A biblical exploration of how we can bring new life out of the death and destruction we find all around us in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. Why bother with the interpretive categories of biblical faith when in fact our energy and interest are focused on more immediate matters? The answer is simple and obvious. We linger because, in the midst of our immediate preoccupation with our felt jeopardy and our hope for relief, our imagination does indeed range beyond the immediate to larger, deeper wonderments. Our free-ranging imagination is not finally or fully contained in the immediacy of our stress, anxiety, and jeopardy. Beyond these demanding immediacies, we have a deep sense that our life is not fully contained in the cause-and-effect reasoning of the Enlightenment that seeks to explain and control. There is more than that and other than that to our life in God's world!
The invitation has been sent and we have a choice, do we open and read the Good News inside or do we place it down, preoccupied, not ready to embrace the change that has arrived at our door? If we are to prophetically reimagine a world where God’s hesed, hanan, and raham – loyalty, graciousness, and compassion – take precedent, then the invitation must be opened.
What is the invitation? It is to sit in the suffering, the trauma, the pain, turning to God once more, remembering his covenantal promise of love, and learning to see things not through our own understanding of who God is, but in light of the cross and resurrection.
The invitation is from a God at work. In the crisis of sword, pestilence, and famine, we trust in God’s promises. As creatures not intended for abuse and suffering, we cannot be reduced to using entertainment to numb the cries and groans we inwardly feel. Like any birth, bringing new life into the world, seeking a new creation, these pains must predominate. When we struggle with the death pangs, a cry is heard in the depths of the pain, telling us that restoration, reconciliation, and renewal is possible if we embrace the invitation to walk the narrow path that leads us from death on Good Friday, to life on that celebratory Easter day.
Preachers can use this book to encourage others not to deny the trauma surrounding us, not to deny the reality and not to seek money, sex, or power as consumer satiation without the need for relinquishment and renunciation. We can find hope by turning afresh to Jesus, opening the invitation, allowing us to speak into the liturgical, artistic, political, economic, and scientific dimensions of groans within creation, knowing that God hears, acts, and saves. We need not go back to the predatory ways of society that hinder but embrace the gift of life, using money, laws, natural resources, and social conditions for the glory of God. The invitation has arrived. It is now up to us to respond.
Preach magazine review by Emma Ash.
Writer, preacher, theologian and Trustee @NECNestates. Find her on Twitter @E_L_Ash.
AUTHOR: Dr. Walter Brueggemann (Th.D., Union Theological Seminary, New York:; Ph.D., St. Louis University) is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Theology and Interpretation at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA . His award-winning Theology of the Old Testament (Fortress Press, 1997) quickly became a foundational work in the field. The Association of Theological Booksellers presented Walter Brueggemann and Fortress Press with a Theologos Award for Best General Interest Book at a dinner in Brueggemann's honor, for the award-winning book, Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope: Contested Truth in a Post-Christian World.