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Christ Is Within You… What Are You Going To Do About It?

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

Quakers like to party. And when I say “party,” I mean sitting in silence for long periods of time. When it comes to this kind of partying, there are few groups who are bigger carousers than Conservative Friends. This weekend in Barnesville, Ohio, we spent most of our time seated together on the long, time-tested wooden benches of the ancient Stillwater Meeting House. We quietly waited together, to see what God had to say.

Believe it or not, this often actually works. It seems that Jesus really meant it when he said that he would always be with us, present in our midst through the Holy Spirit that he sends. In our experience as Friends, when we gather together in his name, Jesus shows up. And let me tell you, crazy things happen when Jesus is in the house.
This weekend was one of those precious times of awareness not only of Jesus’ sweet presence, but also of his continued teaching among us. The comfort and joy of the Holy Spirit laid a foundation for transformation, and over the course of the weekend it became clear to many of us that God had a particular lesson to teach us.
First, the Spirit reminded us that Christ is in us. We together are the temple of the living God. We bear within our bodies the presence and power of the Spirit. What an amazing gift this is!
But blessings come with responsibility. Christ does not live within us simply to make us feel good. The Holy Spirit has not been poured out on us to boost our self-esteem, or even to make us nicer people. God’s presence inside us is not just God’s breath; it is also a refining fire.
Throughout the weekend, it felt clear that God was pushing us to examine the implications of our amazing calling in Christ Jesus. It felt like the Spirit was demanding of us: If Christ is in you, what are you going to do about it? What are the concrete, practical implications of the indwelling presence of God? Of course, we wanted to dodge this very uncomfortable question. Change is hard, and there is nothing that will shake up our daily routine more quickly than really living into the transformative power of Christ’s presence. But God would not stop pressing the question: Do I really live in Christ’s life and power? How does my life demonstrate it?
Many of us are carrying this query back home with us. God is shining light in our hearts, revealing all the ways that our lives are timid, lukewarm, comfortable imitations of true discipleship. But Christ is within us, and so there is hope! With divine assistance, we are called to lives of breath-taking faithfulness. As we turn to face the beauty of his inward presence, our outward lives begin to reflect God’s truth and mercy, patient endurance and steadfast love.
What is your experience of Christ’s presence within? How has it changed the way that you live? Are there ways in which you sense God calling you in challenging directions? How have you experienced the Refiner’s Fire?

