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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Prophetic Path
The Prophetic Path

Prophets Belong in Community

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

CAC teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes describes our natural resistance to prophets in our midst:

Prophets are difficult to have around. No one wants to claim the title or do the work because of it. In this postmodern age, everybody is uncomfortable with prophets. They yell when you don’t want them to. They ask for trouble when it could be avoided. They don’t have a politically correct bone in their bodies.…

Prophets are leaders, but not leaders of their own choosing. Inevitably, they have some sort of divine encounter. The meet a burning bush, a ram in the bush, or hear a call in the night. They have visions and dreams. They’re quirky and more than a little weird. As an example, take Jeremiah—he’s crying all the time. Isaiah fasts and lies in the dirt; John the Baptist eats locusts, and Huldah prophesies doom. Finally, one of the most important characteristics of prophets is that they are dangerous to the system.…

In bringing messages from God—and God doesn’t mince words—God speaks directly through them. They have a relationship and intimacy with the Divine. They communicate with God through prayer, and direct speech. God walks and talks with them (perhaps not literally but in other ways). They have gifts, and they offer signs and wonders associated with the verification of the presence of God. They have communal connections. They act on behalf of community, not for their own gain, and are dependent on the community for help when they need it.

Holmes emphasizes the communal nature of the prophetic role:

This is a neglected but important aspect of the prophetic call. In Numbers 11:24–29, Moses is exhausted with the people. Basically, God says “Okay, okay, assemble the elders. Look to the community. You were never supposed to do this alone. I told you to do it; I didn’t tell you to do it alone.” How many of us are carrying burdens that are not ours, and are feeling pretty righteous about it? The work of living and dying, raising children, and leading congregations, was never meant to be solitary work. After the elders assemble, Joshua tells Moses that the elders are prophesying, and he says, “Moses, make this stop!” Moses’ reply in Numbers 11:29 is, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that God would put God’s Spirit on them!”

Let’s just sit with that for a minute. Have you ever felt as if God’s Spirit was on you? Although many of the prophets in the Bible are presented as single carriers of God’s word, often there was a community of other prophets that they came from or were associated with. Who is your community? .… If you’re called to the prophetic task, and I think in some aspects all of us are—where is your prophetic community that will feed you and support you and guide you and help you?


Adapted from Barbara A. Holmes, “We Shall Also Be Prophets,” Living School Symposium (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2022), unpublished transcript.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Bosque (detail), New Mexico, photograph, used with permission. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 10 (detail), New Mexico, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.  

Image inspiration: This year’s images are inspired in form by the 2023 Daily Meditation theme. This week’s main photo takes up most of the image, but we also see a sliver of the image for next week: the next step on our journey.  

Story from Our Community:

I left the faith in my twenties . . . [but after a long journey] I still did not find a sense of peace and deep “knowing.” I finally felt that “knowing” when I heard an interview with Richard Rohr. It made my whole being sing. He gave words to what I have always felt intuitively but couldn’t explain. Reading Richard’s work and the Daily Meditations has brought me back to the well of my childhood faith with the added components of centering prayer and non-dualistic thinking. I would now say that I am an inter-spiritual person, aware that I must go down in order to go up. This is both frightening and exhilarating. I am so grateful! —Kael S.


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