Because of the fires here in Colorado there are now lots of unstable hillsides. The web of rooted plants that anchored them have been burned away. We expect mudslides. Rain and melting snow will turn what was solid ground into mush. The landscape will rearrange itself.
The thing about prophets is that they are like holy fires. They burn through the network of thoughts and ideas that keep a faulty social structure shored up. They see truths that expose corruption. They make clear all the places in which the ideals and promises of a social system are not being lived out. They speak the truth about who God is and who God loves.
They speak these truths and then the rains come. Some precipitating event like the death of an innocent or a tax man that skims a little too much of people’s hard earned wages – or even something simple like a person daring to hope that they are indeed loved by God – comes. The solid ground of the social hierarchy, the systems that seemed so infallible and strong, turn to mush and slide down. The landscape rearranges itself.
Social systems try to protect themselves from prophets. Where a prophet has been around since their youth, the system will have sent out strong tendrils to bind them to silence or to explain away their insights. “That one is crazy,” they will say. “That one is just a poor immigrant,” “That one is just a street punk,” “That one is just the son of the carpenter – not educated, not important.” And so prophets don’t get much done in their hometowns.
Who is trying to speak truth to you and me today? Who carries the holy fire that will burn away the roots that keep our abusive and corrupt social systems in place? Where has our familiarity with someone kept us from seeing what they know?
What truths do we know deep in our own hearts? What understanding is struggling to come out in us, a fiery truth that may destroy some system we have gotten all tangled up in? What systems need to topple? Is it a family system in which people have been assigned roles that keep them from growing and living in joy? Is it a workplace that treats its employees badly or that is unethical with its customers? Is it a school system that promotes only students that fit a certain social norm?
We know that the roots of systemic racism run all through our hillsides. We don’t like to look at how bad it really is, because that would turn the ground we stand on into mush. Wrong attitudes about what we can own, who we can keep at a distance and what is owed us keep the ground from shifting too badly. But what do we lose by keeping those particular hillsides in place?
Love is a holy fire. It makes us all prophets. Through love we see the true nature of all our neighbors. We want the best for them. We want people to quit hurting them. We want to join them in their struggles.
May you burn some rotten roots today. May you be the catalyst to shifting landscapes. May you be God’s hands and heart in our needy world. May you get muddy.