22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Why do we “kill” our prophets?

21 February, 2016 Lent 2 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

Introduction:
I remember some years ago seeing the engaging title of Geoffrey Serle’s book, From Deserts the Prophets Come.  The book is essentially an analysis of the creative spirit in the arts in Australia from 1788 until 1972.  It wasn’t the content of the book I remember, having read it in my University days, but it was the title.   There is of course a Biblical allusion here. We know from the Biblical narrative that the prophet John the Baptist came from the desert to declare his radical message.  Serle uses this allusion to suggest that the artistic Australian prophets come from the desert, from the wilderness as outsiders, either literally or metaphorically.

Like many cultures we have an ambivalent relationship with those we call prophets. By their very nature a prophet is at best a disturber and at worst a trouble-maker.  Most of us value a more settled life.  Settled, that is, if we are at the top of the pile or at least on the way up.  Our problem with the prophet is that he or she tends to speak for the dispossessed and disenfranchised in society.  They come from the desert, the wilderness, because they often have a vision of life that is contrary to the status quo and not usually welcomed in polite company.

In this sense Jesus was a prophet.  The religious hierarchy had little time for him and his teachings about love, justice, mercy and forgiveness and he caused a disturbance whenever he spoke.  He gave those who had little the hope that they may have more; those who were powerless that they might have not just political power but the spiritual power to change their lives and their communities. In the ancient world prophets were easily dealt with: they were killed.  Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! records the Gospel of Matthew.  

Today perhaps we, at least in our society, don’t so much as kill prophets as find other ways of silencing them.  And there are prophets around us today.  They are those who speak of a particular vision of the world that we do well to listen to.  The ancient role of the prophet was twofold.  First, they were “forth-tellers.”  That is, they could name the injustices that plagued the society of the day.  Perhaps the best examples of these “forth-tellers” are found among the prophets Hosea, Micah, Amos and Joel, just to name a few.  They each put their lives on the line by “speaking truth to power.” 1

I know there are prophets in our world today.  Their unique insight can reveal the underbelly of our way of life.  A way of life which may have been built on the suffering of others.  And many of us don’t like to hear it! But the true prophet is the person who sees a way forward and becomes a harbinger, a herald of hope.  And that is the second element of the prophet.  They are “fore-tellers” of a future most of us can not yet see.

Jerusalem our Town
Jesus was not from Jerusalem.  He grew up in Nazareth, and much of his ministry was spent in northern Palestine in and around the town of Capernaum and the lake of Galilee.  Nevertheless, Jerusalem is central to the Jesus story.  The city was well known to be the centre of political and religious power in the Palestine of Jesus’ day.  Matthew records the words of Jesus:

Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing…For I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’.


And this is what is most engaging about Jesus, that is, he was a sage, a wisdom teacher, a prophet, perhaps even a mystic who fore-saw a new way of being in the world.  He named it the Kingdom of God and Jerusalem was its symbolic centre.  Even today, almost 2,000 years after the time of Jesus, Jerusalem remains a symbolic and spiritual centre of the world.  Of course there are many other places that have great spiritual and religious significance, but Jerusalem, a much divided city, captures the imagination of the spiritual seeker.  The city can boast of being the central hub to three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While all of these faiths obviously express their devotion differently, they nevertheless claim a symbolic connection to Jerusalem.

I visited Jerusalem in 2007.  I often wish I had gone earlier in my ministry.  Those who have been there will know that it is a deeply divided city. The old city has four quarters: Jewish, Islamic, Armenian and Christian.   Someone said to me in Jerusalem, “We don’t live together here, we merely co-exist.” Another person, a speaker at a conference on Israel and Palestine, says, “When people arrive in Jerusalem they say they could write a book about how to solve the problems that exist among these peoples. After a week perhaps a chapter; after a month maybe a sentence and after 6 months just a word.  And that word is Shalom, Salam, Pax, which means of course “Peace”.

If Jesus is a “fore-teller” of the future, is he speaking to the world today when he says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”? It has been said that when there is peace in Jerusalem there will be peace in the world.  I am not so sure how literally one should take that, but I do know that where inhabitants of a city or a country learn how to live together; to be good neighbours and not just “co-exist,” the environment is created for peace and even perhaps the reign of God.

There are prophets calling for peace in Jerusalem.  One of them was the great Syrian poet Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani. 2   He wrote:

Jerusalem! My Love, My Town
I wept until my tears were dry, I prayed until the candles flickered
I knelt until the floor creaked, I asked about Mohammed and Christ
Oh Jerusalem, the fragrance of prophets.
The shortest path between earth and sky.  
Oh Jerusalem, the citadel of laws, a beautiful child with fingers charred and downcast eyes

You are the shady oasis passed by the Prophet. Your streets are melancholy
Your minarets are mourning. You, the young maiden dressed in black. Who rings the bells at the Nativity Church on Sunday morning?  Who brings toys for the children on Christmas Eve?

Oh Jerusalem, the city of sorrow, a big tear wandering in the eye.  
Who will halt the aggression on you, the pearl of religions?
Who will wash your bloody walls?
Who will safeguard the Bible?  Who will rescue the Quran?
Who will save Christ, from those who have killed Christ?
Who will save man? Oh Jerusalem my town. Oh Jerusalem my love.

Tomorrow the lemon trees will blossom and the olive trees will rejoice.
Your eyes will dance.  The migrant pigeons will return to your sacred roofs and your children will play again  
And fathers and sons will meet on your rosy hills.
My town.  The town of peace and olives.

― Nizar Qabban


May we all have courage enough to follow the great prophet of peace, Jesus of Nazareth.

______________________

  1. "Speaking truth to power" has become a popular way to describe taking a stand, even when the people speaking truth to power are powerful themselves. Although the origin of the phrase is commonly ascribed to a 1955 book advocating against the Cold War, it appears to have been coined earlier by civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. Referenced from the website Synonym.com

  2. Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998) was a Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher. Qabbani was an Arab nationalist and one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world.

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