“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” -Luke 6:22-23
Prophets, by and large, did not have an easy go of it. Their calls to this ministry came with a deep sense of sacrifice. Jeremiah was quite unhappy about God calling him to prophetic ministry. Amos likely didn’t get invited to any of the cool kids’ parties after he called them cows of Bashan, and extra-canonical legend holds Isaiah was sawed in half in response to his prophecies.
We people of God don’t particularly care for prophets. Our ancestors dismissed them. They called them names and ignored them or engaged in character attacks.
“Sure, Hosea brings up some interesting stuff about how we love material wealth and power more than God, but have you heard about his wife?” we’d whisper in the parking lot.
“All that lion and lamb stuff Isaiah is saying sounds really challenging, like we might have to re-evaluate issues of power and authority and how we use the weak for our own needs and build relationships based on fear. Let’s make it into a cute Christmas ornament and no one will notice what he’s really saying,” a church leader might offer, worried Isaiah’s message might cost him his largest donors.
Prophecy didn’t end with the canon of the Bible being put in place. It continues today. We still hear those whose lips and lives are burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit, calling us out on our sins, holding up the standard of God’s love so we can see how far we sometimes fall from that standard, and reminding us following Christ will often call us to make challenging and sacrificial decisions.
The message of the prophets through the centuries hasn’t changed all that much. We still read the prophets for a reason. They speak to us of God who demands mercy and not only sacrifice, of God who wants justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, and of God who yearns for us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul.
We still need to hear the prophets, ancient and modern. They warn of us of the consequences of our actions, of our self-centeredness, of our discarding the poor and needy for a pair of sandals (or other benefit), and of our faithlessness. They implore us to hear the word of God speaking to us and to turn our hearts from hate and exclusion to God’s lavish love.
We are our ancestors who did not listen to them.
We can also be our ancestors who did heed their words and turned from selfish ways to God’s selflessness.
Can we choose to hear them? Do we allow their words to burn away the chaff of sin from our souls?
The prophets, we hear in the Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, are in a good place. God has embraced them.
Those to whom they speak, those to whom they prophesy? Well, we might need to listen to their messages, their words imploring us to be dedicated to God in a new way.
We need to listen to the prophets.
The Rev. Laurie Brock is this week’s writer. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky where she can cheer for the Alabama Crimson Tide in football and the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball. She blogs at DirtySexyMinistry.com, tweets at @drtysxyministry, and is the author of an upcoming book on the spirituality of horses from Paraclete Press. She has co-authored and contributed to many books about women and faith. When she’s not doing priest things, she is letting her horse Nina (The Official Lent Madness Horse) teach her about patience and peace.