A Gospel of Hope (Walter Brueggemann) - A Review

A GOSPEL OF HOPE. By Walter Brueggemann; compiled by Richard Floyd.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. Xi + 151 pages.

        If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hear Walter Brueggemann preach or teach you may get the same feeling as I do, he has the look of a prophet and the voice of a prophet. Even if you don’t agree with what he says, you have the feeling that it is inspired speech. I never had the opportunity to see him or hear him when he was a younger man, but I have had the opportunity to be with him in recent years. I’ve also read across his corpus of writings, from sermons to commentary, and have found them provocative and inspiring. It appears that Brueggemann still has stuff to say to us, even if what is being shared is derived from previously published materials. As a reviewer I’ve received several devotional compilations for Advent and Lent and other seasons. This book, A Gospel of Hope, is another compilation, but it brings to our attention excerpts from his writings that are worth savoring.

                We’re not told where the compiler drew these excerpts, so it’s difficult to go deeper and find a fuller text, but that’s probably the point here. It is simply an invitation to sit with words of wisdom that speak of hope at a time that needs a gospel of hope.

Just a bit about the man behind the book. Brueggemann is now retired from years of teaching Bible at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia. He is a noted biblical scholar who has written authoritative commentary on books across the first canon, beginning with Genesis. He has also written biblical theology and guidance for preachers. Whether it’s in his books or in his presentations, he has an extraordinary ability to speak difficult truths in a way that moves hearts and minds. While his theology and politics is left of center, and he is rooted in a Mainline Protestant church, he is read and appreciated and heard by people across the theological spectrum. I have heard him speak at a Disciples of Christ General Assembly and at a Church of Christ college. He challenged both audiences equally. 

The themes around which the excerpts are gathered will be familiar to readers of Brueggemann. They include "abundance and generosity," "alternative worlds," "anxiety and freedom," "God's fidelity and ours," "Jesus," "Justice," "Evangelical identity" (at a time when the world evangelicals seems to have taken on a politically conservative tint, it is good to be invited to hear the word in a different way), "neighbor love," "newness and hope," "public witness and responsibility," "relinquishment" (think repentance here along with self-denial), and finally "faithful practices." Brueggemann writes in the preface to the book that he hopes that "these reuttered words of mine might serve as a contribution to the audacity of talk and our walk. This dangerous time calls folk of faith to grow in our awareness and courage to subvert 'by thought, word, and deed" (Book of Common Prayer) current ideologies that want to curb and administer our asking and our imagining" (p. x).

I decided to share but one excerpt from the book. The excerpt comes from the chapter titled “Jesus.” Here this word from Brueggemann about Jesus. If you’ve read the Gospel of Mark lately, it makes a lot of sense of Mark’s view of Jesus.
We have made Jesus too pious, too nice, too patient, too polite. He was none of these. He was a dangerous alternative kind of power that was prepared to name names and call a spade a spade, to describe social relations exactly as they were, who counted on the fact that in the end, all the raw abusive power in the world could not prevail. His honesty is grounded in his confidence about the rule of God. (p. 50).
My sense is that readers will find much to ponder in these "reuttered words" of one of our days most thoughtful and provocative teachers and preachers. They should prove inspiring and more often than not challenging. I will close with this word from Brueggemann, drawn from the chapter on “Newness and Hope.” It is a brief declaration of hope for times: “Hope is the deep religious conviction that God has not quit” (p. 105). So, take, read, and ponder the words of a prophet for our time!


Unknown said…
Had him as a visiting prof back in 1985. I could have attended class after class... truly opens up the real power of the Word.

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