Wonder & Amazement

28 08 2009

prophetic-imaginationIn the sixth chapter of The Prophetic Imagination, Brueggemann juxtaposes several verses from the Gospels (a sample shown below, with a few more added in, for lagniappe):

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.” (Mt. 7:28)
“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mk. 1:22)
“The disciples were amazed at his words” (Mk. 10:24a)
“When [the Pharisees] heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” (Mt. 22:22)
“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” (Lk. 4:22a)
“But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” (Mk. 15:5)
“The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'” (Mt. 8:27)
“Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.” (Lk. 9:42b-43a)
“People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'” (Mk. 7:37)
“So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”
“Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.'” (Lk. 5:26)

Here’s something cool: The word “amazed” appears 46 times in the Bible (NIV version). 36 of those times occur in the Gospels, with an additional 7 occurring in the Book of Acts.

And here are the patterns that I’m noticing, from Brueggemann’s list and my own concordance search:
1. Jesus amazed everyone: disciples, crowds, family, friends, Pharisees, and Romans. People responded in different ways to their amazement (some praised God; others plotted to kill him), but everyone was amazed.

2. Jesus amazed people with his teachings. Brueggemann wrote, “His teachings evoked radical energy, for they announced as sure and certain what had been denied by careful conspiracy.”

3. Jesus amazed people with his actions: healing, calming storms, raising the dead to life, ignoring traditional customs, eating with the unclean. His ministry was extraordinarily surprising; he did not pander to the ruling elite, nor did he hobnob with the religious leaders. Instead, he reached out to the poor, the broken-hearted, the sick, the mourning, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers. To the people who had never had reason to hope, he gave them a new future.

Here’s what Brueggemann has to say:

“His ministry evoked a passion and an energy that had disappeared in the old helplessness. Both his adherents and his enemies sensed the same thing: An unmanaged newness was coming, and it created a future quite different from the one that royal domination intended to permit.”

In true prophetic form, Jesus’ ministry on earth paved the way for the coming newness (brought about by his death and resurrection) by preparing people for that newness. Before opening the way for new life, he first had to equip his people with the imagination to believe in that possibility. He had to create room for wonder and amazement.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
– Isaiah 43:19

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Sky-jewelry and God’s Detergent

7 08 2009

BK01I have heard criticism of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” Bible translation before, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind could ever question the poetry he creates within the Psalms.  I’m floored that he could take a passage as well-known as Psalm 8, and repaint it in colors dazzling enough to give pause to even the most seasoned of Bible-readers …  And that he could piece together phrases to describe the sky like “your macro-skies, dark and enormous,” or  “your handmade sky-jewelry.”

The verse itself is like an onomatopoeia (you know, the words that sound like their meaning? Pop! Hiss!  Whirr! etc.)  Except in this case, the poetic description of the vast universe has given me a heightened awareness of the “poetry” within God’s creation throughout the universe.

Is there anything more beautiful than God's own poetry?
Is there anything more beautiful than God’s own poetry?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Before I even made it that far within the psalm, I got held up by the very first verse:

God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.

At first I was thinking of household brand names and began imagining the limits of Christian consumerism: God’s detergent perhaps, or Jesus Air Freshener: Smells Like Purification? (no joke, this one actually exists.  I bought it for Jordan a few years ago)

But the psalmist is talking about a different kind of household name.  He’s talking about — who or what permeates your everyday conversations?  Who do you talk about at the dinner table?  Whose life do you try to emulate?  Whose life do you follow, for example, in the news media (and I’m not talking about those tabloids that predict the end of the world)?  In short, how well have you followed the prescription of the Shema of Moses:

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

– Deuteronomy 6:6-9

I love what David Crowder says at the end of his own meditation on this psalm: “One attribute of habitual praise is that it is inherent in creation.  We tell the glory of God by our very existence.  It is unavoidable.  We can choose whether to amplify this or not.  We can choose to be moved by this or not.  Maybe we just need a simple book beside our beds that reminds us of who the household name is.”