Prophetic Process: Disorder

Prophets minister between the times– between darkness and light, forgetfulness and remembrance, sin and salvation, despair and hope–between “the kingdoms of this world”‘and the Kingdom of God.  This in-betweenness is what Brueggemann calls disorder, a time of grief.

He uses many metaphors to unpack disorder.  But it comes from God, who is love, and who loves us so much that we cannot remain “out of our minds” and “away from home.”  Brueggemann says that disorder comes from an unsettling God, who extends disruptive grace–without which the Reality we noted in the last post will remain hidden under the illusion which egotism/ethnocentrism (empire) produces, promotes, protects, and preserves.

Disorder is the way change occurs. Richard Rohr describes it this way, “Transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart.” [1] It is in such moments, he notes, that we are best able to see the inadequacies of the past and be most open to a new future.

Disorder dislocates us, and that is always painful because the ego enjoys and thrives on “staying put” in empire. Once egotism/ethnocentrism has created its little kingdom, it views change as a threat. But God is the Great Physician, and like a surgeon always cuts in order to cure–the theological equivalent of “no pain, no gain.” This is the meaning of transformation, what Paul called the new creation, but one where the old must pass away before the new can come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

But it is in disorder that prophets are met with resistance, for the status quo eventually becomes a “sacred cow.”  Whenever self-righteousness, self-regard, and self-gratification (empire) are challenged, fallen-world leaders always “stone the prophets”–and–gather to themselves religious leaders who will assure them that their egoic and ethnocentric ways are blessed by God–and even more, that they express the will of God. Prophets have no choice but to challenge empire.

Disorder is the unavoidable movement from the old creation to the new creation.  It is summarized in the word ‘repent’ (meta-noia)’which is about having a “large mind” (one above and beyond empire)–a mind open to looking at life in a new way; that is, the way God intends for it to be.  Change can come in no other way.


For Further Reading in Brueggemann
     ‘The Unsettling God’
     ‘Out of Babylon’
     ‘Disruptive Grace’
     ‘The Threat of Life’
     ‘Torah Speaks to Power’

[1] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, December 29, 2018

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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