Whanaungatanga: Prophetic Community and the Jeremiah Archetype

Whanaungatanga is an indigenous word we use to describe relationship, kinship, a sense of family connection - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. 

As a church  - the Edge community - we are exploring ways of strengthening our whanaungatanga through the spiritual practices that have defined our journey.

 "Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” - Rev 19:10

What do we mean when we say we are a prophetic community? How are we to realistically embody the place of prophecy as a unique designation that supports our growth and maturity?

For many years being ‘prophetic’ was narrowed down to a very limited interpretation that focussed solely on a religious context, which forced me to consider  a new definition that recognised the prophetic as a work of inspiration that was working in every aspect of life. There is something deeply spiritual, uniquely prophetic happening all around us that needs to be reinterpreted in order to help us recognise the broader ramifications of the prophetic.

Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor in their book ‘A Matrix of Meanings’ describe it like this: “We see a spiritual revival, not so much in the church, but in post-modern culture. Our aim is "to create a theology out of popular culture rather than a theology for popular culture”… joining the creatives who are already doing theology in movie, music, television, and other artistic expressions.

‘To be prophetic is to consider and comply with the sacred work of inspiration alive in the world’

Inspiration is a stunning metaphor that encapsulates the very essence of what it means to be prophetic, originally used to describe the ‘divine' at work in the cosmos, it gives us the scope to reconsider our participation in the  grand idea or reimagining and re-enchanting the world. Inspiration is innovation and inventiveness that pertains to the individual and corporate genius of our humanity.

The Jeremiah archetype…  a religious take on inspiration

Jeremiah was an ancient prophet who embodied the true spirit of inspiration in its purest form. Eugene Peterson says of Jeremiah, “Every muscle in his body was stretched to the limit by fatigue; every thought in his mind was subjected to questioning; every feeling in his heart was put through fires of ridicule. He experienced it all agonizingly and wrote it all magnificently.”

In the midst of the overbearing weight of the dominant empires of the Ancient Near East and the primitive spiritual consciousness of emerging culture he shone like a beacon of hope for a nation that needed someone to point out the way ahead. The Jeremiah narrative is laced with a dominant mention of the word ‘listen’ - more than any other book in the Bible - a reminder that we all need to incline our ear to the sacred muse of inspiration if we are to find our way forward.

In the narrative of Jeremiah we discover some beautifully embodied ideas that help us lean into the ancient echo of inspiration that reverberates down throughout  history.

  • Discerning the voice (genuine) within. Jeremiah understood that his life had a certain resonance that would define the influence he would have.

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” - Jer 1:4-9

  • Nurturing hopefulness.  Jeremiah had a hope that sustained him in the midst of his cynicism and doubt. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jer 29:11

“Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.”  - Walter Brueggemann

  • Remaining curious.  Jeremiah let the work of enquiry continue to stimulate his faith in his ineffable God who was always greater than his current reality

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. - Jer 33:3

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” - Walt Disney

To be a prophetic community is to deliberately engage with the work of inspiration that helps you discern the voice of the genuine within, nurture hopefulness, and stimulate curiosity. 

Jeremiah is a beacon of inspiration who has shined for centuries, so let’s continue to listen to his enduring reminder.

Greg Burson