I’m using a book by Walter Brueggemann for my daily prayers. Gift and Task – It’s based on a year cycle of readings in (I think ?) The Presbyterian Church of America. So each day there’s a Psalm, readings from the Old and New Testament, and a Gospel reading. Walter Brueggemann then has a reflection on one or more of the passages.
When I read a review of the book before I bought it, one of the comments was that it felt like after a while, Brueggemann was repeating himself and going back to the same subjects. Well, having got almost half way through the year, I can say that this is true, but also really helpful. To begin to get a feel for themes that reappear in scripture really gets them into your mind and heart.
Here are a few of the themes that are revisited:
Exclusion v Inclusion
Empire v Commonwealth
Self Confidence v Trust
Scarcity v Abundance
Competition v Cooperation
Individualism v Connectedness
Self v Community
Death v Life
Business as Usual v Transfomation
Knowledge v Wisdom
One simple example was yesterday’s reading from Galatians, where Paul compares acts of the flesh, with life in the Spirit, and draws out the contrast between self and community.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5 verses 19 – 23)
He makes the simple but profound point that the first list is all about the self. “A life that is propelled by self advancement at the expense of others and a passionate will to have one’s own way.” This kind of life is, in the end, destructive of community, and is fostered by the individualsim that is rampant in our world.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit list is all about community, supporting one another through acts of love.
Grace and Peace.