Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time to die and be raised--Walter Breuggemann

Time to die and be raised

A selection of the informal comments by Dr. Walter Breuggemann in a film by The Work of the People:

“Being out here and seeing these tombstones, first thing that came to my mind is that place in Matthew where Jesus says to the religious leaders of his society that they’re like mausoleums or “white sepulchers.” So what he does is to take the tombstone as a metaphor for people that have shut down reality, and have no energy and no imagination. So I suppose that a cemetery is a good place to talk about the imagination of death and the imagination of life. And if you draw that to our moment in society about the economy having collapsed and about Barack Obama’s audacious hope, you could entertain the thought that we are in a life and death moment in our society.

“All kinds of people and all kinds of institutions are having to decide whether they’re going to continue the patterns of death to which our society has subscribed or whether they are going to have the energy and imagination to break out of those patterns and come alive.

“So I think that the Bible is this field of imagination in which we are constantly watching people rise up to newness. And one of the narrative images for that is this little baby that is born to Abraham and Sarah. The text says ‘and they were as good as dead,’ which, I suppose, means that Abraham couldn’t have an erection and Sarah was not ovulating any more, and they were as good as dead. And then a baby is born and everything changes.

“And I think that we’re in a society where many people are deciding we’re not going to settle for the old patterns of death and despair and denial. But we’re going to dance and sing and we’re going to practice neighborliness.

“So I think the Bible often imagines we are in an either-or moment. And I think this is one of them for churches and church people. And it’s nice to be talking about this in the season of Lent, because Lent is about getting all set to die and then be raised. And if you are in denial, you can’t get ready to die and you can’t be raised. The Old and New Testaments are clear that you have to go into the abyss. ------said, ‘The son is Father-forsaken and the Father is son-forsaken.’ Everybody is forsaken. You can tell people don’t want to go there because, by and large, very few people go to church on Good Friday. Lots of people go on Easter Sunday, but you can’t have Easter without Good Friday.

“…in the failure of our social institutions, ‘Friday’ is a way to name what is happening to us. We are really in a shut-down of the way it used to be. One of the things that’s clear as you read the New Testament narrative is that neither Herod nor Pilate had a clue about what to do. And I think we live in a time when the old rulers have no clue about what to do about anything.

“Which means it’s time to die and be raised: that’s what I think.”

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