Social Action and Finding The Prophet in Us All

July 28, 2010 - 10:46 am 41 Comments

Hearing The Prophetic Call and Affirming The Prophetic Within Us

From the Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah: For surely you can know the plans I have for your good, and to rid you of any harm, and how I desire to give you a future and a hope… When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with your whole heart.

In our Western heritage, there are two main streams of thought and action that comprise the spiritual life. These two complementary and supplementary streams are the mystical or prayerful and the prophetic or the ethical. the first, the mystical, concerns itself with what theologians and mystics call sanctification, that is, the process whereby we can become or realize ourselves as being more godlike; the second path or stream within spirituality, the prophetic and the ethical centers on the need to promote justice and compassion, equality and truth within society and within ourselves. The modern mystic, Thomas Merton once described these two approaches to the Holy in these words: “[ Prayer is seeking a union with God through the path of personal transformation; justice is seeking the community of God through the path of social transformation.]”
Thomas Merton made this observation that comes from his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, in the chapter Truth and Violence,
page 83:
“Christian social action must liberate [man] from all forms of servitude, whether economical, political, or psychological. These words can be easily said. Anyone can say them, and [many well intentioned preachers over the centuries have!]

And yet, in the sake of liberty [man] is enslaved. He frees himself from one kind of servitude and enters into another. This is because freedom is bought by obligations, and obligations are bonds. We do not sufficiently distinguish the nature of the bonds we take upon ourselves in order to be free.
If I obligate myself spiritually in order to be free economically, then I buy into a lower form of freedom at the price of a higher one, selling my soul for the sake of money, and what money can buy.
Today, as a matter of fact, there is very little real freedom anywhere because everyone is willing to sacrifice [his or her] personal integrity
(spiritual liberty) for the sake of security, or ambition, or pleasure, and just to be left alone in peace.”

Today, I want to reintroduce you to the other side of being a spiritual person, that is, becoming the prophet. Being a prophet is simply defined as being willing to become a living testament to the need for change, and to be a vital witness for justice, peace, compassion and truth in your world, and in your life.
In general, prophets are the part of our Western religious heritage we find to be the most troublesome. They are the risk takers, troublemakers, radicals and conspirators against the status quo..( Hmmm.. come to think of it, they might feel right at home here, after all…) their targets have always been complacency, security, apathy, and ego-driven disobedience. One of the main purposes of the prophet is to reinforce that we are all in this world together- we are so interconnected as to our fate and our future that we can say that there is no personal salvation- there is only all of us or none of us.
We are reminded by them that the Kingdom or Queendom of God is the place for those who love, and for those who serve. The prophets emphasize that we are indeed our brother’s and our sister’s keepers, and that we are also stewards of the Earth, and all its gifts and resources. Prophets remind us that we are everybody else’s caregivers, lovers, and healers and that is as it should be in humanity- that we are all one, all equal, all a part of the family of God.

The way of the prophet is not always a gentle way, but it is always sincere and deeply committed to discovering and proclaiming that which is just and true. The prophetic stands defiantly- he or she makes the commitment to act fiercely as a warrior of the heart- to be uncooperative with oppression and evil, while remaining steadfastly compassionate towards those who have been oppressed, toward the truth of our humanity and the dignity and worth of all life.

