Thank goodness that picture in my mind has changed, because it would be difficult today to take such a person seriously … and I think that the time for looking to prophets, and looking for genuine prophecy, is really and truly upon us. As a church today I feel we are both open and hungry to hear God’s voice break through.
How would I identify a modern day prophet? For me a prophet is someone who speaks and the community of faith recognizes in his or her message the voice of God. I think prophets today might be found within or outside of the institutional Church. As always though I think it is the gathered faith community who must discern, and name, what God’s word is in their specific age, and thereby it is also the faith community who must declare who the true prophets are.
I believe prophets speak messages that are addressed to both the Church and the World. Sometimes those words are ones of comfort, and sometimes they are heard as messages of challenge or even potential doom.
I feel in recent times I have had three moments when I wondered if truly God’s voice was speaking with clarity and passion, and where I felt people were listening for and hearing Truth.
The first occasion happened a few years ago at a continuing education event sponsored by the United Church. Jim Wallis was the speaker (the prophet). He was speaking passionately about God’s agenda for the poor people of our world today. He called us as a church to seek justice and exercise mercy, not only for the sake of the poor among us, but for all our sakes, and for God’s sake. I could hear the voice of God in both his passion and his words.
The next incident happened at a local District Meeting. Our guest speaker was the then Moderator, Mardi Tindal. She was speaking to us about the condition of today’s environment and about how crucial it is for us today to care for creation. She called us stewards of the planet and asked us to partner with God to heal the world … before it was too late. Again, I am sure I heard the whisper and pleading of God in her words.
The final experience happened recently. I was sitting in church at a funeral of a family friend. I had just come from a meeting discussing the future of the United Church. I was discouraged with what sounded like more doom and gloom, and financial crisis. Then the clergy rose and asked us to repeat the words of the United Church Creed. As we drew near the end of our recitation, I heard afresh an old biblical message: “In Life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.” I couldn’t help but think that God was not whispering!
The May edition of Mandate Magazine will include an article on Prophecy. I was asked to contribute a hundred words. Any one who knows me realizes, I am not a man of few words!! This blog was my original thoughts.