On my personal blog, Elusive Bread, I shared the following poem that I wrote in my journal recently. I’ve been thinking lately a lot about Walter Brueggemann’s Prophetic Imagination, of which I hope to write more later. In this book on the nature of prophetic ministry in the way of Moses & Jesus, Brueggemann writes,
“I will urge later that…real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend that things are all right—either in the dean’s office or in our marriage or in the hospital room. And as long as the empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no serious criticism” (11).
We have sometimes been apathetic about all that goes on in the world and in our own midst as well. But we need to come alive again with passionate vision to see what God is already doing all around us so that we can join him. Grief is our first step away from passive numbness and toward active love.
I guess the following is my attempt to free my grief in order to look forward to something new God is doing in our midst.
I am proud to say
the church is a family,
Unfortunately, you’re an American family
Too busy to sit down to dinner together
to know each other,
to see into one another.
Though God has put you together,
You’ve ripped yourself asunder
Living in an unchecked divorce
but keeping up pretenses for the neighbors
time-adulterers, love-adulterers, relationship-adulterers
cheating yourself more than any other
Your children want nothing to do with you
hope to be nothing like you
and they’re leaving you;
Though really, if you could see it,
you left them first a long time ago.
And now you hope they’ll come back to bring you grandbabies.
But they’d rather raise their children on their own.
But don’t let any of that bring you down
Jesus can be your lifelong prozac,
your conveniently renewable prescription
from the family doctors
-Oh, the children’s minister, nanny to your sons and daughters
-And oh, the youth minister, your teens’ activity coordinator.
But at least your house is wonderful,
full of stored up, unused equity,
and your retirement secure,
built up like a surely impenetrable storehouse of grain.
And at least it’s safe from unwanted
and upstarts and criminals
and the shamefully lost and broken
and the strange people of the Middle East–
and the strange people of the familiar West–
and any other uncomfortable inconvenience
that makes you think and question and pray together
because your family does not know what to do.
And at least when things are not right
in this household
you are skilled at imagining and living and pretending
like nothing is wrong
skilled at reinterpreting and twisting and self-promoting
so that nothing is wrong
The church is an American family,
and why fix what is not broken?
Sometimes you make me sick.
But somehow I still love you,
and that’s what makes you my family.
Nothing can change that,
but I won’t be your son or your daughter any longer.
I will be your sister, your brother, your honest friend
Because I can’t be silent when I feel so sick about us.
But it would really help if you would be sick with me, brother
Let’s double over in grief together, sister
over all we’ve done and not done
And even as we run out of tears together
Let’s go back to father
and be a new family again.
-Augustine?, Luther?, Anonymous?, Made up quote by Tony Campolo?