Tag Archives: prophecy

Rejection: The prophet’s dilemma

Image result for trump paper towels
Trump tossing paper towels to Puerto Rican hurricane survivors.

We certainly have a lot of disappointed prophets in the U.S. these days, don’t we?! They told us exactly what would happen if Trump got elected and they were exactly right. He lies. He incarcerates children. He threatens to do something, doesn’t do it, and then says he did it and people believe him. His yet-to-be-uncovered corruption is like an iceberg ready to sink your Titanic. He’s a racist. It goes on.

The disappointed prophets lament like Jeremiah:

So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. — Jeremiah 7

Jeremiah 7 is a good read, period. I especially like this line when I read it like an exasperated South Philly native:

“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven.”

Only I might translate:

“The children watch their phones. The parents go to work. And someone orders Amazon Fresh to make money for the kings of capitalism.”

So what’s a prophet to do?

I’m a disappointed prophet, too. But at least I did not think Hillary was going to save the world or Barack had done so. The Democrats are well on their way to offering some other 70-year-old to lead us like some doddering Robert Mueller supposedly dispensing justice.

I feel sorry for all these old people trying to keep up. They are all older than me! And I had to text Rachel last week to get the name of someone I had known for 30 years because I was about to see them and my old brain could not bring it up fast enough! I’m disappointing enough and Joe Biden is 76! (Mark my words).

So what do we do when our prophecy is rejected?

Keep prophesying. You never know when someone is going to listen for God and hear you.

File:Bartolomé Carducho - Death of St Francis - WGA04207.jpg
Death of St. Francis — Bartolomeo Carducci (1593). National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon.

A good example, at least for me these days, is what happened with the prophecy of the disappointed Francis and Clare of Assisi. Both of them had a dream that their splendid revelation about simplicity, community and love was so basic to the way of Jesus no further improvements were needed. They went about their passionate lives and communities sprung up all over Europe in imitation of them. People hungered to be connected with something authentic, serious and joyful.

But soon both Clare and Francis were pressed for a “rule”

  • That’s a rule like all the other orders of monastics (which they didn’t really think they were).
  • That’s a rule like the ones priests lived by under Canon Law (priests they never wanted to be).
  • That’s a rule according to the best practices of the experts (to whom they didn’t really feel like relating).

People listening for God heard their prophecy anyway, despite all the distractions.

Prophets speak for the Ruler, not the rules

Clare ended up suffering under a rule imposed on her little community in San Damiano based on the Benedictine Rule, which isn’t a bad rule, it just wasn’t what she had in mind after God called her. If she had wanted to be a Benedictine nun, there were plenty of opportunities.

They made Francis write a rule. The first one was a couple of pages long and was mostly quotes from the Bible. The final one, right before he went off to die, was a little more expansive, but was still more a story that a ruling doc.

Really, NOT having a rule was the point! A prophet speaks from God, they are not interested in refining some thought from the past or applying the best thinking of the present bureaucracy.

Right after Francis died, the new “order” whisked his body into hiding lest Perugia steal it. In an amazingly short time the new leader of the new order, Elias, had a basilica built to house the saint’s bones and all sorts of other intriguing things I recently saw – even Francis’ raggedy brown robe. Ironically, though unintentionally, the basilica attendants made sure I was wearing long enough pants when I entered the church and a priest told me to take off my “Italia” ball cap before I got a peek at it preserved under glass like a treasure. Francis could not have predicted my experience, or that of his robe, either.

The pope codified all the papal bulls regarding the Franciscans so they had a little handbook for how not to get out of control. They got in line. Soon St. Bonaventure had systematized the thoughts and sanitized all the stories.

Governing bodies rarely trust God and others like Francis did — a prophet always thinks something like that. For example, the last oracle of Jeremiah is:

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
The broad wall of Babylon
shall be leveled to the ground,
and her high gates
shall be burned with fire.
The peoples exhaust themselves for nothing,
and the nations weary themselves only for fire.

