The biblical writers, in a rich variety of ways, confess that God is giving a newness. That newness from God is the center of Hebrew Testament faith. And for Christians, the life of Jesus is the quintessential exhibit of God’s newness in the world. Three things strike me about that constant assertion of God’s newness. First, it is beyond explanation and beyond our own conjuring. It depends wholly upon God. Second, the Bible is concerned with the community that receives, trusts in, and embraces the miracle of newness. It knows that this community, synagogue, and church is summoned to a radical way of obedience in the world, a way so radical that it evokes the hostility of the world. But third, those vexed by such a summons turn to God in hope and trust that God will overrule such hostility.
It strikes me that these texts, especially in the season of Epiphany, are stunningly contemporary for us. The world in its fearful anxiety grows more hardhearted and violent. Clearly such a bent can never lead to well-being. The question is, how can that vicious cycle of deathliness be broken? The answer given here is that it is broken when a community boldly acts in response to God’s self-giving jubilee. The ground for enacting jubilee in our world is baptism, entry into an alternative existence that is not beholden to the old orders of death.
Walter Brueggemann, a Sojourners contributing editor, is professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
[ January 3 ] The Great Gatherer
Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1: 10-18