Prophets Of Hope
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
“I’m taking my son out of his classroom,” the young mother told me, “his teacher is so negative. She constantly tells the kids what they do wrong but rarely what they do well. My son says that her favorite phrase is, ‘You’re not getting this.’ There’s no encouragement. I’ve talked to several other mothers who are having the same experience. We’re all having our kids switched to another teacher.”
Whatever the whole story was, that mom had every reason to be concerned if she sensed a lack of hope in her son’s school setting. Life is difficult enough, even in the fourth grade, without someone giving the impression that we can’t succeed.
Too often the image of a prophet is that of a person foretelling disaster, too often of a person offering only jeremiads accompanied by threats of disaster. Too many folks think that “speaking truth” means voicing how badly things are going.
Folks generally know exactly how bad things are. Fear of helplessness or of the cost of change keeps them from acknowledging and trying to resolve problems. There are always a few people who thrive on bad situations and maintain and foster them when they can, but generally the foundation of a mess isn’t wickedness or even ignorance, it’s debilitating fear. Announcing that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket may feel like a bracing defiance of that evil but it’s like taking aspirin for a brain tumor. What’s needed is hope. The contribution of a prophet is hope.
It’s not necessary to have the right answer or the perfect solution to problems to offer hope but it is necessary to totally commit oneself to finding those answers and solutions together with the community. That hundred percent commitment is the language of our gospel.
The gospel of hope that Christians offer the world is not practical solutions to life’s problems. It is the experience of God’s promise that life’s potential will come to pass. We prove that not with doctrines and rituals but with putting ourselves on the line for our world – regardless of the cost.