Archive for 2012 – Page 2

Quaker Revival In Philadelphia Tonight

This evening, we will be holding the first revival meeting among Friends in Philadelphia in generations. Months of prayer, discernment and preparation have been directed towards this moment, and we feel clear in our sense of the Spirit’s leading. It is good for us to be here.

It is also terrifying. As one of three visiting ministers who have been invited to serve at this gathering, I am convicted of the importance of tonight’s meeting – and of my own personal inadequacy to be a vessel for the Living Water that Jesus offers us. I feel deeply the words that Simon Peter spoke when Jesus called him into this same ministry beside the Sea of Galilee: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
I think that all of us who are involved in organizing this revival meeting are aware of our own frailty and weakness. Who are we to invite our brothers and sisters into a deepened experience of the Holy Spirit and a renewed commitment to following Jesus? And yet our hearts are convinced that God has called each of us to be a part of this evening, and to minister to others as the Spirit directs.

It is our prayer that the living Spirit of God will be in full evidence in our assembly tonight. It is our hope that Jesus will be present in the midst, as he promised he would be whenever we gather in his name. It is our strength and comfort to trust that though we are weak and insufficient, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. He has already won the victory, and he invites us to take up his ministry of reconciliation – to speak peace to the whole world.

If anything positive happens tonight – if there is any healing, any joy, any kindling of the heart and new commitment to following Jesus – it will be because of the living presence of God. This is my heart’s prayer today: Holy Spirit, come! Lord Jesus, stand in the midst of your people and teach us!
Please pray for us here in Philadelphia, that we may be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and brought into a deepened commitment to walking in the way of Jesus.

Advent And The Empire Of This World

Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, a time of remembrance and preparation for the coming of Jesus into the world. Especially for those of us who do not attend liturgical worship services, it is easy to forget about this special period of hope and expectancy in the midst of darkness. Advent is mostly obscured by the Holiday Season that is so vigorously promoted by the profit-driven society in which we reside. Our practice of remembering the coming of Jesus groans under the weight of the prosperity cult that has emerged as our unifying national religion.

In the face of this consumerist onslaught, Advent stands as a mark of radical resistance to the Empire of this world. Together, we remember how God has entered into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, and we confess that it is only in his Empire (his Kingdom) that we may find true peace and fulfillment.

It is easy to forget how radical this season is meant to be. Advent is not about egg nog, Christmas carols and sleigh rides – it is an act of shared recognition that the true Lord and Love of our lives has entered into the world and has unmasked the powers that hold us in bondage. Joy to the world, the Savior reigns! He is here to unmask and put an end to the evil of sex trafficking, political corruption, environmental devastation and the dehumanizing attitudes that have infected every human heart. The Empire of this world is become the Empire of our Lord, and of his Messiah!

His coming is like a refiner’s fire, which purifies and strips down everything that stands in the way of the abundant life that the Spirit is calling us into. Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when Jesus himself appears in our midst? As we endure this world’s “Holiday Season,” God calls us away from our selfish consumption and comforting rituals. Instead, we are invited to become agents of Christ’s work of unmasking the powers and bringing healing to our broken society.

The coming weeks are a time for revolutionary boldness. Now is the time to remember that the true Light that enlightens everyone is coming into the world. This is a moment to radically reorient our lives and turn towards the the upside-down Kingdom. We are being offered an opportunity to (re)affirm our commitment to the loving Empire of Jesus, and to renounce the death-dealing Empire that so often seems unassailable.

For we know that Jesus has already overcome the world. What would it look like for us to participate in his victory? How might we change our whole orientation, seeing clearly the way that God is re-making the whole of creation? Are we ready to turn away from the darkness and confusion of this world and turn towards the light that we find in the face of Jesus? Are we prepared to tear away the veil of confusion and embrace the radical implications of the message that simmers just under the surface of the Holiday Season?

Should Quakers Be Laying On Hands?

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. – Acts 8:14-17

Have you received the Holy Spirit?

The Book of Acts describes how the first disciples in Jerusalem experienced the coming of the Spirit, and this outpouring quickly spread to thousands of others. It was not long before the Church in Jerusalem was scattered by persecution, but this just spread the gospel message more widely.

One of these scattered disciples, Philip, shared the good news in Samaria. The Samaritans were the red-headed stepchildren of the Jewish family. They were outsiders par excellence, widely considered untouchable heretics by their Jewish neighbors. Yet, perhaps because of their shunned status, Samaritans were eager to embrace the news about Jesus. They heard the message and accepted it.

