Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice & Reclaiming the Straight and Narrow

By Douglas C. Sloan

The prophetic voice does not predict the future. The prophetic voice warns us about the path we are traveling and invites us to travel a different path, to embark on a different journey. The prophetic voice is one that takes us to task for not being the Love and Grace, the Justice and Compassion of God in the world. The prophetic voice calls us to listen for God in different places and in different ways. God does not speak through war, violence, or oppression. God does not speak through empire, nationalism, patriotism, wealth, exclusion, or isolation. The voices and words of people – whether verbal or written, ancient or contemporary – are not the voice of God. It is through the lostness of the coin, the lostness of the sheep, the lostness of both sons that the voice of God is heard. God speaks to us and calls to us through injustice, oppression, bondage, exile, hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness, imprisonment, and the need for healing. When we find the lost, deliver justice, save the oppressed, release those in bondage, return those in exile; when we feed, quench, clothe, house, heal, and visit the prisoners – it is then that God speaks and God acts and God is clearly present in the world. It is then that there is no thin place and the curtain that hides and separates us from the Divine is torn asunder and the presence and glory of God is plainly visible for all to see, for all who dare and care to look. It is then that God is more immanent than transcendent. And there is more. When it does occur that there is compassion for the widow and orphan and alien and stranger, when the lost are found, when there is justice that repairs and rehabilitates and restores and reconciles, when the oppressed are freed, when the exiled are returned, when we feed and quench and clothe and house and heal and visit the prisoners, then God celebrates enthusiastically and extravagantly and all are invited to the party. That is Good News.

Jesus is a prophetic voice who invites and directs us to a different path – the middle path. The middle path is narrow and one of constant tension. Thus, Jesus does not dismiss us from the Law. Walking the middle path is about maintaining that tension by walking straight and narrowly between the way of God and the way of the world – by maintaining the tension between a life of Divine Love and Grace and a life of legalistic obedience and ritual purity. Walking the middle path is not about indecision or balance. Walking the middle path is not about weighing the options and analyzing the arguments and making a choice. Walking the middle path is about immersing and subjecting ourselves to the tension and conflict of the middle path and allowing it and enabling it and participating in it as a purgative experience, a purifying fire, a death – our death. To be fully human – to be fully what God created and intends for us to be, to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, to be a child of God – is not about choosing or living into a better way. We do not reject or abandon or suppress the ways of the world. We have to die to them. That of us that needs and desires legalistic obedience – and rituals of magic and absolutes and divisiveness – and empire and wealth and vengeance and war and violence and oppression and hate and exclusion and jealousy and gossip and cold hearts and mean spirits and idolized certainties – that part of us has to die. When that part of us dies, we are inescapably left with resurrection and transformation and new life. That is Good News.