Tag Archives: Walter Brueggeman

A call for peace

Let there be peace. This is my solemn prayer.  That we need not die or assassinate each other’s character to experience it.  I don’t just want to rest in peace but to live in peace.

But, it is hard to find peace and quiet these days. It is an unlikely combination.  Albert Einstein said, “Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order— in short government.” Maybe this is why the American Empire keeps up a racket.  Its politicians make a fuss.

Old arguments rile us up and kick up dust. The breaking news is breaking us.  Another day, another insult, another mass shooting, another natural or human- made disaster, another scandal, another threat, another investigation.  Life has been reduced to litigation.

Our lives are littered with disputes. Who will clean this up?  As we dumpster dive into people’s lives, sifting through trashy details for treasures, for trophies, for the win in yet another argument.  But Jesus said that for all we might gain, we lose.  He challenges our capitalistic conclusions: “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life[i],” “and lose their soul”?[ii]

And what are we fighting about now? What is he[iii] lying about now?  What are we trying to get out of now?  What I wouldn’t do for peace of mind, for a piece of time without digs, jabs, low blows and cheap shots.  What I wouldn’t give for relief from manipulations, plots, schemes and double- dealing.

We pick fights and then pick at the fights. America is one big sore spot, made worse by the backbiting, the gas lighting.  Hair is on fire while trying to tread lightly.  We walk on egg shells.  It is not safe for anyone to carry the truth of our pain, our sadness, our doubts.

Instead, we cry, “Peace, peace.”   Still, the weight of reality is crushing us, bearing down on us, smashing our faces against the window, weighting us down in our pews.  We hold our tongues and consequently, can’t move.

But, my elders would say, “Tell the truth and shame the devil.”

Because lies don’t really serve us; instead, they do the devil’s bidding. They are his children.  Lies are the adversary’s “native tongue.”[iv]  No believer should be fluent in this language.

At least that is what Jesus said to those in the temple, “He (that is the devil) was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.”[v]

Jesus says that because he tells the truth, they doubt him. Because he tells the truth, Jesus will not make a believer out of them.  Instead, they pick up stones. Rest in peace, Jesus. Because they would rather kill the messenger than hear him out.

Regrettably, not much has changed from his time until now. Rather than hear the ugly truth, we pick up stones.  Shooing away “our better angels,” we let the devil come along.  “Deceiving and being deceived,”[vi] we think peace will come after just one more lie.

We say, “That’s not true. We’re okay.  Everything’s fine.”  With pieces of the sky in our hair, we tell each other, “There’s nothing to see here.  Please go back inside.  Go back to business as usual.  Peace, peace.”

Prophet- preachers find themselves in a familiar tough spot. Walter Brueggeman said there are three urgent prophetic tasks: to assert reality, that is truth- telling, to give voice to grief in spite of our denials and to proclaim hope less we fall into despair.[vii] Jeremiah warned us not to cry, “Peace, peace when there is no peace.”[viii]  Still, there are those who want us to fake it until we make it to heaven, to nod and smile, to go along to get along, to keep everyone comfortable, to maintain the status quo and to not get out of the boat.  But, “the rain drops keep falling on (our) heads.”

Malcolm Muggeridge teaches us, “People do not believe lies because they have to but because they want to.” They need to keep the argument going, keep the power of truth bogged down in tedious and unnecessary paperwork.  Friedrich Nietzsche was right, “The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.” Yet, the psalmist makes none but cried, “I kept my faith, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’  I said in my consternation, ‘Everyone is a liar.’”[ix]

Which is why it is essential that we know Jesus. Jesus said that if we know him, we know freedom.  He said, “… you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”[x]  How then are we so confined, so short of breath, so short- tempered?  Why do we seem unable to take another step—even if it is in the direction of understanding?  It is due to the growing anxiety in our world as the lies are piled on top of us.  Because as the saying goes, “If at first you’re not believed, lie, lie again.”

Still, it is hard to keep the world at arm’s length when it is constantly trying to pull you in, draw you in, bring you into the fight. It tells one lie, one half- truth at a time.  It offers illusions at half price and sells wholesale deceptions.  “Truth is whatever you want it to be,” they say.  But, as believers, we cannot make peace with that.

And I cannot make sense of that; still, there is a blessing in making peace no matter what becomes of us. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”[xi]  I receive his blessing and offer it to you.