The new believers in Samaria took the first step, being baptized with water as a symbol of their whole-hearted embrace of the message that Philip had shared with them. But there was still something missing. The leaders of the Church in Jerusalem knew in their bones that the people of Samaria needed more than human belief in the message about Jesus: They needed to experience Jesus for themselves. They needed to taste his very Spirit.

What does that even mean? Why weren’t the apostles satisfied with the fact that the Samaritans had become “orthodox Christians”? What compelled some of the apostles in Jerusalem to venture out to Samaria and lay their hands on the new believers? And why did the Holy Spirit wait for the apostles’ touch before indwelling the new church? If the Spirit blows where it will, what need is there of human intervention?

There is a reason that our spiritual ancestors used such rich, diverse language to describe the Spirit: A dove descending from the sky, rushing wind, tongues of fire, living water, the sound of silence. All of these words offer a window into the mystery of the Holy Spirit, the source of a Life and Power so magnificent that our faith is incomplete until we receive it.

It is my experience that the Spirit is beautifully mysterious and unpredictable. Any attempt to pin her down and force her to obey human regulations will fail. And yet, this story of human involvement in the work of the Holy Spirit rings true to me. It fits with my own experience of receiving the Holy Spirit into my life.

When I first became a Quaker in 2004, I did so because I was convinced at a very deep level, far beyond simple intellectual assent, that the testimonies of Friends were true. I could sense that there was a ground of truth that was solid and immovable. I sensed that God was real, and that my life needed to conform to that Truth. Yet, there was something missing. While I had begun to accept Friends principles and could sense God’s hidden presence, I did not experience God as an actor in my life. In reality, I was still in the driver’s seat. I was “exploring God,” like the famous old blind men who could each feel a different part of the elephant.

But when the Holy Spirit came on me, it was as if that elephant reached out and grabbed me with her trunk! No longer was God an object of my personal study; I came face-to-face with a divine Presence and Personality that had plans for me, and who would guide me if I opened myself. I was shown, in a deeply personal way that can never be fully explained, that God is not an “it,” but rather a “thou.”

And how did I come to have this experience? What was the catalyst for this encounter with the divine Thou? While for me there was not a literal laying on of hands, the circumstances surrounding my reception of the Holy Spirit bore great similarities to the experience of the Samaritan church.

I was at the World Gathering of Young Friends, in Lancaster, England, together with hundreds of other young Quakers from around the world. During the gathering, we heard sermons from a variety of ministers. One of these, a fiery preacher from Philadelphia, challenged us to know who we were and to accept the mantle of prophecy that the Spirit was calling us into. Early on in her sermon she warned us, “you didn’t ask me, but I’m about to give you a double portion of what I have.” At one point – referencing the words of Jesus in John 15 – the minister exclaimed, “you’re cleansed!” She spontaneously grabbed a container of water that was sitting up at the podium and began sprinkling those of us sitting closer to the front.

The sermon was riveting. It was the most explosive, powerful vocal ministry I had ever encountered. She spoke directly to our condition that evening, and the Spirit was palpably present in the room – though I was not consciously aware of it at the time.

It was later in the evening that it happened. I was sitting on a bench with another young Quaker, and we spontaneously fell into silent worship together. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit was upon us, bathing us with wave upon wave of light, power, love and tender mercy. There simply are no words. But every true word I have spoken since that night has flowed from this Source.

I am convinced that the presence of apostolic authority and blessing that night were instrumental in the work of the Holy Spirit. The faithfulness of this minister from Philadelphia played the same role for me as Peter and John did for the new believers in Samaria. It is enough to make me wonder whether we Quakers should put more emphasis on the importance of human participation in the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Has this happened to you? Has someone laid hands on you – literally or figuratively? Have you received a blessing from another person that has allowed you to plunge far deeper into relationship with God than you ever had before? What do you think the role of human agency is in the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Could it be that we Quakers need to be more open to sharing the gift of the Spirit by the laying on of hands?

Atheist For God’s Sake?

