Rector’s Blog: “Prophets”

A picture of the prophet Isaiah, courtesy of the Orthodox Church in America.

Prophets

By Charlie Dupree

Welcome to the season of Advent, St. Paul’s! The beginning of a new church year. Interesting, isn’t it, that a prominent feature of the season of Advent is “the prophet.”

What is a prophet, exactly? The prophets were people who claimed to have been contacted by the divine. The Greek word for prophet means ‘to speak on behalf of another.’ Their primary jobs were: to predict the future; advise kings and rulers; get people to change their ways; perform symbolic acts; declare oracles. Jewish Scripture lists 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses, each having their own things to do and say on God’s behalf. The prophetic voice is most active in the season of Advent. One prophet in particular who accompanies us through this season is Isaiah. He is perhaps the best-known prophet because he lived during one of the most trying periods in history – around 742BC when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Much later, a musician tuned into his words and wrote a most famous piece of music (The Messiah!).

But prophets aren’t only characters of the past. I remember a particular prophet in my own life. His name was Hal. Well into his eighties, Hal was absolutely passionate about giving voice to our homeless sisters and brothers. Like most prophets, Hal was cranky. He never let me off the hook, and, I trusted him. He didn’t make life easy for me or my ministry, but his love for the least, the last, and the lost, was amazing, to say the least.

Martin Luther King, Jr., is another prophetic voice that continues to speak into our current context and into my own ministry. His bravery and wisdom can only come from God. Like traditional prophets, both Dr. King and Hal spoke to the current needs of the neglected and overlooked. They cried out for justice.

We all know how Dr. King died. My friend, Hal, died several years ago of natural causes. I officiated at his funeral. In attendance was the homeless community of Bloomington, IN . . . a community the whole city tried to ignore, but Hal wouldn’t let that happen.

Do you have prophets in your life? Are there people that inspire you and challenge you? Are there people who offer a glimpse into what God’s justice and righteousness look like? Loud voices aren’t a requirement. Prophets can have quiet demeanors, few words, and strong spirits. They know what they believe and are in it for the long haul.

Advent is a season of prophets – even our own John the Baptist cries in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Maybe, just maybe, that’s the first step toward finding your own inner prophet . . . using your own voice and life to prepare the Lord’s vision – the Lord’s way.

“Comfort, oh comfort, my people,” says Isaiah, the prophet, on behalf of our God. And so, the question comes to us, after all these centuries: How are you preparing the way of the Lord? How do you tell and/or show the world the counter-cultural message of God’s unconditional love – of mercy – of reconciliation?

See you in church,
Charlie+

Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Richmond, Virginia
Preferred pronouns: he, him, his