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We Are Takers: A Prayer by Walter Brueggemann

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Photo by Flickr user Artotem

The following prayer by Walter Brueggemann was the final reflection used in a recent human circles event in Portland, OR. The prayer challenges me every time I walk past another downtrodden-looking Portlander with a cardboard sign that says, “Out of Work, Anything Helps.” 

With my own wallet shrinking, I tell myself I have nothing to spare. But is that being a Christian? During this time of economic struggle, many Christians are asking the hard questions about what it means to be faithful in a time of need. In a recent video, Dr. Brueggemann says that love of God and love of neighbor have been separated in our churches and hinder God’s justice.  Do you agree? What does it mean to love one's neighbor?  Do you struggle with measuring out what you give in proportion to what you get?  How does God’s grace spur you toward generosity?

We Are Takers

You are the giver of all good things.
All good things are sent from heaven above,
rain and sun,
day and night,
justice and righteousness,
bread to the eater and
seed to the sower,
peace to the old,
energy to the young,
joy to the babes.

We are takers, who take from you,
day by day, daily bread,
taking all we need as you supply,
taking in gratitude and wonder and joy.

And then taking more,
taking more than we need,
taking more than you give us,
taking from our sisters and brothers,
taking from the poor and the weak,
taking because we are frightened, and so greedy,
taking because we are anxious, and so fearful,
taking because we are driven, and so uncaring.

Give us peace beyond our fear, and so end our greed.
Give us well-being beyond our anxiety, and so end our fear.
Give us abundance beyond our drivenness,
and so end our uncaring.

Turn our taking into giving … since we are in your giving image:
Make us giving like you,
giving gladly and not taking,
giving in abundance, not taking,
giving in joy, not taking,
giving as he gave himself up for us all,
giving, never taking. Amen.

--Walter Brueggemann, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann.

Bread for the World will be joining Walter Brueggemann at The Justice Conference in Portland, OR, from February 24 to 25.  Visit their website if you are interested in registering.

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Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

 


 

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Comments

Beautiful prayer, Robin! I plan to read over it again...and again.

Responding to your question, I agree that many of our churches have separated love of God from love of neighbor. And when this happens, God's justice will always be hindered. If we say we love God but do not love our neighbor, we're lying. It's impossible.

I also think many churches conflate love of God and love of neighbor. I have heard statements such as, "We love God by loving others." I believe this also is a deviation from Jesus' words and God's desire. It reduces love to merely an action, rather than affirming (correctly, in my view) that love leads to action, and that we can have action without love, but not love without action.

Do I struggle with measuring out what I give? Yes. But I am reminded time and time again that God is a God of abundance, not scarcity, and is calling (and helping) me to live in faith, not fear.

God's grace, or generosity, humbles and inspires and moves me to generosity, or at least I want it to, and it inevitably will if and as I really sit with the reality. Jesus says to not be anxious about what we will eat or drink or wear, nor about tomorrow. How can that be possible? Only, I believe, by trusting...and truly knowing in the core of my being...that God is our loving provider, who has enough and is enough for us. And God wants to be our "enough." God is overjoyed to be our "enough." Just like we would anticipate from a loving parent. Amazing!

Wow! It has never really occurred to me that we also "conflate" God and neighbor. It does remove the concept of action as part of the equation.

I also think it is that juxtaposition between faith and fear that both the poem and you point out, is the tough space. It is a lot easier to live in fear because it has defined boundaries, perhaps fabricated, but certainly assumed as reality. "If I save/hoard then I'll still have, when everything is gone." Faith on the other hand is more difficult because of the mysteries. It takes a much much longer view. But then faith is not easy but way more rewarding.

I guess in the end, it is a constant battle of trying to "live" in faith on a daily basis.

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