What if atheism were the most faithful response to the life and message of Jesus? What if, rather than an anomaly to be fixed or avoided, the felt experience of God’s absence were at the heart of the Christian faith? What if Jesus’ sense of abandonment by God on the cross were not merely a lamentable necessity en route to the resurrection, but rather a central part of what it means to live in the horrifying light of the gospel?
In his 2011 book, Insurrection, Peter Rollins argues that belief in an externalized, objectivized deity that “makes everything OK” is the path of religious escapism. Instead, he urges us to strip away the comforting veil that hides the naked truth from our eyes – the reality of pain, injustice and deep existential anxiety. To doubt, Rollins argues, is divine – because it is in the depths of despair that we can come into communion with the crucified Jesus who, as he hangs on the cross, cries out in desolation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This image of Jesus’ utter brokenness on the cross is one that Rollins returns to time and again as he drives home his message: There is a god of our imagination that comforts us and makes our lives more understandable, but this god is more fiction than reality. It is a false savior, a security blanket that covers over our deepest anxieties. This god that we create is a projection of our own need to be observed and cared for, to live an existence that is ordered and purposeful, to know that everything will be alright in the end.

Rollins breathlessly invites us to cast aside these god-shaped idols that we cling to in the name of religion. Rather than fleeing our moments of anxiety and groundlessness, what if we allowed ourselves to feel the radical abandonment by God that Jesus experienced on the cross? What would happen if we confessed – first to ourselves, then to others – that we do not understand the universe that we live in, that it does not make sense to us? Paradoxically, Rollins insists that the only way to truly encounter God is to fully experience the desolation of God’s absence.

Rollins urges us to strip away all the anti-depressants that we heap on top of the raw terror of human experience. Rather than wrapping ourselves ever more deeply in the security blankets of conventional religiosity, with its assurances of salvation “in the sky by and by,” a genuine encounter with the living God invites us to dwell in the Desert of the Real. It is in this encounter that we experience the unvarnished reality of our lives, uncushioned by hope of heaven, fear of hell or illusions about a “nanny god” who will make everything better soon. We stand most truly in the presence of Jesus when we embrace the fullness of his suffering and his love for the world as it is, not as the human imagination would have it be.

This is particularly challenging for those of us whom God calls to proclaim the gospel. What is the role of existential doubt, despair and a felt sense of abandonment by God in this proclamation? Surely, all of us have experienced this sense of groundlessness and loss in our own lives. A sense of God’s absence is certainly a regular part of my spiritual experience. Yet, it is not the whole of it.

The God of my own experience – and the God whom we encounter in Scripture – is one who is both near to us and far away. Here is a God who neither coddles us (depriving us of free will) nor abandons us forever (depriving us of hope). Peter Rollins has written a brilliant argument against the coddling, “safety blanket god.” How do I integrate this critique? What does it look like to fully embrace the reality of the cross while witnessing to the life of the Resurrection? How can I acknowledge my own experience of divine abandonment while at the same time lifting up the life that lies on the other side. The grain of wheat must die if it is to bear fruit – but there is a joyous harvest awaiting us!
Rollins would have us believe that the resurrection life is nothing more (or less) than loving one another, dwelling in the love that makes God’s reality present. It is unclear to me whether Rollins believes that God is an actor in history. For the most part, Rollins seems to view God as an impersonal force (agape love) that we humans can either choose to dwell in, or not. Because Rollins’ focus is so intensely on the abandonment that Jesus experienced on the cross, at times I wondered whether he considers the experience of God’s presence and guidance to be real. Or is all sense of security, groundedness and peace an illusion that separates us from real engagement with life as it really is?
If I had an opportunity to discuss these matters with Rollins, I feel confident that he would give me well-considered answers that demonstrate a balance between absolute despair and cheap theism that denies the cross. Yet, as the book stands, I wonder whether Rollins takes us a little too far from the reality of God’s loving presence – the divine personality and will that is not our own, yet fills our lives with purpose, compassion and the pursuit of justice.
While there are parts of Insurrectionthat strike me as unbalanced, that is to be expected. A prophet does not give a fair and balanced view of all sides of an issue. The hallmark of prophetic witness is that it hits us exactly where we need to be struck. It may not be fair, but it provides the slap across the face that we need to wake up. Peter Rollins is speaking to a decadent, self-satisfied Western Church that has wallowed for far too long in a cheap gospel that celebrates selfish joy and ignores the poor.
We have sung too many cloying praise songs and heard too many peppy sermons. We have whitewashed our own experience of spiritual emptiness too many times. A church that is unwilling to face its own insecurities and anxieties is incapable of truly embracing those on the margins. This kind of church must shun those who cannot hide their brokenness, because it cannot stand to see its own spiritual condition reflected back. Insurrectionurges us to look at ourselves in the mirror, perhaps for the first time. It is a reminder that we must face the reality of our own emptiness and anxiety. Another happy-clappy, “Jesus loves the little children,” cheap grace sermon will not get us to the resurrection.
It is only as we enter into the experience of emptiness, futility and death that we encounter the beckoning reality of the resurrection. Rather than sparing us from crucifixion, true resurrection is only to be found as we pass through death into a deeper, truer existence. Peter Rollins writes about this in a way that I find very compelling, observing that even the resurrected Jesus bears the marks of his torture on the cross.
Our relationship with God and our fellow human beings looks very different depending on which side of the cross we stand. Do we bear witness to a post-crucifixion resurrection – or do we want to skip the terror of the cross and dive straight into the after-party? Are we truly ready to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, taking on the suffering and despair of the world and offering our lives into the hands of a God who often seems absent? How do we bear the marks of the crucifixion in our own bodies, even as we proclaim the living joy and hope of the resurrection?

