rising up from below

young green plant in soil* this post is part of the november synchroblog, different bloggers writing on the same subject.  richard rohr says “the role of the prophets is to call us out of numbness.”  right now there’s a strong sense of change brewing in the church, the world; people are rising up and calling individuals, communities, nations, and everything in between out of numbness and toward justice, mercy, equality, and love.  bloggers this month are writing on where we are being stirred and challenged by prophetic voices.  check out the links at the end of this post.


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“wake up, wake up, o zion!

clothe yourself with strength.

put on your beautiful clothes, o holy city of jerusalem..

rise from the dust…

sit in a place of honor.

remove the chains of slavery from your neck, o captive daughter of zion.”

isaiah 52:1-2

this scripture came to mind two weekends ago during our walking wounded gathering as i listened to two amazing women briefly sharing their painful church story of being silenced and unvalued in the church because they are female.  honestly, in those moments, my heart physically hurts.  i see their beauty, their power, their wisdom and wonder how in the $*!^$&^#%$ the church, the place that’s supposed to be Christ’s bride and a reflection of his image, could silence half its members so overtly (and somehow get away with it!).

the reality is that many other voices have been silenced by the church, far beyond only women.  and because of this lack of voices, we have all suffered.  we have missed the voices of the poor, the oppressed, the brown, the gay, the divorced, the orphaned, the young, the uneducated, the theologically incorrect, the tromped on, the forgotten.  we have given our microphones and our pulpits and our programs over to the strong and the powerful and created a system where those on the margins are ignored and dismissed.

but something’s breaking out right now that can’t be squelched.  we see it in the town squares that are filled with average people who are protesting wall street & starting to say “we’re tired of the powerful and greedy controlling our world, something’s got to change.”  we see it in the mass exodus young people are making out of the church because it refuses to focus on issues they care about related to justice & mercy & equality.  we see it in the long line of former-church-people who have deconstructed their faith & are finding something more real because they could no longer tolerate the deep inconsistencies between faith & practice. we see it in the groundswell of advocacy & support for equality and dignity for all regardless of sexual orientation.

in all kinds of places we are seeing it–a movement from below.  a groundswell from the bottom.  an uprising where little pockets of people are saying “we’re not going to do this anymore…..we’re tired of people’s dignity being stripped…it’s time for change.” 

on the whole, the tops of systems aren’t changing.  the hierarchy remains.  the powerful and strong keep making rules & laws & policies & money.  many are hunkering down, hoping they can weather this storm and eventually the unruly sheep will get back in line and start towing the line once again.

but it’s not going to happen.  the sheep are getting tired of being jacked around by oppressive shepherds who don’t care about their well-being.  who put their own self-interest above the common good.  who allow others to be mistreated.  who put chains around others necks instead of setting people free.

the sheep are rising up.

yeah, we’re rising up.   not to rise up and away from problems and pain, but rather to have courage and strength to enter into it.  all over the place, God is calling people to freedom, to living out the gospel instead of talking about it, to practice instead of theory.   i call it a “holy stirring” and i think we will see it get stronger & wider & deeper over the upcoming years.

so many people i know are refusing to be part of oppressive systems anymore.  they are finding their way outside of the traditional confines of religion & meeting God in unlikely places.  they are renewing their passions and serving in all kinds of wild and beautiful ways that is viewed by the establishment as subversive even though it’s the closest thing to the gospel i’ve ever seen.  artists are creating.  silenced voices are speaking.  young people are voting with their feet.  chains are breaking.  dignity is being slowly & painfully being restored in little pockets of love & freedom that are often unseen & unnoticed by the masses.

but it’s happening.

the prophets are emerging from below, from underneath, from unlikely places.

God is calling people out of numbness and complacency.  and just like our hands feel when we warm them up after they freeze in the snow, it’s going to hurt.  like really hurt.  unfreezing our hearts, hands, feet, mouths, and brains is going to hurt as we thaw out and find our true identity created in the image of God.  parts of us are going to come alive that were once left for dead.  we’re going to have to use muscles that have atrophied.  we’re going to feel things we haven’t felt before.  we’re going to be more vulnerable and unprotected.  we’re going to doubt our voices.  we’re going to hear the critics tell us that we’re stupid & disgruntled & should quit complaining.  we’re going to doubt ourselves and wonder if maybe “going back to egypt” will make it feel better.

some will go back to their “proper place” and feel safe again.

but far more others are going to keep waking up, rising up, and breaking free from the chains that once kept us captive.  we are going to keep being set free and help others be set free, too.   we are going to care about the things that Jesus cares about like justice & mercy & compassion & peace & hope & restoration.  we are going to band together with others from below & form little armies of change that will shift laws & topple kingdoms & break down all kinds of walls that keep people stuck. 

there’s a rising up from below, calling us out of numbness.  calling us to freedom. calling us to justice.  calling us to mercy.  calling us to love.

