Pastor’s Perspective – February 2021
I have been experiencing a bit of writer’s block in recent months. It is not that I have run out of things to say. I have no shortage of words to share. I have no shortage of outrages of which to bloviate. My reservoir of opinions has not run dry. Why then, if I have no shortage of things to communicate, have I been experiencing writers block?
The answer is deceptively simple. What I am writing does not feel appropriate for our moment. When I have completed my dissertations about: the world, American politics, the economy, the collective outrage of the citizenry, stolen elections, conspiracy theories, plots to overthrow the electoral college, and the imminent coming of the Anti-Christ, I am hearing that still small voice telling me to swallow my words and try again.
I am writing more words than ever. I am ingesting and contemplating information, content, and opinions like never before, yet after my outrage subsides, I am clear about only one thing. This is not the moment for my words. We do not need to hear from Dan, we need to hear from God. Our moment demands God’s word… not mine.
The Church often seeks the prophetic voice in times of trouble. The difficulty is that what often passes muster in the Church as the prophetic voice can easily be our own voice turned up in volume and outrage. We forget that it is not our responsibility to speak to the moment. It is our responsibility to speak the “word of God.” In other words, when the Church speaks prophetically it is imperative that we do not substitute our own opinions for the message that God seeks for us to deliver.
It is not enough that the Church speak out for this cause or that one. Prophets of God and followers of Jesus Christ are not intended to simply give you their opinions (nor the opinions of their sect or interest group). As we seek to discover our prophetic voice for this moment, it is important to note what it means to be God’s prophet.
A prophet of God is first and foremost God’s messenger. God’s Angelo’s. The angels are those heavenly messengers who carry God’s word to the people. Prophets are human angels: messengers who carry the word of their Lord and King. What this means is that the words we share should NOT be our own opinions or thoughts. It is not ‘prophetic’ to predict the outcome of an election or to attack a political party based on your own emotional responses to the evening news or your own political formulations and observations. It is not ‘prophetic’ to alienate half of the nation in an attempt to show your support for the other half. It is not ‘prophetic’ to blindly support a politician or an interest group to show your fidelity to your people or cause. It is not ‘prophetic’ to preach or teach YOUR truth. You can only be prophetic if you have FIRST received a message from God. You are being prophetic when you share God’s message to the world.
Today we have so many prophets and preachers and each claim to have a message from God. How do we discern who is speaking for God and who is sharing using God’s name to sell their own message? In the ancient world they had a simple test for determining whether a prophet had spoken the word of God. When prophets gave counsel and advice to the Kings they were judged based on a simple conclusion. If their word proved to be false, then the prophet would be a false prophet. Using that standard, those who predict outcomes and events, such as who might win an election, or whether the Earth will become inhabitable due to Greenhouse gases in ten years, are NOT speaking from God if their predictions prove to be untrue. The solution of the ancient kings was to execute those whose divine revelations proved to be fraudulent.
Are you beginning to understand my dilemma?
The more that I get caught in the news of the day. The more passionate I am, the more righteously indignant I become, the greater the temptation grows for me to become a subject expert on the issues of the day. The more I cave to those passions, the less I am able to hear the voice of God and communicate it to the people. The deeper the crisis grows the more compelling it becomes to offer a word of certainty and comfort to my own tribe. The more chaotic it becomes the easier it becomes to tell people what they want to hear.
In other words when the times grow difficult it is easy to become trapped in our own spiritual echo chamber of ideology and assumptions.
There are so many things that I believe. So many ideas and concepts that I have built around myself, that when I am backed against the wall, THEY can become the foundation on which I stand. My faith is not always ‘built on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness.’ Often times my faith is built on a scaffolding of American history, partisan opinions, personal interests, and cultural assumptions. In those moments I have to be honest with myself and reconsider whose voice I am hearing, whose word I am receiving, and to what truth am I clinging.
I share this with you because I do not believe that I am the only person struggling with this. I am hearing pastors and teachers succumbing to their darker inclinations and revealing their own biases with histrionic revelations and false assertions. I am listening to men and women whom I respect and admire getting caught making predictions that are clearly fraudulent and without self-reflection. I am seeing the warping of our collective vision as improper assertions and untrue assumptions are cluttering my inbox and reading lists.
I do not want to contribute to that culture, but neither do I not want to criticize without the intent to correct. I do not want to upbraid without the intent to forgive. I do not want to defend without the intent to protect. I do not want to speak, act, or preach without the intent to share agape love.
And that is a hard standard to maintain. It is beyond Herculean. It is a standard that can only be met with the fullness of God’s love and the promise of God’s grace. I cannot do what I intend to accomplish alone. Without a clear word from the Lord, I am incapable, ill prepared, and unworthy to give voice to what God intends me to speak.
But I am willing. I am willing to try. To hope. To believe that God can reveal a word for this moment. That God’s love can be revealed, even today, even to us.
This is why I have had such a hard time with my writing. I am dissatisfied with my own voice. I am frustrated with my own biases, anger, and grief. I am no longer interested in giving voice to my own grievances and petty annoyances. I do not feel that we are in a moment where we can simply channel our inner curmudgeon and spit out Andy Rooneyesque quips and comments.
We don’t need commentary. We need the word of God. A true direction. A movement of the Holy Spirit.
So I wait. I write. I edit. I do my best to cleanse my voice of hate. And I listen.
God is speaking to us. Calling us to love those we want to hate. Asking us to say something kind. Do something good. Share something beyond our interests and opinions. Love God. Love them. Love each other. Can you hear it?
Never has something so simple been so difficult to say. Faith, Hope, Love. Now and forever; the greatest of these is Love.