Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Disruptive Grace - The Prophets

Today is the second week of a four-week Epiphany book group discussion at Diocesan House on Walter Brueggemann's Disruptive Grace. We have a nice group doing this and I know a number of folks who are reading the book but can't make the discussions. Here are the questions I want to put out to the group today as we discuss section two on the prophets. I should add that all I really need to do is start this group going - and maybe I don't really even need to do that. They will go where they go. But these are the questions that I want to set before the group to begin. 

Quoting WB in her introductory remarks, Carolyn Sharp notes:

[The prophets] are primarily poets who bring the world to voice outside of settled convention. While the future is implied in their discernment of the reality of God and while justice is intrinsic to their characteristic utterance, the most important aspect of their speech is their reperception of the world as the arena of God’s faithful governance. (pg 95)

Later in this section, in the lecture to the Festival of Homiletics (chapter 7) we find these words:
Prophetic ministry is among those who refuse the walk. The wonder of faith is that the talk sometimes authorizes, empowers, and emboldens the walk. Prophetic ministry talks the talk that the community may walk the walk of faith into the abyss and walk the walk of faith out of the abyss into restoration. Thus it is my thesis that prophetic ministry is neither prediction as some conservatives would have it or social action, as some liberals would have it. Prophetic ministry is to talk in ways that move past denial and that move past despair into the walk of vulnerability and surprise, there to find the gift of God and the possibility of genuine humanness. (page 138)

Can the words of the poets really change the world? Is WB right about this? How and where and when have you seen it happen? How does this challenge the dominant (simplistic?) reading of the prophets even in mainline churches like ours that read a straight line from Isaiah’s suffering servant to Jesus?

Another angle for us to take into this material: in the opening paragraph of the seventh chapter, he addresses us in particular – none of us “celebrity prophets” but people who in the day-to-day parish tasks where prophetic ministry is “much more difficult” and where “face-to-faceness…makes everything complex…” – how do we both engage in this prophetic work and support one another in so doing? 

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