Pregnant with a Prophetic Word
Pastor Jeff Wells • December 13, 2016
Scripture: Luke 1:39-56
Mary’s speech to her cousin, Elizabeth is exuberant and joyful – full of her gratitude and love for God.
My soul proclaims Your greatness, O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you….
You have done great things for me, and holy is your name!
Listening to it, you might think this is just another praise song. Then she really starts to preach:
You have scattered the proud;
You have thrown the exploiters and oppressors right off of their thrones
and raised the lowly to places of honor.
You have filled the hungry with good things
while you have sent the rich away empty.
This is not just about what God has done for Mary. Suddenly, it is a song of liberation and justice. But what was she talking about? Perhaps she was thinking of some other, historical downfall of the proud and mighty. For surely what she proclaimed had not come to pass during her life or in recent memory. King Herod was still in his palace. Roman troops still occupied Judean and Galilean cities and humiliated and executed their citizens. Tax collectors continued to steal from the poor to prop up the elite. The hungry still longed for full bellies. Was this just wishful thinking on Mary’s part?
No. This was prophecy! Mary was pregnant with a prophetic word inspired by God and Jewish tradition – and upon seeing and hearing her cousin, Elizabeth, this song of praise and prophecy burst forth from her. Imagine it, a poor Jewish peasant girl – maybe 15 or 16 years old – singing such a song, making such claims. This was a woman of faith, yes, and also great strength and courage.
Mary was pregnant not only with the prophetic word proclaimed in her song – she was also physically pregnant with the Prophetic Word of God made flesh, incarnate, growing in her womb. You see, God called Mary to be a prophet – to proclaim and to carry the prophetic word. Before long, this Word of God, in the person of Jesus, would burst forth into the world and leave it radically and irreversibly altered. Does God call us too? Is it possible at this point in our lives, at this juncture in history, that we, too, might be pregnant – pregnant with a prophetic word needing to be born? With what are you, are we, pregnant?
Before we answer that, let’s ask and answer another question: What is prophesy? In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, there are numerous examples of prophecy. One of the three major sections of the Hebrew Scriptures is called Nevi’im – meaning “Prophets.” Whole libraries of books and articles are written on the prophetic writings. The prophecy they contain usually anticipates some action by God and carries either a warning about what will happen if human beings do not change their behavior or a vision of hope declaring how God is going to rearrange the order of things and bring about a new creation.
But prophecy is not a foretelling of what is going to happen. It is an imagining of what is possible. And very often, it is about dethroning those in power and lifting up the downtrodden. Therefore, prophecy is a threat to those who use power and privilege for their own benefit and a source of hope for those who suffer poverty, oppression, and exploitation. The prophetic imagination provides energy to communities to break free from the false consciousness imposed by structures of ruling power that tries to convince us that the way things are is the way they must always be. Prophetic imagination tries to foster communities of alternative vision capable of resistance and hope. I believe the Church of the Village is such a community.
I see our prophetic imagination expressed in our food ministry, Hope for Our Neighbors in Need. It is not just that the bellies of our guests are filled, but we are building community with them. We try to provide a place in which they feel welcomed and loved and respected. We also advocate for policies that will eliminate hunger and homelessness, for our vision anticipates a time when no one will go hungry, and everyone will have a safe, decent place to live, and a good job with a living wage.
Our prophetic vision was also apparent to me this week when we public unveiled and celebrated our new narthex/lobby mural on Wednesday night. I believe the work our beloved member and artist-in-residence, Jamie Jones, created is an expression of our communal consciousness and our prophetic imagination. It may be true that art, in itself, does not change the world. What is captured in the roots, seeds, and vines, the images of new growth, and the rainbow stream flowing across the ceiling toward LOVE is not the world as we now encounter it, but it envisions what it possible and what our God of love and justice longs to see. This is art as prophecy.
After Jamie finished the mural, she came across an old Native American prophecy from the Cree nation that captures much of the vision our mural tries to embrace. Let me share an excerpt with you:
A wise woman of the Cree Indian nation, named “Eyes of Fire,” had a vision of the future. She prophesied that one day, because of the white mans’ or Yo-ne-gis’ greed, there would come a time when the earth being ravaged and polluted and the forests being destroyed, the birds would fall from the air, the waters would be blackened, the fish would be poisoned in the streams, and the trees would no longer be. Humankind as we would know it would all but cease to exist. Then the keepers of the legends, stories, rituals, and tribal customs would be needed to restore us to health, making the earth green again. They would be humanity’s key to survival, they would be called the “Warriors of the Rainbow.” There would come a day of awakening when all the peoples of all the tribes would form a New World of Justice, Peace, Freedom and recognition of the Great Spirit….
They would teach the peoples how to pray with love that flows like the beautiful mountain stream. Once again, the peoples would be able to feel joy. They would be free of petty jealousies and love all humankind as their siblings, regardless of color, race or religion. They would feel happiness enter their hearts, and become as one with the entire human race. The poor, sick and needy would be cared for by their brothers and sisters of the Earth. These practices would again become a part of their daily lives.
The rivers would again run clear, the forests be abundant and beautiful, the animals and birds would be replenished. The powers of the plants and animals would again be respected and conservation of all that is beautiful would become a way of life.
Without prophetic imagination, without visions like this, could there have been a community with the strength and resolve to carry out the year-long protest at Standing Rock? Could any movement for love and liberation go forward without prophetic imagination?
So, there is a power in the prophecy of the rainbow and in Mary’s speech and in Jesus’ teachings. And there is power in prophetic witness of our community of radical love and radical inclusion, so that our very existence actually begins to create the new world of our imagining.
We are called to be prophets of God’s new creation – pregnant with a prophetic word for humanity. Do you feel a prophetic word kicking in your womb this morning? Do you feel it kicking in our community?