The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann

Denomination: United Church of Christ (UCC)
Organization: Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA

The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA, and a noted scholar and author. He has earned a Th.D. from Union Theological Seminayr and a Ph.D. from St. Louis University.

Recipient of numerous awards, he is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He has authored more than a dozen books, including Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers; An Introduction to the Old Testament; Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth; and Reverberations of Faith.

Day1 Weekly Programs by The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann

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Walter Brueggemann: Strategies for Staying Emancipated

Tuesday February 27, 2018
The Ten Commandments are given, Walter Brueggemann says, by the liberating God who opposes and defeats Pharaoh’s system of exploitation, and who delivers Israel from that brutalizing economy. It is an affirmation that the world--our lives--are under new governance, a new regime, and the Ten Commandments are rules for this new life of freedom and justice. If the Israelites, and we, don’t follow them, we are susceptible to falling back into Pharaoh’s domain. So he calls the commandments 'strategies for staying emancipated.'

A New World Birthed

Sunday December 19, 2004
The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA, and a noted scholar and author.

Articles by The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann

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Walter Brueggemann: When the Music Starts Again

Wednesday June 16, 2021
Any family or communal festive occasion can become a “sign” or a marker. It could be a graduation, a birthday, a funeral, or a reunion. But let us consider a wedding … a wedding as a “sign” or a marker of social, historical significance. This is how it was for the ancient prophet Jeremiah as he watched his beloved Jerusalem sink into misery.

Walter Brueggemann: The Bible and the 1%

Thursday June 03, 2021
King Josiah’s bold alternative action opened more historical possibility to his realm and especially to those who had been left out and left behind.

Walter Brueggemann: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Neighborly Covenant

Wednesday May 26, 2021
Here I will consider only three McCarthys, to the disregard of many others. There is in scripture, as far as I know, no direct response to these various McCarthys. I did however think of these texts that seem pertinent in Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Walter Brueggemann: O Land, Land, Land (Jeremiah 22:29)

Thursday May 13, 2021
The land, when it is honored and respected, weeps. It weeps long sadness because it knows such durable abuse....

Walter Brueggemann: Discriminatory Gaslighting

Tuesday May 04, 2021
I watched the interview of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry by Oprah Winfrey. I read about the reaction of the royal family to the interview in which members of the royal family attempted to undermine or deconstruct the memory of Harry and Meghan about how they had been treated. And then I learned what was for me a new phrase, “discriminatory gaslighting”...

Walter Brueggemann: Majoring in Minors

Tuesday April 27, 2021
In the midst of the pandemic, Fareed Zakaria, a well known journalist and commentator, has published a short accessible book entitled, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. In one of his chapters, Zakaria has this “lesson”: “The world is digital.” This “lesson” leads Zakaria to explore the current technological revolution and the expansive reach of Artificial Intelligence.

Walter Brueggemann: We Will Get Through This Together

Tuesday April 20, 2021
While such an assurance is welcome, it also makes one wonder: who is the “we” in this mantra? And who are we leaving out?

Walter Brueggemann: Providential Tyranny

Friday April 16, 2021
I have been thinking about “providence” as I have been reading about “meritocracy,” the notion of a society governed by those who have exceptional ability and have arrived at their power, wealth, and influence solely by the merit of their ability.

Walter Brueggemann: Solidarity that Counts: Second Sunday of Easter (Psalm 133; Acts 4:32-35)

Tuesday April 06, 2021
Easter is the good news that God’s power for life has defeated death; this is matched by the good news that God’s power intends the defeat of poverty.

Walter Brueggemann: Beyond the Spreadsheet

Tuesday March 23, 2021
The linkage between the God of the Gospel and economics is deep, wide, and inescapable. One cannot have the God of the Gospel without the neighborly economy willed by the God of the Gospel.

Walter Brueggemann: The "Ands" of the Gospel

Friday March 05, 2021
The church community includes both Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles cannot be lopped off after the “and.”

