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Desert Spirituality: An Incarnational Anthropology

Desert Spirituality: An Incarnational Anthropology

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Published by Lyle Brecht
Book discussion and reflections on Lamentations & Tears of the World by Kathleen M. O'Connor, Out of Babylon by Walter Brueggemann, and Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by David G.R. Keller.
Book discussion and reflections on Lamentations & Tears of the World by Kathleen M. O'Connor, Out of Babylon by Walter Brueggemann, and Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by David G.R. Keller.

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Published by: Lyle Brecht on Aug 30, 2011
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06/24/2013

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BOOK DISCUSSION & REFLECTIONDavid G.R. Keller,
Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fa-thers and Mothers
(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005); WalterBruggemann,
Out of B abylon
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010); andKathleen M. O’Connor,
Lamentations & The Tears of the World 
(Ma-ryknowll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002).
We belong neither to darkness nor to light. Therefore let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and be sober (1 Thess 5:6, NRSV)
1
The desert waits, ready for those who come,who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;or who are driven, because they will not come any other way.The desert always waits, ready to let us know who we are-the place of self-discovery. And whilst we fear, and rightly,the loneliness and emptiness and harshness,we forget the angels,whom we cannot see for our blindness, but who come when God decidesthat we need their help;when we are ready for what they give us. 
- Ruth Burgess
 A TRANSFORMATION OF THE HEART
In both ancient and contemporary settings, the interface between empireand divine purpose is carried by poetic, prophetic voices thatarise from andare nurtured by ‘local tradition’ of faith. As in the ancient world, the contem-porary abrasion between imperial ideology and poetic alternative is a con-tentious one, with the poetic alternative being fragile and mostly unauthor-ized and unrecognized.”
2
The New Testament message of Jesus reiterates
DESERT SPIRITUALITY: AN INCARNATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY
LYLE A. BRECHT DRAFT 1.5 CAPITAL MARKETS RESEARCH --- Wednesday, August 31, 2011 Page 1 of 20
1
The admonition is to awake and realize that you may have forgotten what is impor-tant. See Walter Brueggemann,
 Journey to the Common Good 
(Louisville: Westmin-ster John Knox, 2010), 29.
2
Walter Bruggemann,
Out of Babylon
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 18.
 
God’s values of
 hesed 
(steadfast love)
3
,
 mispat 
(justice), and
 sedaqah
(right-eousness) through parables and example that “the ideology of
 scarcity 
hasbeen broken, overwhelmed by the divine gift of
 abundance
.”
4
But of whatkind of abundance? Could the call be to awaken to the abundance of notonly God’s unearned and unmerited grace, but of voice? “To gain a voicemeans to come into the truth of one’s history corporately and individually, torecover one’s life, to acquire moral agency by naming one’s world. The voicebrings from the depth of silence the creative power, energy, and wholenessof a person or a people in the midst of its world.”
5
If all empires are “self-indulgent, arrogant, and abusive,”
6
then maybe thepurpose of voice is merely to cry loudly for all to hear something like Jere-miah’s truth-telling lament:
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:14)
DESERT SPIRITUALITY: AN INCARNATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY
LYLE A. BRECHT DRAFT 1.5 CAPITAL MARKETS RESEARCH --- Wednesday, August 31, 2011 Page 2 of 20
3
 
Hesed 
(the goodness and favor that God reserves for his faithful) “was a particu-larly useful word for speaking of God’s relationship to his people… because it heldtogether in a single expression an emphasis on divine freedom on the one hand anddivine commitment on the other, an emphasis on human need and weakness on theone hand and human responsibility to trust in God alone on the other. By a stretch-ing of the secular usage for delivering and protective action and concern to embraceeven forgiveness, the term came to express the uniqueness of god’s
 hesed 
as thebasis for a relationship stronger than any human bond.” See Katherine Doob Saken-feld,
The Meaning of Hesed in the Hebrew Bible: A New Inquir  y 
, HMS 17 (Missoula:Scholars Press, 1978), 149-50 quoted in Joseph Jensen, O.S.B.,
Ethical Dimensionsof the Prophets
(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006), 97-8.
4
In contrast to Solomon’s values of wealth, might, and wisdom, exemplifying thehighest aspects of secular humankind. See Brueggemann,
 Journey to the CommonGood 
, 2010, 34, 60, 62.
5
Kathleen M. O’Connor,
Lamentations & The Tears of the World 
(Maryknowll, NY:Orbis Books, 2002), 83.
6
See Postscript for information about the empire and imperial ideology during thetime of Jesus and St. Paul’s response to this ideology given the message and life ofJesus.
7
Brueggemann,
Out of Babylon
, 20, 33.
 
Could it be that
denial 
is the real original sin?
8
“A primal human rejection ofthe truth.”
9
That the called-for voice is that one which refuses “denial, prac-tices truth-telling, and reverses amnesia. It invites listeners into pain, chaos,and brutality, both human and divine. It conveys effects of trauma, loss griefbeyond tears.”
10
Such a voice “enables individuals and communities tobreak with the past without forgetting it.”
11
“By urging truth-telling before thepowerful, and providing language, form, and practice of defiance, [one’svoice] encourages resistance and promotes human agency.”
12
Such voices“are demanding, not only because they hold before our eyes sorrow and col-lapse that we may prefer to deny, but because they create an ethical impera-tive; they command us to live as compassionate witnesses to suffering, ourown and that of others.”
13
“Empires characteristically do not notice loss be-cause they are able to engage in reality-denying ideology that covers over
DESERT SPIRITUALITY: AN INCARNATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY
LYLE A. BRECHT DRAFT 1.5 CAPITAL MARKETS RESEARCH --- Wednesday, August 31, 2011 Page 3 of 20
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This denial has happened before. And will happen again. Even 2,600 years agoduring Jeremiah’s time. It was also a time of competing truth claims. Deniers wereplentiful. They claimed to be the voice of conventional wisdom. Wisdom that as-saulted and contradicted Jeremiah’s message to the people. So Jeremiah raised hisspeech to cries of anguish. His cries rang out against the drumbeat of the deniers’conventional wisdom: Conventional forms of strategy and policy have failed. Allleadership has failed. Our entire future is now under assault. This history-makingchange is not a secret matter. All this is happening in our midst, in public. All weneed is eyes to see and ears to listen. Our leaders are adamant to maintain thestatus quo. They are immune to the notion that their denial will result in the death ofour community, our world. The leaders even claimed Jeremiah, the carrier of thisdiscordant message, an ‘enemy of the state.’ Jeremiah summarized his view ofthese deniers:
Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall;For I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, says YHWH.
(Jeremiah 23:12, NRSV)
9
See Gen 3:11-13, NRSV (O’Connor, 87).
10
O’Connor, 94.
11
Denise Ackerman, “On Hearing and Lamenting: Faith and Truth-telling” in
To Re- member and to Heal 
, edited by H.R. Botman and R.M. Petersen (Capetown: Human& Rousseau, 1996), 55 quoted in O’Connor, 94.
12
O’Connor, 131.
13
O’Connor, 137.

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