A Prophet at the Grocery Store

by Emily Ralph Servant, Leadership Minister

“You are going to make a difference.”

He stood there in the grocery store aisle, pointing at my 8-month-old daughter with a smile on his face.  She looked back at him, her eyes wide and cheeks creased by dimples.

You are going to make this world better.”

I lifted tired eyes to meet his and tried to find words to convey the depth of my gratitude.  The only ones I could find were “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  But as he nodded at me and went on his way, those words seemed to be enough.

It was a passing encounter with a stranger in an unlikely place.  I was used to people fussing over my baby every time we went out together, but this was entirely different.

This was a prophecy, a blessing, a profound expression of hope from someone who needed a better world. It also resonated with my own heart cry, my longing for who I want, and believe, my daughter will be.  Who I hope she already is.

Our lives are full of these encounters, full of moments when God shows up right in the middle of our tired routines.  God’s Spirit is whispering, calling, shouting through the stranger.  We choose whether we slow down long enough to listen.

“There’s no way to know when [we] might get caught up in the movement of the Spirit,” says Mennonite pastor Isaac Villegas.1 “From Luke’s gospel we learn that we never know when and where the word of the Lord might happen…”  As pastors, suggests Villegas, we spend a lot of time preparing sermons for our congregations; perhaps we might be better situated for that task if we were to “put ourselves in the position of receiving the good news, of welcoming the gospel in unfamiliar settings and from unexpected tongues.”

It’s often easy for Jesus-followers to focus on all the ways that our neighborhoods need us and everything that we could do on behalf of our community.  What would happen if, instead, we would expect to see the gifts we are being offered, if we would search for where, and in whom, we see the image of God staring back at us?

Maybe then we would receive a stranger’s prophecy and accept his challenge: an invitation to join in the struggle.  Maybe then we would receive a new anointing, a pouring out of the Spirit promising that, together, we will make this world better.

1 “Worldly Sermons: Experiencing God’s Word Beyond the Church” in Fully Engaged: Missional Church in an Anabaptist Voice, pp. 210 & 215.