Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Shoot The Messenger

My last blog highlighted the Jeremiah reading from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, The First Sunday in Advent. This entry picks up the Old Testament Reading from Advent II - Malachi 3:1-4:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

The prophecy contained in the Book of Malachi challenges Israel to faithfulness in every way - to offer pure sacrifices in both the temple and in daily living; to be faithful to our earthly and spiritual 'spouses' (read 'God' here); to speak truth and not dissemble.

As I get my mind around the reanimation of this blog, I promise that I will tell the truth - at least as I see it. I promise to be faithful and I promise offer pure words from the heart. This will not be easy. The truth often hurts and begs to be 'softened.' In being faithful to God's call and leading I must admit that I have found truths expressed in Buddhism and Islam which I will share from time to time. In offering pure words from the heart, I may open myself to reproach, challenge and even ridicule.

Yet this is the experience of those who stand before the messenger of The Lord. "Who can endure [the] refiner's fire and...fullers' soap?" The whole point of the refiner's fire and fullers' soap is to wash away the impurities - the lies and deceptions - to reveal what is really there. The point is to reveal whether we have lived with integrity.

Integrity has been the single greatest principle that has guided my journey with God, and integrity is why I must write, express, challenge and be challenged.

To paraphrase Malachi again in his description of Levi, the archtype of those who would be priests,

True instruction was in Levi's mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his or her mouth, for priests are the messengers of the Lord of hosts.

Now, if I may take this one step further, let me add the Lutheran/Protestant principle of 'the priesthood of all believers,' I would suggest that the call to 'integrity' is for all who would profess to be Christian...

Integrity is not easy. It involves matching our insides with our outsides. More than simply walking the talk and talking the walk, having integrity means being honest with ourselves about who we are and what we may be going through. If I am sad or angry with God, I should not be ashamed to say it out loud without fear of being labelled 'faithless' or 'weak.' Having integrity takes courage. Read through a handful of the Psalms if you want to find integrity of expression.

The Anglican Church of Canada itself has recently shown refreshing signs of integrity. In light of dwindling numbers all over, we need to take a look at how we do business as a National Church. The current call is for: "Less reliance on standing committees and more on task forces, a review of the size and function of General Synod, increased partnership with dioceses and other churches, an “overhaul” of the national church’s communications strategy and a review of the national stewardship initiative." - http://www.anglicanjournal.com/nc/other/news-items/c/sliders/article/new-ways-of-structuring-general-synod-11381//abp/141.html

This process will be painful, like the refiner's fire and the fullers' soap...but in the end, with all the excess washed away, we will be true, integral, and whole.

Look inside yourself and ask, am I being true?

If you don't like the answer, don't shoot the messenger.

The Call to Prophecy

I am playing “catch-up” already. My intent, since November, was to restart blogging on a weekly basis and to use, as a foundation, one of the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. But that’s okay. We need to be gentle with ourselves. My overall plan is to write/blog my way through each reading, one reading a week, starting with the Hebrew Bible. That works out to be a 10-12 year commitment…eh, but I ENJOY it! Though my foundational text may be Scriptural, the topics will be, well….‘topical.’ Let me show you what I mean….

Let’s look at the Hebrew Bible reading for Advent I, Year C (Revised Common Lectionary) – Jeremiah 33:14-16:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

I love Jeremiah. His prophecies always cut me to the core. Although this passage comes from one of the more hope-filled sections of the book, it contains a brutal clarity – a day IS coming when God’s promises will be fulfilled for us. These are words which can only be spoken to a people who are struggling through times of darkness and doubt. These are words we need to hear. These are words we need to cling to even when we doubt their very truth.

Jeremiah, like many of his predecessors, was a reluctant prophet, hoping that the mantle of prophetic responsibility would be passed to another. Yet we are never allowed to shirk from our call to be a prophetic people – speaking the truth, good or bad, popular or unpopular, to those who are eager to listen, to those who do not want to hear and, most frustratingly, to those who do not care.

Remember with me that prophecy is not predicting the future. It is telling the truth about what is happening here and now, pointing out what should be happening here and now. Warnings of disaster are meant to remind us of the consequences of not changing our ways. Visions of hope are meant to remind us that even in the darkest of times, God will not abandon us to our own destruction.

I am not apologizing for the late-ness of this first blog because truths (though conditional – a topic for later) are also timeless. It has taken me almost two months to realize that through this blog I am seeking a venue to speak truths that I believe people need to hear. Am I claiming to be a prophet? No more than I am calling you, dear follower, to your own prohetic role.