Walter Brueggemann: Refusing Erasure

Tuesday March 02, 2021
Brutality served not only to erase those who might threaten power, but also to intimidate those who might undertake resistance. Yet there can be a considerable sustained and courageous resistance movement, even in the face of such acute danger.

Walter Brueggemann: Borne Away

Wednesday February 24, 2021
Isaac Watts’s hymn "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" concerns the reality of death and the reliable governance of God beyond the reality of death.

Walter Brueggemann: Permission to Narrate

Saturday February 20, 2021
The narrative for which the church has permission is precisely the story that dominant culture wants to shush.

Walter Brueggemann: A Small Gain in Yardage

Friday February 12, 2021
The possession of the “whole world” leads to the diminishment of life: or in the words of the hymn, we become “rich in things and poor is soul.”

Walter Brueggemann: The Peaceful Transfer of Real Power (Transfiguration): II Kings 2:1-12

Tuesday February 09, 2021
No doubt many preachers will eschew this enigmatic text and choose texts that give easier access. I hope, to the contrary, that preachers will linger over this text, because it teems with interpretive thickness. The narrative specificity of this text includes a number of components that defy our every explanation...

Walter Brueggemann: Discipleship That Inconveniences

Saturday February 06, 2021
Complete, unwavering discipleship to Jesus is costly, eventually leading to a risky contradiction with dominant culture. Most of us, surely, are not much inclined to that costliness that seems nothing short of heroic.

Walter Brueggemann: Destiny Not Fate

Tuesday February 02, 2021
One of our neighbors who will not wear a mask says, “Well, if I die it must be my time.” Our roads, moreover, are strewn with signs that say, “God’s got this.” These judgments, if taken seriously, conclude that we are fated to a future that is already determined for us. This sentiment is an echo of the ancient confidence in the “law of the Medes and the Persians.”

Walter Brueggemann: Imagine: The Apostle Paul Meets Francis Bacon

Saturday January 30, 2021
We are presently in a great contest between Paul and Bacon, between love and knowledge, between neighbor and self-serving and self-seeking.

Walter Brueggemann: What Naboth Teaches Us Today

Wednesday January 27, 2021
The story of Naboth’s vineyard is a towering, uncompromising witness to the pertinence of YHWH to socioeconomic matters. The narrative is so towering and so uncompromising that we may take it as a paradigmatic tale that functions as a lens for the interpretation of many other texts...

Walter Brueggemann: The Peculiar Dialect of Faith

Wednesday January 13, 2021
It is a primary task of church leadership, in the face of the language of commoditized instrumentalism, to keep alive the peculiar relational, covenantal language of faith. That is, to assure that our peculiar rhetoric remains available and compelling. Given that task, I was somewhat “woke” by this remarkable statement: "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy."

Walter Brueggemann: Psalm 29: First Sunday after Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ

Thursday January 07, 2021
It is the hunch of some scholars (including me) that Psalm 29 is a liturgical script (or an echo of a liturgical script) that served an annual pageant in the Jerusalem temple in ancient Israel. The intent of that pageant was to perform a drama whereby YHWH was designated as King of the gods for the coming year.

Walter Brueggemann: Snow as Testimony

Tuesday January 05, 2021
Savor every flake, because every flake bears witness, so claims the poet, to the life-giving reliability of God.

Walter Brueggemann: Joseph and Mary: On Becoming a Statistic

Friday December 25, 2020
The carpenter from Nazareth, Joseph, we may assume, was a modest man who lived a modest life in his village. He did not rock the boat. He did not want to call attention to himself. But then, according to the gospel narrative, he faced two powerful disruptions in his settled life.

Walter Brueggemann: The God Laden with Narrative and Constancy

Tuesday December 22, 2020
In these hard days, every pastor (along with many other folk) is asked, “How do you fend off despair?” and “How can we continue to hope?” In response to these questions, what follows here is my exposition of a single familiar text from Israel’s great Manifesto of Hope, Isaiah 40-55...

