July 8, 2018
Rev. Dr. Alan Baughcum
Day’s Ferry Congregational Church, Woolwich ME
Ezekiel 2:1-5, Mark 6:1-13
The verb “to prophesy” in Greek means to speak for or on behalf of someone. A prophet is someone who speaks for or on behalf of someone. In the Bible a prophet is someone who speaks for or on behalf of God. Think about all the times in the Bible when someone, Isaiah or Jeremiah or so many others, says “Thus says the Lord.” That is a prophet, introducing his or her audience to the idea that what is to follow is from God, not from the prophet.
And, no, you were not imagining that you have heard that phrase a lot. It pops up 416 times in the Old Testament, only once in the New Testament ….. in Acts 15, verse 17, when James, the brother of Jesus, quotes OT scripture (Amos 9:11-12).
Let’s stop for a moment. Think about the Old Testament prophets: Isaiah, Ezekial, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos. What comes into your mind about them? Old men, long grey beards, in bad moods (who ever heard of a happy prophet???) ….
Yes, in the Old Testament most of the prophets were men. But five women are named as prophet or prophetess.
There was Miriam, sister of Moses, who led the Jewish women in singing at the Red Sea to celebrate God’s victory over the armies of the Pharoah. The song was praise for the power of God to overturn the power of the rich and powerful rulers of nations (Ex 15).
Deborah, one of the Judges of Israel was a prophet. She bucked up Barak, the commander of the Jewish army at a crucial time to win a great victory for the people. Her song at Judges 5 celebrates the power of God to raise up the people to volunteer to fight for the Lord and overcome threatening enemies. The song of Deborah ironically reverses roles of gender and power not unlike the song of Miriam. Both songs celebrate the triumph of habitual victims over their oppressors.
The third female prophet is unnamed (Isaiah 8:3). She is Isaiah’s wife and bears him a third son, with a name given by God: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, may’huhr-shal’al-hash’baz. The child’s name is meant to be yet another warning to the King of Israel, Ahaz, about the danger that an alliance with foreign kingdoms posed to Israel. The kingdoms of Damascus and Syria did invade but very quickly Assyria moved against Damascus and Syria and removed the threat.
The fourth named female prophet is Huldah (2 Kgs 22:14). She was consulted by political leaders, as were Jeremiah and Ezekial. Her words encouraged King Josiah (649 – 609 BC) to make a covenant to be obedient to the book of law recently rediscovered in the Temple and to undertake other religious reforms.
The fifth prophetess is Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), wife of the prophet Shemaiah. They were part of a group of prophets who were intent on scaring the true servant of God Nehemiah. Nehemiah was the Persian-appointed governor of Judah in the fifth century BC who oversaw the rebuilding and refortification of Jerusalem. Noadiah may have been a false prophet, or maybe Nehemiah actually needed a good swift kick ….
Mark tells us that Jesus was a prophet. And, in his own hometown, he was apparently an unsuccessful prophet …. could do not do a deed of power there because of his homies’ unbelief.
The NRSV translation of Mark says that the people of Nazareth “took offence at him.” The actual Greek is more nearly, “they were scandalized.”
Luke tells us more about why his friends and family were scandalized. Jesus read the Hebrew scriptures Isaiah 61:1-2 about the mission of the servant, the Messiah, to bring good news to the poor and release of the captives, and sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim the jubilee year of the Lord’s favor and restoration. Then he announced that he was the fulfillment of that scripture.
And if that were not enough, elevating himself, as they saw it, above his raising ….. then, he praised some people who were foreigners and unbelievers …. in your face!
It is no wonder that, as Luke tells the story, the people of Nazareth rose up and tried to throw Jesus off a cliff.
“Just who does this guy think he is??!!” Can’t you just hear those good folks thinking exactly that?
The people of Nazareth did not just unbelieve Jesus …. they were furious at what seemed like his undue elevation over them and by his seeming preference for strangers, foreigners!, over the very people who knew him, who had raised him, and who had supported him. What a traitor!! Probably rooted for the Yankees and the Lakers as well!
Prophets do not always come in the ways we expect. Nor are they necessarily the people we might expect.
Let’s take a minute …. don’t worry about the time …. I will watch the clock and let you know when a minute is up ….. think about who has been a prophet in your life …. who has spoken the word of God to you.
A teacher, a pastor, a grandmother, MLKJr., Desmond Tutu, others …..
I want to talk about a modern-day prophet ….. Fred Rogers. Well-to-do, Presbyterian, Republican …. not exactly someone you might expect to be a prophet
God told us to love God and love our neighbor. Fred Rogers said “Won’t you be my neighbor?” And then he said, “I like you just the way you are.”
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Song)
Written by Fred Rogers | © 1967, Fred M. Rogers
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
I Like You As You Are
Lyrics by Josie Carey | Music by Fred Rogers
I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely
And I like you as you are
I like you as you are
Without a doubt or question
Or even a suggestion
Cause I like you as you are
I like your disposition
Your facial composition
And with your kind permission
I’ll shout it to a star
There have been people who have criticized Fred Rogers for teaching that he liked people just as they are …. lowering expectations, they harrumph! Not enough encouragement or enthusiasm for achievement and higher things, they say.
But Fred Rogers knew what these people don’t know. Love, and that is what Mr. Rogers meant when he sang “I like you as you are”…. love does not leave us unchanged. Love comes to us as we are, God loves us as we are, but that love will change us if we allow it
My family met Fred Rogers at the ferry terminal on Nantucket Island. He got down to my daughter’s height …. I think she was 3 or 4, something like that …. and they talked …. my little daughter completely occupied Fred Rogers’ attention. After his talk with her and then after speaking with his parents, he left. My daughter turned around and asked, “So, where is Captain Kangaroo?’
That encounter did not turn around any of our lives. But we were so pleased to have met him …. we were so impressed that he was exactly as he appeared on television …. we were so honored that he focused completely on each of us as he spoke with each individual. He strengthened and encouraged us … his encounter was important …. and we remembered.
That kind of encounter is the sort of thing that takes root and grows …. maybe slowly …. but it grows and it keeps growing.
Fred Rogers was a prophet, just like Jesus. He told people, just like Jesus, that we are all, or we can all be neighbors to one another. And, like Jesus, he introduced us to the power of love that can bring a smile to a child’s face, warm the heart of an appreciative parent, and completely overturn what seem to be powerful and completely established systems of authority and oppression.