The Prophetic Imagination


“You’ll shoot your eye out kid!” Everyone seems to remember the iconic line from A Christmas Story (a movie I can’t stand, by the way...I know...feel free to judge me!). The words ring in the boy’s ears, an ominous foreboding of what might happen.  

This is what most people think of when they hear the word prophet:  some cranky guy in the street delivering bad news about all the bad things about to happen.  But the biblical reality is not quite so simple. The prophet represents God to the people (whereas the priest represents the people to God), and as such a representative, prophets often find themselves at odds with the culture around them.  Take Elijah for example. He called out the prophets of Ba’al in a dramatic display calling down fire from God, but as a result, he had to run away and take refuge in a mountain cave. Jesus himself said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home” (NIV, Mark 6:4).  It seems that, where prophets are concerned, familiarity breeds contempt, setting up the paradigm of prophet vs. society (or at least the culture which they are calling out).

Prophets might not have been well-liked, but they were agents of change.  It wasn’t so much that they were at odds with the people, but rather, they were at odds with the status quo.  They weren’t ok with the way things were, with the way things have always been. And people don’t like change.

If one prophet can be such a powerful agent of change, what would an entire community look like?  In his book The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann describes an “alternative community of Moses” which stands out against the backdrop of the culture around it. But this doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes an acute level of self-awareness on the part of every community member. In other words, a prophetic community takes an alternative perception to succeed.

To be an agent of change, you have to see the world differently than the culture around you.  In case you haven’t noticed, Heritage is different! We already see things differently. We naturally exemplify some of the marks of a prophetic community.  But what would it look like if we were more self-aware? More perceptive? More attuned to the needs of the world around us?

We live in a culture of consumerism, and we’re buried so deep in it, it’s hard even to see it.  But there’s hope! There’s a way to break free. There’s a way to become a prophetic community who is not ok with the way things are but instead chooses to “fight the giants” (as Rob said Sunday).  There is a way to imagine not what is but what could be, what should be.  So who’s with me?