As I write this, I am sitting in the airport in Denver, CO. I have just completed a series of speaking engagements in which I addressed clergy and lay people from several faith traditions on the topic of suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. I am exhausted and energized all at the same time. My mind is full.
Earlier this week, I was in Live Oaks, FL finishing a week of CREDO, a clergy renewal program. This program was preceded by other mental health ministry work in a different part of Florida. My body does not know what time zone it is in.
In the midst of these adventures, I celebrated the 25th anniversary of my ordination on November 1st. I’ve had thoughts about this, so many thoughts! The church of today is not the church my seminary years prepared me to serve , but I knew that was going to happen. I can also say that the shape of my ministry is nothing I could have imagined. My spirit breathes in these blessings.
With all of this swirling around me, I have been reading the words of Micah. He speaks words of caution to the false prophets, the prophets who do not live what they preach and strengthen the power of the oppressors. No one likes to listen to prophets. It’s too easy to say that their words do not apply to us. They must be meant for someone else. But are they, really?
I think Micah’s words are just as relevant today as they were when they were first spoken aloud. There are plenty who preach peace and make war on the poor. There are many “who abhor justice and pervert all equity” in the name of God. I’ve probably participated in these activities more than once. You probably have, too. The relevant question now is: Are we still sewing seeds of division and destruction that will only strengthen those whose hands and lips serve only the powerful, the wealthy, and the oppressors?
I remember the saints who shared their faith with me, those who have died and those who still live. Sometimes it seems that their faith was simpler than mine, easier to live out, less complicated to preach. However, if I am honest and I pay attention to the prophets of ancient Israel, serving God by serving our neighbors, by caring for the vulnerable among us, has never been easy and it’s never been welcomed by those in power.
I keep thinking about something I read in seminary that may or may not have been written by Walter Brueggemann. In the book or essay, pastors were described as being prophets, priests, and poets. I was comfortable with the role of poet. I made my peace with the role of priest. I have wrestled with the role of prophet. Who listens to prophets? Who likes to hang around with prophets?
After 25 years, I have embraced this role as well. Being a prophet is a challenge. But if we don’t listen to the prophet voices among us, calling us to find new ways of being church, church will continue to take on the look of the ruins of Jerusalem. So, church, who are we serving today? Do we seek to bring Love, Hope, and Healing into the world? Or do we seek to preserve the status quo?
RCL – Year A – All Saints Sunday – Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost – November 5, 2017
Joshua 3:7-17 with Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 or
Micah 3:5-12 with Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13