If you read the Hebrew bible, you will find book after book of “prophets.” Each prophet passes on a particular message from God to God’s chosen people. Many of them are reluctant prophets. They don’t like being disliked for their message and being somewhat of an outcast. It is not often that hellfire and brimstone is heartily welcomed. God placed God’s words inside of Ezekiel so that when Ezekiel spoke, he had no choice but to speak God’s words. Moses whined that the people wouldn’t listen to him and that he was not eloquent enough. Isaiah was one of the few who said, “Here I am, send me!” John the Baptist must have really turned people off. And Jesus? Well he said after nearly being stoned that “a prophet is not honored in his own land.”
I always thought that prophets were isolated beings whose lives were cut short because no one wanted to hear what they had to say. But that turns out to be a romanticized version of what a prophet is. A professor in seminary said that prophets could not exist if they had no support or followers; that many were “birthed” from communities. Like the literal definition of “minister: one who is called out from among,” a prophet is one who rises to lead on the shoulders of their community.
The question for me today about prophets and prophecy is, where are they? We point to the biblical myths or to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But today? There seem to be no lone voices rising to the top to lead a people in need, to “speak truth to power.” But I remember the voice of Alice Kinberg, mother of Rabbi Johanna Kinberg who serves Kol Ami here in Woodinville. Alice and I shared a campus ministry office at the U of O in 1981. One day we were having a conversation about the concept of “the Messiah.” She said to me that “Jews do not believe in a literal appearance of one Messiah who will come to save the world. It is the Jewish people, all people working together that will save the world.”
So perhaps we need to stop crying out for prophets or messiahs to save us. Perhaps we need to be a prophetic community working with other prophetic communities to save the world. As the poet June Jordan wrote, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…”
Peace to you prophets and peacemakers,