Luke 4:24-27 (NRSV)

And Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Priests and prophets are two of the titles for religious leaders included in the Bible. Though we do not find a bullet-pointed job description for each in scripture, the laws and various narratives provide clues to the differences between these two roles—neither of which is considered a higher calling than the other.

Priests seem to exist at the center of the religious establishment. They administer the offerings and sacrifices, they perform the religious rituals, and they walk alongside the people in their daily lives of seeking to be faithful.

Prophets, on the other hand, are more often found at the margins. They are often “rogue” in their religious leadership. They point out the problems that exist in the center, how the establishment is messing up God’s purposes, and how the marginalized are suffering as a result.

Perhaps it’s easy to imagine, then, why a prophet is not often accepted in their hometown. Pointing out the problems, especially the problems of those closest to you, is not a recipe for increased popularity.

So from one perspective, being a prophet and doing prophet-y kinds of things results in not being accepted in your hometown.

But could the cause and effect go the other direction? Could not being accepted in one’s hometown result in one becoming a prophet?

Today, many women feel gifted and called to function in priestly kinds of roles for the church. They desire to live out God’s image and calling on their lives by doing the holy and sacred work of administering the sacraments and walking alongside people at the center of faith-life.

But these women are often not accepted in the center. The church of their early life, their hometown, pushes them away along with their gifts, callings, and leadership.

Perhaps it is that very push, that non-acceptance, which moves women toward prophethood. Not being accepted opens women’s eyes to seeing others in society who are also not accepted. Women from the church have the unique “prophetic” ability to see the marginalized.

In the 21st century, non-profit organizations are one way the needs of marginalized persons are being met, in similar fashion to the Elijah’s and Elisha’s prophetic ministries to the widows and lepers.

According to a 2020 article, more than 75% of the non-profit workforce is female.

(But before you get too excited about that number, know that women are still highly underrepresented in the executive leadership of non-profit organizations.)

These rogue non-profit women prophets are bringing God’s purposes to the margins, where God lives, where God’s love, hope, and shalom is desperately needed.

But God’s love, hope and shalom is also desperately needed in the center, in our churches.

Women are prophets who will find a way to share God’s love and join in God’s purposes. But women are also priests, and in desperate need of a church, a hometown, that won’t push them away.

May our churches, communities, non-profit organizations, and hometowns become places where everyone is free to use their priestly or prophetic gifts, and where no one will be unaccepted.

This blog series made possible in part by a gift from Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC.

If you or your congregation is also using Year W this liturgical year, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at Further resources and online conversation about using the Year W lectionary can also be found at Wilda Gafney’s website: