Tag Archive: Bible

Faith because of us…Faith in spite of us…

Walter Brueggemann’s Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism provides an interesting, helpful, and insightful angle for the study and practice of mission and evangelism.  From the start, Brueggemann identifies attitudes towards evangelism from both ends of the “conservative/liberal” spectrum.  He claims that traditional conservative approaches to evangelism are nothing more than a reduction of biblical “news” that Christians “should/ought/must” proclaim.  On the other hand, liberals, he argues, have become so embarrassed by the word “evangelism” they cower in fear at the very utterance of the word and would rather talk about “social action.”  In his work Brueggemann holds together these concepts in his evangelistic model of “announcing good news” (conservative evangelism) and “appropriating the good news” (liberal social action).

Throughout Biblical Perspectives Brueggemann uses a copious amount of scripture.  His exegesis and interpretation of scripture is brilliant and enlightening.  He views the biblical text not as a handbook, but as an articulation of an imaginative model of reality into which we are invited to participate.  Specifically, Brueggemann’s ability to draw upon the Old Testament for evangelistic insights is wonderful.  His use of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, the Psalms, and the prophets broadens the scope of the biblical witness and model of evangelism.  His illumination of the OT pushes the reader to imagine and explore evangelism beyond Matthew 28.

However, Brueggemann does not neglect the New Testament.  In fact, he offers a beautiful reading of the importance of baptism.  He argues that baptism is a subversive act in which “the claims of the gospel of God’s hidden, decisive victory are fully voiced” (45).  Through baptism we are embraced and incorporated in to God’s story, putting away the former self (Eph. 4.22-24).  The putting away of other gods, other desires, and other selves, Brueggemann suggests, is to totally commit one’s self to God.  This commitment of self and a desire to hear other’s commitment is the drama of evangelism.

Brueggemann calls all Christians back to the canonical witness for evangelism.  He invites us to imagine ourselves as part of a larger, cosmic story, a story in which we are not fully in control.  Brueggemann’s invitation for all to participate in the urgent, on-going work of evangelism is accessible and practical.  It successfully moves our hope for the future of evangelism beyond our own schemes and strategies and into the heart of a God who has already done great things.  Brueggemann reminds us that when faith does arise, sometimes it is because of us and sometimes it is in spite of us.

This is the fifth review in a five-part series looking at Walter Brueggemann’s Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism.


Mark 10:2-26

“Jesus, what’s the point of the Law?  On what grounds is divorce acceptable?” the Pharisees ask Jesus.  You would think that the Pharisees would learn their lesson.  Every time they come to test Jesus, to back him into a corner, it is they who leave entangled.  This encounter is no different.

The Pharisees want to talk about the Law and divorce, but Jesus wants to talk about Creation and love.  The Pharisees are concerned with Deuteronomy, Jesus goes back to Genesis.  Jesus says, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’…and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  God created humanity in love for the purpose of loving God and one another.

Love, not a rule about divorce, is what Jesus wishes to promote. But not just any love.  Christ calls Creation to a love for Him and one another that is unconditional.  A love without boundaries.  A love without limits.  Jesus might say, “If we can get the beginning right- if we can get the love right- then the divorce question will take care of itself.”

How are we able to love our spouses and neighbors in such an extraordinary and extravagant way?  With the grace of God.  By knowing that we have a Lord and Savior who loves us this way.  Christ didn’t come to earth to gives us a bunch of rules.  God became incarnate, died, and was resurrected in order to show us how to love.  He came to show us true obedience, commitment, sacrifice, and fidelity.  We love because Christ first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).

This love without limits that Christ calls us to is articulated nicely in our marriage vows.  We love in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for pricher or poorer.  We love when we don’t feel like it. We love even when its difficult and we don’t think we can.  Some will say, “But my neighbor is a scoundrel. My wife is my enemy.  Love is just not an option!”  But what did Jesus say about our enemies?  Love even them…unconditonally…without limits.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13  –  “Arise, my love, and come away with me.”

Whether your Bible refers to the Song of Solomon as the Song of Songs or Canticles, we might blush or squirm at the words of main characters.  At times their love is portrayed in a “PG” way, but at other moments the language warrants an R-rating.  We may even chuckle at the way the lovers describe one another.  Try telling your spouse that his or her hair is like “a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead (4:1), or that their teeth are like a “flock of sheep” (4:2). We are quickly reminded that this is ancient Hebrew poetry, not contemporary prose.  Yet, the Song of Solomon is Christian Scripture.

