Reading Brueggemann's The Word Militant: Preaching a Decentering Word since a few months ago. I've been working through it slowly, as it is a collection of essays not meant to be read end-to-end. And, well, those who have read him know.... He'll "eat your lunch" if you aren't careful. My lunch has been eaten several times with this book. Buen provencho, Senor Brueggemann.

He redefines preaching as the "poetic articulation of an alternative text or reality." What happens in this definition is that we stop talking about what happens in a pulpit or on a platform or on YouTube and we begin talking about a radically reframed sense of reality. It is taking a text, an "old world" as he calls it, and finishing the interpretation until we have a "new world" or a new text that the community hears, obeys and lives into. This is bigger than just paid clergy giving carefully crafted talks around central themes or centered around snazzy graphics. This is a lived out, fleshed out, thought out (probably most difficult of all) way of being-Israel-around-Christ-in-the-world (thanks N.T.)

I'm not so sure about his hermeneutical principles, but I am sure that there is some existential/subjective resonance between his definition of preaching and what I have been thinking and feeling lately, being as I "preach" every Sunday morning just about. Packaging the narrative, turning the ideas around and around in the hearing of the congregation, doing the lexical and historical studies are all necessary and with the breadth of historical and cultural distance between the world of the Scriptures and the world of my folks it is essential to make the jump.

And yet, Brueggemann's challenge is more than a call to ethics or piety. If you've read The Prophetic Imagination or any of his other writings, you understand that the "poetic articulation of an alternative text or reality" always comes at the expense of the ruling powers, i.e. the "hegemony." Whether it is cultural or political, the "royal consciousness" must decrease so that the new world may increase.

So, this raises a philosophical and practical question that I think the readership of this blog is more than capable of handling: how does the alternative text or reality resist becoming a new hegemony? Is there such a thing as a world without hegemony and if so, how does that happen? Is there a profoundly cheapening action in the systematizing and institutionalizing of principles such as Brueggemann is suggesting (i.e. is this the Emergent church's destination?) I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Also, as many of you are devout Wendell Berry folks, let me suggest an author that offers some incredible insights along the same way. My friend Phil lent me Michael Perry's book Population: 485 and much like Berry he writes so movingly of the small town environment. Granted, he's a thirty-something volunteer firefighter/EMT in a small Wisconsin town and the entire book is essay-form, it is still a stunning picture of simpler life and simpler worlds.

Be well friends.

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