You might get tired of being rejected

Jeremiah is exhausted, but he is right. I’m not sure the point of saying that is, “Exhaust yourself because you are right” or “Your exhaustion with all these people makes you SO holy.” But if you don’t ignore the prophetic Spirit of  God incarnate in Jesus and rampant in the body of Christ, you will very likely get tired of being rejected. Because people will keep making cupcakes for the queen of heaven and the nations will keep wearying themselves only for fire. They’ll wreck the heavens and unleash fire on the earth. We need a savior.

Keep prophesying. You never know when someone is going to listen for God and hear you.

Our Savior has no interest in the end of time, as far as we will ever know. The Lord is going to keep us prophesying until it is time. There is no sense imagining when that time is; we just need to keep telling the truth and living the love.

As far as the church goes, the whole enterprise is a prophetic expression of truth and love. The more we exercise our gifts, including some concentrated bomblets of prophecy, the more people get a chance to turn, be freed from the dying nonsense of the world, and be connected to the Giver of All Good Gifts.

People without Jesus know about those gifts, and people who follow Jesus know even more, now that eternity is opened up to them. Looking into eternity and sometimes speaking things that come directly from it is a joy in itself. Being a prophet is innately encouraging, it is just all that rejection that’s tough.

Francis may have died a bit disappointed in his forties, but his legacy lives on and his prophecy is revered while those who despoiled his beautiful dream are reviled.  The despoilers did not listen, but they could not destroy the truth, nonetheless. If they don’t listen to you or respect the church of Jesus Christ, nothing is new – except the prophecy of course, which always feels like it just came right off the delivery truck from the Kingdom of God.

Fighting a good fight: Leaders are organized and flexible

The instinct for leadership is necessary on a lot of levels. Classroom teachers need it. Parents of toddlers need it. Neighborhood organizers need it. Our cell leaders, team leaders and leadership team among Circle of Hope are working it out constantly. It is not that easy to lead, but God provides what we need to take it on when we need to.

The false opposition among leaders

Lately we have been having a series of discussions about an interesting conflict of mentality when it comes to leading. Here are questions that get the discussion going:

How do people organize a new team (like a cleaning team or a mission to prisoners)? Do they get all their thoughts in order, gather all their resources, imagine all the difficulties, have a solid team that has met and discussed everything about their organization and action before they get going? That would certainly make for a nice business plan – and as you can see by our yearly Map, we have more than a little “business plan” about us.

OR. Do they get an inspiration, see a need, sense a movement and gather a few common friends to tackle the issue, having a good idea of where God is leading them, but leaving quite a few details to sort out in action, learning as they are going along and coming up with organizational solutions that meet the needs they discover along the way? That would be a nice demonstration of flexibility and discernment – and as you can see by our commitment to organic and diverse leadership, we have a lot of flexibility.

As you can predict, the organized ones are sometimes suspicious of the flexible ones and get upset that they have to put up with their disorderly ways. The flexible ones are sometimes suspicious of the organized ones and get upset that they have to put up with so much preparation and dialogue instead of getting into action. The organized ones might label the flexible “unprepared” and “irresponsible.” The flexible might label the organized “bureaucrats” and “controlling.”

But, in reality, the organized provide a lot of the context in which the flexible can flex, and the flexible provide a lot of the activity the organized can organize. They are crucial to each other. Neither “identity” is whole without the other. One is more orderly and one is more prophetic, but neither is able to fulfill the mission without the other. Prophecy and order go together like Isaiah in the temple or like Jesus in a circle of twelve, or like Paul in an orderly meeting full of prophetic utterance (1 Cor. 14).

The mission brings everyone together

The way forward in most discussions with leaders that end up in the false dichotomy between the organized and flexible is to turn to the metaphor of “warfare” and “contest” that Jesus uses, as well as other teachers in the Bible. That is, the church is fighting the powers that would steal their joy and they are fighting for the lives of people who are deluded into thinking they or God do not matter.

For Paul, the main reason to organize the church is “winning” people to the gospel. When he describes the process, he demonstrates how flexible he is.

