Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Man We Trust: the Neglected...

In Man We Trust: The Neglected Side of Biblical Faith by Walter Brueggemann on Amazon

in man we trust Most likely I picked up a hardbound copy of In Man We Trust in perfect condition with no dust jacket, no bookplate, or owner inscription from a free books shelf or bin at divinity school. I've recently reviewed and blogged a few other books by Walter Brueggemann, so here's another, this time it's a first reading of the ©1972 book for me; there's a later 2006 edition.

Particularly for those of us within the theological and ecclesiastical traditions of the Reformation who tend to run with a Paul – Augustine – Luther theological focus and a Heilsgeschichte theological perspective, a strong emphasis on human freedom, responsibility, capability, and competence doesn't quite ring true. Wisdom literature? For sure I'm neither the first nor the last to believe on some level that Proverbs and Ecclesiastes don't really belong in the biblical canon—or in a third or a fourth canon, either. Although Brueggemann discusses Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes to some extent, more than anything he reminds us we discover the same ethos along with material from similar sources in the "J" or Yahwist Pentateuch source—supremely in the life and style of King David, to a more limited degree in the social, religious, and economic styles of United Monarchy bookends Kings Saul and Solomon. Beyond that, the author points out the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth (particularly in Matthew's gospel account) reveals Jesus as Son of David, as a King like unto David, and in human wholeness, freedom, and a rare ability to seize the day – including the day of resurrection – very much as the New David, dancing in the face of death.

We confess we follow the Way of the crucified and risen One. What does it mean to take his name upon us? An arduous journey to the cross? Possibly for a literally select few. What about assuming the fullness of responsible, responsive, humanity? Everyone in the Western world does not spend their days hung up with sin and guilt; in fact, even most protestants aren't mini-Luthers. This viewpoint isn't necessarily one to assume in place of Paul – Augustine – Luther; it's complementary to it in the sense of completing or rounding out, as a way to balance our days. At least since the late twentieth century, fewer and fewer have been walking that walk. Between a little too much, "God, be merciful to me, a miserable sinner, I'm here to claim forgiveness again" amongst church-going adults, and too many parents coddling their kids, absolving their offspring of taking charge of their own lives, every one of us could benefit from the wisdom literature's exploration of wise, fruitful living. You could call this celebration of human freedom, responsibility, capability, and competence a kind of "possibility thinking," and why not?

"They cut me down, and I leapt on high; I am the life that'll never, ever die. I am the Lord of the dance, said he."

my amazon review: an important perspective

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Russell Shorto: Amsterdam

Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City, by Russell Shorto on Amazon. Today, 22 October 2013, is the book's publication day!

Amsterdam cover Russell Shorto knows his Amsterdam! He knows the social, economic, political, and religious history of the city; he has done a lot of research (of course you need already to know what something is about in order to know what to look up and discover more about), and brought all of it together extremely well.

I love Amsterdam, city of canals, and city of bicycles. I've loved the city since before I first ventured there. I love landing at Schiphol and the sound of church bells. I love that some of my progenitors were Dutch. I even love the cold wind blowing off the North Sea. And I love how Russell Shorto describes the city's human scale, its dual emphases on the individual and on a fully collaborative society that accomplishes virtually nothing without getting it done together. I had to read this book!

In school most of us learned something about how humans working together claimed The Netherlands from the sea; ocean trade routes and trading in commodities; speculative financial markets; exploration and settlement of "new worlds" formed part of most high school and undergrad curricula. How interesting it was to read biographical sketches of at least a dozen truly historically pivotal Amsterdammers like Rembrandt and Spinoza and van Gogh―with each account of each life exactly the correct length.

The author articulates ways all these and many more aspects of living in Amsterdam (and truly, of being Dutch) contributed to the development of an almost unimaginably diverse and complex world within a world that, in general, has been a safe place for differences.

Amazon send me a prepublication "bound galley," so I don't have end notes or index, but I will take advantage of the splendid bibliography. Five stars for sure, and a keeper for my own bookshelves.

my Amazon review: Amsterdam Panorama

justice is important; food is essential

October Synchroblog

October synchroblog
October synchroblog: what is social justice, really? Really, what is social justice?

Defining terms, I'll take "social" to be all or most of the people in a given geographical area or population cohort. Such as? Everyone in Current City, since for the most part, people are most interested in local concerns. I'll run with "justice" mostly as distribution of goods and services (implying also bads and disservices) in terms of who gets what, when, how, why... however, at least this time, I'm not equating justice with equality.

Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann tells us, "Justice is important, but food is essential." How powerful it is that we celebrate the fullness of redemption with a literal "Holy Communion," coming together around a table that's a festival of thanksgiving, a Eucharistic meal, a foretaste of the "Messianic Feast"? A time and a place where the land has been healed, crops are healthy (non-GMO), everyone contributes in some way to the food on the table, and everyone enjoys the feast. The gospel accounts – especially Luke's – tell about Jesus eating and celebrating with friends, disciples, strangers, and outcasts. And about giving his body for the life of the world.

Basic human needs include food, potable water, sleep, breathable air, and community. For the past year I've been participating in an ongoing weekly Thursday evening story about food freely offered to all comers at Church Around the Corner. Some of us arrive early to help set the table, make lemonade, slice, dice, sauté, bake, and grill. Lately we've been serving rather than having guests serve themselves. For a couple of hours, non-church neighborhood folks, usually some from one or more of the nearby homeless enclaves, regular church participants, and anyone else who stops in becomes part of this "family meal," as the sign in front of the church building describes it. Most everyone already has access to safe water, some place to sleep, air that's not actually toxic, and sometimes a ready supply of good food (although sometimes not so ready and not so good). Each Thursday we also offer that essential of community, a place of safety and belonging—if only briefly.

Who gets what, when, how, and why? Anyone who stops by gets a multi-course meal, conversation if they want to talk, an invitation to return, even questions about why we're doing this answered. We let them know they are so very welcome at Sunday worship, also! Why is Church Around the Corner providing good food for everyone? Partly to follow the example of Jesus, as part of their desire to live a Eucharistic lifestyle beyond weekly Sunday morning liturgy, partly because their position in that neighborhood mandates they reach out and serve their neighbors—all or most of the people in that particular neighborhood.

Justice is important, but food is necessary. Social justice is about getting a little more than those essentials, but making basics easily available helps begin freeing people to seek, to be open to opportunities for other aspects of justice.

Other October Synchroblog Participants: