DiscipleChurch Family and Friends,
Looking back, what warning signs have you seen in your life? Can you think of a time when something happened that made you stop in your tracks and you knew at that moment you had a choice to make? You could either continue on the same path (which you knew could lead to difficulties but was easy and enjoyable) or you could choose to change course (to one that you knew would be better for you and those around you but was harder and less enjoyable). Was there a time when you chose to continue on the same path? What happened? Can you recall a time, when the alert-danger-sirens were going off in your head; but instead of listening you closed your ears? Was the consequence dreadful? Can you remember a time when you knew you were pushing the limits — doing something that you knew was not right — but you kept pushing anyway? What happened? Did the situation blow-up?
We usually know, deep down, what’s the better choice. What is healthy and unhealthy. What is fair and unfair. We recognize those times when we are proud of what we have done and those times when we want to hide what we have done. In hindsight, we can admit that we KNEW we should NOT have done whatever we did…we had a pretty good idea that in doing so we would be hurting ourselves, our family or our community. So why did we do it? Why do we do things that we KNOW are wrong? Why don’t we heed the warning signs?
Historically, as children of God, we have NOT been good at changing our path in spite of the warning signs. Regardless of the “writing on the wall” and the pleading for change from the fringes, we follow the path that is comfortable for us and the path that is easy for us; which is often NOT the path that is best for the common good. Some of those who have been pleading from the fringes for generations are prophets. Prophets give voice to what is longed for and for what is righteous. They poetically paint a picture of the kind of community God is calling us to live in. A community where God is first in everyone’s life and where we act in love to our neighbor (we don’t just recite the words). A community where everyone who is hungry is fed; where the poor are equipped with resources to improve their life; where systems and structures that keep the outcast out and people living in poverty impoverished are dismantled; and where the sick (regardless of wealth) are provided health care. The prophets also poetically paint a picture of the ills of society — ills that if continued will destroy the society.
Judy Tutt and I have been co-leading a study about the prophets based on the work of Walter Brueggemann who is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, an Old Testament scholar and theologian. Brueggemann offers interesting and challenging ways to look at the prophets of ancient in today’s culture. I have been inspired and confronted by some of his conclusions about the prophets of then and of now. Brueggemann’s work has changed the way I understand the prophets as well as my understanding of what it means to speak prophetically today. This Sunday, I want us to explore the prophetic word of the prophets that forewarns of impending calamity. The prophetic word that forewarns of future disaster if we continue to live “out of sync” with God — out of relationship with God. The prophetic voice that forewarns of imminent danger if when we continue to push the limits of what is righteous. The prophetic voice that warns, if we continue to push and push and push, something horrible will happen; NOT because of God’s wrath, but because when we push and push on something beyond its limits it will break, or explode, or will recoil — sometimes, violently.
An example might be, when we push and push the capacity of our environment to purify itself from our pollutive abuse to the point that something horrible happens. I do not believe it’s God’s wrath that causes species to become extinct or glaciers to melt. Could it be our unwillingness to put God first in all that we do; to put God ahead of whatever we are worshipping, more than God, that is polluting the environment?
I encourage you to read through some of the prophets and listen for their poetic warnings. What prophetic pictures are they painting? Do you hear a common theme within their warnings? What, if anything, is applicable for us today?
I look forward to worshipping God with you on Sunday beginning at 7:20 in Wesley Hall with our community breakfast, then at 8:30 in the Chapel, followed by discussion at 9:30 in the Foundation building.
Your sister in Christ,
Jeremiah 6:10-21 Common English Bible Translation
10 To whom can I speak and warn?
How can I get someone’s attention?
Their ears are shut tight,
so they won’t hear.
They are ashamed of the Lord’s word
and take no pleasure in it.
11 But I’m filled with the Lord’s rage
and am tired of holding it in.
Pour it out on the children in the streets
and on the youths gathered together;
husband with wife will be trapped,
as will those old and gray.
12 Their homes will be turned over to others,
their fields and wives as well.
I will stretch out my hand
against the people of this land,
declares the Lord.
13 From the least to the greatest,
each is eager to profit;
from prophet to priest,
each trades in dishonesty.
14 They treat the wound of my people
as if it were nothing:
“All is well, all is well,” they insist,
when in fact nothing is well.
15 They should be ashamed
of their detestable practices,
but they have no shame;
they don’t even blush!
Therefore, they will fall among the fallen
and stumble when I bring disaster,
declares the Lord.
16 The Lord proclaims:
Stop at the crossroads and look around;
ask for the ancient paths.
Where is the good way?
Then walk in it
and find a resting place for yourselves.
But you said, “We won’t go!”
17 Still, I have appointed watchmen to warn you.
But you said, “We won’t listen!”
18 Therefore, pay attention, nations;
take notice, assembly,
what is ahead of them.
19 Pay attention, earth:
I’m bringing disaster upon my people,
the fruit of their own devices,
because they have ignored my words
and they have rejected my teaching.
20 What use to me is incense from Sheba
or sweet cane from a faraway land?
Your entirely burned offerings won’t buy your pardon;
your sacrifices won’t appease me.
21 Therefore, the Lord proclaims:
I’m putting obstacles before this people,
and both parents and children will stumble over them;
neighbor and friend alike will perish.
9 Hear this, leaders of the house of Jacob,
rulers of the house of Israel,
you who reject justice and make crooked all that is straight,
10 who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with injustice!
11 Her officials give justice for a bribe,
and her priests teach for hire.
Her prophets offer divination for silver,
yet they rely on the Lord, saying,
“Isn’t the Lord in our midst?
Evil won’t come upon us!”
12 Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become piles of rubble,
and the temple mount will become an overgrown mound.
4 Hear the Lord’s word,
people of Israel;
for the Lord has a dispute
with the inhabitants of the land.
There’s no faithful love or loyalty,
and no knowledge of God in the land.
2 Swearing, lying, murder,
together with stealing and adultery are common;
bloody crime followed by bloody crime.
3 Therefore, the earth itself becomes sick,
and all who live on it grow weak;
together with the wild animals
and the birds in the sky,
even the fish of the sea are dying.