Prophetic Voice

After the sermon “Why was Jesus Baptized? Why Affirm Our Own?” on January 10th, it was brought to my attention that despite direct renouncing on social media and the generalized renouncing of violence in previous sermons, I had failed to directly renounce previous violence, riot, and attack from the pulpit.

I recognize and acknowledge this failure. I publicly repent.

I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence as contrary to the Will and Kingdom of God.

I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence despite the associated gatherings, person or persons, organizations or institutions, including but not limited to:

  • Antifa,
  • Black Lives Matter,
  • Child Abuse,
  • Domestic Violence,
  • Gender-based and Sexual Violence,
  • Proud Boys,
  • QAnon,
  • Sport Championship Wins,
  • and otherwise.

This brave and bold renouncement is rooted in our baptismal commitments and re-commitments in our Affirmation of Baptism, through renouncing the devil, all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and draw us from the path, Will, and Kingdom of God. This requires the help of God.

And yet, our shared Christian vocation rooted in our baptismal commitments and these renouncements are not divorced from our intriguingly, inter-connected scriptures from the call of the young Samuel to Jesus’ earliest disciples, and from how the call arrives to its embracement and embodiment.

Our baptismal commitments include:

  • to live among the faithful gathered around the Word and sacraments and who teach us the Lord’s prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments;
  • to nurture our faith and prayer life in order to grow in a deeper, healthier, more trusting relationship with the Triune God;
  • to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through embodying His teachings while imitating His public life and ministry as recorded in the Scriptures;
  • to care for, love, and serve others and the entire creation that God has made; and
  • to seek and strive towards justice and peace.

Although I often refer to this as our shared Christian vocation, it is our discipleship.

According to our Old Testament scripture, Israel was in a dark time lacking the experience of the divine presence in voice and vision. Eli was their high priest, who had grown dull, blind, and deaf spiritually while ignoring the actions of his ‘priestly sons’ according to the Torah, or teaching, in ritual practice and basic human decency.

Meanwhile, Samuel is a young boy whose short life has been dedicated to the service of the Temple, who is literally sleeping near the Arc of the Covenant holding the tablets that the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Samuel is not and will never be a priest, for he is not from the ‘priestly’ tribe.

But, Samuel will be awoken by the voice of God. Samuel would be a prophet, for that is not limited to tribe.

Samuel responds to the voice “Here I am Lord, your servant is listening”.

And yet it may seem a cruel calling, for Samuel is initially summoned to deliver a divine warning to Eli that his family’s legacy will be destroyed due to their faithlessness.

Samuel will continue his prophetic, public ministry sharing the messages of God not within the temple but among the common people in the country-side.

Then after centuries had passed, God became incarnated in human flesh and bone as Jesus the Christ, who was raised by a common family within a small country-side town called Nazareth. Jesus was baptized in the Jordon River beginning his public ministry as a teacher and prophet with a public dedication to the path, Will, and Kingdom of God.

Now, we enter into the scriptures with the calling of Jesus’ earliest disciples. Philip and Nathanael.

Philip easily and excitedly agreed to leave his employment, family, and life as he knew it to answer the invitation and call from Jesus to ‘follow me’.

Nathanael, on the other hand, was more ‘skeptical’, but perhaps he had a deeper sense of fulfillment in his employment, family, and life as he knew it. So, he asks ‘can anything good come from Nazareth’?

Philip, perhaps grabs Nathanael by the hand, says ‘come and see’. Nathanael does.

I envision the conversation of Philip, Nathanael, and Jesus was deeper and lengthier than included in Scripture. But, the conversation convinced Nathanael to ‘follow’ Jesus and to ‘see’ for himself.

Jesus always spoke truth. Jesus, similar to Samuel, spoke prophetically.

Jesus called his disciples, including us, to speak prophetically.

Unfortunately, the prophetic voice is often uncomfortable, painful, and convicting to hear.

The prophetic voice can be uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous to speak.

I think of Paul Tillich, a German Lutheran theologian, whose prophetic voice against the NAZI party resulted in the loss of his employment at the University and relocation to the United States of America.

I think of Martin Luther King Jr, a Black Baptist preacher from Alabama, whose prophetic voice against racial injustice in the United States of America paired with non-violent protest and civil disobedience ultimately resulted in his assassination.

These men are examples of Christian persons who spoke prophetically in courage.

These men are examples of Christian persons who paired their prophetic voice with action. 

These men are examples of Christian persons who relied on the Grace of God to do so.

Similarly, we are called to speak prophetically in courage for the sake of justice and honest peace.

Similarly, we are called to pair our prophetic voice with actions of compassion, mercy, love, and service.

Similarly, we are called to rely on the Grace of God to do so. God Help Us.

May we echo Samuel, ‘here I am Lord, your servant is listening’.

May we model Philip and Nathanael, who answered the calling to follow Jesus as disciples.

May we embrace our prophetic voice within and through our shared baptismal, Christian vocation. 

May God help us. Amen.

Scriptures were 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 and John 1: 43-51.
Originally preached  17 January 2021 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

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