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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"A Gospel of Hope" (Walter Brueggemann)

TITLE: A Gospel of Hope
AUTHOR: Walter Brueggemann
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018, (200 pages).

There is a sense of familiarity in many Christian books. They are essentially about the Christian faith and perspectives taken from Christ. Yet, there is also a sense of freshness that even when it is about the same old gospel there is a strange fresh new truth to be reminded or to be reaffirmed. Books of hope tend to come into such a category. For hope is always about something fresh, something new, something to look forward to. Such is the gospel of hope. In this compilation of wisdom and sayings from his past sermons and published materials, Richard Floyd does the heavy lifting by putting together Brueggemann's memorable words according to the theme of hope. Brueggemann acknowledges Floyd as one who has "entered" his mind enough to know what he wanted to say most, and his rhetoric enough to know when he is most likely to say it. The gospel of hope has many sub-themes such as abundance, generosity, alternative worlds, freedom, fidelity, faith, justice, Jesus, identity, love, public witness, responsibility, and so on. In our world of short quips and concise statements limited by a tweet, a text, or a FaceBook post, we sometimes use words devoid of contexts. A master with words, Brueggemann's ability to nuance meaning upon meaning with literal devices and rhetoric makes this book a delightful read. With many quotes and quips, readers have many new things to learn. Rather than a series of random thoughts, there is a central theme in all of these: Hope. It is interesting to see how Brueggemann's thoughts can form a picture for the gospel of hope. Beginning with "Abundance and Generosity," we are reminded that hope is about enduring generosity, that the same God who had given us much yesterday and today, is the same God who would provide for us for the future. It is about being overwhelmed with the abundant generosity of God instead of being bogged down by the worries of today. Hope helps us become mindful of "alternative worlds." He contrasts the way we try to secure our future through economic, military, and other forms of human endeavors. Being content with what God has given us and what He will give us should spur us toward an alternative faith that is different from the world. One of the reasons why hope is so often needed is because of the restlessness of the human soul which is masqueraded as anxiety and a desire to be free from what enslaves us. Whether it is anxiety due to fear or fatigue, we must be constantly mindful that the gospel of hope is in Jesus. How? By remembering that what Jesus stands for is completely different from what the world stood for. Hope is sustained by a recognition that God is faithful and God will promise to give us what we need, even when we do not deserve it. God is not limited by anything. His heart is big for anything that we may thrown at Him. Jesus embodies hope. He is hope.

Hope is such a big theme that it reaches deep into all recesses of society. In justice, God gives hope to the vulnerable, the weak, the marginalized. In this hope, disciples of Christ are urged to be agents of justice. Here, Brueggemann shows us a wide variety of how believers can do just that. Through the spiritual act of forgiveness, we can apply it to debt forgiveness. I like how Brueggemann says: "Forgiveness is the recalculating of society for the participation of all of its members." It reminds us that hope is not just about us and God. It is about loving our neighbour as ourselves. He calls the Church to be the forebearers of God's hope. She is to go beyond maintenance but to embrace and welcome all people. On Church, we are reminded that "church is not about certitude" but "openness to the Spirit." He suggests several things the Church could do with regard to living by faith. Other matters related to hope include thoughts about neighbourly love, public witness and responsibility, relinquishment, and faithful practices. Every chapter is filled with gems of wisdom and insightful pointers for living the gospel of hope, with hope, and hope in Jesus. Each chapter stretches our theology and orientates our minds toward application. We see hope as not something reserved for believers but for all people. This is what the gospel is about. Jesus came to earth for all of us. He chooses to live among us and to give us reasons to live for, to hope for, because that is what He died for. It takes a deep knowledge of Scripture and experience in order to do what Brueggemann has done. Many of the quotes are taken out of his books, talks, and sermons which render them vulnerable to interpretation out of its original contexts. Thankfully, with the author's knowledge and affirmation of Richard Floyd's compilation, readers are rest assured that the thoughts and the themes represent what Brueggemann stood for. We all need hope and this book shines a refreshing beam of insight to help us see and feel that.

Walter Brueggemann is renowned theologian and respected William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and is a prolific writer and speaker.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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