Walter Brueggemann: Clued to the Big Moment: Third Sunday of Advent (I Thessalonians 5:16-24)

Monday December 07, 2020
It is not easy now to let Christmas be a singular moment of faith and life. On the one hand, commercialism even before Thanksgiving detracts from the moment of birthed newness. On the other hand, the demands of COVID-19 make every day seem like the next one and the last one, and we don’t easily recognize “why this day is different from all other days.”

Walter Brueggemann: Not Numbed Inside

Friday November 27, 2020
My friend, Dean Francis, loaned me a most remarkable book. Written by John Compton, it is entitled, The End of Empathy: Why White Protestants Stopped Loving Their Neighbors. The book is a carefully researched study about the way in which mainline churches have dramatically lost members and public influence.

Walter Brueggemann: Gratitude as Subversion

Tuesday November 24, 2020
Thanksgiving Day, for all its entanglement with white violence against Native Americans, is a reminder to us that even in such a difficult time as this, gratitude is the hallmark of the Christian life. It is an acknowledgement that we are on the receiving end of life, and it is the generous creator God who is on the giving end of our life.

Walter Brueggemann: Refusing the Bramble

Saturday November 14, 2020
The poetic probe in Judges 9:8-15 is situated amid a sustained contestation about public leadership. The book of Judges consists in a series of disconnected “hero stories” that have been secondarily connected by a strong, highly-visible editorial hand.

Walter Brueggemann: Preaching on the Sunday After Election 2020

Friday November 06, 2020
Because I write this prior to the election, I do not know the outcome. No doubt some of us will be soaringly elated and some of us will be deeply chagrined. The pastoral task on this Sunday is to call the faithful away from either elation or chagrin back to the more elemental realities of our faith.

Walter Brueggemann: The Duty and Destiny of a Shoveler

Tuesday November 03, 2020
What follows here is an act of self-indulgence. It is not likely to be informative, instructive, or edifying for you, dear reader. Thus, you may desist from reading further. I have written this simply because I wanted to, to see what I could make of a line I have read recently.

Walter Brueggemann: Truth or Consequences in 2020

Saturday October 31, 2020
We live in a world of so-called “fake news” and so-called “alternative facts.” These propositions, largely invoked by Donald Trump and amplified by myriad conspiracy theorists, have quickly eroded trust in foundational pillars of democracy and of shared community. Ultimately, the assertions of “fake news” display downright violence against our neighborhoods and our shared vision for humanity.

Walter Brueggemann on the Unrest in Our Cities

Monday October 26, 2020
This year’s unrest in our cities merits restorative attention. The attention that unrest receives from our political discourse and reactive policies has not shown itself to be restorative. Indeed, we can recall speeches that, without a cubit of understanding, declared the “carnage stops now.” Of course, the unrest has not stopped, and our leadership has done nothing to stop it. There is no awareness of or interest in what causes and sustains the unrest.

Walter Brueggemann: On the Truth of Economic Control

Monday October 19, 2020
The ownership class knows the price of everything. It is accustomed to buying, selling, and acquiring. Consequently, it pays great attention to prices, and not unlike the Philistines, that class sets the price of commodities. But that same ownership class very often does not know the cost of things, because it has not actually paid the cost.

Walter Brueggemann: The Golden Calf and 2020: Exodus 32:1-14, Psalm 106:19-23

Thursday October 08, 2020
The narrative of the “golden calf” stands as a paradigmatic tale of Israel’s skewed covenant with YHWH. Excluding the Priestly instruction of Exodus 25-31, this story in Exodus 32 follows immediately after the covenant-making in Exodus 2:43. There is not even the space of a breath between covenant-making and covenant-breaking!

Walter Brueggemann: An Unwelcome Read of History

Thursday October 01, 2020
We lose so much by our liturgic impatience. We cannot wait, or pause, or sit still long enough. As result we never to get to say or sing or hear such a marvelous poem as Psalm 105. We get only selected snippets; it is like memorizing the roster of U.S. presidents, but omitting eight of them “because there are so many of them.”