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Cor 9:21-22

When Paul is talking about the most “flexible” of activities – speaking in tongues, he tries to get some organization in the Corinthian church:

“If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.” 1 Cor 14:8-9

I think the war sorts out the differences. If we are all trying to win the contest, then the different gifts we bring to it sort themselves out. If all we are doing is living in a static system, then some people will get their satisfaction by controlling it (calling that organizing) and others with get their satisfaction by rebelling against it (calling that being flexible).

In this highly organized age, in which so many of us have been trained to manage large systems (even a retail store is pretty complex, I think!), we tend to bring a lot of organization to the church. In an era in which our wars are fought by drones (from the U.S. side, at least) we do not know much about the flexibility it requires to have a large goal that is being incrementally fought for day by day, decision by decision, moment by moment. So we might be stronger on the organized side (even though we seem so disorganized!). We are certainly strong enough on the controlling/rebelling axis! I think we could all become more secure on the flexible side.

When a child is learning, one can’t always consult the book before acting. We need to trust God and trust the Spirit at work in us and on behalf of the child so we can do what we can do best in the moment and move on with confidence. Likewise, when a team or a cell is forming, we need to resist the perfectionism that our professional orientation demands and move to meet the need and give our gifts with whatever skill or opportunity we have.

I often say that we are an army on the move; we will undoubtedly need to improvise. If we wait until we can do everything well, we may have already lost the battle before we get started! We don’t control the outcomes, anyway, so we have the blessed assurance to move into territory we have never even seen with the confidence that God goes before us.

I feel so grateful to be personally surrounded by so many people who work out their faith in such a deep way! They even entertain the thought that they not only exist, they lead! Their faith is not in some secret compartment in them, it is making a difference! They are not an aspiration, they already have value. They are fighting a good fight.

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Adaptation is idolatry. Greed is the idol.

Bill Maher says we worship greed. If he ends up being the nation’s prophet, then Jesus-followers need to step up their game. Maher is “one way” the wrong way in so many ways, and belligerently godless as far as I know — but when it comes to greed he is telling the truth. So what is wrong with most of us Christians? — not to mention everyone else! The Bible says:

Be sure of this, that no…one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)

Most of the believers I know, would never say that, at least out loud. But Maher did — and colorfully. In a recent commentary he named Greed as an idol.

He starts off with the Olsen twins (an easy target) and the lawsuit brought against them by their unpaid interns —  for the privilege of a small chance that rubbing up against the rich will pay off, people will work for free these days. In the case of most Americans, we work for the leavings of the one percent because we believe the spirit that tells us, “That’s the way it is,” or “It’s your only chance” or “It will give you what you want.”  The prophet Isaiah asks:

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)

Maher goes on to say that people should be in the streets protesting, in the unions organizing or at least in the voting booth choosing. But they are not. Instead, they have adapted. They are like the people the prophet Isaiah mocks:

“Come,” they say, “let us get wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink. And tomorrow will be like today, great beyond measure.” (Isaiah 56:12)

Continue reading Adaptation is idolatry. Greed is the idol.

A Psalm — for Courage

I wrote a small psalm to share with the main mother in my life and she thought I should share it with you. I have been admiring the film-makers who are the prophets of the unbelieving world, these days. They are no more heeded than God’s own spokespeople. But the call remains.

Lord, save us from the liars
And from our own lies.

The ice cap is still melting,
But we did kill Osama bin Laden.
There were no WMDs in Iraq,
But we do know that Obama is Hawaiian.
The perps of the money melt down still reign,
But we are now friends with Duchess Kate.

Forgive us as we calculate
How much it costs
to tell the truth.
Each keystroke hurts;
Each small look a threat
Of crass resistance.

The iciness is growing,
So we kill our terror with quiet.
New enemies rummage around in us,
So we deftly adapt reality.
The audacious win the power,
So we turn our minds to drivel.

Forgive us as we obfuscate
How much it costs
To live in truth —
Each threat of conflict,
Each painful question
A reason to live a lie.

You have caused yourself endless trouble
Being and telling truth.
You have caused us endless trouble
Following and discerning.
We lack your courage.
Speak it into us.