We finished up the the fall Clergy Conference of the Diocese of Georgia at lunch yesterday. In his final session with us, Old Testament professor Dr. Walter Brueggemann spoke of the need to recapture public language. He noted that our statement as we end the Lord's Prayer, which we pray each time we gather for worship, is "for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory." This he said is "an assertion that the world does not belong to Caesar, Herod, Pharaoh or their ilk."
He then went into the language of the liturgy of ancient Israel still found within the Psalms, which were used in worship then (and now). This includes passages such as Psalm 47:8 "God reigns over the nations; God sits upon his holy throne" and Psalm 98:7, "With trumpets and the sound of the horn, shout with joy before the King, the Lord." In these texts and many others we see that part of the worship in ancient Judaism was acknowledging the kingship of God in the performative language of liturgy which makes the thing so for us.
The prophets then picked up these poetic lines and broke the language of the liturgy back out into the world. In these texts Babylon stands in for nations who think their might, wealth and wisdom put them over and above God. The prophets speak against this and note that the world is hard wired so that unjust nations are brought down. In Amos 1-2 for example we get an appeal to creation theology that God's mercy and compassion stand in judgment against these minor states who do not show mercy.
Dr. Brueggemann said that the task of the preacher then is not to draw out connections to the public sphere so much as to let the people have the texts. Preach the texts, teach the stories, and let the scripture itself get into people's bones so that it can come to affect the decisions they make in the public sphere.
"We are to line out an alternative account of world history with God's mercy at its center," Dr. Brueggeman said.
If you would like a more ably rendered accounting of this theme and the scripture behind it, you will have to wait, but not for long. Dr. Brueggemann is working on a book on how the Torah of The Old Testemant promotes The Common Good and as the author of 58 books he says he hasn't had an unpublished thought. You might not have to wait that long.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church
It looks a bit idealistic, but here is a spontaneous grouping of clergy on a break talking about how they make room (or don't) for sabbath time in their lives. It was great, thoughtful conversation.