Being prophetic?

What does it mean to be prophetic?

First of all, I’d like to say what (in my opinion) prophecy and being prophetic are not!

Prophecy is not somehow magically looking into the future and seeing what’s going to happen…and prophets are not some kind of sideshow magicians who can do that. That’s a major misunderstanding of the role of the prophets.

Prophets are not people we like being around much of the time. Their words don’t usually align with our comfort zones. Instead they challenge us to leave those places where we are comfortable. They speak truth to power, whether that power is religious or political. They’re not polite. They’re blunt…sometimes to the point of rudeness.

It’s easy to look back at the biblical prophets and nod our heads, saying, “Right on! You tell it like it is!”

However, when it happens to us…in our time…we often respond in the way that Jesus scolded his people about. If it were up to us, we would silence them–and we often try to. Or we accuse them of being mentally disturbed or ill.

So why would anyone take on or accept that role? Because they feel called to it.

They see injustice…see the difference between what could be and what is…hear what we say we believe and how we live–or more often don’t live–those beliefs.

Prophets are usually not found in church…because more often than we would like to think, it’s “church” people who need to be called to accountability.

So who are the prophets we need to be listening to today? These are a few; there are others you might add:

  • Greta Thurnburg, who calls us to care for our environment…
  • Martin Luther King’s words are still prophetic and call us to repentance of our systemic racism…
  • John Pavlovitz calls those of us who are followers of Jesus to live out what we say we believe…
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber, a contemporary theologian whose words resonate with young people…
  • D.S. Leiter and Roger Wolsey–writers of blogs (Assertive Christianity – Leiter and Kissing Fish – Wolsey) that also raise questions about what it means to be a follower of Jesus

We may not like to hear what the prophets are saying to us…but we need them to help us become who we have the potential of becoming.

The new Dark Ages?

Recently I’ve been watching a show dealing with a 20th century woman–an army nurse–who finds herself in Scotland in the 1700s…and reading a novel about a young Christian in the Middle Ages who travels from England to Persia to learn to become a physician from a Muslim physician who was the most skilled physician of his time.

It’s easy to look back at what we call the Dark Ages and laugh at what passed for science…or to wonder what on earth people were thinking. It’s easy to feel ourselves superior.

But I am finding myself wondering if we are perhaps moving into a time that future historians will look back on and call the New Dark Ages.

Why?

Because I sense in our American society today a denigration of learning…that somehow education isn’t really important, and that teachers are really just glorified babysitters.

Because as we are dealing with this pandemic, the knowledge of those who have studied these types of diseases is being questioned and/or discredited in favor of those who are peddling what in the past would have been called snake oil.

Because we have a president who refuses to listen to scientists in favor of his own gut knowledge…regardless of how dangerous that “knowledge” may be to those who take him seriously.

Because we (as a society) demand that our own wants be met, regardless of the impact on others–especially the vulnerable.

I used to wonder what it must have felt like for Galileo, da Vinci, Pasteur, and others who bucked the current knowledge of their time, open to new discoveries about the universe…our bodies…diseases. When they ran afoul of the authorities because they were willing to look at newly discovered facts, what gave them the courage to keep going?

What will it take for us to acknowledge that we are moving in the wrong direction? What will it take for us to again be open to science? to using that information to help us deal with situations such as the one we currently find ourselves in?

Isaac Asimov, one of my favorite science-fiction writers had this to say:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

I’m not suggesting that science has all the answers. The best scientists will acknowledge there is much yet to learn. But to turn our back on all that science has to offer us leads us down the road to a time when horse dung and urine were seen as legitimate medications…when bleeding was seen as the answer to almost all medical challenges…and then pandemics decimated countries.

Praying for enemies…forgiving others…

 

Recently a friend shared a story of how he was brought up short when he was praying the Lord’s Prayer. Everything had been going fine until he reached the line that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Oops!

What happens when we hold on to our anger against someone else? when we refuse to forgive them?

What about those people we consider “enemies”? Are we supposed to pray for them as well? to forgive them? Isn’t it right to hold them accountable? to have righteous anger?

