Tag Archives | imagination

Imaginative Worship | Walter Brueggemann

Walter BrueggemannOur worship is an act of spirit-led imagination that permits us to see and live differently, it is very upstream, against the grain of dominant reality.

—Walter Brueggemann, Mandate to Difference: An Invitation to the Contemporary Church (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 132.

The Practice of Prophetic Imagination | Walter Brueggemann

The cover of Brueggemann's Practice of Prophetic ImaginationHere’s Brueggeman’s big idea (2):

Prophetic proclamation is an attempt to imagine the world as though YHWH—the creator of the world, the deliverer of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whom we Christians come to name as Father, Son, and Spirit—were a real character and an effective agent in the world.

This understanding of the prophets stands in contrast to both conservative and liberal theological traditions:

  1. Conservatives tend to view the prophets as fore-tellers of the future.
  2. Liberals tend to view the prophets as people who scold other people’s lack of social justice.

Brueggemann’s understanding of the prophets—that they imagine a world where God is King, then speak to a world where it’s evident that his rule isn’t carried out—gives them a new lease on life. The world of the prophets (where the Davidic monarchy was apostatizing in the name of God and abusing the downtrodden) looks a lot like modern Western culture.

The world we live in today can be described as “therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism” (4). This is a world that the prophets need to speak to.

Old Testament prophets spoke of judgment and loss when the monarchy was running away from God. Once exile happened, the prophets changed their message to hope and future. One of the highlights of the book for me was chapter 5, “The Burst of Newness amid Waiting.” Israel was in exile, living out the effects of continued disobedience to God. This cause-effect relationship is clearly detailed in Deuteronomy—what hope was left? It was then that the prophets traveled further back to the creation narrative to call upon a God who can bring life out of nothing. Ezekiel’s famous valley of dry bones story illustrates this. To be sure, Israel was suffering for their sins—but the God who breathed life into dust in Genesis can breathe life into the exiles.

When I consider the message of the prophets today, I’m discouraged. The prophets who spoke of judgment and loss to the self-satisfied and secure kingdom would likely say the same things to the West today. Brueggemann notes that there have been some signs of real brokenness, though. 9/11 has stolen our sense of invulnerability. The sub-prime mortgage crisis has stolen our financial security. I’m not sure how far our fall will be, but I know God’s final words will be new life.

The author gives a good 14 minute overview of the book here:

—Walter Brueggemann, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013).

Ezekiel 40:5-27: Audacious Hope

Hope, like a muscle,
will not be strong if it goes unused.
— Douglas J. Moo (The Epistle to the Romans)

Planning is a creative event. Anyone who has built something significant knows the possibilities that a good designer can bring to the table.

At New Life, we have just finished adding a gymnasium on our facility. The entire process took about three years.  Planning was the most difficult, but also the most rewarding part of the process. On a number of occasions, the blueprints were examined and reconsidered. There is an extra room that exists upstairs at the front of the gym now because of that process.

Drawing up plans calls things into existence before they’re there. This is the task that the man who shone like bronze led Ezekiel through.

. . .

In order to understand the significance of this passage, it’s important to remember Ezekiel’s context.  He has been exiled from Jerusalem, the city that contained God’s Temple, for 25 years. Jerusalem was razed to the ground, along with the temple, 14 years earlier. Ezekiel had few reasons to hope.

Twenty-five years after leaving the Temple, half way toward a Jubilee year, God gave Ezekiel specific plans for the a Temple that didn’t yet exist. Indeed, it would be hard for anyone to even conceive of it existing at that point in their collective history!

. . .

The man who shone like bronze didn’t start measuring at the Temple. Instead he started with a city wall (about 10 feet wide and 10 feet high if you’re interested). The restoration that God had in mind would involve the entire community.  All God’s people would be restored and sanctified.

From there, the man took Ezekiel around and showed him what the exterior walls and gates of the Temple would look like. They follow the sort of plan you would expect from the architecture of that era, complete with guard rooms along the entrances to protect the Temple from people who would want to destroy it.

. . .

One of my favourite lines in this passage comes at the end of v. 16:

On the pilasters were palm trees. (NRSV)

It’s a small detail that speaks volumes. God wanted to give Ezekiel hope so badly, he included the sort of detail that would help him to visualize the future.

I wonder if we need to take more time visualizing what our future could be like. I’m not interested in wishful thinking, or the power of positive thinking à la “Secret”. I want the hope that comes when God works with my imagination to create the future he desires.

The sort of future where the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our God and of his Messiah.

The sort of future where God’s will is done as quickly and easily on earth as it is in heaven.

The sort of future only the God of Israel—the deity who releases slaves to call them children—could offer.

. . .

Lord God, help me to visualize the future you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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