Why Quakers Should Celebrate Thanksgiving

One of the core teachings of the Quaker movement is that Christ is inwardly present in all times and all places. In seventeenth-century England, when holiness was restricted the tightly controlled religious rituals of an elite clergy, Friends made the bold claim that the real presence of Jesus was not to be found in the hocus pocus of wafers and wine. Instead, they testified that Jesus is risen in the very bodies of those women and men who follow him in spirit and in truth.

In a culture where religious ritual and narrow sacramentality was used to dominate common people, Friends insisted that Jesus is radically present in the lives of all people. Despite intense persecution by the religious and civil authorities, Friends clung to their conviction that God’s power and mercy spills beyond the walls of the cathedral, and that the baptizing power of the Spirit is not dependent on water poured by human hands.

Along with other radical groups in their day (such as the Puritans), Friends denounced many of the customs that those around them took for granted. Because the names of the days and months were derived from pagan deities (Thor’s Day, for example), Friends began using numbers instead (e.g. Today is Fifth Day, 11th Month 22nd, 2012). Friends also rejected holidays such as Easter and Christmas. This was not because they did not honor the spiritual significance of Christ’s birth and resurrection; rather, they believed that they could best experience Christ’s resurrected presence by following him each day. Every day should be Christmas. Every day should be Easter.

I feel that I understand why early Friends made these choices. They lived in an age where religious ritual had been largely co-opted by the civil and religious authorities. Christmas, Easter and saint’s days; water baptism and priestly rites; bread and wafers treated as the literal body and blood of Christ – all these things had become tools of control and oppression by the elites. Rather than encouraging their flock to follow Jesus, the priests and the rulers abused their positions, putting themselves in Christ’s place! In such circumstances, it was probably right for the early Friends to strip religion down to the bare bones and start from scratch.

But it has been three hundred and fifty years. Times have changed dramatically. Virtually our entire public consciousness, including our holidays and religious rituals, have been co-opted by the new empire of this world – unrestrained corporate capitalism. For most Americans today, Christmas is about Santa Claus and consumer electronics. Easter is about bunnies and brunches. And even Thanksgiving, long the least commercialized major holiday, is under siege by the “holiday shopping season.” This year, Black Friday has become “Black Thanksgiving.”

Ironically – but not accidentally – this wave of consumerism is rising precisely at the time that ordinary Americans are experiencing a crescendo of economic hardship and stress. With so many of us struggling to find meaningful employment at a living wage, it is difficult to resist the siren’s call of consumer goods. Just as many people suffering from depression struggle with uncontrolled eating habits, our nation’s frantic search for “the next best thing” is revealing. We are hurting so badly!

How is the Holy Spirit calling us to respond to the insatiable hunger, despair and emptiness that our culture is experiencing? What does it look like for us to challenge the systems of death that not only eat us alive, but seduce us into joining the feast?

Some Quakers might argue that our best option is to opt out of the “holiday season” entirely. Indeed, in light of the ways that corporate America has infested our holy seasons with glorified addiction, a strong argument can be made for total withdrawal. By refusing to participate in the wider culture’s holidays, we might gain some protection from the corroding influence of the consumer cult. We might even be able to encourage others to opt out, strengthening the base of resistance.

While the case for withdrawal is strong, I am convinced that there is a better response. Rather than ceding the major holidays to corporate America, I believe that it is time to reclaim them. Starting with Thanksgiving.

