Acting Out Our Hopes and Yearnings

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece for the Rabbit Room about one of my favorite theologians, Walter Brueggemann, and a trip I took with my friend Scott down to Waco, TX, to attend a conference where Brueggemann was the featured speaker. I included an excerpt from one of his sermons, found in his book The Threat of Life: Sermons on Pain, Power, and Weakness, and a pretty good discussion developed in the comments. Here’s how the piece starts:

Listening to Walter Brueggemann, it is impossible not to feel a sense of history. At 76 years old, as arguably the preeminent Old Testament scholar of our day, Brueggemann has written more than 58 books, many about the prophets of old. To hear him talk is to become convinced that you’re listening to one of those prophets, someone delivering a message directly from God. At a recent conference at Truett Seminary in Waco, TX, where the topic was prophetic preaching, I sat under his teaching for two days with a sense of reverence and gratefulness for the opportunity, and a growing understanding that what I was hearing would shape the way I approached the scriptures in future readings.

My first introduction to the work of Dr. Walter Brueggemann was back in 2003, with the release of a collection of his prayers, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. I was helping out with Michael Card’s radio program at the time, and Mike had bought a stack to give copies to his friends that were coming by to do interviews for the program, friends like Sara Groves and Steve Green. After flipping through a copy, I immediately ordered one for myself, along with several copies to give away. I have since used it in various studies I’ve been a part of over the years where something different is needed to start us off, and am always moved by his words, always find a glimpse of the kind of person I want to be in the space between his words.

The second Brueggemann book I bought was The Threat of Life: Sermons on Pain, Power, and Weakness, and it has resided on my bedside table for the last four years, providing frequent encouragement and nudgings toward truth, a means that God has used to help me realign my priorities with His. Last Sunday morning, with a hot breakfast of farm-fresh eggs whipped and baked into a frittata in front of me, fresh mozzarella grated over the top of it, and a cup of espresso in my hand, I reread-for the tenth or twentieth time-one of my favorite sermons in the book, “What You Eat Is What You Get.” The text Brueggeman starts with is Proverbs 15:17, Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it, and with its discussion of the far-reaching impact of the choices we make, I thought the end of this sermon was an apt passage to highlight here on the Rabbit Room, particularly in light of our discussions of movies like Food, Inc. and the work of Wendell Berry.

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