A traditional or orthodox moderate Anglican in TEC of late hasn’t had much hope upon which to hang a hat. The loudest voices have been those who urge us all to leave and join the array of alternative choice “life boats” bobbing about in an exilic ocean. That each life boat views itself as an alternative liner is another matter. Then again, one can amalgamate a score or more of lifeboats and still only have a very odd ship indeed.

I have commented before about the misuse of the term “prophet” in the contemporary church. Since Pentecost, the office of prophet has been exclusively that held by Jesus, as is true of the offices of priest and king. The Church is prophetic, as it is priestly, as it lives through baptism “in Christ.” Those set aside and called to ministry, made “holy”, which means separated, as a musician is separated from the tone deaf, or an athlete from the sedentary, by vocation and then practice, live into their roles by transforming grace as they exist through the Church in Christ and Christ in them. That there is ontological change in baptism does not exclude ontological change in ordination.

It seems obvious that Jesus didn’t create a Qumran community. Rather he created a community in but not of the world. While it may well be the vocation of some Christians to live apart in prayer and service, most of us are called into close contact with people, yes, sinful, perhaps contagious people. Anyone who suggests that being in the Church is safe or divorced from the real world hasn’t grasped the risky business of Christianity.(It is for this reason that a Confession and Absolution is or should be part of every Eucharist as Cranmer planned.)

An authentic prophetic ministry does that which Christ did on earth. It is here that it is not always easy to see the wood of the Cross for the proverbial trees. Yes, Jesus cared for the poor, the outcast, the diseased and the “marginalized”. Yes, his care was practical and not just “spiritual.” Jesus fed the hungry and healed the sick. Yet if he had done no more than healed, fed and preached -for after all we find figures in the Old Testament who did and said as much -he would merely be a great religious leader. Granted that is how many seem to view him in our church today!

Jesus died and rose to reconcile the world to God. Therein lies the scandalous, prophetic word of the Good News. Prophecy is all about reconciliation, restoration and making things new.

People who assume the mantle of a prophet and then shout aloud about news which diminishes Jesus or diminishes the Church by calling people into self-serving isolation may be all sorts of things, but they are not true Christian prophets. It is safe to be a church which regards itself as just one among many religions. It is safe to be a church made up of exiles in search of purity. It is safe but it is not authentic.

The true prophet calls us all into self-denying, cross-bearing, hurting, following of the Jesus whose fearing sweat in Gethsemane gave way to cruel death and passion and to death, but behold he lives! We cannot be trusted to stress the Incarnation or the Resurrection, or the Ascension until we dare live into the reality of Cross-bearing. We must be prepared to lose our life to save it; to lose the life of the Church to save it and that drama is played out in the world and not apart from it. Golgotha was firmly a physical, worldly place. Jesus died in the company of two sinners.

Lent is the yearly time for living into the stark reality of corporate discipleship. Perhaps much too much has been made of the personal disciplines of Lent. Perhaps it is the Church and our part of the Church we call the Episcopal Church which is called to “give up” its grasping for respectability, cultural acceptability, and upper middle class “virtue”. (Should ashes be placed on our blood red doors?) Our personal Lenten disciplines are for such a purpose. Establishment religion and its opposite, the religion of retreat and abandonment cannot and do not present to the contemporary world the coming, living, dying, rising, ascending Christ who dwells in heaven and in his Body, the Church.Yet only in the fullness of the Gospel is life. Our “hope of glory” as the Church and through the Church as individuals stands on nothing less than Christ and Him crucified, and thus that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

One Response

  1. Wow. So much for “a kingdom of priests to serve our God.” Sorry, but I completely disagree with you. The roles of prophet and priest have been given as gifts to various members of the Body of Christ, all operating under the authority of the one Spirit. But I could be wrong, as I believe you are. See Paul for references on how we have many gifts for the building up of the Body (unlike some recent false prophets who have been busy tearing down everything they could get their hands on). I love seeing you write again, so I have something to agree (or disagree!) with! Fun!

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