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Posted November 2, 2006

Book: Like Fire in the Bones: Listening for the Prophetic Word in Jeremiah
Author: Walter Brueggemann
Fortress Press. Minneapolis. 2006. Pp. 255

An Excerpt from the Foreword:

No prophet has conveyed more sharply the pathos of the prophetic calling to speak strong words to unwilling listeners and endure the consequences. His oracles and prayers, however, are also a vivid testimony to the pathos of the Lord who called him into his difficult ministry. Along with the powerful words of judgement against kings and other leaders who betrayed the covenantal demands of faithfulness are the tears of God over the people’s failure to live as God’s people, committed to ways of justice and righteousness, the care of the weak and the fear of the Lord. From his monumental Theology of the Old Testament to the present collection of essays, written over a long period of time, Brueggemann never lets us forget the true subject, the center and meaning of all scripture, who never let Jeremiah off the hook even in his most desperate moments. The prophets were messengers — in their lives, their words, their actions. So is Brueggemann as he invites us to hear afresh the ancient word so agonistically announced by this prophet from Anathoth, not in order to understand the prophet better but to hear and respond to the one who spoke through him.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The formation of a religious community, the practice of a disciplined spirituality, and the embrace of prophetic faith are dimensions of Christian obedience that converge and cannot be separated from each other. While my theme concerns the formation of religious community, that is, an ecclesiological matter, I make my beginning with prophetic faith, for that is the most likely entry point in the conversation for my discipline of Old Testament study.

Prophetic faith is a voice for life in a world that is bent on death. Prophetic faith is a risky practice of sanity in a world trapped in madness. I stake out such a radical, one-sided posture because I imagine the call of the gospel today to be urgent, subversive, and therefore dangerous in the face of a society in pursuit of its own destruction. In my consideration of prophetic faith, I will focus on the person, tradition, and book of Jeremiah as an exemplar.

I settle on Jeremiah in the recognition that Jeremiah faced and entered into a situation not unlike our own. In this situation, the requirements and possibilities of faith seemed to him clear and unambiguous. Yet his contemporaries in culture, state, and “church” resisted, ignored, and denied his witness and made their relentless way to death. Jeremiah stands isolated in his historical, cultural context, a voice of sanity in a world of madness, discerning so much, summoned to care, driven to anguish. I suggest that a faithful witnessing community of faith is now situated in a like destiny in the same way discerning, summoned, and driven.

Table of Contents:

I. The Word spoken through the prophet

1. Jeremiah: portrait of the prophet

2. The book of Jeremiah: meditation upon the Abyss

3. Recent scholarship: intense criticism, thin interpretation

4. Theology in Jeremiah: Creatio in Extremis

5. Next steps in Jeremiah studies

II. Listening for the prophetic word in history

6. The prophetic word of God and history

7. An ending that does not end

8. A second reading of Jeremiah after the dismantling

9. A shattered transcendence: exile and restoration

10. Haunting book — haunted people

III. Carrying forward the prophetic task

11. Prophetic ministry: a sustainable alternative community

12. A world available for peace: images of hope from Jeremiah and Isaiah

13. “Is there no balm in Gilead?” the hope and despair of Jeremiah

14. Prophets and historymakers

15. Why prophets won’t leave well enough alone: an interview with Walter Brueggemann