A Word from Our Pastor 2009 July Prophets


Prophets are so important to the foundations of our faith– the prophets were Jesus’ “teachers”, in the sense that their words shaped his beliefs and ethics.
The prophets talk about many things — being loyal to God, caring for the poor and needy, the importance of righteousness, the decadence of many human institutions, including how religion is practiced. . . They are the link between our ideas about God — our faith — and our everyday world, including our justice systems and political life. The prophets remind us that we should not only sit in quiet, secure places and meditate, but that we must go out into the “dirty” world, full of pain, suffering, treachery and betrayal — and care enough to DO something about it. The prophets are passionate about this, too. It is as if they cannot turn away — they have to speak out to wake up the weary world, to shatter our complacency, to make us overcome our fears.
I don’t know how many times I have passed a panhandler on the street and wondered about the best way to respond. Sometimes I give the person some money; sometimes, I don’t. I might make a donation to the food bank, or to a rehab facility. But other times, I hurry by, and think of something “else.” For all of us, I suspect, this kind of issue frustrates us into complacency. There’s no easy answer, there’s no obvious answer about what to do. It’s enough to make you give up trying. . . But that is never the right answer from the prophets: we can never give up, never allow ourselves to enjoy our comfort when others are struggling.
Complacency is invidious. We become resigned to the way things are: there will always be panhandlers, people who can’t get along in society; the problem will never go away. So, we just get used to it, and sometimes don’t even notice what’s going on in the lives of the fellow human beings we pass on the street. But if we allow ourselves to become unaware, insensitive to this common, everyday problem, it can become a pattern that invades our lives. We can get used to so much suffering and conflict in many other ways. We can become resigned to the terrible famine Darfur, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, inter-ethnic conflict in the Middle East. These are huge problems without easy answers, and we’re tempted to just give up and let them take care of themselves. We can avoid dealing with long-standing conflicts between family members because “we just can’t get along;” we can look aside when friends or relatives are asking for our help because they need extra physical or emotional support. That’s the problem with resignation: if we become resigned to one thing, it becomes easier to become resigned to everything. That’s why the prophets go on and on about all kinds of issues (it seems) — they want us to be awake to life and how God is calling us.
Isaiah 1:21-23 condemns many aspects of the city — aspects which are all too familiar to us:
How the faithful city has become a harlot — the city that was once full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in that city, but now murderers.
Your silver has become dross, your wine diluted with water.
Your princes are rebels, and companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.
They do not defend the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. . .
And the counsel to counteract these problems (Isaiah 1:16-17):
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good.
Seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
I am sure that each of us can name many things about the world that get us down, and seem impossible to change. But the prophets remind us, too, that when we stand up for what is right, when we reach out a hand in compassion, God is with us; in fact, one day, God’s reign of peace and justice will one day be our complete reality (Isaiah 11, a passage that has long been considered by Christians to be a prophecy foretelling the birth and ministry of Jesus).:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse [a descendant of Jesse], and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. . . The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. . .
I pray that the prophets will be an inspiration to you,
Rev. Naomi