The Power of the Prophetic Tradition

April 26, 2006

Original Post Date:  4/26/2006

I am a part of a parish who professes a very strong belief in the prophetic tradition.

My understanding of the prophetic tradition is best summed up in the two main slogans of the United Church of Christ's outreach campaign:

  • God is still speaking.
  • A quote from Gracie Allen:  "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."

Somehow, even though it is what my parish professes to believe as a community, every time a reference from the pulpit is made to God talking to us, or listening to God, or the ability to communicate with God through a real, albeit prayerful, discernment process there is almost always at least some laughter from the congregation– as if the preacher were attempting to make a joke.  In my mind it feels as if there is some element of the congregation which is thinking "God?  Talk to me?  Preposterous!  I'm not Moses!" 

Maybe people think that God is too big, to impersonal, to removed, to care enough to interact with them in their lives.  My experience is that being closed to the possibility is enough to prevent the experience.

I like this poem by Wislawa Szymborska, The Laboratory

Did it all
happen in the laboratory?
Beneath one lamp by day
and billions by night?Are we a trial generation?
Poured from one beaker to another,
shaken in retorts,
observed by something more than an eye,
each one individually
taken by forceps?Or maybe otherwise:
no interventions.
The transformations occur on their own
in accordance with a plan.
The needle draws
the expected zigzags.
Maybe until now there was nothing interesting in us.
The control monitors are seldom switched on,
except when there's a war, and a rather big one at that,
several flights over the lump of clay called Earth,
or significant movements from point A to point B.Or perhaps thus:
they only have a taste for episodes.
Look! a little girl on a big screen
is sewing a button to her sleeve.The monitors begin to shriek,
personnel comes running in.
Oh, what short of tiny creature
with a little heart beating on the inside!
What graceful dignity
in the way she draws the thread!
Someone calls out in rapture:
Tell the Boss,
and let him come see for himself!

If the folks who are laughing believe God to be the creator of a system that creates the expected zigzags, or something similar, then maybe the idea of God acting in our lives would seem preposterous.  Maybe also, then, the idea of Scripture becoming a living, breathing, document, for others could seem impossible.

I believe God is there always, talking to us, interacting with us, showing us the way.  God is there, giving us encouragement, living with us and taking delight as the little girl learns to sew.  The same God is encouraging us to move forward on our journey, wanting us to learn to do more with God's help- just as the Israelites did not see how their survival would be possible in the wilderness, God provided.  So God expects us to listen, trust, and be open to new possibilities in God so that we may have wonderful new experiences through God.

Looking backwards, being closed, believing that through our own resources alone we have the answers– in my experience these things do not yield a fruitful journey.  Instead, they yield only wondering in the wilderness, and falling away from God with a self-reliance in the place of trust in God.

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2 Responses to “The Power of the Prophetic Tradition”


  1. Very amazing site! I wish I could do something as nice as you did…mary

  2. Jeff Says:

    Mary-

    Thanks!

    Looks like your site is doing great!

    j


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