Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Daunting Reflection

A reflection on "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.
First of all, I am pretty sure everything I write from now on is going to sort of be a reflection on the book because it changed the way I see things.

Second, I am carried back to 3rd-grade Jamie, daunted by the task of writing her first book report. That is what this feels like. I am incapable of doing it justice.

It's an "I don't know how" kind of situation.
Brueggemann's book has challenged, stirred, and revised my thinking in many ways. And that is with a once-through. It seems as though I need a dozen more read-throughs to really soak it all in. I am currently reading it aloud to Josh and we are discussing it as we go. I always find that chattering about the things I'm trying to grasp is the best way for me to comprehend them.
I was not going to write this at all because I felt so inadequate to the task. But I want to keep the conversation going and I spent a good deal of the middle of the night awake, with thoughts swirling and settling, and I decided to write them down. Unfortunately, I waited until morning so as not to disturb my sleeping family. Not that the words are gone now, but they seemed far more eloquent at 4 a.m.
Since I cannot cover everything in the book, I will focus on the things that really stood out to me; the challenging and energizing bits.
1. The royal consciousness.
The danger of affluence and apathy, as well as consumerism. The idea that there is a "good ol' days" to get society to, because that's where life will go smoothly and everyone who matters will be happy. The idea that what's mine is mine because I claimed it first or worked for it the hardest and poor people should just stop being poor and go home because they are making me feel bad. The idea that we can get in our cars and drive a short distance to buy anything we want from a chain store (an ironic name for those who employ cheap, unsafe labor to keep their consumers happy.) The kind of life where we close our eyes to all the hurting around us because it is too stressful to ever deal with and there's a really great show on right now anyway so I'll think about these things later. It is only the prophetic voice that dissolves the numbness and constructively criticizes us out of our stupor.
2. The response of lament.
When we realize that everything is not the way it should be; when the scales fall from our eyes and we behold all the brokenness and misery that the apathy has caused, we lament what is and what should have been. We see all creation groaning and we weep with and for it. The first response is anguished empathy which creates a desire to work change, but that comes a bit later. We mourn before we wrestle. Even the One with the power of life took the time to weep at death. We must first make the declaration that something is not right, with our tone, posture, and voice. It seems inadequate but we need to get used to being inadequate. Self-sufficiency is part of the royal consciousness, after all.
3. We grieve but we do not despair!
Amazement combats despair. We live in awe and wonder at what God is capable of doing through a people awake and alert; to those who long to heal the hurt of thousands upon thousands of ignorances and indignities. We wonder at a God with whom all things are possible and where that means more than a trite promise to dismiss the hurting but is rather a challenge and a vision of what he IS going to accomplish in the future. And we marvel that somehow we get to be participants. And we marvel at each moment of grace we experience along the way.
4. The idea of a living doxology.

Living apart from the idea that we are able to maintain a lifestyle of just enough privilege to feel satisfied and safe, we may feel paralyzed by the tsunami of pain and sorrow in the royal underbelly. Then it is that a growing realization finally dawns: life itself, that life that lives in the redemption embrace, in all its sorrow and joy, is, has been, and will ever be a doxology- a song of praise to God. And these living doxologies are the sunlight through the keyhole of the dungeon of troubled humanity; the amplified voices declaring sight for the blind and freedom for the captives.

Our Deliverer is come.

And we get to BE hope.

I just want to add here for the readers who have been here with me on the blog from when I wrote the post Hide, I still believe that there are those who are so hurt and wounded that they need shelter and permission to rest; it is appropriate for the mourning to mourn but not to be expected to carry the burdens of the whole world. If you had to wonder whether that post was for you or not, it probably was not. It was definitely not intended to create a spirit of apathy in our hearts but one of compassion for the broken. I felt that clarification was needed in light of this post.


  1. Jamie, l love that you're reading it aloud together and talking it through, taking it deeper together. I've re-read it more than once and always find fresh challenges, fresh affirmation and new ways to marry my context with this text. I hope you'll link this post up over at my place, so others can share in your on-going conversation about these ideas. So glad we got to read together. Let's keep the conversation going!

  2. Thanks, Kelley. I just figured out how to link up to your blog. I've never done it before! Excited to be having these conversations!

  3. Your thoughts on doxology are just lovely. They such a great reminder on choosing to live believing that there is hope- hope for ourselves and for the broken.
    I too will be reading this book over and over - there is just so much to ingest.

  4. Wow - I am really glad you DID decide to write a response. I completely identify with feeling inadequate to the task but I think the four points you make are a really good summing-up. And I am also pretty sure everything I write from now on is going to be a sort of reflection on this amazing book!!

  5. Yes, the theme of hope really emerged as central to the whole book and it has been informing my theology at every step.

  6. I'm glad I'm not alone. It has really been a privilege to read your insightful reflection and all the others who participated in this read-through. I love what Kelley is doing here and am so happy to participate.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.