The following is how I opened my class last term on the Old Testament Prophets at Cranmer Hall…
My son just finished reading The Goblet of Fire, my favorite book in the Harry Potter series, a series that bring us into an alternative world of magic and mystery.
In preparing for this opening lecture I thought of that curious communication medium Rowling created, a means of communication dreaded by all students at Hogwarts: the “screamer.”
It’s a letter that explodes with noise, voicing a message that will not be silenced, that cannot be muffled, that splits the soundscape with the cacophonous fury of the sender.
Rowling also imagines up that required textbook about magical beasts and monsters, a book that seems intent on assaulting and devouring the reader. A dangerous book, a book fanged and hungry, a book that is wild, feral.
As a class, we are not in Hogwarts, but we are gathered in a classroom to ready our souls and strengthen our skills for engaging a world full of darkness, deceit, and evil. And the books that will lie open before us in this class will place our sense of security and composure at risk. Our stability, our sensibilities, our own sense of what it means to be ‘spiritual,’ will be threatened.
The books of the Prophets are screamers. They are fanged and feral.
Erupting from the pages are emotions unbefitting for our society—yet they are the emotions of the God we worship. Erupting from these pages through the spluttering moans of those crushed beneath the weight of divine revelation are glimpses of a God “whose way is in whirlwind and storm,” as Nahum tells us. This Deity will not fit within the soundest of liturgies. He will not fit within pious songs of praise. Amos tells us: this is a God who “roars.”
What are we to do with such a ROARING GOD, a Stormy God?
What are we to do with a God whose sight is so radiant and holy that it is unsurvivable, whose presence sends us fleeing into holes and cracks in the ground for dear life. This is a God who, as Isaiah tells us, can seize a man and whirl him around then hurl him away like a ball into a wide land. This is a God who has a sword, thirsting for the blood of his enemies (really?).
Yet we also find in the Prophets that this sword-wielding God whose way is in tornado and tempest is heartsick and heartbroken. The rage and fury arises from the beautiful flames of divine love. This God is a Lover, One who has wed Himself to a Bride; but that Bride has soiled herself in the filfth and rot of adulteries too sick and putrid to describe.
Hence, the mighty roaring.
To read the Prophets is to enter into the tempestuous heart of the great God, the God of Israel.
Welcome to class…