You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility

Scripture: 2 Samuel 12:7
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king — Hamlet

Reflection: You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
By John Tillman

You are the man!

To modern ears the phrase is an affirmation—a superlative compliment. You are the expert. You are the one to ask. You are the person we look to. You are our idol of what we want to be.

But the phrase’s first usage in history is not as affirmation, but accusation. It is the climax to a dangerous confrontation between a ruler in the wrong, and a prophet speaking truth to power.

Through Nathan we see reflections of the difficulty of God’s people interacting with government and politics. In chapter seven, Nathan is a close confidant of the ruler. He affirms the king without a word from the Lord, saying “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it.” However, Nathan soon hears from God, and must return to the king and walk that statement back. It is not until chapter twelve we see Nathan’s finest hour as a prophet.

Nathan didn’t let his cozy relationship strip him of his prophetic responsibility. Cozy is a pleasant word to describe a chair, a sweater, or a friendship. But with Christians and political leaders, it’s a short journey from cozy to cozened. It’s easy to be like chapter seven Nathan, but few are willing to be chapter twelve Nathan.

When Christians speak truth to power, we are empowered with the same Holy Spirit that spoke to Nathan. Whether to a monarch, a magistrate, or a magnate, we represent the message of the Gospel. We tend to use that power and authority inconsistently, however.

Too often we reserve “You are the man” for political opponents and “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it.” for political allies. Writing to American Catholics, Bill McCormick said:

Catholics often argue about which party better represents the Gospel. Have that argument if you like, but do not forget the bigger picture: Neither party can be the home of the Catholic voter…If you want to object and say that one party is better than the other for Catholics, you are missing the point.

It is important for us to remember that Nathan’s greatest prophetic moment was not speaking truth to powerful foes but to a powerful friend—his “boss” whom he was on good terms with. Everyone challenges those they oppose to change. Followers of Christ are called to challenge the communities and individuals we are closest to.

Challenging opposing political figures or faceless political parties requires neither tact nor courage when we reject them as part of our community. When we do this—just as the prophet Jonah—we forsake the purpose of prophetic confrontation.

Our purpose is not retribution or rejection, but redemption and reconciliation. When we confront others, we must let our tone reflect the ministry of reconciliation that we have been given.

“You are the man” is a challenging accusation, but it is simultaneously a heartfelt invitation back into community.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 11 (Listen – 4:25)
2 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:02)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 12 (Listen – 5:25) 2 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 3:14)
2 Samuel 13 (Listen – 6:39) 2 Corinthians 6 (Listen – 2:31)

Inattentiveness in Worship

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Reflection: Inattentiveness in Worship
By John Tillman

As stodgy as C.S. Lewis sounds in his letter on Liturgiology (which we read together in two excerpts, here and here) one might mistakenly assume that he is campaigning for unilateral and unchanging homogeneity in worship style and liturgy. However, that is not the case. Lewis seems to appreciate variety, as long as the attention of the worshipers is drawn to God rather than the creativity of the celebrants.

Lewis chides his readers (Malcolm is a fictitious friend, standing in for Lewis’s reading audience) for casting judgment on the worship practices of others, making an appeal to variety within the community of the church.

Broaden your mind, Malcolm, broaden your mind! It takes all sorts to make a world; or a church. This may be even truer of a church. If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display far more variety than Hell. “One fold” doesn’t mean “one pool.” Cultivated roses and daffodils are no more alike than wild roses and daffodils.

In a consumer society and culture, our identity is tied up in our tastes, and our tastes are broadcast through our criticism. The superiority of the role of worship critic is more attractive to us than the supplicative posture of a worshiper.

What pleased me most about a Greek Orthodox mass I once attended was that there seemed to be no prescribed behavior for the congregation. Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked; one crawled about the floor like a caterpillar. And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing. I wish we Anglicans would follow their example. One meets people who are perturbed because someone in the next pew does, or does not, cross himself. They oughtn’t even to have seen, let alone censured. “Who art thou that judgest Another’s servant?”

We must cultivate in worship a certain kind of inattentiveness toward other worshipers and even toward the leaders—maintaining our attention on God as the focus of all our joined efforts.

