Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mercy, Not Sacrifice: Brueggemann Comes to Rochester College

When I was just beginning in ministry, I received the book, The Land, by Walter Brueggemann as a Christmas present. I had a big chair in the corner of my office that was my reading spot. I got comfortable, opened the book, and didn't move until I was finished.

Now, that's quite a statement coming from a guy like me given my tendencies toward attention deficit. But I read the book through in one sitting. I was deeply moved. At various points, tears came to my eyes. I was moved by several things. I was moved by this vision of God and his relationship with Israel. I was moved by the way Brueggemann allowed the biblical text to speak directly to our world. I was moved by the prose, by his writing, by the passion that moved through the ink on the page into my heart and mind.

After reading the land, I quickly bought David's Truth, the Prophetic Imagination, and Hopeful Imagination (my favorite). I probably have over twenty Brueggemann titles on my bookshelves. No biblical scholar has impacted me more. When I was preaching in Oregon, I had a member approach me after a sermon. He asked, "Is this Brueggemann guy available so that we could just cut out the middle man?" Yeah, I'm that guy when it come to Brueggemann.

So, I'm thrilled that I received an email from Walter Brueggemann yesterday accepting an invitation to be our featured speaker at Streaming: Biblical Conversations from the Missional Frontier, June 18-20, 2012, at Rochester College. Our theme for the conference will be "I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice."

The following sentences were part of the invitation I extended. I hope they will entice you to attend as well.

This coming year’s theme will be “I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice.” We can think of no one better to address this theme than you. In your work you have emphasized the tensions between justice and purity traditions in Israel’s response to Yahweh. You not only demonstrate the priority of the justice or mercy strand, but you do so without jettisoning the purity dimension as an ordering response to “an unsettled residue of ache.”

This work has been picked up by many in fruitful ways beyond the areas of biblical interpretation. One recent work is Richard Beck’s fascinating study, Unclean. Beck is an experimental psychologist who is particularly interested in the psychological dimensions of disgust, contagion and their relation to mortality. He proposes a radical notion of hospitality as a response to our tendencies toward socio-moral disgust. Along the way, he dialogues with theologians including Volf, Heim, and yourself.

This large conversation related to justice and purity is very important to the emerging missional church conversation. This literature encourages a new engagement for congregations within Western cultures—an engagement not beholden to the powers that sponsor a life defined primarily by economic interests related to consumption. Churches that serve the broader society as “vendors of religious goods and services” do so at the cost of a reduced significance. The missional impulse, in contrast, invites the church to consider its life once again from the margins, as a people sent, or as an outpost for the reign of God. This move to the margins is impossible apart from a searching and probing conversation on the tensions between justice and purity—a conversation that has not yet appeared prominently in the missional church literature.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, how was the conference?