John brought this divine message to all those who came to the Jordan River. He preached that people should be ritually cleansed through baptism as an expression of changed lives for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 3:3, The Voice Bible
This week we encounter a prophet. One that calls people, especially the mighty and powerful, to pay attention to the ways that the created order does not reflect God’s peace-full reign. To the ways that the people have walked away from one another, from themselves as a people of the promise, and from God. From the ways that they continue to perpetuate injustice and oppression.
Often the people have become comfortable. So comfortable that they no longer see how their life and their behavior towards one another no longer mimics God’s call to a deeper love of God and neighbor. Soon the people begin to confuse their apathy, prejudices, attitudes, and worldview to God’s intention for them and for those around them. No longer seeing the plight of neighbor, making exceptions of themselves, making a god who thinks, feels, and acts like them.
The prophet’s message is hard because the people need to be woken up! It’s hard because most of us find it difficult to be confronted about our failures, mistakes, and wrongdoing. Hard because acknowledgment of our sin means letting go of our power and control.
In the end, the prophets were not extremely successful. We do have a record of their prophetic utterances and we do recognize how they have inspired their communities in retrospect. But in their time most of them were killed by those in power. Their message too dangerous, too real, too on point for the mighty to ignore. The prophetic message is always a threat to those in power, to the majority, to the comfortable, and to the prosperous. A threat to those with the most to lose!
One of the roles that I believe that the pastor plays in a community is that of prophet. Truthtelling for the sake of transformation, for the sake of a change of heart and life. Proclamation that reminds the community again and again of its call to be agents of God’s kingdom — agents of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and love. Proclamation that wakes up our hearts to the least, last, and lost.
The prophetic role should come with warning labels. It is easy to come across preachy, arrogant, and self-righteous. It is easy to offend to the point that one is no longer heard. It is easy to leave little room for conversation and for nuance. At the same time, it is easy to tell God’s people only that which is comfortable, safe, and that which will not cost you anything. It is easier not to push, challenge, or question. Easier not to meddle . . .
This week I invite you to read Luke 3:1-18. Hear the voice of the prophet: How is it challenging you? What are the demands of the kingdom according to John the Baptizer? Where are you feeling pushed, made uncomfortable, or bothered?
This weekend come prepared to hear what I pray is a loving yet challenging word as we continue preparing for the coming of Christ.
He preached with many other provocative figures of speech and so conveyed God’s message to the people—the time had come to rethink everything.
Luke 3:18, The Voice Bible