Throughout the history of the Church, the Song has been interpreted in a variety of ways.  Some believed it was simply a love poem between two lovers.  Others argued that the Song was a secular ballad.  Traditionally, however, many Christians (including John Wesley) believed that the love presented in the Song alludes to God’s love for His people.  In that way, I think the some of the most beautiful words in the Song come in 2:10 and 2:13.  One lover cries out to the other, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away with me.”  I imagine that these are God’s words to us.  God beckons us, calls out to us, to come away from whatever it is that distracts us and spend time with Him.  We become busy, fearful, and stressed.  We are seduced by the world away from God. But God still calls, “come away with me.”

Do you hear God calling?  Do you hear God pleading for you to spend time with Him, to give Him your attention, focus and love?  Whether you feel intimately close to God or far off from God, we are never too far away that God’s voice can’t reach us.  Maybe your relationship with God is one of head-over-heels mutual love.  Or maybe you’ve been in an on-again, off-again relationship with God.  Whichever describes us, we know that God’s grace prevails.  We can never wander too far away that God can not call us back.  “Arise, my love, and come away with me.”

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 – A Time for Choosing

“Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me an my household we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua’s bold proclamation is the kind of refrain that gives us goosebumps.  His words cause something to well up inside of us.  He says what we all desire to say.  Joshua’s words are uplifting and inspiring.  They bring to mind paintings, stained glass windows, and needlepoint designs that bear his message.

Yet, Joshua’s words reverberate in other ways too.  His proclamation is demanding.  It requires something of us.  Joshua calls us to make a decision that is too important to delay.  “Choose this day…,” he commands.  Joshua’s words embody God’s claim on our lives.  Whom will we serve?  The gods of this world?  The idols among us?  Will we choose money and success over our Lord?  Intelligence and education over the God of Abraham?  Our own desires over God’s desires for our lives?  “Choose this day…” Joshua’s words echo in our ears and hearts.  Joshua presents to us a choice. However, it’s a choice we can make in grace knowing that God has already chosen us (John 15:16).

Finally, notice how the people respond after Joshua casts his family’s lot with the Lord.  The people cry out, “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God!” (v. 18, 21).  Discipleship can begin with only one person.  If one person, or one family, commits to serve God, to stand boldly in the midst of others, perhaps others will follow.  What if one person, what if you and your family, chose this day to serve the Lord, would would that look like?  Would others follow?  What would happen if we all truly chose God’s way over the ways of the world?  Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Lectionary, July 26

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

2 Samuel 11:1-15

Psalm 14

Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

Mark 6:14-29 — The Beheading of John the Baptist

Many of us look upon this text with shock, maybe even fear.  We might best describe it as a “text of terror.”  Today, moments of terror, or fear, still break in to our lives.  There’s the terror of broken homes and fractured families.  We trembled when the doctor pronounces the diagnosis.  We fear the loss of loved ones.  Jobs, finances, uncertainty, and fear of failure are all terrifying propositions.  In those moments, our own “text of terror” plays itself out in our daily lives.  Yet, there is hope.  In the end, the disciples come to gather, hold, and bury John’s body.  God, not Herod, has the final say.  Today’s disciples, the Church, remains at the ready, waiting to hold those who hurt, grieve, and experience loss.  In the toughest of times, when it seems as if the terror is too much, call upon the Church.  Call upon God, who through the Christ’s body (the Church), promises to hold, to nurture, and to love those who call upon His name.

Lectionary, May 10

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Acts 8:26-40

Psalm 22:25-31

1 John 4:7-21

John 15:1-8

United Methodist Lectionary Scripture for Sunday, April 19, 2009

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Prayer Focuses
1. Those who have suffered tragic loses
2. Those facing difficult decisions
3. Church food ministries around the world

Thought to ponder
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”  — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in Germany from 1906-1945. He was a theologian, spiritual writer, a Lutheran Pastor who played a central role in the struggle against Nazism.

Links of Interest
Hoops turn fears into friendship
Youth fast today to change tomorrow

Lectionary, April 19

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Acts 4:32-35

Psalm 133

1 John 1:1-2:2

John 20:19-31

Lectionary, March 22

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Numbers 21:4-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Ephesians 2:1-10

John 3:14-21

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