In the tale of the rise of the High Priest, the Aaronic role, one of the details that is presented to us is the description of the robes that the priest wears. The fringes of the coat were decorated with pomegranates and bells (Exodus 28.33-35). Tradition suggests that these represent the dual tensions that the priest needs to thread in their role, the sublimity of ecstasy and the corporeality of existence. The sound of the bells and the pomegranates in the movement of the priest reminds them of their standing in the world. In time and with the establishment of the 'church' this understanding has been lost, which means that the priest is either centred in the corporeality of existence or is found in the hinterland of religiosity ever lost in the sublimity of ecstasy that is characterised by their closeness to God. In the loss of the tension, the technical understanding of the priest, as defined by Kenneth Burke in Permanence and Change, is mainly undertaken by "professors, journalists, public relation counsellors..." (and I would include psychiatric / psychology counsellors) in today's world. A new understanding of ministry in the modern world is by and large, that of 'manager' ensuring the well being and financial growth of the Parish in terms of numbers, maintenance and adherence to a well worn pattern of worship tradition (see Martyn Percy "The Future Shapes of Anglicanism"). Faithful worshippers are always minded towards their pew, their service, and their way of doing things, which must not change, or if it does in such a slow incremental manner that it does not impact on their consciousness until it is well established. (Even the angle of the pew when changed by the incumbent will be brought back to an even keel by an anonymous member).
Even our images place the prophet in the wilderness
Does the prophet exist in today's world? Walter Bruegmann seemed to think that there is room for the prophetic imagination but how well received is the prophet? Christ says that the prophet is not welcomed in their home town (Matt 13.57). In this day and age perhaps the role of the prophet is on the fringes where the feral priests are, with the 'home town' being the center. So, in terms of technicality, what is the prophet? Kenneth Burke puts it like this when comparing the priest and the prophet "The priests devote themselves to maintaining the vestigial structure; the prophets seek new perspectives whereby this vestigial structure may be criticized and a new one established in its place". No wonder prophets are shunned and left in the margins, for who wants to make the change that a new perspective allows for. That is unless they too catch the vision and are willing to bear the cost that is demanded of them as no changed perspective comes without cost. The prophet is also likely to be brutal in speaking into situations to share the view of God's hope rather than a gently, gently, all is good approach, which further alienates the ministry as it lacks the conformation required for the rigid vestigial structures that are in place.
In the early corporatisation of the Church, as it abandoned the leadership of the prophets, the historical forces have placed faith structures within the world of the corporate. Leaving the imaginations of God's inspiration to the margins. Whilst appeasing the appetites of the satisfied, faith structures have become inflexible; struggling to survive in a world that thrives on innovation and surprise. For the complacent in conformity, who have risen in respect and authority, the prophet's place is no longer required. Otherwise, by implication in accepting the prophet's voice, they too must be prepared for the chaos of God's re-creation and change in the heart of the faith.