Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11, 1 Kings 17:1-24, Philippians 2:1-11, Matthew 2:1-12
Jesus once said, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” If Elijah is any indicator, maybe that’s because they’re royal pains in the neck. And in Elijah’s case … a pain in the royal neck. God sent Elijah to tell King Ahab the land would be subject to famine and drought until Elijah said otherwise. After that Elijah went into hiding in the wilderness where he was fed by ravens and drank from a wadi (riverbed that is dry except in rainy seasons) until it dried up. After that he lived with a widow whom God had commanded to take him in. Her meager portions of grain and oil held out for as long as Elijah stayed with her, but living with the prophet took an emotional toll on her. When her son fell so ill he stopped breathing, she thought Elijah was punishing her sins, until through prayer he restored the boy to life.
Prophets never show up to tell you you’re doing a good job. They are single minded and obsessive. They threaten your sense of security and control no matter how powerful you may be. They keep you off balance. They don’t care if your feelings and desires are incompatible with their mission.
And they are absolutely necessary.
Not every prophet is on a mission like Elijah, challenging the blasphemy of a king. Some of them are more low key annoying. They’re pulling recyclables out of the trash when we’re trying to clean up after the potluck, and asking us to volunteer at the food pantry when they know we just did it last weekend, and interrupting our gossip sessions by suggesting we pray for those people instead. We want them to just lighten up once in a while. They don’t get invited to a lot of parties.
Yet by refusing to let us get too comfortable, these people further the work of the kingdom in a mostly thankless way. The courage of conviction may feel like a real buzzkill, but our reaction says more about us than about them. These prophets are the conscience of a community. If we lean into the discomfort they cause us, we just may find reasons to thank them.
Comfort: A call to repentance is sign of love.
Challenge: Listen to the voices that remind you to better, even if they are annoying.
Prayer: Lord, teach me to listen well when you speak through others. Amen.
Discussion: What do you think today’s prophets are saying?
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