Seeing Saving Mr Banks a couple of nights back reminded me of the one attempt I made once at being prophetic, Old Testament style. Saving Mr B is about the making of Mary Poppins and so the film is full of shots of St Walt of Disney (played by Tom Hanks). A few years ago we had the chance to go to Disneyland in Paris and me being a grumpy old man I didn’t get on too well there. I did enjoy some of the rides but the commercialism of the whole thing really got to me, not least the way that the food and merchandise was so overpriced and the gift shop was positioned right there in front of us, unmissable (especially by the children) as we were leaving the park each day.
So inspired by some of the greats from the Old Testament I thought I’d indulge in a bit of, what is known as, ‘prophetic symbolism’. That’s when you act out something to demonstrate to folks what’s really going on. Ezekiel did loads of it. He used DIY, cookery, haridressing, mime, model-making, storytelling and drama to stop people in their tracks and make them wake up to reality. I, on the other hand, got down on all fours and knelt before the great Walt and his created Mouse. I figured we were all there, myself very much included, worshipping the mouse, so I bowed down before a statue of it. No one took any notice of course, they were too busy er… worshipping the mouse I guess. But that was only in keeping with the experience of the great prophets anyway, no one listened to them. Or if they did, they saw it as fascinating entertainment. A bit like going to Disneyland for a day. (Check out Ezekiel 33 vv 30-33 when poor old Ezeke laments the way he is treated.)
All of this is not so much to knock the big Disney, I’m not a big fan of their cartoons personally but I know lots of folks are, plus I found watching Saving Mr Banks a deeply moving experience. My daughter is currently filling the airwaves with the soundtrack to Disney’s latest cartoon Frozen. She loves it. No, this is really a reminder of the way the Old Testament prophets communicated. They did stuff. Prophecy to them was not just a message delivered vocally, sometimes they didn’t speak at all. Instead they did things that would get them noticed. Hosea even went as far as getting married to make a point. And when Ezekiel’s wife died, he suppressed his terrible grief as a message to folks. (See Ezekiel’s blog post 24 vv 15-24.) When Ezekiel refuses to grieve properly it prompts a question from those with keen eyes – ‘Why are you doing this?’
And this still happens from time to time. A few years ago the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, went without food and camped in a tent in the cathedral for a few nights to demonstrate the plight of refugees in the middle East. One Easter Sunday he got a huge paddling pool placed outside and baptised anyone wanting to reaffirm their faith publicly. Both acts of prophetic symbolism made it into the news. People noticed. People wondered what he was doing and why.
So if you ever get the chance to go Disneyland try kneeling before St Walt and the mouse, see if anyone stops to take a picture. Or maybe you can think of other ways to jam a thought provoking stick in the spokes of the wheels of society, like ye olde prophettes once did.