Are we supposed to pray for them to change? or for us to change? Are we supposed to just roll over and let them do whatever they want?

I’ve struggled with those questions. There aren’t easy answers.

When I think of those questions, I’m reminded of a scene I enjoy in Fiddler on the Roof: Tevye is saying that they have a prayer for everything in the community. We see the students coming out of the synagogue with the rabbi, with the rabbi’s son asking him if there is a prayer for the tsar. The rabbi thinks for a moment and then says, “May God bless and keep the tsar…far away from us!”

Sometimes that’s the only way I can pray. And maybe that’s a start.

Sometimes I just have absolutely no idea of words to use. And that’s okay as well. If the desire is there, that is the start of prayer.

Praying for enemies…forgiving others…sometimes starts as an act of will. Sometimes I almost “throw” those prayers at God, saying something like “Okay, God…I have no idea what to say or what to pray for, for these people. But here they are. I give them to you.”

That doesn’t mean that we can’t be angry at the results of their actions (or inactions)…or that we can’t hold them accountable…just as others hold us accountable.

We have to see them as loved children of the Divine–just the same as we see ourselves. That’s not easy. But only then can we begin to find–and create–peace in this world.

 

 

 

…for in their welfare resides your welfare.

The title of this blog is a portion of a statement from some counsel given to my faith tradition back in 2007. There is more that precedes it; I’ve talked about that part of it before (dealing with immigrants and refugees) and probably will again–but this time I want to just focus on this phrase.

We’re living in a time and situation that’s unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. The closest we can come to it is looking back at the 1918 pandemic–for most of us, a couple of generations removed.

It’s not an easy time. People are upset and worried about the future–rightfully so. Many have lost loved ones and are mourning–both for the loss and for the fact that they weren’t able to be with them as they died. Children have lost the opportunity to interact with schoolmates–and for some, the closing of schools has also meant the loss of a safe place. Parents are struggling with how to work at home (if that’s what they’re currently doing) while also keeping children occupied. Or if they’re considered essential workers, they’re concerned about child care.

And then there are the many who are essential workers…who are on the front lines of dealing with this pandemic…who worry not just for the people they treat but also for their own and their families’ health.

Mayors and governors are making hard decisions to try to keep people safe. They’re often decisions that no one is happy about…that some feel go too far.

People who were overlooked have become important to us…those in service industries who struggle with surviving on minimum wages…migrants who do the hard work of picking crops…

So what do we do? How do we behave?

We do not live in a bubble. Maybe we used to be able to say that–but nations and people are interconnected now in ways that could not even be imagined in 1918.

And that’s why I think this title phrase is so important.

If…when…we see our interconnectedness, we will see that all people and the jobs they do are important to and for us. We will see the inequities in our own communities and nation…and begin making the changes required to bring justice and equity. We will begin to truly see our brothers and sisters.

This statement is a contemporary stating of the prophets’ call through the ages…and also a contemporary version of what Christians call the Golden Rule–a version of which is found in every major religion.

Our welfare affects the welfare of those around us…and their welfare affects us. We must learn to live that…or we will die.

 

Easter is over…or is it?

See the source imageWe’ve made it through Lent…through Holy Week…through Easter. It wasn’t like we’ve done it in the past. We weren’t able to gather together with family and friends. We didn’t share in church services with wonderful music and messages. We didn’t get to have Easter egg hunts with our children and grandchildren.

In some ways, it was just another day to get through. And we’ve made it through. Easter 2020 is over.

But is Easter really over?

The day is…but not Easter. Easter isn’t just about one event on one day. It’s about a way of life.

True, on Easter we celebrate a resurrection. But the spirit of that event is ongoing life! It’s a continual resurrecting!

It’s seeing new life beginning, even in the middle of darkness. It’s hope in the midst of despair.

So while we’ve “finished” with Easter 2020…we’re not through with Easter. Not really.

We’re living in the middle of uncertainty, just as they did 2000 years ago. We don’t know how life is going to turn out…the same kind of questions they had 2000 years ago.

But if we live in the spirit of resurrecting, we have hope that death is not the end…and that the spirit of love will bring new life.

Happy resurrecting!