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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Speak Out Prophets! | February 19, 2023 by Rev. Dr. Kathryn Benton

Who are the prophets?

They are a royal people,

who penetrate mystery

and see with the spirit's eyes.

In illuminating darkness

they speak out.

They are a living, penetrating clarity.

They are a blossom blooming only

on the shoot that is

rooted in the flood of light.

The opening quote is from Hildegard of Bingen. She is asking who are the prophets? She says that the prophets are royal people. Much like Meister Eckhart, Hildegard believed that we were all prophets…all royal people, charged with penetrating mystery and seeing with the spirit’s eyes.

So, who are the prophets, then? Hildegard continues by saying that prophets illuminate darkness by speaking out…in penetrating clarity. Many people come to mind when I think about speaking out in penetrating clarity but perhaps none so much as James Baldwin. In his book, The Fire Next Time, he has a section with a letter he wrote to his nephew James. A true letter from the heart, this message also gets to the heart of the matter. He writes:

…people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity.

Written in 1963, Baldwin’s prophetic voice is unmistakable. Not only does he foresee the turmoil of the next century, he gives us a better idea of what it takes to be a prophet. It seems that he is saying that to be a prophet, we must act…we must be committed. And he points out that this is dangerous. He wants to make sure that his nephew hears this. Baldwin was, on so many levels, a prophet...he was a living, penetrating clarity. I think Hildegard would agree. The following clip shows Baldwin discussing his possible influence as a writer…

James Baldwin – No one asked me to be a writer,

it comes with the territory

Hildegard continues her description of the prophet…

They are a blossom blooming only

on the shoot that is

rooted in the flood of light.

The life of so many people are reflected in this description…they are blossoms blooming on the shoot that is rooted in the flood of light. It is, I think, this spark of light that fuels their journey.

Hildegard herself was a prophet. She foresaw the need for a spirituality that included Mother Earth…important for her own time and of course, in our time even more. An author and poet…and arguably a prophet, George Ella Lyon wrote a poem that goes right to the point of our behavior toward our Mother…

God signs to us we cannot read

She shouts we take cover

She shrugs and trains leave the tracks

Our schedules! We moan

Our loved ones

God is fed up

All the oceans she gave us, all the fields

All the acres of steep seedful forests

And we did what

Invented the Great Chain

of Being and the chain saw

Invented sin

God sees us now

gorging ourselves and starving our neighbors

Starving ourselves and storing our grain

And She says I’ve had it

You cast your trash upon the waters –

It’s rolling in

You stuck your fine fine finger into the mystery of life

To find death

And you did

You learned how to end the world in nothing flat

Now you come crying to your mommy

Send us a miracle, prove that you exist

Look at your hand, I say

Listen to your sacred heart

Do you have to haul the tide in, sweeten the berries on the vine

I set you down

a miracle among miracles

You want more

It’s your turn

You show me

This poem puts the responsibility for our situation right where it belongs. Much like Baldwin’s words, these lines speak out with penetrating clarity…illuminating the darkness of our behavior…our hearts. Have we not fallen in love? Do we not remember the love of our birth…the love that holds us together?

Of course, the answer is that so many of us have forgotten…as Baldwin points out. We have forgotten that we have all come from Love and it is our hope that it is to Love that we shall return. It is a Love that may even be, as Adam Lawrence Dyer pointed out, Beyond God. He wrote:

What if every time you woke

Your sigh was felt

By every being on Earth?

Surely this is love that reaches beyond,

That holds one to another

And every other to one.

No matter the color

Or where we’re from

This is now

This is we

This is Love

This is God.

And this is love beyond God.

The color doesn’t matter…nor does it matter where we’re from. We know that Love can transcend this. This is the love that from our birth, over and around us lies…it is the source of all, to which we raise a hymn of grateful praise. The Beauty of the Earth includes us all. We are one, though we do not act that way.

May we take this message to heart so that we can work together to respond to our Mother. It is our turn…time to show our creator that we can illuminate the darkness of our time…in living penetrating clarity.

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