NOTE: This is part three in an unfolding series of reflections concerning God's love,
resistance and this present darkness...
In Walter Brueggemann's stunning opening essay, "Preaching as Sub-Version," from his 2000 collection of essays and sermons, Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope, I find myself pouring over extended paragraphs slowly. If contemplation is taking "a long, loving look at what is real," then this is lectio divinia of the most prophetic type. Today my sustained reading took in only two paragraphs, a few hundred words, but they were saturated with such insight and clarity that I will ponder them for days to come. In his description of the "taproot of violence," he notes that material deprivation and social isolation breed violence. Then he writes:
The taproot of violence is also surely silence, of being vetoed and nullified and canceled so that we have no say in the future of the community or of our own lives. How odd, in the midst of a technological revolution offering broad communication, that serious input into our common future is increasingly limited and monopolized so that we cynically conclude that our say does not matter anyway. The silence are increasingly like a driven, helpless, desperate two-year-old who, having no say, will enact a tantrum; and so the tantrums build in Northern Ireland and among the Palestinians and in our own abandoned cities. Or to take it more intimately, every time a neighbor gets a machine gun and kills seventeen neighbors, the next day the comment i sure to be, "I don't know; he lived alone, kept to himself, and never talked to anybody." And we collude in the silence, the abused protecting the abuser until the killing comes.
We of all people (Christians and Jews) have the textual resources authorizing and legitimating and modeling speech that breaks the silence of violence and the violence of silence. At the very outset of our story, it says of our victimized mothers and fathers in Egypt, they groaned and cried out, and God heard and God saw and God knew and God remembered and God came down to save (Exodus 2: 23-25). But unlike our high Calvinist notions of sovereignty, the break comes from below in the daring speech of the silenced,. Out of that comes the richness of complaint psalms and lament psalms and psalms of rage and hate and resentment, the voice from below refusing the silence, speaking truth amidst power, speaking truth to holiness and evoking newness. It is all there in the preacher's script. Except that the colluding church and we colluding preachers and our colluding hymnal committees cover the Psalms, enhance the silence and foster in our naive ways more violence.
What a brutal irony that today the most recent cease-fire in Aleppo is being shredded yet again by cluster bombs, power politics and cynical tyrants without a soul. What a tragic and ugly fact that today, December 14, is the anniversary of the Newtown Massacre. At midday Eucharist we spoke of how the violence and silence must be a call to bind us closer together - and give us a voice born of love. Not the shallow, sentimental love evoked during this season and then forgotten, but a sacrificial love born of a vow to serve in the spirit of the Cross. As is happening so often of late, I turn again to the words of Bonhoeffer, this time from his reflection on training young clergy at Finkenwalde, the Lutheran seminary in exile that he ran during the Nazi regime. Facing the reality of this present darkness and encountering the inevitability of abandonment is one dimension of being faithful for a people come of age. It is nourished by solidarity, quiet prayer alongside an unwavering connection to God's truth.
Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end, all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared'.
A popular Face Book meme quoted Bonhoeffer puts it like this:
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
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