Saturday, February 7, 2009

Practitioners of Memos

by Walter Brueggemann
from Prayers for a Privileged People

Here we are, practitioners of memos:
We send e-mail and we receive it,
We copy it and forward it and save it and delete it.
We write to move the data, and
organize the program,
and keep people informed--
and know and control and manage.

We write and receive one-dimensional memos,
that are, at best, clear and unambiguous.
And then--in breathtaking ways--you summon us to song.
You, by your very presence, call us to lyrical voice;
You, by your book, give us cadences of praise
that we sing and say, "allelu, allelu."
You, by your hymnal, give us many voices
toward thanks and gratitude and amazement.
You, by your betraying absence,
call us to lament and protest and complaint.
All our songs are toward you
in praise, in thanks and in need.

We sing figure and image and parallel and metaphor.
We sing thickness according to our coded community.
We sing and draw close to each other, and to you.
We sing. Things become fresh. But then the moment breaks
and we sink back into memo: "How many pages?"
"When is it due?"
"Do you need footnotes?"
We are hopelessly memo kinds of people.
So we pray, by the power of your spirit,
give us some song-infused days,
deliver us from memo-dominated nights.
Give us a different rhythm,
of dismay and promise,
of candor and hope,
of trusting and obeying.

Give us the courage to withstand the world of memo
and draw near to your craft of life
given in the wind.
We pray back to you the Word made flesh;
We pray, "Come soon."
We say, "Amen."

Let me just say, that first's me. Through and through. I spend literally hours every day receiving emails, answering them, forwarding them to my boss, writing new emails, going back through past emails to find exactly what that confirmation number was or exactly when that student said he was sending in his project/thesis...conducting business through my keyboard.

And I enjoy emails. I enjoy emailing. I enjoy communicating and being a sort of conduit through which a copious amount of information flows.

In some ways, that world is one-dimensional like Brueggemann says. In some ways, what I do is flat. But when God is in the picture, there's this whole new, deep, rich, complex layer of life, where all those memos and emails and project/theses are coated with the richness of God and of worship. I don't think that the world of memos and the fullness of God's presence are mutually exclusive. I think that, when we allow him--and when we allow ourselves to notice--God infuses our lives with him. Those emails gain new meaning. Those school assignments gain new significance. That to-do list gains purpose.

I think that part of being a mature Christian is taking those songs of praise and lament and complaint and sheer joy into whatever we do. Whether it's coordinating people's schedules to set up a doctoral project/thesis oral defense, or building a new website, or formatting a document, or giving food to a homeless person, or sitting with a friend while they mourn or rejoice, or driving someone to the airport, or scrubbing a toilet. Whatever it is that we're doing, God permeates it, and he brings depth and meaning to it.