A WHOLE NEW VISION OF REALITY

I’m not gonna whitewash this, but the phrase “whole new vision of reality” is so huge, so drastic, so deep and wide, that it sounds like it simply has to overstate itself.  The vibe I get from it is that it says too much in too succinct a fashion.  It sounds like juvenile hyperbole in my ear.  If the phrase were coming from the lips of a seventh grader, I would dismiss it.

In fact, I almost want to not blog about it.  I almost want to dismiss it now.  Close this post and walk away.  Or possibly consign this post to the ever growing number of would-be posts collecting dust in my bin of drafts.  Or better yet, maybe just erase it and be done with it completely.

Yeah.  I am the writer of this post, and I have so much contempt for the phraseology of the title that I can hardly stomach it.

EXCEPT…

I must confess, I was a big fan of the original movie The Matrix.  As a quasi-paranoid person with a very boisterous inner mental patient, that movie really played with me.  (It wasn’t the first, but it set the bar at a new level!)  And that movie is nothing if it isn’t about a whole new vision of reality.  Am I right?

Also, I find the phrase used in a powerful sentence, situated in an important paragraph, located in a powerful chapter, in one of the most influential books (to me at least), written by one of the premier theologians of our day – Walter Brueggemann.  I suppose I should give you the quote for better context.

Allow me to say just a bit more about that context first.

This particular Brueggemann book is old and somewhat outdated.  First published in 1976, it is going on fifty years old now.  At it’s first publication, the title he gave it was Living Toward a Vision, but after going out of print several years, it was republished in 2001 and given the title Peace.  (I use the later publication, personally.)  The vision Brueggemann would have the church live toward is one of Shalom.

Walter Brueggemann is an Old Testament Bible scholar.  I always appreciate those Bible scholars who appreciate the OT, and Brueggeman is our man for this generation, it seems.  But I won’t get into all that.  I have no doubt that those reading here who are familiar with him know all that already, and those who are not won’t be enriched by my recital of it.

Nevertheless, I quibble with Brueggemann at numerous points.  My praise of this book is not a blanket endorsement of everything in it.  But I recognized nearly 20 years ago when I found this book that chapter 6, “Ordering and Eating,” profoundly shapes my views of ministry.  In the years since its first publication, I get the sense Brueggemann himself would change some bits of it, and I certainly would too, but I must confess that standing on his shoulders to look at God’s Peace for the world gives me a huge advantage, even with the bits I would change too.

We need a vision of Peace, the goal we work and live toward.  We need it to encompass all of reality.  The world wasn’t made to be run the way we run it, and even many of the “good” things we do are not worthy of the Peace for which God created it.

Thus, I give you this excerpt –

After quoting Luke 14:12-14, Brueggemann states:

This is a staggering comment that catches most of the Lukan gospel in one instant.

This is perfectly symmetrical with a “do” and a “do not.”  DO NOT invite all the insiders!  And the reason? Because they will repay you.  We have that conversation in our house.  Let’s don’t invite them because we will get involved with them, and it goes back and forth, so let’s stay clear of that.  Jesus offers an alternative to burdensome social obligations.  There is something gross and debilitating about living in a quid pro quo world where there are no unanswered gifts, no disinterested risks, no freely given suppers.  Jesus also, in another place (Matthew 5:43-48), said, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”  Everybody lives in a safe, measured world where we get and give all on the same scale.  But all those other neat things – surprise, newness, play, Sabbath – all of them cannot come into a perfectly symmetrical universe.  We are reduced to calculation, and no humanness rises there.  It is a no-surprise environment devoid of graciousness.

I have wondered what sign Jesus would have on his drive-in.  He hints here that it might say, “No friends, no kinsmen, no rich neighbors – no exceptions.”  A hard saying indeed!

And then the counterpart: DO!  And we have that whole repulsive list that includes the ones shut out whom God would liberate?

    • The poor, people with no manners?
    • The maimed, crippled bodies that fascinate and repel?
    • The lame, their clubbed feet that irritate?
    • The blind, so aggressive, loud, and presuming?

I want my little tea party, and they have no manners.  There are two kinds of dinners, one symmetrical and one for folks who can’t repay or reciprocate with an invitation.  Each dinner yields its own brand of humanity – Pharaoh’s kind of humanity and Jesus’ kind.  One is proper and exclusive, the other is on the move, vital, and healing.  And then in good didactic fashion, Jesus’ statement adds a motivational clause (verse 14): “You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous [sadiq].”  That’s a good time for repayment, not by the poor and outcast, but by God.  When the new humanity is born and the new creation is called into existence, you’ll be there.  And it won’t be the same dull social obligation, but something like you never imagined.  And you’ll be there!

The same motif is at many places in Luke.  He plays on the theme of humbleness and exaltation and invites some to go up higher to a place of honor at the dinner (Luke 14:7-11).  He observes that the well-off usually don’t come, and so the invitation is given to the unqualified because they just might come, and so the invitation is given to the unqualified because they just might come, not being worried about propriety.  This text is the other side of the passage in Luke 14:12-14 that we have considered.  There Jesus says, “Don’t invite them.”  Here he discerns that they won’t come anyway, because this kind of party is not attractive to them.  Jesus is clearly radicalizing the rules of society for giving parties, and in doing that he is tampering with the primal ordering of society.  Clearly he is calling into question the vision of shalom that lies behind and within rules for banquets.  It is important to recognize his radical critique and his incredible alternative.  He is not just creating a new guest list, but he is offering a whole new vision of reality that dictates how parties are held. …

(The bold print is my added emphasis.)

Sometimes I wish I were a blues musician.  I would write some killer songs, and you would dig them, I am sure of it.  But once in a while, a great while, I wish I were a movie maker.  If I was, I would remake The Matrix, and instead of all the killing and shoot’em up scenes, I would bend reality around Eucharist.

God is throwing the party of the Age to Come.  It’s bigger than you ever imagined.  I hate to rain on Prince’s parade, but he can party like it’s 1999 if he wants to.  The party Jesus hosts is a mite bigger than Prince’s tiny imagination can squeeze out.

But the proud aren’t coming to it.

Let us live toward a vision of Shalom – a whole new vision of reality.

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