These past weeks, our scriptures in worship have focused on the words of prophets. Whether Jesus quoting words of Isaiah, alluding to himself as a prophet and almost getting thrown off a cliff, or him marking the difference between a true prophet and a false one, the stories lead us to think about what the prophetic word is and what does it seek to do. When I was a child, I had the impression that a prophet was a bearer of bad news. I am not sure what led me to that conclusion. Perhaps it was the way stories were presented in Sunday school lessons and their narrow interpretation of a prophet’s work. Prophets came telling people about all the ways they were not living how God intended. They were not shy about the consequences of such life choices. And the result did not sound pretty. Who wants to hear that?
As time passed, I came to understand better. Words of truth. Words that make complex realities plain. Words that cut to the core of our humanity. These words clear the path for honesty, clarity, and new ways of being. The words of prophets make unnecessary our attempts to conceal our faults and live up to standards of perfection. No need to put on airs when your truth has been laid bare. Ultimately, prophetic words come as invitation: to acknowledge ourselves for who we are; to accept God’s grace as we are; and to receive a new orientation for living within God’s movement in the world. As our worship this month remains focused on prophetic words, where will the good word lead us?