"At the table as nowhere else, we are the Lord's, not ours. We are not ours and he is not ours. We need not worry there about our destiny. We do not have to justify our existence there. I don't know about you but I find that freedom and gift nowhere else completely. Probably we have not been enough amazed at that incredible gift God has granted us in the mystery of the table. There we need only yield our lives over to God. That is all! As such, the table stands in contrast to, if not in protest against, all the ways we have to make it the rest of the time. Now I want you not to miss the polemical point I am suggesting by starting our discussion of shalom at the table. I have the impression that most of us, and perhaps we cannot do otherwise, want to talk about shalom as task, or as discipleship, or (perish the thought) as "works", as more we have to do. And if we start there, we not only betray the mystery of the table, but also we doom our shaloming to failure, either in pride or despair, before we ever begin.
But it does begin at the table, it always does. And the promise to us is that the church that lets the historic mystery fashion its life can hear the word and be empowered to live in and toward the new age of shalom."
Brueggemann, Living Toward a Vision, page 143-4.
Now, if you've a mind to, read the Brueggemann extracts from the last three posts one after the other, and feel the cumulative passion, harnessed to biblical conviction, and made the more persuasive by the pastoral plausibility of the implausible mystery he is urging the church to cherish and live within.
I guess Brueggemann publishes too much, and that there is repetition and quality variation in the volumes that occupy at least a metre of bookshelf space in my studies (yes, one at home and one at College - a situation that has its own logistic challenges). But this early book on Shalom is still amongst the most pastorally engaged, and 30 years on speaks in its revised form with a voice that has learned much from the Hebrew prophetic literature he has spent a lifetime teaching. This book is for those who believe Christian existence is about being a witnessing community, embodying and practising our convictions in the lived realities of the Gospel, our lives both surrendered gift and flawed amateur performance of the way of Jesus. Here Brueggemann has the wisdom to underplay our urges towards controlled and managed discipleship, and to dare challenge our less than subtle belief in, dependence upon, our self-generated "works" based approach to church life. And nowhere more than in these several pages on the mystery of the table, where he restores the essential connection between the life of shalom and our recognition of our status - humble guests at the table where Love bids us welcome and bids us sit and eat.