#24PropheticWords • A Hope and A Harbor

We welcome Rev. Lori McPherson, a dyke, attorney, wife, and dog-mom who rabble-rouses in and around Baltimore. A magna cum laude graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary, she has been ordained in Metropolitan Community Church since 2006. You can find her on Twitter having fun with the #slatespeak crowd at @fuzzlaw.

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear
and produce great signs and omens,
to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
 — Matthew 24:24

There’s this funny thing that happens when we go to Seminary, and then preach for 5, 10, 15 years. We get socialized. We learn to plug the week’s lectionary readings into today’s reality, or vice-versa, and extract whatever lessons we can from the text. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s the job of a preacher.

But in times like these, these tumultuous-days-on-end where the foundation of our nation’s well-being seems rocked to the core, can we do more? Is God calling us to be different in these days? The onslaught of collective crises leaves our people with a need for some hope and a harbor, not just wistful visions of better days.

We can and we will speak a prophetic word, a word of truth, if we speak from the heart. The caution remains and it is well to heed it: no one ought ever refer to themselves as a prophet. Much like claiming humility, the gift begins to evaporate once we begin to plaster it across our chest. There are very few prophets. If one is prophetic, let others say so.

Yes in these days — as in all days — charlatans, fools, and the wicked (yes, evil is real, another topic for another day) seek to deceive us where we are most vulnerable. Where are we more open and at risk than in our genuine relationship with the divine? In these days, though, the consequences of such deceptions are higher, and the failure to adhere to what is true and holy and good all the more devastating.

Prophecy implies hope, and hope is hard to find these days. Jesus telling us to ‘do right’ and ‘be discerning’ — as in this story from Matthew — seems like little more than the rote instructions of a bygone age where our very survival was not so much at risk. We are past the point of discernment.

The lines are clearly drawn in new and different ways in these days and the real question is not “can you discern what is not of God” but “what will you do now that the evil is in your midst?” Can we hear the voice of God, the voice of the prophets — yesterday’s and today’s — as they push and pull us to that conversation?

We can, and we will, if we brave the eschatology of Jesus. ‘Eschatology’ is just a six-dollar word that means “how in the hell does this all end?” I borrow from my old seminary professor, Dr. Craig Hill, in his book In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future(read this book if you haven’t already), for a key thought about Jesus’ eschatology that might sustain us in these days: “God’s dominion is both present and future.”

Can we claim that, even in these days? Can we rest in the grace and the peace and the knowledge that the Divine is here walking these troubled roads with us? Is that enough?

Our people need a hope and a harbor and I can think of no better promise than the one already realized: that God is still with us.

Say it. Claim it. Preach it. Sing it.

Let it drive and sustain our living and our fight for what is right.