Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

Synopsis

"Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament in the William Marcellus McPheeters Chair at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In at least one respect, preaching students are not so different from acting students. They don't begin with the text. They begin with imitation.

Hand a fledgling actor a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, tell him you want him to read the part of Stanley, and brace yourself, because any moment Marlon Brando is going to come charging into the room. Give a budding actress the score to Sweeney Todd, ask her to sing through it, and what you will hear is her best impersonation of Angela Lansbury. This is inevitable; it is also, frankly, a little tiring for teachers and can make for a dreary few weeks at the start of the term. Teachers understand, however, that this is part of the process: beginning students do not play the scene that is written; they imitate the actors they admire. If they want to act, they have to learn the difference between interpretation and imitation. They have to peel back the layers of caricature until they encounter the text.

I can always tell when my students have been listening to Walter Brueggemann, because I begin to feel like Judi Dench and Robert DeNiro have invaded my classroom. The students don't step into the pulpit; they grab it. They don't open their Bibles; they snap them. Shoulders hunched, eyebrows arched, they growl and glare and toss their heads like lions. Their scripture readings sound like a cross between a live radio sportscast and the Queen's annual Christinas address. There are trios of adjectives and torrents of verbs. It is hard to make it to the end of this kind of sermon with a straight face, but I know the students do not mean to be funny. They are sincere. Brueggemann is one of their preaching heroes, and they are looking for role models. My job is to gently pull them back to the task at hand without taking all the wind out of their sails. I am sure, I tell them, that Dr. Brueggemann would be flattered by how closely you have been . . .

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