ofIsrael’s covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. But was it stilled? Not quite! For there were prophets in the land to sound the cry of protest and outrage, repeating with the urgency born of faith and memory and holy awe, God’s categorical and insistent ‘thou shalt not.’”
(James Muilenburg, Brueggemann’s former teacher, quoted in “”Vision for a New Church and a New Century: Part I: Homework Against Scarcity, “ in The Word That Redesribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship by Walter Brueggemann, ed. Patrick D. Miller (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 157.)
This wonderful, theologically rich quote points more than anything else to God—the God of Israel, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, knowing that this God is in a covenantal relationship with Israel, Muilenburg (and thus Brueggemann quoting him) also names the faithfulness required of those in covenant with this God. (However, Brueggemann’s essay that supposedly unfolds from the quote is both less rich theologically and less holistic in its claims.)
Reiterating what I said in my last set of reflections, I want to continue to point Christians, including preachers, to Brueggemann’s writings, especially his commentaries.
However, in recent years I have been less taken with Brueggemann than in the past. Perhaps this is in part simply because I have read a lot of his writings; he is often repeating himself these days. But I think it is more than that. I have become clearer about some of my criticisms, a few of which I will name. All of them are interrelated. (more…)