Brueggemann, dayenu and the blood on the books

I apologize for straining your patience and eyesight with the length of my last post. I just had to tell you about the Brueggemann event with my Episcopal friends, and highlight just a few of his many books. He really is an extraordinary speaker and often, a very engaging writer. I think those in mainline churches with more liberal sensibilities need to hear his insistence that we be people of the Book. More conservative folk will scratch their head at how he routinely presumes critical scholarship— that there were three Isaiahs, that the Pentateuch was written after the exile, that redactors added in or re-wrote stuff. Still, he has very high regard for the shape of the canon and all of us need his radical opening up of these texts, especially in their socio-political context.


I was selling books once at a Bread for the World galaÑBFW is a faith-based lobbying group trying to protect (at least) and expand (please, God) social programs and federal budget commitments to the poorÑand there were some big-wigs from Washington there, folks from the World Bank, the head of the Department of Agriculture, a few Bishops, denominational execs. I didnÕt know Brueggemann at the time, and was unprepared for his passion and power as he preached after the banquet. There were long lines of people at the book display and I was nearly overwhelmed (doing that event by myself is still one of our more memorable gaffs.) I had cut my finger quite badly on a sharp metal bookend and was bleeding a bit, blood literally dripping down my sleeve as I held my tissued finger high as I rang the cash register. Except for one dear nurse who ran out to a local pharmacy and brought back bandages, nobody in this good crowd of socially-aware activists said a word. I was in distress, wiping little droplets of blood off the book jackets. Not a word of concern from anybody.
After a busy half-hour or so of my one-handed changing-making fiasco, the event was over. The crowds were gone, the hangers-on were getting autographs as somebody was ushering Dr. Brueggemann out, to some private reception on Capitol Hill or in the White House (as I said, this was a few years back.)
Walt made a big point to his handlers that he wanted to go back and thank the bookseller. He gave me the big thumbs up, offered his thanks for doing the heavy lifting, and thenÑyou guessed itÑsaid, ÒMan, youÕre bleeding! What did you do to your finger? Are you gonna be all right?Ó
Brueggemann had preached about trusting God in this age of scarcity where we fret and fight over resources guided by an ideology and a globalized commitment to economic progress, using Isaiah, Moses and Wendell Berry, naming the anxiety that such scrambling produces. He powerfully taught us a Hebrew wordÑdayenu— about GodÕs abundance, the gift of brimming shalom that comes from the memory of the manna texts, and we cried it out over and overÉ
And then he illustrated his keen care for the hurting in this simple little act of kindness. One need not agree with all his hermeneutical moves, his unique interpretations of Scripture, let alone his theology or politics. But, I want to say again: he is the real deal. I hope you read last nightÕs blog; if you started it and your eyes got droopy, please try again. I didnÕt begin to do him justice and at least knowing about the books I described is important.
A version of the sermon Dr. Brueggemann preached at that Bread for the World meeting, by the way, is found in an anthology of his pieces. The chapter is called ÒThe Truth of Abundance: Relearning DeyenuÓ in The Covenanted Self: Explorations in Law and Covenant (Fortress; $18.00.) Another version of that message as I remember it is ÒThe Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of ScarcityÓ included in a similarly great collection, Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope: Contested Truth in a Post-Christian World (Fortress; $17.00.)

4 thoughts on “Brueggemann, dayenu and the blood on the books

  1. There is an interesting collection of the Bruegge’s articles at this site. Thought you might find it enjoyable and helpful to your readers.Russ in Beaver Falls

  2. Denise: Well, as always, you are too kind. I don’t get droopy reading your stuff, either, and it’s sweet calibre. Russ: This is absolutely awesome! I had no idea such a source existed. I might just have to blog about it, posting it for others to see. Wowie zowie, what a collection. Thanks for sharing.I saw in the forum on B’s view of the authority of the Bible a post on B & NT Wright, by a guy named Russ. Was that you?? Thanks again. Byron

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