Have you ever met a prophet?
I’ll admit that in our tradition, prophet is a scary word. We tend to not see them or identify them as people living among us. Other Christian denominations and traditions embrace the prophet identity but we don’t. They can make Lutherans in Europe and the United States uneasy since prophets, by definition, are an odd bunch. We tend to “other” them, see them as outsiders that belong to the past. Even people we might identify as prophets, say The Rev. Dr. Martin Lutheran King, Jr., we hesitate to label them fully. There is something about prophets that make us uncomfortable.
In our Deuteronomy text today, the people of Israel are asking Moses a very serious question. They want to know who they should listen to once Moses dies. Moses, the prophet that all other prophets are based on, speaks for God. He has met God, talked to God, and even debated with God. When Moses dies, then, who should the people listen to? How can the community know that there is someone in their community who is truly connected with God? The people of Israel are concerned about what to do when guidance from God is needed. They want to know who they can turn to when they need help.
This text offers some advice but this isn’t an easy question. Even in our own personal lives, it can be difficult to hear when God is speaking to us. We might look around at the person who obviously seems to be speaking for God. But there’s no guarantee that they are serving God. In our everyday lives, when we’re seeking counsel, help, and hope, just who do we turn to?
We turn to Jesus. The prophets in our midst are always prodding us, poking us, and directing us to Jesus. They do not ask for rewards nor do they only speak comforting words that make us feel better about ourselves. The prophets are always bringing us to the foot of the Cross, to witness to our crucified savior, whose arms are open to all. Prophets bring people to Jesus and push them away from themselves. They are outsiders because God has called them to push others into the arms of God. That’s where God wants us. That’s where we belong. And prophets exist to steer us into God’s love.
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