About a year ago, I had the pleasure of joining my good friend, Methodist pastor Clyde Denny, to attend a lecture at Greensboro College by Professor Walter Brueggemann. Professor Brueggemann is a world-famous biblical scholar, preacher and author. The title of the lecture was “The Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks.”
Professor Brueggemann said that our time is not much different than the times in ancient Israel when the prophets were speaking. They were responding to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. The world as they had known was changing dramatically and so many things that they took for granted were crumbling around them. The world we live in is changing like that as well. We must resist the temptation to pretend that we can go back to the way things were. The prophets of Ancient Israel provide a model for what the church today should proclaim.
Prof. Brueggemann said that there were three things that prophets like Jeremiah offered that we should be saying as well. When the official royal prophets were telling everyone that Jerusalem would be okay, that God would make it all right, Jeremiah told the truth that Jerusalem would indeed fall. The church today needs to be willing to tell the truth, not just tell people what they want to hear.
Second, Brueggemann said that the prophets truly grieved the loss of the city of Jerusalem. The church today must provide a place and affirmation of our grief. The Lamentations of Jeremiah and many lamentation Psalms provide the biblical texts that remind us that grieving is a necessary part of human life. You cannot skip over it.
And finally, we must offer real hope based in the promise of God. The official prophets offered false hope, saying that things would go back to the way they were. But Christian faith offers hope, not that this world will be okay, but that God remains and renews even as this world falls apart.
Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC