My friends and colleagues David Fleer and John York convinced the inimitable Walter Brueggemann to come of out of his retirement and make his way to Nashville to deliver a special lecture. The lecture was sponsored by the Preaching Workshop at the Hazelip School of Theology, which regularly provides outstanding opportunities for engagement with some of the brightest theological minds in the country.
Walter's assigned title was "The Import of Preaching." Now one should not judge a lecture by it's title. I found the title about as exciting as watching C-Span during the elder George Bush years.
But to those who braved the winter elements, and to those who looked beyond the spine-tingling excitement of the title, a veritable feast of intellect was served: socio-political commentary done in a most outstanding and compelling theological fashion. It was a classic moment, an 84 year old theologian of the highest order, doing his craft with care and enthusiasm and brilliance, bearing witness against the totalizing constructs of our day, bearing witness to the possibility of genuine freedom and liberty and community.
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the new possibility for life—
“success,” even, dare we call it?—
but only by the passing through,
of a den of lions.
If joy could be bought,
what would I pay?
If, as advertising peddles,
joy could be mine today
would I buy it?
I say all this on Ash Wednesday so that we will make sure to get the whole point of it right: when we reflect upon calls to repentance, we must remember that repentance is simply a word that means to change, to turn the whole of ourselves toward true joy…
I have even, at times, despaired of God’s existence. My interpretation of the Scriptures with which I used to console myself that God was “in control” or watching over us all pale in the face of chemical bombs dropping on Syria’s children.
An Avett Brothers show is a party, but without all the partying. It’s not that they are unaware of the trappings that accompany being professional musicians, but these things are in their rear view mirror. The passion of their performance…
I was a classic white moderate. I was never openly racist. I was generally nice. I did not make a habit of using the n-word. And it’s true that “one of my best friends was black.” I sat behind him in first grade, and...
You did not come as presidents or prime ministers or kings come;
But swaddled in a manger, vulnerable, enfleshed,
Thence as a man of sorrows.
I discovered a woman far more complicated than the mythos that generally surrounds her and abstracts bits of her life into sermonic quips and sentimental memes. I encountered a “saint of darkness,” indeed: not only one who willingly struck out into the unknown…
Saint Thomas Aquinas insisted that life was ultimately about happiness. This is an odd assertion, perhaps…. To be happy?! Such an assertion sounds suspiciously like indulgent self-centeredness.
The early Christians were undoubtedly “liberal” in important senses: after all, the ancient world held certain strict categories of hierarchy. These early Christians were shockingly liberal in refusing to impose such categories and moralisms. But these Christians held to an orthodoxy that led to a particular form of liberalism. They were liberal in these ways not in spite of their orthodoxy; they were liberal in these ways because of their orthodoxy.
“My phone would ring, and it’d be Motown wanting me to start working and I’d say, ‘Have you seen the paper today? Have you read about these kids who were killed at Kent State?’ The murders at Kent State made me sick. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop crying. The notion of singing three-minute songs about the moon and June didn’t interest me. Neither did instant-message songs.”