One of the opening scenes from the movie, “Life or Something Like It,” shows Lanie Kerrigan, played by Angelina Jolie, on her way to work. Every day she passed by a street prophet who stood on a crate, arms in the air, his back arched and head held high while he prophesied, “I see and I say,” proclaimed Jack the street prophet.
One day Lanie, a driven journalist engaged to a football player with the Seattle Seahawks, stopped by the prophet and threw a few coins his basket. She was up for a promotion and really wanted this new job.
Jack the street prophet responded to her coins by telling her that the Seahawks would beat the Broncos 16-13, the next day it would hail in Seattle (a town of mild and temperate weather) and then on the third day she, Lanie, would die.
Of course this kind of prophesy disturbed Lanie. On the other hand she also tried to dismiss it as rubbish.
Still the prophet’s words weighed on her. She found herself examining her life: her comfortable but extremely superficial life focused on money, good looks, and career success.
On the day predicted, the Seahawks beat the broncos 16-13, and Lanie’s world was shaken to the core. She broke up with her fiancé, disturbed by the lack of depth in their relationship and values.
She found herself hanging out with the camera man who worked with her, getting to know this down to earth guy and his committed relationship to his son, even though he was divorced from the boy’s mother.
The next day it hailed in Seattle.
That same day she was offered the job in New York, a real career move from an affiliate station to the head of the network, a position interviewing the most glamorous people in the world. She was to fly out that afternoon and begin her work the next day. On that first day at the job, her dream come true job, she completely blew an interview, refusing to adhere to the strict guidelines of questions for the guest, causing the guest to cry on air, and causing Lanie to be fired.
Lanie realized that she wanted to do work of real substance and meaning, not just the superficial stuff. She left the station content with what she had done, only to walk out on the street and be shot by a random shooter going after some gang member.
Rushed to the hospital Lanie experienced herself dying, and then through the miracle of modern medicine, science, and surgery, as well as the care and love of her camera man, she was revived, survived the surgery and lived. She lived to start a whole new life, transformed in her being by the words of that street prophet.
In some ways Jack the street prophet is similar to the prophets we meet in scripture, like John the Baptist in our Gospel reading this morning. However it’s important to note that the prophets in the bible don’t actually do much predicting of the future, that’s our take on what we think prophesy means.
In the bible these prophets are actually speaking about present times, they are bringing a word of God to God’s people. Like Jack, the biblical prophets are calling people to take a good look at their lives and how they are living in relationship to God, in relationship to themselves, and in relationship to other people. They speak a radical kind of truth that people want to dismiss as ridiculous or incredulous. Sometimes they deliver a word of rebuke, at other times a word of social, political, economic, or religious analysis, and often times a word of hope and encouragement. They ultimately speak a redemptive word, for "prophets don't joke." These prophets are the ones crying out in the wilderness, calling us to prepare the way of the Lord.
We may or may not have prophets in our world and lives today. Not every generation has a prophet from God. That doesn’t mean we don’t need one, it may only mean that God hasn’t found the voice through whom to speak. But whether or not we have a prophet in our lives God still calls us to prepare the way, make straight the paths.
To reflect on this we might begin by wondering what paths in our world need to be made straight? Think of these paths metaphorically: paths that lead to peace, to love, to social justice, versus paths that lead to war, destruction, and the break down of relationships in our personal lives and in the global world.
What valleys, areas that are forgotten or ignored, like perhaps the genocide in the Sudan or the starvation of millions of orphans in Africa whose parents have died from AIDS, what of these valleys do we need to fill in, to work toward caring for these abandoned souls of the world?
What mountains and hills of political abuse, of collusion between nations for power, money, or oil, need to be laid low in order that the real needs of the world can be meet? We need to educate ourselves to understand, as best as possible, the nuances in global politics and to work for a balancing of power and money. We need to strive to move the massive accumulation of wealth which is harbored in only one percent of the worlds population, to move this wealth into more balanced proportions. Clearly some of the wealthy people around the world are actively engaging in this: Bill and Melissa Gates, Warren Buffet, even Angelina Jolie. We too can participate in this, even as we do it on a small, perhaps local scale through buying Bishops Blend coffee or supporting Dorothy Brown and her daughter Shanika with groceries, supplementing the abysmal support our government offers those on disability.
True, at St. Hilary’s we are small community. But we strive to do some powerful work in this world, and our efforts are making a difference. We have enabled Dorothy to stay in this area long enough to get her daughter through high school, Shanika will graduate in June.