*Excerpts from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen – 3:19)
2 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 2:25)

Prayer from India :: Worldwide Prayers

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

In our Worldwide Prayer posts we will be featuring prayers from Christians around the world. As we pray these prayers together, let us remember the words of C.S. Lewis discussing “ready-made” prayers. — John

It does not matter very much who first put them together. If they are our own words they will soon, by unavoidable repetition, harden into a formula. If they are someone else’s, we shall continually pour into them our own meaning. — C.S. Lewis

Prayer from India :: Worldwide Prayers

Our loving Father,

Thank you for releasing us from the bondage of sin by the shedding of the blood of your Son, Jesus, on that rugged Cross of Calvary.

Thank you for choosing us; for allowing us to serve you; for the privilege of bearing a cross and following you.

Daily we face shame, pain, blame, loneliness, and even exhaustion. But we believe that always you are present sharing our load and helping us bear our cross. Even when life seems to be at its worst we never despair because we live for you and your Son died for us.

Your Word tells us that we may need to suffer trials of many kinds and we should be glad for this will prove our faith is genuine. Lord we are here for you. We will lay down our lives if this will glorify your Name.

Lord use your people to spread the joy of your Kingdom.

In Jesus’ precious name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8-9 (Listen – 4:51)
2 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:13)

Lewis on Prayer Without Words

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.

Reflection: Lewis on Prayer Without Words
By C.S. Lewis

For many years after my conversion I never used any ready-made forms except the Lord’s Prayer. In fact I tried to pray without words at all—not to verbalise the mental acts. Even in praying for others I believe I tended to avoid their names and substituted mental images of them. I still think the prayer without words is the best—if one can really achieve it. But I now see that in trying to make it my daily bread I was counting on a greater mental and spiritual strength than I really have.

To pray successfully without words one needs to be “at the top of one’s form.” Otherwise the mental acts become merely imaginative or emotional acts—and a fabricated emotion is a miserable affair. When the golden moments come, when God enables one really to pray without words, who but a fool would reject the gift?

But He does not give it—anyway not to me—day in, day out. My mistake was what Pascal, if I remember rightly, calls “Error of Stoicism”: thinking we can do always what we can do sometimes.

And this, you see, makes the choice between ready-made prayers and one’s own words rather less important for me than it apparently is for you. For me words are in any case secondary. They are only as an anchor. Or, shall I say, they are the movements of a conductor’s baton: not the music. They serve to canalise the worship or penitence or petition which might without them—such are our minds—spread into wide and shallow puddles.

It does not matter very much who first put them together. If they are our own words they will soon, by unavoidable repetition, harden into a formula. If they are someone else’s, we shall continually pour into them our own meaning.

*Excerpt from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 7 (Listen – 4:26)
2 Corinthians 1 (Listen – 3:52)

Treatment of Mercy

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:14
Do everything in love.

Reflection: Treatment of Mercy
By John Tillman

Yesterday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention day. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Many churches in the United States observed a National Day of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life this past Sunday.

Just as we pray on behalf of those suffering from more traditionally understood forms of disease, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, we pray on behalf of those suffering from the many different forms of debilitating mental illnesses.

As a reflection, we share a few quotes from articles promoting and supporting the day of observance.

Kay Warren
While mental illness is common, it is still an uncomfortable topic in most avenues of society. It is time for faith leaders to stand in the gap and speak up for people living with mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

As suicide loss survivors, Rick and I know firsthand the almost unbearable agony that accompanies the suicide of someone you love. We ache for those in our congregation — and in yours — who are experiencing despair. These friends — brothers and sisters in Christ — need to know that their church is a safe place to share the inward torment of their pain, and that their pain will be met with deep compassion and acceptance.

Ed Stetzer
It is common practice in churches, however, to treat mental illness differently. We immediately assume there is something else, some deeper spiritual struggle causing mental and emotional strain.

The fact is that mental illness and spiritual struggle can be (and are) related. We are not separate things, we are complex people – remarkably connected in spirit, soul, body, mind, etc.

But, let me be direct here: if we immediately dismiss the possibility of mental illness and automatically assume spiritual deficiency, our actions amount to spiritual abuse.

May we accept into our fellowship not only the exuberant, undignified dancing of David, but also the sorrowful, undignified weeping of Hannah.

May we embrace and treat with mercy and understanding those who struggle with mental illness. May we seek to treat them medically, spiritually, and relationally, as we support them within our communities as treasured ones, loved by Christ.

Resources
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Mental Health Grace Alliance
Not A Day Promised Resource Page

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 6 (Listen – 3:34)
1 Corinthians 16 (Listen – 2:54)

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