The reason prophets can speak so clearly and strongly in the now is because they judge the now from, of all places, the future. Prophets have seen the future. In other words, they have seen where God is leading humanity.
Miriam pounded out a cadence unlike any other, unfettered and free. Women reached for their own drums and joined the song. The prophet started singing, harmonies building and volume increasing as her women got into formation. The prophet, yoked with wisdom, composed liberation lyrics.
The Hebrew prophets did not care if others looked on them as conservative or liberal. To some, they looked like “conservatives” preaching old-time religion. To others, they looked like “liberals” questioning the status quo.
She would not call what was wrong right, what was intolerable acceptable, what was bad good, what was oppressive God’s will…. No, Catherine of Siena called the terrible terrible and the ungodly ungodly and in that act calls every century after her yet, still, and always, to do the same.
If my task is to carry a piece of the movement forward, and to help build something new, then I humbly accept it. I too want a kinder world, a more loving world, a world in which justice and compassion include everyone. Through Harriet Tubman, you, me, and the spirited songs sung on Sunday mornings in Black churches, Moses is rising again.
The prophets rail against idol worship and speak about death and destruction. But when we read the prophets again and again, we are struck by their “three steps forward” direction of justice, mercy, consolation, and love.
I’m Here, I’m Listening
Spoken word poet Amena Brown responds to the question, “How do you know when you’re hearing from God?”
She said, “How do you know when you are hearing from God?”
I didn’t know how to explain …
My words never felt so small, so useless, so incapable
I wanted to say
Put your hand in the middle of your chest
Feel the rhythm there
I wanted to say you will find the holy text in so many places
On crinkly pages of scripture
In dusty hymnals
In the creases of a grandmother’s smile …
God’s ears are here for the babies
For the immigrant, for the refugee
For the depressed, for the lonely
For the dreamers
The widow, the orphan
The oppressed and the helpless
Those about to make a mess or caught in the middle of cleaning one up
Dirt don’t scare God’s ears
God is a gardener
God knows things can’t grow without sun, rain, and soil …
I want to tell her God is always waiting
Lingering after the doors close
And the phone doesn’t ring
And we are finally alone
God is always saying
I love you
I am here
Don’t go, stay
I try to explain how God is pleading with us
That God’s voice is melody and bass lines and whisper and thunder and grace
Sometimes when I pray, I think of her
How the voice of God was lingering in her very question
How so many of us just like her
Just like me
Just like you
Are still searching
Still questioning, still doubting
I know I don’t have all the answers
I know I never will
That sometimes the best thing we can do is put our hands in the middle of our chest
Feel the rhythm there
Turn down the noise in our minds, in our lives
Whatever you want to say
Amena Brown, “She said, ‘How do you know when you are hearing from God?’,” in A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal, ed. Sarah Bessey (New York: Convergent Books, 2020), 7, 8, 9, 10–11. Used with permission of author.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Taylor Wilson, Field of the Saints (detail), print. Taylor Wilson, Isha (detail), watercolor and cyanotype. Taylor Wilson, Ruah (detail), print. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Artist Statement (Taylor Wilson): This collection is an exploration of iconic visuals.… Playing and replaying with what the ancients already knew and then taking the responsibility of sacred knowledge forward through modern expression with the Spirit.