God, keep thawing us out. we know it’s time. 

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ps:  i have a post up today at shelovesmagazine as part of a monthly column called sheloves God. this one is called leaving the ninety-nine for the one & is adapted from the chapter in down we go called extending love, mercy and compassion. sheloves is a prophetic voice calling us out of numbness in all kinds of ways.

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check out other bloggers writing about the prophets this month (i’ll add more links as they come in tonight):

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

43 Comments

  • I see it! it is messy, undefined, but growing stronger everyday. Love seeing the once voiceless find their voice. Like the women in you post I was told my voice had no place at the table, so I built my own table.

    Reply
    • Kathy – You did a beautiful of expressing what is happening in a way that is both positive and true!

      “they are renewing their passions and serving in all kinds of wild and beautiful ways that is viewed by the establishment as subversive even though it’s the closest thing to the gospel i’ve ever seen. artists are creating. silenced voices are speaking. young people are voting with their feet. chains are breaking. dignity is being slowly & painfully being restored in little pockets of love & freedom that are often unseen & unnoticed by the masses.”

      Reply
    • i will always remember this line, wendy! thank you for sharing & for your heart and courage to step out and into what you were meant to do. i think of you often and love what you are doing!!

      Reply
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  • Kathy,

    Great post. I agree that the sheep are rising up, and I am glad for it.

    The trouble, I fear, is that most of us sheep only seem to want more rules, laws, policies, and yes, even money. I don’t think these will fix anything. We need grace and freedom, but these cannot be created with laws and regulations.

    Reply
    • yeah, i am with you that it is really just a small pocket of sheep at this point. and also that ultimately there’s this thing in us that is drawn toward those things–rules, laws, policies, comfort, money, power. so it will be always pulling against that. grace & freedom is terrifying, i think. thanks for reading & so glad you are part of the synchroblog.

      Reply
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  • Kathy great article. I believe that all authentic spirituality and its Love fruit come from below. True change first emerges within the psyche through an enlightenment before bubbling up into our consciousness and beyond. The gift of will is made to partner with such a deep change rather than respond to the often top down pressure to get out there and DO something.

    There is definitely something being birthed with or without the followers of Yeshua.

    Blessings

    Dylan

    Reply
    • thanks dylan. i love this line “the gift of will is made to partner with a such a deep change rather than respond to the often top down pressure…”

      Reply
  • The “beautiful people”, those with money, power and status are the ones whose voices are heard in the church. We too are refusing to part of such a system that oppresses so many.

    Check out the demographics. See what the youngest one third of our population thinks about so many of the issues you mention – justice, the oppressed, the rich, the poor and LGBT people vs. what the oldest one third of the population thinks. Actually, the young are generally not abandoning those opinions as they are having children of their own and are moving toward middle age.

    Simply put, as the old folks die, the opinions of those who will take their place is going to prevail. We are on the cusp of dramatic change. The church has fallen and continues to fall behind in keeping pace with the changes that have already taken place. Many of us refuse to wait for the institution to catch up, if it ever will. We refuse to be part of an oppressive system that refuses to change.

    As Wendy so aptly put it, we are building our own tables.

    Reply
    • Sam … enjoying your comments, but disagree on one point. It’s not just the “young demographic” and no need for us older ones to “die out” for this movement of the Spirit to take place. Some of us “older sheep” are being drawn by the Lord into this downward process as well, out of “that thing” we’ve been a part of for so long. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams”

      Reply
      • Mar,

        Great point. I think that the best example of this is my friend who is no in his mid 70’s. He has been part of church for decades, has been through multiple seminaries, and has both medical and theological doctorates. After all these years, he is now excited about getting out of church and going out to love on hurting people. He comes out to some of our homeless outreach programs and biker bible studies and has just fallen in love with the radical living out of the Gospel. It is truly exciting to see those who are older embrace the ideas of justice, equality, and love.

        FedEx,
        President,
        Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

        Reply
        • fedex, yeah, i know more and more people like that, too. it’s really contagious!

          Reply
      • I agree. I myself am in that oldest one third. Many of my contemporaries, however, look at these issues much differently than I do. I am loosely quoting someone I heard on a podcast a year or so ago whose name I don’t remember discussing the demographic issue. I found lots of demographic info. online, that seemed to support what he was saying.

        Within the past week I’ve run across a couple of polls that showed the under 35 group supporting some of these issues by about 70% (of course that may be opinion only, not actions), with the 65+ group not supporting them by about 65%. Hopefully there are people in the oldest one third of the population who are and will be “drawn by the Lord into this downward process”. It can be very, very good to change our minds, rather than the young needing us to die for change to take place!

        Reply
      • thanks mar, yeah the stirring is happening across all sorts of demographics. a longing for something far more deep & real & tangible…i love in that passage that men & women are both prophesying…

        Reply
    • thanks sam and i like the reminder that old people are shifting, too, maybe not in as great of numbers, but shifting nonetheless. the only bummer is that our generation will not see the change fully and it will be so interesting to see what really ends up happening over the next 100 years….