Being a prophet, or more accurately, feeling called and then being wrenched out of your complacency and resistance’s to act courageously is not a gift that most people want or seek. It contains very little personal glory, but much heartfelt satisfaction. Usually, there is a large price to pay when one chooses God, and for the willingness to stand up for what one believes. Most often, the mark of a true prophet is found in one who won’t volunteer, who is not eager to serve, but found in someone who is reluctant. looking over the lives of these people, there is a good reason for this. Q: Who, in their right mind wants to put themselves out there in front of family, friends, the media, and then become an easy target for either ridicule or criticism?
And yet… something truly happens to those blessed ones, something inside them that to others seems like madness, and to the ordinary way people look at their strange demands- to follow God more closely, it does seem impractical, if not downright insane! From somewhere deep within them, they hear a call, something awakens them, and urges them to accept a divinely inspired mission. Then they are compelled to write, speak, and lead for righteousness sake- for the sake of humanity, for decency, for equality, for the need to establish justice on earth and among nations, among neighbors, and in our own households.
A prophet is constantly on guard and warns us about following or falling into any of the traps of conformity and comfort, routine or apathy and especially to the belief that we are helpless to create a better reality, a better world through our own actions. They advise us strongly, asking us to rally our convictions and our faith in ourselves and in God to prevention defamation, abuse, exploitation, and conflict. On a personal and a social level, they warn us against indulging in any passions or preoccupation’s, idols or addictions- anything that can act as a substitute or counterfeit spirituality. They implore us to stop any behavior that can take us away from identifying ourselves as connected, ethical, and responsible.
A prophet asks each of us to make choices- choices as if the reality, power and grace of God really mattered to you, and to how the world needs to change to respond to those blessings that truly sustain us. A prophet or prophetess is a man or woman whose mission it is to be very protective of their community, and reverent toward the Council of All Beings on earth. They are willing to be very effective, front-line workers for justice, dignity and equality for us all. They see themselves as protecting the value of maintaining a spiritual identity in a world that discourages any serious regard for it.

Are you a prophet, in waiting??? Let’s see…
The classical description of a prophet is the one we get from the Jewish examples in the Hebrew or Old Testament. It goes like this:
First, there is a call to one’s conscience- a compelling, and a welling up cry to come out and serve your God in the highest way you know how, or in a way that God will reveal to you…
Second, there is an assurance that you will never need to be afraid, for you are becoming a servant of a holy purpose, a channel or an instrument, a current for God’s desire to uplift and reform that which had been downtrodden, abused or enslaved.
Then, you are told what the task ahead is, and you might balk, and then finally see that the world has need of you and so you risk, reach out, and declare, in God’s name, what needs to be said and done.
Hear, now, the prophet’s call… God’s call to you… To each of us… Learn of its wisdom, look at your life, and prepare to heed its message and mission for you, and for the world you want to see…

You! You out there, sitting in those chairs! Come Out! Rise Up ! Be the person of God that you were meant to be !
Don’t be afraid… I will never give you a task or a responsibility that I feel is too big for you, and besides… you believe that with God you can do anything, don’t you? That one on my side, on the side of God is a majority!

I have a job for you… a simple task really… but it is also my special gift to you by which you can bless all your brothers and sisters , all your relations on this planet… I want you to be my voice, my heart, my hands…

Now, I warn you… expect to be misunderstood; you might be maligned, ridiculed, made fun of- but… Hey, it just goes with the territory… Human ego and human culture doesn’t like to be corrected, and both are very resistant to change! Read the Beatitudes again… especially that last part!

Besides, there is a certain kind of enjoyable freedom when people think you are crazy- you can get away with a lot, while still teaching them many things!
Speak earnestly and honestly… Speak from your heart… Offer the people a choice and a hope- ask them to change for the sake of their lives, for our children’s sake, for the planet, so that the Earth has a chance to heal…
Meet any resistance you find with courage- teach them the promise of justice; give them the belief in equality, ask them to work for dignity, and to never neglect the suffering they see.
Tell them to stop; stop cooperating with evil, stop being passive, letting sick and evil people in their lives control them or have it all their way. Stop playing it safe; stop trying to be secure in a sick society or secure in your own family dysfunctions. Stop being afraid of judgments; stop your soul-robbing addictions, and seek out a place for God as alive, strong, loving and free within you.
Know, above all, that you are precious to God and that God has need of you- and that the time for you to answer the Divine call and for making peace and justice come into really is here… And NOW. AMEN

Meditation: The Current
from Anthony De Mello’s Wellspring

I pray to God that the Divine will choose me and use me-creating in me a channel for holy love, justice, and peace.
Yet, two things that most prevent me from being a channel of God’s grace are noise and sin.

So I begin my journey God ward by first seeking the silence- learning to quiet all the chatter of my own mind, and to silence all those haunting thoughts and caustic words about not being good enough, not being worthy, honest enough or true.

