Friday, May 30, 2014

Saying NO to the Culture

For the past 20 years or more, Walter Brueggemann has been known for his theological exegesis. In his many books and articles, he has been looking at the Bible as a theological document showing us what God is doing throughout history. In Sabbath as Resistance. Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW, Brueggemann writes about God’s people in the context of the cultures around them. He points out that the Bible has a distinct message and a different theology than the cultures in which God’s people find themselves. He compares Israel’s early Old Testament situation to the cultures the disciples lived in according to New Testament stories and incidents, and then to our situation in our cultures today.

Published by WestminsterJohnKnox, and available at, Brueggemann has more than 20 books with WJK. In this one, Chapter One is on Sabbath and the First Commandment, and in the next five chapters, he discusses resistance to anxiety, coercion, exclusivism, and multitasking (all concerns that sound familiar), and offers alternative ideas, followed by a final chapter on Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment.

It looks like people of both the Old and New Testaments had some of the same problems we are coping with today. And what did they do about it? And what should we do about our situation? Two of his key words are resistance and alternative, as he explains how the celebration of Sabbath can be an act of both resistance and alternative. Think of your own situation: is there tension in the family over resisting requirements of soccer practice on the Sabbath, for example?

Brueggemann says his book is for those who are feeling “weary and heavy laden,” because of the many requirements of our culture. He assures us that keeping the Sabbath is both resistance and  alternative to the demands of advertising and the commercialism surrounding us. He is beginning to think the fourth commandment on the Sabbath “is the most difficult and most urgent of the commandments in our society.”

I like the way Brueggemann brings together God’s people in both the Old Testament and the New, with our current times. He combines essential portions of the teachings of both Moses and Jesus, with references to Scripture and the Psalms, reminding us “do not be anxious....God provides what is needed.” As he says, Brueggemann’s book offers readers  “a journey from the world of commodity to the world of communion.” Recalling an old hymn, he urges us to “take time...Sabbath is taking be holy.”

—Lois Sibley