Friday, June 24, 2011

Israel's Praise: Doxology Against Idolatry and Ideology

I recently finished Walter Brueggemann's book, Israel's Praise: Doxology Against Idolatry and Ideology. I found it interesting and challenging. Brueggemann takes a look at Israel's liturgy and praise, namely the Psalms. Through the Psalms he tracks the various reasons that these Psalms were formed. It is all about world-making. Some of the Psalms are made in response to the deliverance God has affected for His people. They are specific in their nature, describing God as One who acts. Some Psalms are later employed to legitimate royal authority. God is described but seems to have no action. The royal authority renders God as one who legitimates their authority and does not act to overthrow the status quo. There is a tension that grows between these two uses of the Psalms. Psalms threaten to break out against authority that has become abusive and oppressive. It threatens to overthrow regimes of malevolent power. The use of the Psalms to maintain the status quo seeks to secure the realm and maintain itself through the use of liturgy. Brueggemann's final chapter then goes to expound some of the ways that the American church has fallen into some of these same traps. We allow the culture to shape our liturgy rather than our liturgy to shape our world. We render God an idol rather than an untame God that we cannot control and that might call for us to change. Are the Church and Christians willing to live in relationship with a God who acts and calls us to act? Or, are we simply going to bow the knee to those principalities and powers that seek to keep us under thumb so that God's Kingdom is not made known but is subverted? True praise remembers a God that delivered us from the depths of bondage so that we might not return to that bondage but live gloriously free lives that reflect and honor God in all we do! When this happens, the world is changed dramatically.

In thinking about Sabbath, perhaps it serves a similar function in our own lives. It is doxology that keeps us from simply accepting our culture's idolatry and ideology. Rather, it is an imaginative discourse with God and the community in order that God's Kingdom might come to fruition within our world. Sabbath is ignored and pushed to the side because it is truly dangerous. It threatens those authorities and powers that seek legitimacy over our lives. Sabbath undermines the status quo that renders the weak and the powerless vulnerable. Instead, Sabbath is interacting with a living God (not an idol) that is continuously transforming us so that we are Christ-like in our world. And, if that is true, we cannot remain idle (idol?) as the Christian community in our world. Is rest a part of reclaiming true worship? Without a doubt! There is a significant difference between rest and idleness.

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