Have you ever introduced yourself as a preacher? On a recent flight I had a lengthy conversation with a fellow passenger about the art of preaching. I introduced myself as a preacher without realizing that I would open up the doors for “Questions of the Soul” in my own life.
When we call ourselves preachers, what do we mean?
Two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to attend and support the University of Evansville at the Pipes and Prophets Festival of Young Preachers. The two days I spent with this hospitable, giving community, gifted and Spirit-filled musicians and preachers caused me to examine my identity in Christ as a preacher.
Why do we preach? What differentiates a preacher from a speaker? What does it mean to be a prophet?
As preachers, we are continually learning how to speak in front of others. We know how to read Scripture, add in jokes and stories, research and use multimedia in our sermons. It is not always an easy task, especially when the message we are conveying may not be well-received. When we preach, we are not merely speaking. We are prophetically offering the words God has asked us to proclaim to ears in need of hearing. Preachers are prophets.
We are called by God to give more than a speech, or share with eloquent words. God works in us to be prophets; to proclaim the words God is asking us to speak at all times in all situations, whether we are giving a sermon or not. Through prayer, discernment, reading Scriptures, we are given the words to speak and are the instrument God chooses to work through to give God all glory. Being a prophet is a lifestyle.
In the University of Evansville Opening Worship, Luke 4:14-30 was read aloud. In these verses, Jesus stood in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Nazareth and read the words of the prophet Isaiah: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor’” (Lk 4:18-19, NRSV). University Chaplain Tamara Gieselman reminded us in the Opening Homily that we are all prophets. We are invited to be prophets; to speak Good News in a world that rarely hears it, to use our words to bring about justice, and our eyes to meet needs that others are not capable of seeing.
As I listened to the participants share in music and sermon, I was blessed by their worship to the One who had given them their prophetic gifts. These “Questions of the Soul” each individual had pondered was vulnerably expressed and called attendees to action. The participants demonstrated that they chose to be prophets through their careful preparation, bold proclamation, profound exegeting of Scripture, and their love towards one another. Some were sharing their prophetic gifts for the first time. All have chosen to be prophets for a lifetime.
As I reflect on the time spent with the University of Evansville community, I, too, have “Questions of the Soul.”
Since we are prophets, how then should we conduct our lives? What does this calling mean? Since we are prophets, what attitudes, habits need to change? Since we are prophets, how should we prepare our sermons, study, devote our time? Since we are prophets we have a high calling. We do not place our “prophet hat” on once we begin to preach.
Being a prophet is a lifestyle; a lifelong commitment. I am thankful to be surrounded by hundreds of Young Prophets on this journey.