Today, the third Sunday in Advent was a day where we paid special heed to the voices of the prophets. At least, a sampling of prophetic voices was provided by today's lectionary readings.
We began with Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11
In another case of neglected verses, we missed verses 5-7 which read,
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
Because their shame was double,
and dishonour was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.
Maybe that would have made the reading too long, or too confusing. Maybe the part about foreigners tilling the land while you become priests sounded a bit like slavery.
Next came 1Thessalonians 5:16-24 where we are advised about prophets,
Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
And then we have the case of John1:6-8,19-28 with the following expurgated verses,
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
There go those uncomfortable words again. Words like "only son" and "No one has ever seen God." Isn't it easier to leave some prophetic words out of the lectionary?
Well, it should make preaching the sermon easier shouldn't it? Charlie took the opportunity today to preach about prophets. He included Amos, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Ronal King as good examples of prophets. In his focus on prophets of the modern day, he missed something. It could have appeared to the casual listener that prophets are just people who look around, see something wrong in society, take a stand in opposition to the ways of the world, and try to do something about it.
What is missing? I am not despising the words of the prophets mind you, but I am testing.
Is a social activist a prophet because they saw something wrong? While Charlie's examples are Christians, why not delve into the question of what power is the source of their vision, what is inspiring them, and what is pushing them forward despite the heavy odds. Is it just their concern for fellow man? If so, then who needs God? Yes, the God connection was not clearly elucidated. I missed it. How else can the prophet survive the pressures of the world?