Walter Brueggemann has written a book of theological meditations about our current state of affairs as humankind deals with the viral pandemic that has stopped the world in its tracks. Such an attention-demanding crisis has (appropriately) preoccupied us with discovering, defining, and putting into practice responsible actions that will protect people, alleviate suffering, and keep our institutions from falling into chaos. We live on the ground.
But our hearts, minds, and spirits tell us there is more. Crisis strips away the illusion of normalcy that numbs us to the vast realms of creation and divine governance in which we live and move and have our being. In our pain or even in the simple luxury of having regular life suspended, we are given space to wonder, to think, to pray, to imagine what all this may mean and what we may make of it. The ground alone does not define us.
As Walter Brueggemann says:
We linger because, in the midst of our immediate preoccupation with our felt jeopardy and our hope for relief, our imagination does indeed range beyond the immediate to larger, deeper wonderments. Our free-ranging imagination is not finally or fully contained in the immediacy of our stress, anxiety, and jeopardy. Beyond these demanding immediacies, we have a deep sense that our life is not fully contained in the cause-and-effect reasoning of the Enlightenment that seeks to explain and control. There is more than that and other than that to our life in God’s world!
• • •
Creator God, you have entrusted to us knowledge of
good and evil.
You have permitted us knowledge of the world in
which we live, and
that knowledge has yielded immense gains for us,
gains of control, of productivity, of explanation, of
connections of causes and effects.
Only rarely—like now!—do we collide with
your hiddenness that summons us and embar-
We peek into your awesome hidden presence;
we find our certitudes quite disrupted.
Thus we pause at the edge of your holiness,
finding that your unfathomable presence is an
of mercy and judgment,
of generosity and accountability,
of forgiveness and starchy realism.
We dwell at the edge of your mystery for an
instant . . . not longer.
Then we return to our proper work of knowledge,
research, explanation, and management.
By that instant, however, we are changed . . .
sobered, summoned, emancipated, filled with
before your holiness.
It is for that holiness that outflanks us that we give
you thanks. Amen.
Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty
By Walter Brueggemann
Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2020.