Whatever talents I possess

DylanThomas

Dylan Thomas

“I am at the most transitional period now,” wrote Dylan Thomas to his friend. “Whatever talents I possess may suddenly diminish or suddenly increase. I can with ease become an ordinary fool. I may be one now. But it doesn’t do to upset one’s own vanity.”

In that spirit, I accede to my dear friend Bob’s suggestion to post author “endorsements” of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness on Views from the Edge. “Why not?” I said to myself. “It’s your book! If you don’t promote it, who will? Who cares if you’re a fool! If you don’t do it now, your limited talents may suddenly decrease!”

Be Still! coverAUTHOR ENDORSEMENTS

”As a person who navigates the pleasures and perils of the twenty-first-century campus, having Be Still! at my fingertips will be like having a counselor, a guide, a very present help in these times. This volume touches the pulse of our times with the rare combination of unwavering candor and tender mercy.”
Lucy A. Forster-Smith, Sedgwick Chaplain, Senior Minister in the Memorial Church, Harvard University

”These are lovely, powerful, centering essays–messages from and for a fragile but beautiful planet.”
Bill McKibben, Author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

”This wondrous collection of rich snippets would be of interest and value if only for the rich source material that Gordon Stewart quotes from, as it must be an inexhaustible memory and/or file. But the many words he quotes are no more than launching pads for Stewart’s expansive imagination and agile mind that take us, over and over, into fresh discernment, new territory, unanticipated demands, and open-ended opportunity. All of that adds up to grace, and Stewart is a daring witness to grace that occupies all of our territory.”
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary, Author of Remember You Are Dust, The Prophetic Imagination, and many other books.

”Gordon Stewart has a way with words, a clean, clear, concise, and yet still creative way with words, a way that can set the reader almost simultaneously at the blood-stained center of the timely–the urgent issues of our day–and also at the deep heart of the timeless, those eternal questions that have forever challenged the human mind. Stewart looks at terror, Isis, and all their kin, from the perspective of Paul Tillich and, yes, John Lennon. He moves from Paris, Maine, by way of the town drunk, toward the City of God. This is strong medicine, to be taken in small, but serious doses. Wear a crash helmet!
J. Barrie Shepherd
Author of Between Mirage and Miracle and many others

Be Still! is needed at this American moment of collective madness even more than the moments that occasioned many of the essays originally airing on public radio and other venues. With a keen eye and a knack for telling the right story at the right time, Rev. Stewart speaks to the pressing issues in our politics, economy, and culture, and consistently, often poignantly, puts them in ethical and theological perspective that clarifies what too often mystifies. Great bedside reading for those of us who stay up at night concerned about where our world is heading!”
Michael McNally, Ph.D
Professor of Religion, Carleton College; Author of Honoring Elders: Aging, Authority, and Ojibwe Religion

Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness, is exactly what its title proclaims: a departure from the frenzy and folly of our times. Each essay offers the reader an opportunity to breathe deep, to fall into the story or idea and consider what it means to be a citizen, a friend, a human being. The topics covered are both particular and universal (usually both at the same time), and the writing is wonderfully concise and open–much like poetry! This is a book you will want to open again and again; it s what the world needs now, more than ever.”
Joyce Sutphen
Minnesota Poet Laureate; Professor in English, Gustavus Adolphus College

”In Be Still! Stewart masterfully spins a counter-narrative to the collective madness that is gripping our world. Like the psalmist, Stewart prays thoughtfully through metaphors and religious tradition, meshing theologians with news headlines to lead the reader to a deeper, more sustained truth. Be Still! reads like part op-ed and part parable. In these troubling and anxious times, may we, who have ears to hear, listen!”
Frank M. Yamada
President, McCormick Theological Seminary, Author of Configurations of Rape in the Hebrew Bible: A Literary Analysis of Three Rape Narratives 

joanna-baillie-1

Joanna Baillie (1762-1851)

Then, after heeding my friend Bob’s and Dylan Thomas’s advice, I heard the reassuring voice of Joanna Baillie speaking from long ago:

“Pampered vanity is a better thing perhaps than starved pride.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 26, 2017.

 

 

Dominant and counter-cultural narratives

Idolatry is the elevation of something relative and finite to the absolute and infinite. Theologian Walter Brueggemann speaks clearly and concisely about the anxiety produced by the dominant the military-consumerist narrative of the American national security state, and the gospel’s counter-cultural narrative.

I sure wish I could say that so clearly! Thank you, Walter.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 7, 2017

 

 

 

The rest-less economy and Sabbath resistance

“It is clear that in this system there can be no Sabbath rest,” writes Walter Bruggemann of Pharaoh’s economic system (Book of Exodus 5:5-19) in which “cheap labor is a footnote.” Into “the grind of endless production” appears the God of the burning bush who opposes the system of weariness and endless toil.

If you’re looking for a book that stands the global economic system on its head, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Westminster John Knox Press, 2014) may be for you.

If you’re looking for something deeper than the mindless slogans about “the free market” and globalization, Sabbath as Resistance will take you to a different place – deep into the economic mandate of the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:-8-14).

If you’ve concluded that the Old Testament, i.e, Hebrew Bible, is a barbaric killing field and that “the 10 Commandments” are the pious weapons of the Religious Right, Sabbath as Resistance will blow your mind.

If you think the Fourth Commandment is about Blue Laws, think again. Pick up a copy or download Brueggemann’s masterful treatise on the relation between labor and rest, labor and management, humankind and all of nature, a just and peaceful economy hinted at by the Sabbath Command for everything to stop. To rest.

If you think minimum wage is a latecomer issue, read this book. The exploitation of labor goes directly to the heart of God, the Nameless One (YHWH) whose exodus people set free from economic bondage are summoned to resist all new renditions of the Pharaohic economic system.

Among Biblical scholars, Walter Brueggemann is as good as they come. He reads the Bible with the newspaper in his other hand, and when he’s reading the newspaper, he reads the news through the lens of the central biblical themes that have become his eyes.

Some of us have been waiting for this book for years. We’ve thought some of Brueggemann’s thoughts along the way, but we could not articulate them or argue them so clearly as Brueggemann does in this cogent little masterpiece.

Years ago the late Stirling Professor of Church History at Yale, Jaroslav Pelikan, met a young American seminary student in a rathskeller in Prague. When the discussion turned to the contentious debates about curriculum change at the student’s seminary, Professor Pelikan frowned. Three chapters from the Epistle to the Romans is all Luther needed he said. It’s about how deeply you learn to read a text, not about the curriculum. Anything can be the curriculum if it’s well taught.

Had Professor Pelikan lived to read Sabbath as Resistance, I wonder whether he might add it as the second text for anyone serious about faith and justice, faith and life, faith and nature, faith and global warming, faith and poverty, faith and wealth, faith and violence, and faithful Sabbath resistance in the culture and economy of greed and sorrow.