Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls
We are thrilled to welcome the writing of Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls for the Preaching Notes for this worship series. Dr. Smalls is senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan, and an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Click here to read more about Dr. Smalls.
Fear and intimidation are difficult to overcome. Prophets are people who have been chased down, ganged up on, lied about, isolated, excluded, denounced, and in some cases—far too many cases—killed.
I’m not sure anyone would sign up for this job without a deep connection with the God that called them to it. It’s the type of job that you could be great at, and it would still be a difficult job to manage.
At the end of the day, most of us want to be included, normal, everyday kind of people. Prophecy often interferes with that possibility. Doing prophetic work requires a certain kind of boot camp that only God can provide. The second phase of it, the work provides.
Prophetic work can lead to sadness, depression, despair, fear, and spiritual fatigue. Engaging in prophetic ministry is starting something that is very messy and dangerous at first. Surviving this first stage requires a resolve that is deep within.
Jeremiah wept. Elijah ran and hid. Hosea was discouraged and fed up. Nehemiah left the comfort of his job. It’s tough! Yet, there is something that can get us through. In fact, there are three things that we might want to recall this Sunday.
The first is, God did not make a mistake in calling us to this ministry. God did thorough research and examination, even before we came into being. We were made for this work. God’s promise to not abandon us never fails. We all feel inadequate to do what God asks us to do. We give God the list of reasons why selecting us is not a good idea. Nevertheless, God does not give up on us.
Second, God handles those who stand in the way of God’s work being done. The temptation is to lose sight of the actual goal and get distracted by those who are causing us personal grief, character assassinations, personal attacks, and sabotaging efforts. These tactics aren’t our responsibility to manage. God tells Jeremiah to not let them get in the way of him doing what God told him to do. To be a prophet is to stand, no matter what. Stand in fatigue. Stand in loss. Stand in the conviction that God’s voice can shake the foundations and remind the people to turn from their ways. Stand.
Third, you must trust what you see. Fatigue often gives us a sense of doubt and cowardice. God asked Jeremiah and Amos the same question? “What do you see?” He asked Jeremiah thrice, “What do you see?” Jeremiah saw a branch of an almond tree, a boiling pot, and figs, some very good and some very bad. Amos saw a plumbline and a basket of fruit. Zachariah was another prophet given the same question. He saw a lampstand of gold with its bowl for oil on top of it and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts. On another occasion, he saw a flying scroll with a length of twenty cubits and its width of ten cubits.
Prophetic ministry requires that we trust what “we” see, not what news and media outlets, social media posts, or even our own bias sees. The prophet must rise above all these short vision casts and instead see what God is showing us. That is the call. That requires courage. Trust what you see.
And it helps, of course, to see what God is showing us from a place called, “the margins.”