To my great surprise I am becoming a man of few words. By this I mean spoken words, I still love to read and write. During my last year in Manitoba I set a personal record. I preached 300 times in a calendar year. My goal was to reach 366 the next year but God had other plans. We moved to Saint John and I traded in a pulpit for a lecture stand at the front of a classroom. The spoken word remained the biggest part of my ministry.
I remember one of my students explaining that he was “A man of action”, by this he simply meant to convey his unease with public speaking and his natural bent toward active service in Jesus’ name. I teased him and continue to tease him for his self-description but I have a profound respect for the concept of service he was sharing.
I used to look at the heroic prophets of the Bible like: John the Baptist, Elijah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah (the list could go on). I pictured them thundering out the oracles of God. I wanted to emulate them. Lately as I inspect the lives of the prophets I notice that it was not always, or even often, that their words spoke louder than their lives. John lived an acetic life in the wilderness and it was his activity of baptizing as a symbol of repentance that draws my attention. Yes he spoke. Yes he thundered. But the bulk of the message is spoken in his life and its activity.
A compilation of the sermons of the prophet Elijah could be read in minutes. It is the witness of his life that makes him a great prophet! Ezekiel spent a disproportionate amount of time ‘acting out’ building models and dealing with dung. Jeremiah buries his intimate apparel. He visits the potter’s wheel.
My idea of a prophet as a speaker has been replaced with a view that sees them as people of action, actions that declared the Kingdom of God!
Paul speaks of prophecy as being a great gift. Many Christians covet this gift. They want to be used of God to declare his Kingdom. They want words. This, I believe, is a very limited view of prophecy. A fuller understanding includes a view of activity that proclaims his Kingdom. John was identified as the greatest of the old prophets because he had the privilege of inaugurating the Kingdom through introducing the King “the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world”. Jesus though, says you and I have the opportunity of greater prophetic ministry! We have the opportunity to actively declare that the Kingdom is here, now! That it is being worked out now! That things are being put right! That one day all things will be put right!
Our words are like water off the ducks back until they are accompanied by prophetic action. As we show love for the world, as we declare by deed his Kingdom our words, though fewer, have a seismic impact.
I can happily plod along in my obscure corner, my little niche, because I have discovered that it is not about me but about his Kingdom. I don’t speak often publicly but through prophetic activity our little community can publicly declare the Kingdom. I’m getting my wish in an unexpected way. Isn’t that just like God?