Clergy are ordained by the church, consecrated by a bishop and surrounded by loved ones while a choir fills the incensed air chanting “Veni Sancte Spiritus”. Prophets are ordained by God alone out in the wilderness or in some random parking lot. Priests want to be ordained, prophets almost never do. People come to their priests for comfort but the comfortable stay as far away as possible from prophets.
And sometimes, when God insists, priests moonlight as prophets.
There was an elderly couple at the 9am service last Sunday. The husband stood out like a sore thumb at Grace where jackets and ties are almost as unusual as pince nezs and ascots. At coffee hour I learned that this frail looking man was a retired, Methodist minister who had served Jersey City in the mid 60’s. He knew some of the Episcopal clergy who were also serving in Hudson County at that time and are my heroes. We talked a little bit about Fr. Robert Castle from now defunct St. John’s Church and his frequent incarcerations during the civil rights era. Then the retired, Methodist minister told me about a time when he, Bob and a few other clergy went to Journal Square to collect money for the March on Washington. “We were spit on.” he noted with a smile. Then he and his wife finished their coffee, said “God bless you.” and out the church door they went leaving me here with the honor and dread of being a priest now, when as much or more is at stake.
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” Jesus asked his disciples. “No, I tell you, but division.”
I can’t imagine a faith in Christ not being at least equal parts comfort and irritant.
Where is the hope of the poor being taken away? Who is treated with prejudice and contempt for being different? Where are indifference and greed laying waste to the earth and to our children’s futures?
“Everywhere.” my heart whispers, “Everywhere.”
In your car, in the church, in some midnight wilderness, what does God say to you about these things?
Once again Lent, the season of repentance is bearing down upon us. Repentance is about turning around and going in a new direction, towards God, which is often fearful. Just ask a prophet.
Maybe Lent is a time when God calls every one to moonlight as a prophet.
Words of Love with Truth call us, ordain us, and send us out. Make that our repentance.
Your sister in Christ,