Last year, I had the incredible privilege to hear Dr. Walter Brueggemann speak.
If you know anything about Walter Brueggmann, you know it is quite the understatement to say his work is prolific. Dr Brueggemann has authored and edited no less than 122 books. In addition, he has written more articles than I can easily count.
Even if you’ve never heard his name before, Walter Brueggmann has had an impact on our larger context. As a theologian and scholar of the Hebrew Bible, he has had a large influence upon the religious imagination of the United States.
Dr. Brueggemann came to Ann Arbor last year to talk about one of his recent books. It’s entitled, Money and Possessions. I came with an expectation that his address would be important. But I had no idea that his words would bring me to inspired and empowered tears.
In his address, Dr. Brueggmann went through an outline of the entire Bible and made an argument that the large narrative frameworks within it — the Exodus, the Exile, the Post-Exilic Return, and the Jesus Movement — are expressions of liberation, calling us to push against destructive “economies of extraction” — i.e. hierarchical economies which systemically remove wealth and wellbeing from the larger community toward the direction of a privileged, powerful few.
With his head and his heart alive, Walter Brueggemann made the argument that the Bible is primarily a text of liberation — a text which calls us love our neighbors and work toward a just economy of human flourishing.
And you know what? I cried.
I cried because I believed him.
I cried because I want this liberation.
I cried because many people have had the complete opposite experience of the Bible.
I cried because Bible has been used to manipulate, abuse, and oppress others. I cried because these sacred, liberative texts have been used to harm some and create those very economies of extraction.
It really moved me.
As I think about that moment, and more importantly, the collective moment we are living right now — a period in which wealth is indeed systemically being removed from the collective whole toward the privileged, powerful few — I have decided to commit to this in 2017:
Every single sermon I preach in 2017 will name the reality of greed.
Each text is different, and I will let the texts lead the way, but it is not a stretch to name the reality of greed within these stories. It is one of the most deeply entrenched forms of sin in our day. We need to be liberated from it.
Second only to the Kingdom of God itself, Jesus talked most about money. It permeates our texts. And the need for liberation permeates our collective life together.
So Church, let’s talk about greed and name it for what it is. It might radically change our lives.