The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann is a modern classic. Written in 1978, the work resonates as much today as when originally penned with Brueggemann’s understanding of prophetic and challenge to engage our imagination in pulpits, communities and beyond. The book has been seminal for me, providing better words and new categories for the world I live in.
So every year I commit to re-read favorite books, to engage again with ideas that stir me. I find that revisiting these words in another time and place allow them to provoke new responses and open doors to deeper engagement. Sometimes I have that great a-ha moment – this is where I got that idea! It’s always fun to see where seeds have taken root and grown over time. So this month I’m re-reading The Prophetic Imagination (again) to embrace these ideas afresh and pray the Spirit will provoke a holy deepening in my personal praxis of a prophetic imagination in my circles. And I invite you, no I implore you, to join me!
If you’ve never read anything by Walter Brueggemann but always wanted to… this is a great place to start. As I mentioned, this is his seminal work. This small text informs so much of his later works and also reveals much of who he is as a communicator, scholar, Gospel preacher trained in the Old Testament.
Though the book is compact, I recommend you read it slow. Write in the margins and make connections from page to page, because there is thick meaning to glean. He has a wide and wondrous vocabulary, and it’s worth looking up any new words to ensure you don’t miss out on a single nugget of golden goodness. (Looking back, so much of my own vocabulary is informed by his!)
If you’ve already read this book – consider this invitation to re-read with me. Let’s have a new conversation about these ideas and see what new things might ignite in us as we come together in conversation. Let’s see if we can re-imagine together!
Now I could go on (and on, and on…) about Walter Brueggemann. No thinker, scholar, communicator has influenced or educated or challenged me more. It might be his background in rhetoric and Old Testament scholarship that initially captivated me, as I have a degree in rhetoric and made my way through seminary with particular fondness for Old Testament classes. But watching him bring together the best of rhetorical sensibility and prophetic passion into the act of preaching stopped me in my tracks – his theology sings in the pulpit. He practices what he teaches – with stunning beauty that leaves me changed every time.
So before I get carried away, let me just offer this one simple website for those wanting their own proper introduction: www.walterbrueggemann.com. This site offers his credentials, his books (see how prolific he is…) and plenty of links to his sermons, video clips, audio, etc. (I could get lost in this site for weeks, seriously.)
Most frequent question I get asked regarding my penchant for Walter Brueggemann’s works – which book(s) do I recommend most. So here is the short answer. The Prophetic Imagination is his seminal work, and therefore a great place to begin. You will learn so much but also get a good sense of his worldview, which informs all his other work. A more recent book that I think does a great job unpacking his sweeping perspective in accessible terms is Journey to the Common Good. I’ve already re-read this little volume multiple times in the last few years since its publication.
But I think one of the best things Brueggemann does is preach, so I highly recommend one of his volumes of collected sermons. Here you see how his scholarship plays in the pulpit, where we sit every Sunday and pray for the Word to meet us. Here you see how the highest level of Biblical acumen lives and breathes in the preacher, for the sake of the church and the world. I also find these collections to be the best devotional reading – a short sermon-length read with theological depth and implications for my day. I read one sermon each Sunday, and it’s become one of those things that’s been saving my life this year.
If you enjoy reading commentaries, cover to cover, he has some great ones on offer. Brueggemann on Isaiah is about as good as it gets. He redeemed the prophet for me, and now I cannot imagine the canon without this prophet of poetry and possibility! Also his commentary on Genesis is brilliant. Just pick one and read over a summer… such a great discipline to consider.
But enough about my high praise for Brueggemann… let’s settle in and read together this month. Let’s read slowly, let’s tweet using #transitlounge to converse along the way and then post responses in a link-up at the end of the month.
If you plan to read The Prophetic Imagination with us this month, kindly leave a comment below. I’d love to get a sense of who is reading with me this month!