• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Pastoral Care after hearing a Prophet

On Sunday, in worship, we listened to the prophet Amos speak to his people in a time of great turmoil. When Amos looked on injustices and unholy actions of his nation Israel in his time, he spoke holy words that many did not believe, but later became scripture.


When Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looked on injustices and unholy actions of our nation in his time, he borrowed the prophetic words of Amos... "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Many resisted Rev. Dr. King when he spoke those words, but now almost all of us know how prophetic and true his words were.


It can be hard to hear a prophet speak. It rattles the mind and heart. It is challenging to listen and not overreact. Prophets have a unique ability to speak truth so directly and sharply, it can really hurt to hear.


If you experienced worship Sunday, August 9, in person or online, live or later, perhaps you felt the sting of prophetic words. One person told me after worship, "I was feeling so heavy, but your benediction really helped." Another wrote me, thanking me for the connections from scripture through the 1960's to today, but feeling a bit hopeless in the face of it all.


So today, I want to reach out to you with a hug and some reassurance.


There are several normal human reactions to prophetic truth. They mirror what some call the "stages of grief". When a prophet speaks, we might experience:


a) Denial... How can this Prophet's words be true? Surely, they aren't right about this, are they?

b) Anger... How dare this Prophet suggest such a thing! They are just trying to trick us or confuse us, aren't they?

c) Bargaining... It can't be as bad as the Prophet claims. There must be some reasonable explanation, right?

d) Sadness... If the Prophet is right, what's the point? It's too big and there's nothing we can do to change it, is there?


Whatever you might have felt as we read and preached from prophet Amos, I am with you. I love you and God does too. If you want to resist or ask questions or vent or take a break, I am with you. I love you and God does too. Prophetic truths are hard to hear, and we will react differently. No matter the reaction, I love you and God does too.


See, there is no denial, anger, bargaining, or hopelessness that could ever diminish God's love for us. We are God's church, an extension of God's family. God has promised to show us truth and to love us no matter what, even when we cannot believe it. That's how good God is.


No matter how much prophetic truth might sting, remember, God's greatest truth is that God is love, and God loves you, and God is bringing God's beloved community into this world for all God's children.


Blessing, Laughter, and Loving be yours,

Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

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In 2002, I left my corporate career, and went to seminary. Since 2005, I've been serving churches, and trying to follow Jesus, and lead others in doing the same...

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