We are a nation that is over-worked to the point of exhaustion. We are a people desperately in need of Sabbath. Sunday was once widely reserved as a time of rest and worship, but now it is considered fair game by many employers. Even those of us who are privileged enough to be exempted from working weekends have largely lost the rest that our ancestors once knew. If we do not spend our weekends putting in extra hours on our electronic devices, we are out shopping, chauffeuring kids around, and generally catching up on all the unpaid work that we had to defer during the week.

Might there be an opening for us to celebrate Thanksgiving, not as the fear-driven ritual of consumption that is it morphing into, but rather as a Grand Sabbath? Thanksgiving, at its best, is an opportunity to be still and know that God is faithful in providing for our needs. It is a time to focus on demonstrating our love and thankfulness for those with whom God has called us into relationship. Thanksgiving can be a time of rest from our labors, a time of gratitude for the gift of simply being.

While this sense of rest, thankfulness and belonging should extend out into our whole lives, celebrating Thanksgiving provides a special opportunity to concentrate on our intention to live this way in the world. It serves as a reminder of how life can be when we are resting in the loving arms of Christ our Savior.

If that is not radical, I do not know what is.

Quaker Revival in West Philadelphia

…Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1b-2

The Body of Christ stands today at a crossroads. Western society is in the midst of a worldview shift like nothing since the Renaissance. Like both the early Church and the first generation of Quakers, we live in a world that is being turned upside down.

For fifteen centuries, western society took Christian truth claims for granted, at least on a superficial level. Today, however, we can no longer lean on the wider culture to back up our fundamental assumptions. This represents a deep challenge. After more than a thousand years of privileged status, we have mostly forgotten how to live as a people on the margins. We have gotten by as loyal citizens of Empire for so long that our life together has taken on Roman hues.
Though Friends aspire to be an egalitarian community, our structures are geared toward centralized management. While we acknowledge that the gospel is about loving relationship, we still tend to retreat into tidy propositional statements. Whether our favorite line is that “there is that of God in everyone,” or that “Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world,” these statements of belief, by themselves, cannot save us. We mistake the form for the substance.

Our world hungers to see a community that lives in the life and power of Jesus. Our great need today is not more information about God, but rather to witness the Word made flesh. All our proud traditions, fantastic ideas and noble acts of service are empty if we are not filled with the dynamic energy of the Holy Spirit. If we are to live into the great adventure that we sense God calling us into, our very lives must become the sacramental presence of Jesus.

This call to transformation is the centerpiece of any genuine movement of the Spirit. The call to turn toward God and away from darkness, lies at the heart of the message and ministry of the first Quakers, the early Church, and Jesus himself. If we are to live together in the life and power of Jesus Christ, our basic motion must be one of turning towards God, and away from the seduction of Empire.

In many branches of the Christian Church, there is a developed tradition of holding periodic revival meetings. A revival meeting is a special gathering for worship, which is focused on turning away from darkness and embracing the light. We are invited to cast aside the ways in which we separate ourselves from God, and to allow Jesus to embrace our hearts. Revival meetings operate on the principle that miraculous things can happen we hand ourselves over to the Lord and allow him to transform us in body, mind, heart and spirit.

Sensing the deep need that we in the North American Quaker community have for this kind of deep change, transformation and total surrender to Christ, several other Friends ministers and I have felt God leading us to hold a public revival meeting in West Philadelphia next month. We are inviting Friends – and anyone who is seeking a deeper relationship with God – to gather together to wait upon the living presence of Jesus, opening ourselves to what it would mean to truly surrender ourselves to his radical leadership.

Are we ready to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, being transformed by the renewing of our minds? What would it feel like to see the world through eyes unstained by hatred, fear, greed or pride? Are we ready to hold our structures, institutions, traditions and ideologies in the refining light of Christ’s presence? What would it mean to take the first step in turning away from the systems of death that enslave us and accepting the gift of abundant life that Jesus offers us?
Thursday, December 6th, you are invited to join us at 4718 Windsor Ave Philadelphia, PA 19143 for an evening of prayerful waiting on the Spirit of God. Together, we will offer up our lives for transformation and re-orientation in the service of love and truth.

Details for the Revival in West Philly:
Thursday, December 6th
Potluck at 6:00pm & Worship at 7:00pm
With visiting ministers from DC, Baltimore and Detroit
Check out the event on Facebook!