Walter Brueggemann: Hope, by the Numbers

Saturday September 26, 2020
Meet Amos Wilder (1895-1993). Wilder was a pastor, a poet, and a long-time New Testament scholar at Harvard. He was also the brother of Thornton Wilder, author of Our Town. I introduce him to you, dear reader, in order that you may, along with me, savor his wonderful enigmatic dictum: The zero hour breeds new algebra.

Walter Brueggemann: When Will We Ever Learn?

Monday September 21, 2020
I take the liberty of offering something of a book review; the book is entitled "When Truth Mattered: The Kent State Shootings 50 Years Later" by Robert Giles. It is a careful report and summary of the Kent State killings...

Walter Brueggemann: Squirming toward Newness (Psalm 114; Matthew 18:21-35)

Tuesday September 08, 2020
Psalm 114 is a lyrical rendering of Israel’s Exodus memory. The Psalm readily divides into three parts, just right for a sermon sketch!

Walter Brueggemann: Thoughts on Labor Day

Saturday September 05, 2020
When one begins to think about economics in the Bible, one immediately confronts the matter of slavery.

Walter Brueggemann: Fall 2020: How Do We Not Live in Despair?

Tuesday September 01, 2020
In 2020, the church has been driven back to basics! We are driven there in the context of the dominant narrative of our society; that is a narrative of an ongoing pandemic, scarcity, fear, greed, and violence.

Walter Brueggemann: Red Meat for White Idols

Friday August 21, 2020
When the “strong” will not or cannot stop the “red meat” offered to “white idols,” according to the rhetoric of the Bible, they must be “hewn down.” They might be hewn down by the vigorous passion of those most offended. Or they might be hewn down by the wise action of government. Either way, they must be hewn down.

Walter Brueggemann: An Alternative Politics

Saturday August 15, 2020
I believe our political economy too often relies on a handful of wealthy families whose contributions profoundly shape political races and policies alike. In some countries, that “clique” is called “oligarchs.” In American society, it is sometimes called the “political elite.”

Walter Brueggemann: The God of the Second Wind

Thursday August 06, 2020
In his latest piece for Church Anew, Walter Brueggemann writes that we have become all too familiar with the desperate plea, from Eric Garner to George Floyd, “I can’t breathe.” At the same time, and even more so in the midst of their cries, we recognize “breath” is the gift of the creator God that allows us to be fully creaturely in the world. In biblical testimony, human life begins with the gift of breath...

Walter Brueggemann: God’s Songs of Protest: We Shall Overcome

Friday July 31, 2020
“We sing what we cannot say.” We sing such words and make such claims in our singing because lyrical poetic discourse that can tease, contradict, and exaggerate, is porous and elusive. It is not bound by the strict rules that govern and contain our prosaic speech. In what follows I will reflect on my recent learning that we sing what we dare not say.

Walter Brueggemann: Who Will Lead Us Out of this Wilderness?

Friday July 24, 2020
When the enslaved Hebrews departed Egypt, they all went. They all danced at the border as they were emancipated. They all came into the wilderness. They all ate quail that showed up inscrutably. They all ate the “bread of heaven” and were filled and satisfied. They all drank water from a rock. They all lived according to the new emergence of God’s abundance in the wilderness. When the time came to enter the land of promise, however, the community of the emancipated was sharply divided.

Walter Brueggemann: There’s No Excuse for Food Insecurity

Wednesday July 15, 2020
I am “food secure!” I eat out frequently in the lovely venues in my town: Red Ginger, Poppycock, Harrington’s by the Bay, or West End Tavern. I would not have known to use that phrase for myself except that I hear much talk in our town of disproportionate wealth about the “food insecure.”

Walter Brueggemann: Isaiah 55:10-13: From Chaos to Homecoming

Saturday July 11, 2020
In his Church Anew article, Walter Brueggemann says this narrative entrusted to us is the news of emancipation from the forces of greed, fear, and violence that cannot finally prevail because the word of God is at work in the world.