      Reply
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    • i feel the same way when i read your stuff, my friend from afar. i am glad somehow we are connected out here, you a true kindred spirit…

      Reply
  • Brought tears to my eyes. I’m a disillusioned sheep that left the pen having ceded organized religion to my ex in the divorce 5 yrs ago. The pockets of hope and healing and acceptance and occasional ranting that I’m finding now are making all the difference. Preach on. Occupy The Sanctuary.

    Reply
    • shan, thanks so much for taking time to comment. i am glad you are finding pockets of hope & healing & acceptance & a place to occasionally rant. we all need it. peace from colorado.

      Reply
  • “yeah, we’re rising up. not to rise up and away from problems and pain, but rather to have courage and strength to enter into it. all over the place, God is calling people to freedom, to living out the gospel instead of talking about it, to practice instead of theory.” <—– oh this is my favorite part, and especially the courage and strength part. Thank God for borrowed courage, borrowed strength, my friend.

    Oh, but my *least* favorite part is the pain associated with the de-thawing process. While necessary to not stay frozen, it can be so tempting to go back to a nice, contained ice cube. Maybe even in one of those cute heart or star shaped molds? Really, though, it is clear that once the process has begun, it is clear that one just can't go back to the form that it once was, even as "safe" as it once seemed. (Sigh).

    Reply
    • thawing hurts like $*@^$&!!(!(!%$# // i, too, am thankful for borrowed courage, borrowed strength, borrowed hope.

      Reply
  • Hmm…being called out. Yes. While thinking about this and getting told I was going to hell over on someone else’s blog, this essay by C S Lewis, Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism, has persistently come to mind. I know – gig, dry sounding title. 🙂

    It is a paper that was born out of a conversation he had with with the head of an English theological college who asked him to come speak to his students. This quote is from the beginning….

    “He knew of course that I was extremely ignorant of the whole thing. But I think his idea was that you ought to know how a certain sort of theology strikes the outsider. Though I may have nothing but misunderstandings to lay before you, you ought to know that such misunderstandings exist. That sort of thing is easy to overlook inside one’s own circle. The minds you daily meet have been conditioned by the same studies and prevalent opinions as your own. That may mislead you. For of course as priests it is the outsiders you will have to cope with. You exist in the long run for no other purpose. The proper study of shepherds is sheep, not (save accidentally) other shepherds. And woe to you if you do not evangelize. I am not trying to teach my grandmother. I am a sheep, telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. And now I start my bleating.”

    When the shepherds refuse to listen to the sheep, they will eventually find themselves with an empty fold…

    Reply
    • “When the shepherds refuse to listen to the sheep, they will eventually find themselves with an empty fold…” Well said Katherine! I don’t think we need to worry about being condemned to hell on that other blog by a disturbed person. However we understand hell, some guy on a blog can’t determine our relationship to it. That would be Jesus’ job. If we want to look like Jesus, showing Jesus’ love to other sheep would be the way to go.

      Reply
      • 🙂
        Sam, it was interesting on the other blog. I walked away from the first commenter….then the second…sheesh. I was reminded of when Jesus was debating with the Pharisees and got frustrated with them and said, “Why do you deliberately misunderstand me?” In the past, I would have felt the ‘need’ to ‘win’ the argument. I am greatly relieved to report that is no longer the case. 🙂

        Jesus has so firmly ingrained in me these last couple of years (and even weeks) that no one has the power of authority to interfere or judge my relationship with him. He’s also shown something else religiously scandalous….what a person says on the outside does not necessarily reflect what they really believe or think on the inside. Only he knows the heart….and in the end, the heart is the only thing that matters….

        Reply
      • Hmm…a revision of my comment….
        When the shepherds refuse to listen to the sheep, they will eventually find themselves with a fold full of goats….

        Reply
  • lovely thoughts, i thought i heard a fist slamming down on the podium? we love it when you get all prophetess on us!
    i wish i knew how it happens, i live with you and so many amazing people, but i forget that so many of you have had to “overcome” to get there. i forget. you make it look easy even though it wasn’t, and i forget what it took. this may not be true, but if you ever begin to feel tired of the story, of advocating for the silently oppressed believing everyone has heard this before- do not stop.

    i am not sure i really think the sheep are rising. most sheep love will trade the efficiency and easy grass for the challenge of intimacy. i think many sheep actually like thinking that the chief shepherd is in fact not really needed since they have Gods anointed (i puke overtime i hear someone say that in reference to a pastor).

    Reply
    • i think i was slamming my hand down on the podium! oh, wait a minute, what podium, ha ha. 🙂 i agree that so many sheep are not rising, happy to be sheep & submit to shepherds who keep them bound. but thankfully a few are slipping away and getting some guts.

      Reply
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