This is going to be a fun week of preparation for our conversation at the Table on Sunday.
First, we’ll be talking about Jesus as prophet, one of the central understandings of who Jesus was. Some theologians and scholars describe Jesus purely as a prophet – his mission was to call his people into a new way of living. Everything else that he does – teaching, healing, praying, leading – simply serve the purpose that he was pointing to and living into a different kind of society.
A society where the first shall be last and the last shall be first…
I believe it’s central for us to understand Jesus this way. Jesus did not come to make anyone feel comfortable. Yes, his ministry was awash with radical actions of love and compassion for the least of those in his society, but he also said no to many would-be disciples who weren’t willing to be transformed.
In the book Missional Spirituality, the authors, Roger Helland and Leonard Hjalmarson, make the point that one of the key things Jesus did was challenge his people to leave a temple spirituality, a religious institution about a location where spiritual goods and services where shared and exchanged, to a lived spirituality, where the body becomes the temple and the world becomes the place to discover God’s movement. No doubt, this prophetic stance was one of the reasons Jesus’ words and deeds were seen as a threat to the powers that be. His culture was established around the regular patterns of temple life – to leave it behind was blasphemous.
And yet today, I think the same problems can often exist in the Christian church – we cling to our temples and expectations that people must come and find God here, when God is already out there among the poor, the broken, the sick, and the forgotten. Jesus’ prophetic words will still ring true and challenge us to leave our temples and go where God is moving.
The second reason to look forward to this Sunday is that we will be welcoming Rev. Dr. Irie Session, one of our area ministers and the pastor of a community of people on the edge of our society. Her ministry has helped women get off the streets and leave lives of prostitution. She regularly sees and confronts the realities of human trafficking in our society. Her experience and theological wisdom will be a gift as we look at Jesus through this important lens.
What questions will you bring this Sunday? The Table welcomes them as we all look to follow after one who came that we might be challenged to live in a way of reconciliation, peace, and compassion. We might even sing a Bob Marley tune too (“how long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?“).