Originally, this blog post was presented as a Scripture reflection by Susan Baller-Shepard on the Scripture passages of Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke 4:21-30 on February 3, 2019 on Day1 radio. This is the second of a two-part post – the first part of the reflection was posted Sunday, February 17, 2019 on Monasteries of the Heart.
In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Polonius says, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it." There may be holy madness in prophetic actions.
Prophets occupy that liminal space between God and humanity. They have a closeness and intimacy with God which can be threatening, because they're fearless - Martin Luther King Jr. closed his last speech saying, "And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." The next day he was assassinated. Jesus, before his death tells Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above..." (John 19:11)
In their prophetic work they're out there suspended mid-air. They've let go of safety and security.
You know, my daughter has gone to Gamma Phi circus camps for years. She does trapeze and there's this moment that makes my stomach clench, as a mom, when she's mid-air. She wears a harness, but still. I've tried to catch that moment on my camera. There's the swing, and the catch. But in between is a liminal moment, when her long black hair is flying out behind her and she's suspended mid-air, before she's caught on the other side. They've missed before, not made the catch, when the timing was off. Yet, I sigh such a huge sigh of relief when the young college students, so incredibly strong, catch her hands with theirs. She gets caught on the other side - caught on the other side.
Those who have braved prophetic acts fling themselves out into the unknown, trusting God, trusting they'll be caught on the other side.
They and we do this, we dare brave things in faith because we know God and are known by God. Elisha, Elijah, Jesus, MLK Jr, Wangari Maathai - caught on the other side.
Prophets keep going, stay the course, despite visible evidence.
What prophetic action is God calling you to? Where in your heart do you know God has had a role since you were a child? To what courage might God be calling you now? Something you know God is urging you toward? To pluck up or pull down, to destroy or overthrow, to build or to plant?
First Thessalonians (1:8 NRSV) has a passage that says, "...but in every place your faith in God has become known." God will always give us a choice. God may give you all kinds of mad skills, great talents, you might have the great good fortune to have education of all sorts, but you also have the choice how to use these. At any point you can walk away.
I felt very connected to China in a deep way since I was a young child. A dream of mine was to adopt a child from China. In 2002, after a two year wait, my family, my mother, and I got on a United Flight and took the journey to meet our new family member, Yang Yu. It was Christmas.
In the midst of that eagerness and stress, good Christian people, well-meaning I know, came up to me and asked questions like, "Do you know what you're doing?" "Do you know what you're getting into? You really don't know what you're getting into." Now I know not to do that when someone is stepping out in faith. Now I know that what's needed when someone seeks to hear and follow God is encouragement.
Yet we can wish to keep people safe, situations safe, to not rock any boats, to live such cautious lives that they become devoid of meaning and become, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, lives "...of quiet desperation."
On our China trip, it turned out we got to travel with a family who had adopted before, and they reassured us at the airport, "You've got this." I needed to know that then, when we were flinging our hearts out across the miles toward a child who had not met us yet.
God is amazing at putting people in our path who will help us on the journey when we step out in faith.
Now that you know, make your faith known. Be brave. Be courageous in faith. Let go into that liminal space. Trusting God to catch you.
In her Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Wangari Maathai said this, "In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now."
The poet W. H. Auden wrote about Christ in "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio." Auden wrote: "He is the Truth. Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety; you will come to a great city that has expected your return for years."
The world needs you. The world needs you. The world needs you. Go, be brave for God's sake.
To God be all glory, honor, and praise. Hallelujah! Amen.
Rev. Susan Baller-Shepard is a co-founder and editor of Spiritual Book Club with its blog "Real People, Real Lives, Real Spirituality" with over 200 interviews from around the world. Susan blogs for the Huffington Post religion section and is author of Matching Yu. She teaches religion at Heartland Community College in central Illinois, where she lives with her family.
How would you answer the questions the author posed:
What prophetic action is God calling you to?
Where in your heart do you know God has had a role since you were a child?
To what courage might God be calling you now? Something you know God is urging you toward? To pluck up or pull down, to destroy or overthrow, to build or to plant?
Please share your reflections with us here.
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Monks in Our Midst: writings by monks from the 3rd to the 21st centuries.