Sunday with Walter Brueggemann: The counterexperience of creation in worship

Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background, Van Gogh

Sunday with Walter Brueggemann
The counterexperience of creation in worship

One other peculiar practice in Israel’s worship life bears on our theme. It is evident in Gen 1:1–2:4a that creation and its gift of blessing are understood to be accomplished through (a) utterance, (b) separation of day from night and the waters from the waters, and (c) in the culminating practice of Sabbath.

It is widely held that creation became a crucial claim of Israel’s faith in exile, when Gen 1:1–2:4a is commonly dated. This setting for creation faith suggests that affirmation of creation as an ordered, reliable arena of generosity is a treasured alternative to the disordered experience of chaos in exile. If this critical judgment is accepted, creation then is an “enactment,” done in worship, in order to resist the negation of the world of exile. As a consequence, creation is not to be understood as a theory or as an intellectual, speculative notion, but as a concrete life-or-death discipline and practice, whereby the peculiar claims of YHWH were mediated in and to Israel.

This assumption has led a series of scholars to notice that the Priestly construct of the tabernacle in Exodus 25–31 has an odd and seemingly intentional parallel to the creation liturgy of Gen 1:1–2:4a.15 The instructions for the making of the tabernacle, given by YHWH to Moses, consist in seven speeches, matching the seven days of creation, and culminating, like Gen 2:1–4a, in the provision for the Sabbath (Exod 31:12–17).16 Moreover, the assertion that the tabernacle is finally “finished” (Exod 39:32; 40:33) corresponds to the “finish” of creation in Gen 2:1–2.1.

This parallelism suggests that while creation may be an experience of the world, in a context where the world is experienced as not good, orderly, or generative, Israel has recourse to the counterexperience of creation in worship. Such an exercise, we may suspect, permitted Israelites who gave themselves fully over to the drama and claims of the creation liturgy to live responsible, caring, secure, generative, and (above all) sane lives, even in circumstances that severely discouraged such resolved living. Thus creation, in such a context, has concrete and immediate pastoral implication.

An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible (pp. 142-143)

9 thoughts on “Sunday with Walter Brueggemann: The counterexperience of creation in worship

  1. Enjoyed your comment, and anonymous’, too.

    Young people are undoubtedly running away, except for the unfortunate children born into the lunatic fringe and saddled with that belief system.


  2. the YEC hold to a ‘literal’ translation of Creation in six days labor and a sabbath rest ? . . . .

    but why do they not consider this revelation also from 2 Peter 3:8 ?
    “Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice:
    With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
    and a thousand years are like a day.”

    I suspect it’s more of a ‘control’ thing.
    Someone ‘important’ in fundamentalism claimed ‘inerrancy’ in that THEY could determine what was ‘literal’ and what was ‘not to be taken literally’ and in claiming the authority to determine that teaching, they assumed power.
    It’s like that portion of Alice in Wonderland, this:

    ““When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
    ( Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass)

    So, yes, someone has ‘decided’ who is to be ‘saved’ and who is not to be ‘saved’ based on whether or not they accept the someone’s authority, such is fundamentalism run amok. And followers of that ‘someone’ fall in line and the ‘someone’ becomes for them a mentor, an ‘authority’. And this has a price. Offerings must then be made to that ‘someone’ . . . . the children of this cult who cannot accept the crazy-ness walk away from it, thinking that, in they must not be Christians after all. This is the sacrifice to the ‘someone’.
    Idolatrous? Yes. The children are the victims of a strange perverted idolatry that demanded their exclusion from ‘the saved’ and the families bowed before their idol, and the children departed the faith . . .


  3. Well the snarky part of me wants to know which part of the YEC is not the lunatic fringe? But the sensible part considers the possibility that to someone who has thought deeply about the implications of the Theory of Evolution and Big Bang Cosmology, and who wanted to write theology, this might be an interesting time to be alive.


  4. a liturgy that celebrates a generative Creation in its unfolding, yes

    the ancient blessings:

    ” Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, hamotzi lehem min ha’aretz.”
    “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

    ‘the cosmic secrecy of seed”
    (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings)


  5. the lunatic fringe of the YEC are the stockholders in that crazy Creation Museum and that silly ‘Ark’

    young people must be running away from that cult


  6. That’s because “Creationists” very much do not “experience creation in worship” and do anything but experience creation at all. “Creationism” is, ironically, anything but a contemplation of creation. Creationists expressly put their internal religious dogma above any actual study of or experience of creation itself. A Jew exiled in Babylon could look up at the stars, contemplate the sky and sun and rain and seasons, see the mountains higher than any palace or temple of Babylon and marvel in the natural world and think “our God is still sovereign over the universe and infinitely greater than our captors and our current predicament”, and trust God to come in and sweep their confinement away . For a US Creationist, on the other hand, their theology declares natural creation fallen and evil, and the science and study of nature is inimical to their beliefs. For them they look to the confines of their temples and palaces, churches, public institutions, news stations, preachers, position statements and theologies to provide a secure haven from the outside world and fear that it is coming to sweep them all away.


  7. Such an exercise, we may suspect, permitted Israelites who gave themselves fully over to the drama and claims of the creation liturgy to live responsible, caring, secure, generative, and (above all) sane lives, even in circumstances that severely discouraged such resolved living.

    To Christians(TM), “giving yourself fully over to the drama and claims of the creation liturgy” does NOT lead to sane lives, but just the opposite, i.e. the Lunatic Fringe of Young Earth Creationism Uber Alle, where YEC is THE Litmus Test of Salvation. And all the side effects and fallout.


  8. As I was reading, I thought you wrote it not noticing the quotes, I thought it was reminiscent of Richard Rohr. Definitely something distinct about his thinking.


  9. ” God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing. This is the generative force implanted in all living things, which grows things both from within—because they are programmed for it—and from without—as they take in light, nutrition, and water.

    If we see the Eternal Christ Mystery as the symbolic Alpha Point for the beginning of “time,” we can see that history and evolution indeed have an intelligence, a plan, and a trajectory from the very start. The Risen Christ, who appears in the middle of history, assures us that, all crucifixions to the contrary, God is leading us somewhere positive. God has been leading us since the beginning of time and even includes us in the process of unfolding (Romans 8:28-30). ”

    (Richard Rohr)


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