Then I seek to cleanse my heart from sin- all those ways I have tried to keep hidden from God or that can pull me away from the love, freedom, and dignity I deserve. To free myself, I willingly surrender my feelings of resentment, anger, greed, and fear… and place them before God. I give over my feelings of apathy, false comfort, ease or security knowing that I am only true and secure and at rest when I am near to God and held close by those everlasting arms that also strengthen me. …

Now, being filled by that sense of release, and supported by God’s presence that rededicates my spiritual renewal, I begin to feel a stream of love, justice, and peace begin moving inside me; filling, flowing and flooding my being and then moving out in gentle ripples to touch everyone I know, everyone who is here with me… As this current grows, so does my heart enlarge itself with the courage to share these gifts with others, even those whom I disliked or had been hurtful toward me.

Finally, I let it flow abundantly, indiscriminately, to support and care for everyone of the living creatures on the Earth. For by this stream of justice and love, we are connected to every living being, all who have a need for dignity and freedom, and from our hearts we know that justice, healing, and love cannot be for just one, it has to be for every and all….. AMEN

A Story about Faith and Service:
“Closer to God? No greater than this…”
There once was a famous old Rabbi, known throughout Europe as a wonderful teacher. For his efforts, he received many accolades, yet he remained humble an unimpressed by them. He wore fine garments and received the admiration of many, yet he would disappear every afternoon for about two hours, and then return to the Temple as if by magic. They knew he was not there, but they never saw him leave, nor did they notice when he had come back.

One time, this great rabbi was given a student who was suspicious of his success. This student wanted to track all his comings and goings. Then, in a self-righteous tone, he proclaimed that he would report this rabbi to the chief rabbi and have him censored for his strange and unusual behavior. When the chief rabbi heard of what the student wanted to do, he said to him, “This is a good man, why do you question his activities? The young zealot replied, “people declare that he is almost perfect, that he occupies the second rung on the ladder of holiness, and that is blasphemy!” The chief rabbi heard this and then he reluctantly give the young student his permission to spy on the old rabbi, and to find out what he does when he is missing from the synagogue.
One day, the young student hid himself in the dim light and shadows of the rabbi’s room. When it came to 2 O’clock, the rabbi quietly went to his closet, opened the door, and took out some old, dirty, tattered and torn clothes, and began to undress from his fine linens and began to put on these old rags.
After he had covered himself with rags, he took some soot from the fireplace, and rubbed it against himself, then picked up an old sack, and walked to the servant’s door, opened it, and walked out into the town…
Curious and amazed, the young student followed him at a distance, careful not to let the old rabbi see him…
Eventually, the rabbi reached an old hovel, a shack on the edge of the forest. It was a place where the sick and the poor live.

Going inside, without a word, he began by sweeping and cleaning the floor. Then he began to build a fire for the night. After that, he started to make soup for those who were there with the food he had purchased and brought with him.
After he had finished, he stopped to say some prayers with the people, especially those who were halt and blind. And then he left, quietly, and returned to the temple, and changed his clothes.
The next day, he did the same thing, and the next, until the student saw that he did this every day and that the reason why people did not see him come and go was his tattered and dirty disguise.
Then the young student rushed over to the chief rabbi and told him everything that he had seen about what the rabbi was doing. Then he asked the chief rabbi , ” Is what people say about him true? that he is an almost perfect rabbi, and that he is on the second rung of the ladder to heaven?” and the chief rabbi said to him, ” O yes, its true, but I would place him even higher.”

41 Responses to “Social Action and Finding The Prophet in Us All”

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    Over the last twenty years, my favorite resources have come from the advocates of Creation Spirituality – primarily the writings of Matthew Fox.
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    The second best sourtce for all the issues on social and economic justice that has proven to be extremely supportive and helpful to me would be Jim Wallis and the editors and writers for Sojourners magazine. For some time now, they provide excelllent discussion, commentary and wit. The insightful articles are a treasure and I bookmark those pages regularly. Among Wallis’s best books are God’s Politics, Rediscovering Values, and The Great Awakening
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