Prophetic Task: And So?

I have come to the end of this series, and I will go back into hybernation.  I have ideas for possible future posts, but none are ready for publication.  Should a new series emerge, I will announce them here and on my Facebook. For now, final thoughts about this series…

My reading of Brueggemann has been one of the most engaging experiences of my life.  I can only wonder how my life and ministry would have been different if I had connected with him decades ago, when he began to connect his Old Testament scholarship to the need for prophetic ministry in our day, as ’empire’ has once again taken root politically and religiously in our world.

But rather than become paralyzed by “what if?” I choose to be energized (Brueggemann’s word for the effect the prophetic is meant to have on us) by the call to be an instrument of God’s peace in the particular place in which I live.  Brueggemann has helped me link vocation and location. I end this series with some of the ways each of us can be engaged in the renewal we so sorely need.

First, continue to connect with Brueggemann.  I have read some of everything he has written and a few
books completely.  But it will take me a while to go back and explore everything he has to offer–including video and audio presentations, as well as other resources on his website.

For starters, I have chosen Brueggemann’s book ‘Gift and Task’–his reflections on the year-two daily lectionary readings in ‘The Book of Common Prayer.’  This one book will keep me linked to Brueggemann through most of 2018, providing me with a daily and extended journey with him.

Second, pray for “eyes to see and ears to hear” where empire exists and is doing harm.  Be particularly attentive to manifestations in your locality.  Each of us located somewhere (our “coverage area”), and we are responsible for that territory precisely because it is where we live each day.

Brueggemann emphasizes locality.  There is too much empire to address all if it, and being swept into the enormity of the evil will only overwhelm us, make and produce what he calls “an overburdened self.” Without focus, we will become bitter and burned out.

Instead, God calls us to do what we can where we are, and “do little things for God” (Brother Lawrence) through the practice of ordinary holiness here and now.  Simply put, it is practicing the sacrament of the present moment and “doing the next thing you have to do, and doing it for God” as Jean-Pierre de Caussade put it.

We must familarize ourselves with the manifestations of empire in our locale, and then support ministries that are seeking to overcome evil with good.  Even at the local level we must be selective, finding focus and fulfillment in doing a few things well.

Finally, “practice the better” (as Richard Rohr puts it), and with respect to Brueggemann that means moving beyond a knowledge of his critique of empire to the ways and means of overcoming it (e.g. covenant renewal, neighborliness, the common good).  Brueggemann himself goes beyond causes to cures.  I want to follow him into that positive and transforming ethic.  I believe this essentially means rooting  ourselves in the two great commandments and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Whenever we set out to become those who profess faith, we must also become those who express it.  Brueggemann builds bridge after bridge from belief to behavior.  For me, this simple take away from his writing sets everything else in motion:  the prophetic task is needed now, and it is a task given to us all.

May God give us grace to be instruments of God’s peace (agents of God’s love) in our little corner of the world.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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