____________________________

[i] Mark 8.36, NRSV

[ii] Mark 8.36, KJV

[iii] That is, Donald Trump

[iv] John 8.44, NIV

[v] John 8.44b-45, NRSV

[vi] Second Timothy 3.13

[vii] Walter Brueggeman, Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 2014), 2.

[viii] Jeremiah 6.14

[ix] Psalm 116.10-11, NRSV

[x] John 8.32, NRSV

[xi] Matthew 5.9

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Follow Me

See the source image

“We begin our Lenten journey addressed by the remarkable assurance that the God who summons us in is the God who goes along with us.”

| Walter Brueggeman, A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent

Where is Jesus going?  To the cross.  We know the way that he must take.  We are so familiar with his steps to Calvary that we dismissed them as if three steps to salvation or seven steps to a sin- free life or twelve steps to get out of hell.  Capitalism has fooled us and commercialized the cost of discipleship.

Attending church regularly does not school us.  Sitting in a pew is not to be confused with sitting at Christ’s feet.  “Learn of me.  Don’t simply meet to talk about me as if I am not in the room: ‘Did you hear what Jesus did?’  Take up your cross and follow me.  If everyday you are going the same way, talking to, learning from and helping the same people, you’ve lost me.”  We’ve got to keep up.  We must stay close.  We cannot lose sight of him.  “Wait, Jesus!  I’m coming.”

Because it is not only easy but tempting to lose him.  Because knowing the way and going his way are two very different things.  Because it is easier to point the finger and say, “This way” than to actually submit to be pinned down to his way: the cross.

Where is Jesus going?  He knows the way and still we are called to follow.  No easy way and no way out, he wants us by his side, sharing in his suffering and his cross.  One foot in front of the other, we climb Calvary’s hill together.

We know the way that he must take.  Knowing is the painless part.  No blood, no sweat, no tears, right?  “I can agree to that.  I can go along with that.”  But if following Jesus is so simple, then why are we not closer to him?  If following Jesus is so easy, then why are we not farther along?  If we are so familiar with his steps, why do we struggle to find our footing?  When Jesus says, “Follow me,” we raise our hands.  But, what follows this confession is even more telling.

Take the Load Off

See the source image“The cross is a contradiction to the world and pertains to public policy just as it pertains to personal well- being.”

| Walter Brueggeman, A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent

“Give us a sign!”  This is the demand not only of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day but in our own.  While it is easy to point the finger and to shake our heads in disapproval while reading the early disciples’ story, it is better to nod our heads in agreement.  We would do and say the same.  More than four thousand bellies full, we look around and say, “Prove it, Jesus.”

Because feeding people is not the sign we are looking for.

In Mark 8, we see Jesus do much with little.  It is an everyday miracle for impoverished communities, who do much with less.  Rubbing nickels together, scrubbing clean the same dress shirt for work, they make the most of what they have and the best of their situation.  They don’t have the luxury of waiting for or even the notion to ask for a sign.

And what more could we want?  The Savior is here on earth and we want a sign from heaven.  He has come die for our sins and we have gathered with the crowd for a showstopper.

But, he did not come to entertain us but to edify us.  He did not come so that we could sit down and rest our feet.  No, he is carrying more than that and so should we.

Take the Lead

See the source image“I imagine Lent for you and for me as a great departure from the greedy, anxious anti-neighborliness of our economy, a great departure from our exclusionary politics that fears the other, a great departure from self-indulgent consumerism that devours creation. And then an arrival in a new neighborhood, because it is a gift to be simple, it is a gift to be free; it is a gift to come down where we ought to be.”

| Walter Brueggeman, A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent

We have entered the season of Lent and the holy rhythm of Christ.  Not to be confused with footprints in the sand, his trek has left an impression on our souls.  We enter the dusty roads of sacred lands and repeat stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next.  Earth between our toes, his steps become our own.  Our paths forever crossed at Calvary.

Though his revolution was not televised, the Word made flesh has been seen in us.  We catch glimpses of his kingdom with every step we take.  His kingdom is coming.  He is closer to us than we can believe.  God is with us and within us.  Jesus did not leave us empty- handed but the Spirit of Christ blows a fresh wind and clears the path year after year.

We know where it will lead him.  Still, he puts one foot in front of the other.  Our sins, his sacrifice, the cycle is complete and completely broken.  We will no longer walk in circles.  No, in the valley and on the mountaintop, in good times and in bad, in temptations and in triumph, we follow the lead of Jesus.  He didn’t back down or bow out but graciously, faithfully and fearlessly takes the lead again and again.