Walter Brueggemann: The Protocols of Scarcity

Friday July 03, 2020
In several of my previous columns, I have referred to “the protocols of scarcity.” In this setting I want to exposit what I mean by that phrase.

Walter Brueggemann: When God’s Normal Becomes Abnormal

Thursday June 25, 2020
In the midst of our contemporary shameless new normals, God has sent the church. The church is not a nag or a nanny to monitor such policy and conduct. It is, however, I submit, the proper work of the church (and its pastors) to bear witness to the normals that are ordained of God and structured into the creation that cannot for long be outflanked or violated with impunity...

Walter Brueggemann: Mrs. Thompson's Call for Honest Grief

Friday June 19, 2020
In his latest Church Anew article, Walter Brueggemann recalls his neighbor: Mrs. Thompson may not have known it, but in doing this work she was effectively serving in the wake of Jeremiah.

Walter Brueggemann: Is Anything Impossible for God? (Genesis 18:1-15)

Thursday June 11, 2020
In his new Church Anew article, Walter Brueggemann says the “three/one” visitor declared to Sarah and Abraham that they would have a son and heir, an impossibility for them in their old age. Sarah giggled at the impossibility. Before they departed the “three/one” visitor posed a question to the aged couple: “Is anything impossible for God?” The question is left unanswered in the narrative.

Walter Brueggemann: God's Stunning Reversal

Sunday June 07, 2020
I now return to Isaiah 54:7-8. In the first article of this series, “Abandoned!”, I considered the fact that Israel’s God-abandonment is confirmed from Gods’ own lips. In the second article, “How Long is a Moment”, I reflected on the duration of Israel’s abandonment reckoned in God’s own time. Now in a third reflection I consider the “resolution” of divine abandonment.

Walter Brueggemann: How Long Is “A Moment”?

Saturday May 30, 2020
In his latest article for Church Anew, Dr. Walter Brueggemann says God meets us in the brevity of a moment -- liminal spaces that seem eternal.

Church Anew: Abandoned! A Pastoral Word from Walter Brueggemann

Sunday May 24, 2020
In this Church Anew post, Dr. Walter Brueggemann offers wisdom on how we move forward in faith amid despair through disciplines of faith.

Walter Brueggemann: How Long? Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Prophets in a Pandemic

Saturday May 16, 2020
A personal commentary on the old question of faith amid suffering, “How long?” A question asked by prophets, Martin Luther King, Jr., and all of us during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Walter Brueggemann: Quarantine Fatigue or Sabbath Rest: A Reflection on Psalm 31

Friday May 08, 2020
In his Church Anew article, Walter Brueggemann says the Psalm text for the 5th Sunday of Easter serves as a theological lens for looking at time: Promethean and Covenantal.

Walter Brueggemann: Holy Week 2020: Until the Dancing Begins Again

Wednesday April 08, 2020
How do Jeremiah’s powerful messages correlate with God’s people in our COVID-19 world? Walter Brueggemann explores the answer.

Walter Brueggemann: God's New Thing: Is God with us in the COVID-19 crisis? (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Thursday April 02, 2020
Walter Brueggemann says it is possible to trust that the God of the Gospel is in, with, and under the crisis of the virus without imagining that God is the cause of it.

ON Scripture: Who am I? Rant vs. Relationship (Hosea 11:1-11) By Walter Brueggemann

Monday July 25, 2016
This is an extraordinary poem that dares to take us inside the conflicted interior life of God in order to see that the father has acute 'heart problems' and is torn between emotive rage and self-disciplined fidelity. With this text before us, we should I suggest, sit in silent amazement and ponder the God disclosed to us in this poem.

