The Word Militant: Preaching a Decentering Word Hardcover – 26 Mar 2008
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," . . While he reads widely and is in knowledgeable, respectful conversation with a wide range of scholars, he always privileges the biblical text over any other. His reports of his skirmishes with Scripture never fail to stoke the imaginations of us preachers." -- William H. Willimon "From the Forward"
About the Author
Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and was a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature. His most recent books include Disruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church and Journey to the Common Good. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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The plight of the modern Christian is best captured in an analogy to a dialog in Chaim Potok's classic book, The Chosen (Chawcett Books; Greenwich, CT, 1967) where the Hasidic rabbi Reb Sauders explains why he raised his brilliant son, Daniel, in silence. He [Daniel] was a mind in a body without a soul...A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer, and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul (pp. 263-64). We, moderns, taken together are brilliant but we lack compassion, lack soul. I find solace in Brueggemann's writing because he helps break the silence of God in this place.
Brueggemann's book is broken into eleven chapters:
1. Preaching as Reimagination
2. The Preacher, the Text, and the People
3. Ancient Utterance and Contemporary Hearing
4. An Imaginative "Or"
5. That the World May be Redescribed
6. The Social Nature of the Biblical Text for Preaching
7. The Shrill Voice of the Wounded Party
8. Life or Death: De-Privileged Communication
9. Preaching to Exiles
10. Preaching a Sub-Version
11. Truth-Telling as Subversive Obedience.
The introduction is aptly entitled: At Risk in the Text.
While the audience for this book is the preacher, the text is as much a work in hermeneutics as homiletics. How are we to read the text in view of how we read the times? In this sense, one can see the influence of Karl Barth and his newspaper in Brueggemann's writing as well as his references.
Brueggemann's hermeneutic is metaphoric in the rabbinic tradition. Brueggemann interprets poetically gliding seamlessly among the perspectives of the author, cannon, and reader. My fear as a reader is not that he has been faithful to the text. Rather, my fear is that my meager attempts to articulate such thoughts come across as one-dimensional because I am uncomfortable traveling in metaphor. How does a child of the Enlightenment (I am an economist) trained to think linearly express nonlinearity? I toy with thoughts that I have trouble reproducing.
The metaphor of the exile is most intriguing. I feel the marginalization of faith in an atheistic world. The moral drift in society threatens my sense of well-being. The loss of the sacred tears at my heart. The lament of exiles is my lament even if I find the words to express my thoughts hard to gather.
The subversive nature of the homiletic task arises only once the preacher realizes that he/she is not a guardian of the established order. What does it mean to be a modern? How does that differ from being a Christian? What does postmodern mean? How are we to deconstruct all this? Discomfort with one's role as a preacher comes easily to an inquisitive mind. Harder is the question of what to do about it. Fortunately, Brueggemann guides us down this road.
Brueggemann starts by observing that a close reading of scripture leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that God may be unhappy with us in ways that would disturb most American congregations. How does the preacher deal with this? Triangulate. Let the text speak for itself by interpreting it in view of the cannon. Stand as preacher with the congregation. Slice off a bite. Chew. Let the doxology and the traditions of the church play as background music. The holy café of the church provides many dimensions of thought and expression. Use them.
I find myself under the influence of Brueggemann's writing more and more. I suspect that you will too.
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