September 15, 2019

Sunday with Walter Brueggemann: On Telling Jesus Stories

Thatched Cottages by a Hill, Van Gogh

Sunday with Walter Brueggemann
On Telling Jesus Stories

The church must endlessly tell its Jesus stories, because in these Jesus stories, we behold the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. The imposition of holiness does not happen in large, grand, religious, magnificent ways. It happens where a son is welcomed home, where a neighbor is honored and cared for, where a whore is loved, where a leper is touched and cleansed, where a crowd is fed, where a guilty man is forgiven, where a crippled woman stands up straight and laughs and dances. The claim about the glory of God in the life of Jesus is not mystical, supernatural voodoo, but it is the confidence of the church that in the life of Jesus, we see all that God intends and wants and acts and asks of us. It is so daily, so concrete, so engaged with hurt, so self-giving. It is the face of this one that dazzles with life-giving light and power.

A Gospel of Hope (pp. 50-51)

Comments

  1. Not much to say in response to this other than, preach.

  2. I’m reminded of two similar hymns I was taught as a child “Tell me the Old, Old Story” and “I Love to tell the Story.”

    • +1

      –> “The church must endlessly tell its Jesus stories, because in these Jesus stories, we behold the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

      Your comment and this line made me reflect on the Jewish tradition of “looking back” to remind themselves all that God has done for them. That’s one of the elements of participating in a Seder that I love to experience.

      I’m thinking that “testimonials” would be a good addition to any form of worship service. And I’m not talking about the need for a dramatic “who has seen a miracle this week,” but just a person coming up front and sharing a moment from the past in which they saw God at work.

  3. Steve Newell says

    If you attend to a church that follows the traditional historic Christian liturgy, you will hear a reading from the Gospel every week. While the sermon may not be on the Gospel reading, you will hear the words and story of Jesus.

    • In a church that follows sound “traditional historic liturgy”, the sermon, or homily, will generally not take much more time, if any, than the total time it takes for all the appointed readings. Such a balance in the liturgy trusts the Bible, including “the words and story of Jesus”, to speak directly to the congregation as much as it trusts the preacher to interpret and proclaim it for the listeners. A worship service based on forty-five minutes of sermon interpretation for five minutes of Biblical text, otoh, exhibits an astounding lack of trust in the Bible’s and the Jesus’ story ability to “speak for itself”, the inerrantist/infallibilist/fundamentalist protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

      • Robert, with your last sentence you’ve nailed it.

      • David Cornwell says

        Yes.

      • Otoh, the kind of preaching from a “liberal” perspective that, though it doesn’t produce long sermons, spends many of the precious few moments of preaching explaining away the miraculous texts of Scripture to make them more harmonious with the ostensibly modern scientific sensibilities of the listeners (how many of them could even give a roughly working definition of science?); or the kind of Common Lectionary (the ones the mainline churches use) that omits the morally discomfiting parts of Scripture that would ostensibly offend the moral sensibilities of the listeners (it’s just as or more likely their exclusion is due to offending the moral sensibilities of the Lectionary editors): neither do these exhibit much trust in the Scriptures to communicate directly to the listeners, or much trust in the listeners to hear and discern.

        I understand that congregations are in need of more knowledge of modern Biblical scholarship, and an element of this may be necessary in presenting a sermon, but the sermon is not the place for extensive teaching — that should be done outside of the worship service, and if it isn’t (and it definitely is not), it’s a major failure of the church that cannot be rectified from the pulpit. As for omitting difficult, discomfiting, and morally problematic texts from the lectionary in the wake of the church’s inability or inadequacy in instructing the congregation in the area of modern scholarship and its application to interpretation, that is just dishonest, and easily seen through by any member of the laity with a Bible at home and enough vested interest in her faith to actually read it extensively. This is one of the ways the church as a whole loses members — people in the pews begin to think they are not being told the whole story, and maybe that there is no common story to tell.

      • More importantly, in such a service more time and emphasis will be given to the one part of Christian worship mandated by Jesus himself – i.e. communion. Because ultimately what transforms us more and more into the image of Christ is not any sort of intellectual or theological exercise, but the simple willingness to invite the life of God to enter us and renew us.

        • Frequent celebration of the Eucharist includes the words and actions of Jesus as he instituted the sacrament for us in the Last Supper, and fits right in with trusting the Scriptures rather than only trusting their interpretation by the preacher. In the case of the Eucharist, it is Christ who teaches, preaches, and performs the meaning that is expressed by in words by the Scripture. Word and action are not separated, or separable.

  4. Christiane says

    “The imposition of holiness does not happen in large, grand, religious, magnificent ways. It happens where a son is welcomed home, where a neighbor is honored and cared for, where a whore is loved, where a leper is touched and cleansed . . . . ”

    . . . in the life of Jesus, we see all that God intends and wants and acts and asks of us. It is so daily, so concrete, so engaged with hurt, so self-giving. . . . ”

    WHAT GOD ASKS OF US . . . . . in our time, how does this have meaning without the gift of grace to help us?
    . . . the kind of grace gifted to Francis of Assisi whose own witness comes down to us through the centuries:

    “The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way:
    for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers.
    And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them.
    And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body”

    in his witness, Francis speaks of how grace enabled him to take care of lepers, and in the process, he himself was healed of bitterness towards them . . .

    humility and grace fills the ‘stories’ surrounding Christ . . .

    a follower of Christ reaches out with kindness to someone ‘unlovable’
    and then the miracle happens:
    this service of loving-kindness overflows to include the helper as well,
    and he is able to see ‘the image of God’ in the ‘unlovable’

  5. I thought this was beautiful. Thank you for posting.