A reflection on what it means to be prophetic by Wisdom & Money Co-Director Rose Feerick.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a 2011 interview with Walter Brueggemann on Krista Tippet’s podcast “On Being” while driving to pick up my sister at LaGuardia Airport. At one point, I almost pulled over to catch my breath after hearing Brueggemann’s description of the God of the prophets as one who embodies steadfast love and mercy.

Steadfast love, Brueggemann was saying, is like the love a mother has for her child—the kind of love that stands with another no matter what is happening. Mercy, he went on, is God’s womb-like love for us. It is a kind of compassion that is rooted in a sense of primal connection. I have heard Brueggemann talk about these definitions before, but not at a time like this one. This was a day in which I was caring for both parents who were sick with the flu, and in a season of my life in which I spend much of my time in New York in order to support my child through periods of illness. Listening to Brueggemann was an audio divina practice for me.

Me with my sons, Roddy and Ian, and my parents, John and Emalie.

 

Recently the Wisdom & Money staff has been talking about the prophetic part of the Wisdom & Money mission statement, which begins with the words “Rooted in the wisdom and prophetic streams of Christianity….” We have been discussing what prophetic means, and what it means when we bring the prophetic together with wisdom.

Listening to Brueggemann talk about the God of the prophets as one who steadfastly stands with people in very difficult times caught my attention because of what I have been living the past few years. Brueggemann described how difficult it can be to stay present in times of vulnerability, suffering and uncertainty. Often people and communities lack the ability to do so and instead seek to create order and supposed safety by exploiting and excluding. Rather than embrace vulnerability and uncertainty, people and societies can abandon—or worse, exploit—the most vulnerable. Prophets rise up when this happens to remind us of how to act: as if we belong to each other, as if we are one.

When I heard Brueggemann talk about steadfast love and mercy, it resonated deeply, because I had never before considered the prophetic image of God as so profoundly maternal. Nor had I recognized the unavoidable pull I’ve felt these past few years to show up for my family members as a metaphor for the nature of God. The inability to turn away from people in hard times is what steadfast love is. Mercy is the inability to “other” those who are suffering, or really the inability to separate from anyone. That is what God is like, the prophets insist.

Me with Roddy and Ian as young boys.

The prophetic at Wisdom & Money

Our work began because a handful of people who saw themselves as financially wealthy decided we could not go along with business as usual. We saw that the economic systems that enabled people like us to become wealthy were built on the exploitation of others. That was untenable for us, so we gathered in small circles to find ways to do something different, starting with ourselves.

This was not easy for all kinds of reasons, some of which have to do with the current financial system and its conventional “wisdom,” and some of which have to do with the ways that system operates in our own minds and emotions. As Brueggemann rightly notes, oppressive societies tend to box in the imagination so that alternatives seem impossible. But in Wisdom & Money, we were rooted in the belief that “all things are possible for God” (Mark 10:27). So we asked, what might it look like for wealthy people like us to participate in creating a flow of money that is rooted in the Holy Spirit, embodying divine love and participating in the creation of communities and societies that care for all people, especially those who have been exploited and excluded?

Finding ways to answer this question is what people in our network have been doing for more than 20 years. Some of us choose to focus on investing as a powerful way to transform the flow of money. Some of us focus on philanthropy. Some look at reparations as a critical dimension of acting prophetically. Some of us are working to heal dynamics around money in our family system. Some are seeking to set up economic vehicles (like this non-profit organization, for instance) or partnerships that embody the community and care that we see as essential to the biblical vision.

Each of us, according to our discernment, is invited to tune into our relationship with money as a spiritual practice, and step by step, make choices that embody God’s steadfast love and mercy.

Often, in order for us to find the ability to act like this, we must work internally to transform ourselves. This is where our practices—wisdom practices, financial transparency and the Be Present Empowerment ModelⓇ—are so helpful. Why?

Because they enable us to open and shift our minds and hearts from a dualistic way of seeing, characterized by a sense of separation from others, to one that sees and operates from a stance of connection. Getting in touch with this sense of connection is a critical dimension of being able to live out the prophetic call of steadfast love and mercy.

When I think about what a prophet is for Wisdom & Money, I think about people whose primary faithfulness is to abundant life for all, like a mother who will steadfastly show up in love for her family and experience her family’s well-being as part of her own. 

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