Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, Job 4:1-6, 12-21, Revelation 4:1-11, Mark 6:1-6a
No Bible stories are about God telling a prophet: “All is well. Carry on just as you have been.” Rather, He promises to make a childless, elderly couple the parents of a nation as numerous as the stars. He appoints an adopted Hebrew into the Egyptian royal house to free slaves. He transforms a persecutor of Christians into their greatest evangelist. These stories? There are plenty of them.
When Jesus preached to the residents of his hometown, “he was amazed at their unbelief.” They asked “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” This guy? They were actually offended by his teaching. Jesus as the messiah was doubly unexpected: both a hometown boy, and a preacher of peace.
Self-proclaimed messiahs before Jesus had led rebellions against Rome. The crucified bodies of these men and their followers literally lined the road to Jerusalem for miles. Another messiah promoting bloody rebellion was expected, but not needed.
We like preachers and teachers who comfort us. We are much more skeptical of radicals, of people who make us uncomfortable, of people challenging the status quo. But these are requirements for prophets. It’s their vocation to make us question our beliefs and behaviors. People in powerful or safe situations have little motivation to question a system that works for them. Instead, injustices are brought to light by those for whom the system is not working, or those who become willing to sacrifice the privileges the system affords them.
Is every outrageous character a prophet and every outlandish claim a prophecy? Of course not. But when God demands change, He demands it for the poor and oppressed, and their voices sound jarring, unsettling – even threatening – to those in power. They call us to recognize how our actions and beliefs negatively impact the lives of others. Sometimes the voice of God is still and small because it comes from those who have been silenced. Our modern prophets are not those who comfort us, but those who challenge us.
Comfort: God doesn’t challenge us to change because we have failed, but because we can succeed..
Challenge: This week, try to learn something from people who have made radical commitments to living out the gospel.
Prayer: God of growth, show me how I can change, and bless me with the courage to do so. Amen.
Discussion: Who has challenged you to change the way you understand the gospel?
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