Stripping Down and Building Up – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #48

Dear friends,
After a period of uncertainty and reflection, new paths are emerging for our work of seeding the Kingdom here in the District of Columbia. For Capitol Hill Friends, this month has been one of major reorientation. Over the past three years, we focused on our regular worship service as the centerpiece of our community. Yet this month, to my great surprise, we reached clarity to lay down weekly worship. Instead, we will direct our energy into the development of vibrant small groups centered around Bible study, prayer and mutual support.
On November 4th, we held our last regular meeting for worship in the old format – a two and a half hour service including Bible reading, singing, waiting worship and a potluck dinner. While we hope to re-launch a regular worship service someday, we feel clear that we should not do so until we have developed a solid core of small groups that serve as a mature and mutually supportive basis for our community in Jesus.
This January, we plan to begin holding small group meetings once a week. We have not ironed out all the details yet, but we sense that our new small group format should center on prayer, reading the Scripture together, and sharing our journeys with one another. The format of the small group should be simple and broadly accessible. We expect that it will last no more than an hour and a half. For folks in our city, that seems to be the maximum duration people feel comfortable committing to on an ongoing basis.
In addition to tightening up the small group time, we want to make sure that people do not feel trapped or guilted into attending. We are considering how to offer small group in bite-sized sequences – for example, we might offer a six-week study of the Sermon on the Mount. Rather than asking our friends to commit to attending small group forever, we are looking to present it as a medium term commitment, measured in weeks rather than in months or years.
While our number one focus will be on our small groups, we are also looking at sponsoring events that would be of interest to our wider communities, featuring compelling guest presenters (Jon Watts, I am looking in your direction). When I imagine these events, I envision something like a very spiritually grounded house concert. Not exactly a worship service, but a space in which folks are invited to be spiritually engaged and come away with a deeper sense of connection with God in Jesus. In the end, everything we do must be about him; yet we want to engage in ways that strike a chord with the people of our city.
We have a growing sense that God is calling us to throw off anything that gets in the way of sharing the good news of Jesus here in DC. Though the members of Capitol Hill Friends are deeply steeped in the Quaker tradition, we are questioning whether many of our traditional forms, language and practices are serviceable in our present context.
Insofar as there has ever been a Quaker model of evangelism, it has generally been one that assumed that outsiders would need to change or discard their culture, dress, language and symbols before they could become part of the Body of Christ. For the last 300 years, Quaker communities have largely developed along the lines of homogenous clusters of people who share the same politics, class, race, dress codes, insider language and cultural assumptions.
We are convinced that this is not only a losing strategy, but that it is ultimately at odds with the example that Jesus gives us. As we move forward in our mission to embody and share the love, mercy and justice of Jesus Christ, we are examining ourselves closely. How are we ourselves called to change, adapting ourselves to the needs of the city we live in, so that we might more effectively share the good news?
The truth is, I loved Capitol Hill Friends just the way it was. Our weekly worship service, with its combination of Bible reading, singing, waiting worship and food, was basically my ideal format. Unfortunately, we have seen that my ideal does not work for most people in our city! If this ministry is to be about more than my own preferences – if it is to draw all people into deeper relationship with Jesus – then I will need to sacrifice my desires and preferences so that the gospel may be most effectively received.
What needs to be stripped away so that we can all see Jesus? What is the most effective vehicle for delivering the gospel message among the people whom we have been called to serve? How are we called to respond when faithfulnessdemands effectiveness?
For a couple of stodgy old Conservative Quakers like Faith and me, asking these questions feels revolutionary. From time to time, we ask ourselves with some anxiety: Are we ditching the Friends tradition altogether?
In a word, “no.” Clearly, the needs of our present context are different from those of Friends 300 years ago – or even fifty years ago. Yet we are also convinced that the essential truths of the gospel that were re-discovered by the early Quaker movement are the same foundation that we stand on today. The forms change, but the substance remains steady. Christ is come to teach his people himself, and we seek to be a people that is attentive and listening, ready to follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
As we wrestle with all of these questions, I am so grateful for the consistent prayers of all our sisters and brothers across the country and the world. Most everyone seems to agree: Washington is a very tough place to be. The ground here is hard, and we know that we cannot plow it up under our own strength. But through the fervent petitions of the saints and the mercy of the Holy Spirit, we know and have experienced that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Your brother in our Lord Jesus,
Micah Bales