ON Scripture: Walter Brueggemann on Wisdom (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

Monday May 16, 2016
This text is one of the loveliest and most important biblical texts that respond to the question: What is the world like? How does it work? The text is framed as a speech by 'wisdom' who is presented as an active agent who has a voice for self-announcement. It is the work of the poet to bring to availability that which remains hidden but is deeply operative in the working of creation.

ON Scripture: A Covenant of Neighborly Justice: Break the Chains of Quid Pro Quo (Isaiah 55:1-9) By Walter Brueggemann

Monday February 22, 2016
In this season of Lent, this text of summons may be a sobering one for us. In this election season amid shrill or buoyant rhetoric, we may not notice that there real choices to be made, even as Jews in ancient Babylon were confronted with real choices of a most elemental kind.

ON Scripture: Free Speech: A License to Destroy or A Responsibility to Build Up (James 3:1-12) By Walter Brueggemann

Monday September 07, 2015
Many countries in the global community do not have the right to free speech. In the US, our right to speak out is protected under the constitution. How well do we live up to the responsibility granted with that freedom?

ON Scripture: Ferguson & Forgiveness (Jeremiah 31:31-34) By Walter Brueggemann

Monday March 16, 2015
Lent is our season of honesty. It is a time when we may break out of our illusions to face the reality of our life in preparation for Easter, a radical new beginning. When, through this illusion breaking homework, we connect with reality we see that in our society the fabric of human community is almost totally broken and one glaring evidence of such brokenness is the current unrelieved tension between police and citizens in Ferguson, Missouri.

ON Scripture-The Bible: God Beyond All Relationships and Agendas: Exodus 24:12-18 by Walter Brueggemann

Monday February 24, 2014
Exodus 19-24 enacts an agreement of mutual fidelity between YHWH and Israel. That covenant consists in two major parts: YHWH’s commands set the requirement of covenant in the form of the Ten Commandments (20:1-17), and Israel pledges allegiance to the covenant through obedience to YHWH’s commandments (24:3, 7). This enactment creates a relationship in which the defining dynamic is one of 'command-obey,' with the understanding that Israel’s obedience will result in abundant covenantal blessing.

ON Scripture: Walter Brueggemann on the Liturgy of the Passion (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

Wednesday March 20, 2013
The voice that speaks in Isaiah 50:4 – 9a is the poet of the exile himself. Here he offers an autobiographical reflection on his call as a prophet sent by God to the deported Jews in Babylon in the sixth century BCE. His message to the Jews is they are now free to go back home to Jerusalem. This freedom came, says the poet, because of the dispatch of Cyrus the Persian at the behest of YHWH, the Lord of all of history.

ON Scripture: Dr. Walter Brueggemann on I Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14: Who Will Be America's Next Leader?

Wednesday August 15, 2012
The old king, David, is dead. It is time to pick his successor as king. In retrospect it seems obvious that his son, Solomon, was his rightful heir. In the moment, however, the matter of succession to the throne is highly contested.

ON Scripture: Dr. Walter Brueggemann on Ezekiel 34 - Reign of Christ Sunday

Wednesday November 16, 2011
If Ezekiel were among us now, he might well conclude that the emergence of the “99%” is a scourge from God that intends to expose and bring down social policies, practices, and institutions that are out of sync with God’s will for shalom.

ON Scripture: Dr. Walter Brueggemann on Zephaniah 1

Wednesday November 09, 2011
In this week's ON Scripture lectionary resource, noted scholar Dr. Walter Brueggemann examines Zephaniah 1: "This poem features extravagant language about a coming time of loss, disaster, distress, and suffering."

ON Scripture: Dr. Walter Brueggemann on Joshua 24

Wednesday November 02, 2011
This week’s text, Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25, features a great dramatic meeting as the culmination of arriving in the land of promise. Read Dr. Walter Brueggemann's lectionary reflections.

ON Scripture: Dr. Walter Brueggemann on Jeremiah 31:31-34

Wednesday October 26, 2011
Noted theologian Dr. Walter Brueggemann begins a four-part series for the ON Scripture lectionary resource by focusing on Jeremiah 31:31-34.