Walter Brueggemann – A Message for Christ the King Sunday

Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature. He has recently authored “Disruptive Grace” (Fortress Press). (source, here)

Those Christians who are following the Revised Common Lectionary are celebrating today the Feast of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and it marks the eschatological celebration of the end of history with the coronation of Christ as Lord and Saviour of the Universe.. The following Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent and of the new liturgical year (year B in the western church calendar – you may find HERE the readings for the Advent period).

On the occasion of this feast, the renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, has published in Huffington Post an exegesis and a commentary on Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, the OT text prescribed by the lectionary for this special Sunday.

I will let you read HERE, in the first part of the article, Brueggemann’s exegesis and I will transcribe below, for your consideration, what I consider to be  the most important parts of his commentary and actualisation of the text (emphasis is mine).

* * *

The contemporaneity of this text invites a focus on leadership, for we in our society are in an acute leadership crisis. When we take in turn Ezekiel’s judgment on failed kings and Ezekiel’s vision for a new shepherd-king, we may bring the text close to our own society in crisis. There is no doubt that our society is now governed by an oligarchy of the wealthy who not only control all the branches of government but who have established an alliance between corporate power and government oversight to the great benefit of the wealthy and the powerful. Thus tax law, regulatory agencies and judicial decisions are all administered by the “fat and strong” to their own benefit and to the neglect of the “hungry sheep” who are without resources.

There is no doubt, moreover, that such self-aggrandizing leadership has created the socio-political, economic crisis now before us. Regulators have been deliberately asleep at the switch while the banking community, the insurance companies, and the arms dealers, in collusion with powerful media and educational institutions, have appropriated all of the resources for themselves. The current discussion about taxes is all about protecting the wealth of those who shrug off any responsibility for society, while shifting that burden to those with fewer resources. The protection of such wealth echoes the ancient shepherds who disregarded the sheep, the ancient kings who did not notice the coming “hell in a hand-basket.” Consequently, the public infrastructure is nearly in collapse with a loss of schools, libraries, good medical services, etc., etc., to say nothing of the environmental crisis, because regulation might “hurt the economy.” Indeed, the only bills Congress can readily pass are “free trade agreements” that promise more commercial income for the big players. All members of the oligarchy can agree to only that much!

It is not difficult to conclude that the current national Occupy movement is an abrasive response to the economic injustice perpetrated by self-indulgent “shepherds” in the corporate world. Indeed, if Ezekiel were among us now, he might well conclude that the emergence of the “99%” is a scourge from God that intends to expose and bring down social policies, practices and institutions that are out of sync with God’s will for shalom.

But the news of Ezekiel is that because of God’s resolve, mediated for Christians through Jesus, the Son and regent of God, it need not be so. As Israel need not have poor self-serving kings, so a democratic society need not suffer poor outcomes from an exploitative oligarchy. The promissory nature of Ezekiel’s oracles articulates what good leadership looks like — in government, in corporations, all through the private sector. That rule consists in,

Seeking the lost,
Bring back the strayed,
Binding up the injured,
Strengthening the weak,
Feeding the hungry.

In a word, good leadership consists in the restoration of the common good so that all members of the community, strong and weak, rich and poor, may live together in a common shalom of shared resources. The text is a powerful reminder of what might be; it is at the same time a summons to a political will for leadership that is not occupied, through ideological cant, with feathering its own nest. It is not enough to recite, in pious tones, the 23rd Psalm about “The Lord is my shepherd.” What is envisioned (and required) is the formation of a different leadership that has in purview all members of the community. Ezekiel knew that is the only way to have a future that does not replicate the failed past. It is still, among us, the only way!

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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