By Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination in Minneapolis. This is from his weekly blog (June 24, 2019). To sign up to get these in your email inbox, click here (top of the page). Also, their two-year program in Prophetic Spirituality launches in September!
Jesus’ compassion led to the cross. In an unjust world, love confronts injustice. In an oppressive world, love challenges oppression. Because of this, love leads to the Cross.
When he broke bread with sinners and fellowshipped with outcasts, he drew the ire of religious gatekeepers. When, in the temple, he raised a ruckus over the exploitation of the poor, he upset the religious elite. And his words of dangerous liberation sealed his fate. He was betrayed and summarily executed by the state. And he decomposed in the grave for three days.
This is the way of the prophets. Prophets cannot be ignored; they demand a response. Their truth is too explosive…too dangerous to the status quo. And so, prophets often become martyrs.
But Jesus shows us that there is something waiting on the other side of the tomb. Those of us who follow Jesus hold a reckless hope that death isn’t the final word and the violence of the Powerful isn’t the final authority. Those who speak truth will be vindicated.
What does it mean to be prophetic today? In this era of Trump and Brexit, of capitalism and war, of racism and Islamaphobia, of fear and uncertainty? What powerful truth is the Spirit stirring in our souls? And will speaking and enacting that truth lead us to the cross?
The way of the Cross isn’t a heroic path. It isn’t found in momentary choices of boldness. But in the long journey of compassion. Speaking truth to power comes only for those who find themselves in solidarity with the powerless. If our eyes aren’t acclimated to the shadows, we will miss the glimpses of opportunity to throw our bodies into the sinister gears of oppression.
Jesus spent at least three years in his long march to the cross. A journey through wilderness and city, through solidarity and resistance, through prayer and silence. And if we, followers of Jesus, are going to embrace the prophetic path, we need to embark on such a journey.
Jesus’ earthly ministry began journey of descent—an experience of katabasis—a psycho-spiritual ordeal in the wilderness. From there, he consistently exposed toxic myths and structures as he, stirred with compassion, transgressed social boundaries and antagonized the powerful.
His earthly ministry ended with another sort of decent, one into the grave, before he rose from the dead, incorruptible.
And then he poured out his Spirit upon his disciples so that they could do even greater things.
What is this Spirit stirring in you?