Gardening the Church – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #34

Dear Friends,
After a long and very eventful summer, things have finally begun to slow down a bit. This season, I have been away from home at least as often as I have been present. Now, with fall approaching, it is my hope that I might spend more of my time focusing on the local mission of the Church here in Washington. As worthwhile and – I do hope – Spirit-led as my summer travels have been, I feel God’s hand on me to continue to slow down the pace of my life, leaving more room for personal relationships and community-building here in the city where I live.
The longest trip I took this past month was to Barnesville, Ohio, for the annual gathering of Ohio Yearly Meeting. These were the first yearly meeting sessions that Faith and I had attended as members, though the gathering felt very familiar, in large part due to our regular involvement in Stillwater Quarterly Meeting, which inludes most of OYM’s Meetings and membership.
This year was an especially intense gathering, as we had a lot of discernment to do together around weighty questions such as the revision of the Yearly Meeting’s queries, as well our understanding of human sexuality. Over all, I was pleased with the spirit in which our sessions were conducted. Especially in our consideration of human sexuality – including homosexuality – I was thankful to see that Friends were careful to maintain a humble and teachable spirit. We did have a sense that the Holy Spirit was present in our midst, teaching us. Though we have not arrived at any conclusions as a body, there was a sense in the body that we were seeking for the Holy Spirit to gather us together and lead us into the fullness of the Truth.
In the context of the Religious Society of Friends and the broader Christian Church, where so many bodies are splitting over these questions, it seems nothing less than a gift of the Holy Spirit that we in Ohio Yearly Meeting are able to refrain from the need to purge those of different opinions. May God grant us the grace to continue to struggle together, and ultimately to be brought into a deeper understanding of God’s Word(1) with us and among us.
We also had the opportunity this month to gather with our Monthly Meeting – Rockingham Friends – at the home of Faye Chapman, one of our members, who lives in Blue Grass, Virginia. It was a blessing to gather with Friends for worship, fellowship and business. I particularly enjoyed helping Faye get ready for winter, splitting and stacking firewood. I was reminded during this trip how much we benefit from the support we receive from Friends at Rockingham Meeting. They are a great source of strength and wisdom as we live into the mission that God has for us in the city.
The work in Washington does feel like it is being blessed. Despite the challenges that most churches experience in maintaining participation during the summer, our numbers have held relatively steady. If anything, this summer has been a time of general strengthening in the relationships among those in our community. In addition, we have also welcomed a number of new folks who have begun to take part in our community.
I have been learning during my time here in DC that nurturing a new church is more like gardening than it is like building a house. With construction, the speed of development depends primarily upon the skill of the builder, the number and dedication of the workers, and the availability of raw materials. Church-planting is more like gardening, in the sense that while we are called to prepare the soil, plant seeds and water the field, we cannot ultimately control what growth, if any, will emerge. Those kind of results depend upon the God’s grace and the response of others. Ultimately, we gardeners cannot dictate the growth – spiritual or numerical – of the new church.
This is really humbling. I was raised in a society that stresses the importance of demonstrable, quantifiable results; results that can be expressed on a graph or a pie chart. Rather than placing its focus on faithfulness to God’s guidance, our culture demands that we justify our lives by how well we live up to human standards of success.
This is one reason that the church community is so important. The Church helps remind us not to judge our success or failure by consumeristic human standards. This community creates an environment that encourages us to set our sights on God. The Church reminds us of who we really are – children of the living God – and what our true priorities should be.
I am grateful that we have the support of the local church at Rockingham, as well as the prayer support and connections that we have with brothers and sisters around the country and even overseas. We could not do the work that God is calling us to without the counsel, prayers and nurture that we receive from you. I give thanks to the Lord for the way that he provides for our needs through his Body, the Church.
This Body is developing here in Washington. It continues to amaze me how long it takes for deep, rooted community to take shape. Indeed, in many ways the process of shared growth never ends. Yet I do feel like we have taken real steps forward in recent months. I pray that God will continue to be present with us here in DC, so that Capitol Hill Friends might become a church that can itself provide care and support, inviting others to become living members of the Body of Christ.
Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for us here on Capitol Hill. Your prayers are effective. We feel them here. Please continue to ask God to send the Holy Spirit and build up Christ’s Body in Washington, DC. Ask God to strengthen Capitol Hill Friends as we seek to share and embody the good news and love of Jesus Christ.
In Christ’s Light,
Micah Bales
1. That is, Jesus Christ

Seeking God’s Word Together – Ohio Yearly Meeting 2011

The past few days here in Barnesville have been eye-opening and challenging. We have begun the process of wrestling together with our understandings of human sexuality including homosexuality. There are clearly a variety of perspectives within Ohio Yearly Meeting regarding the rightness of same-sex relationships and human sexuality in general.  

All of our perspectives are rooted in our desire to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, and our understanding of how he is speaking to us through the Scriptures. We are united in the faith that it is Jesus who can bring us into unity, and that only his Holy Spirit can guide us to a proper understanding of the Scriptures. While we have differences of opinion, we recognize who our Authority is. This is a reason for hope. Though we struggle to find unity on this matter, we acknowledge that there is one, even Christ Jesus, who can lead us into the Truth.
Our shared commitment to Jesus and his Light keeps us in spiritual unity, even when we strongly disagree. Probably the most remarkable thing about this process of corporate discernment has been the spirit in which it has proceeded. It would be easy for Friends to retreat into camps and begin to question one another’s motives, faith and relationship with the Lord. So far, that has not happened. Despite our differences, we have been gentle with one another, trusting that everyone here is seeking to be obedient to our risen Lord and takes seriously the witness of Scripture.
On Thursday, the gathered body of Ohio Yearly Meeting was able to come to unity on a minute regarding our present condition in regards to questions of human sexuality, including homosexuality. It was not an easy process to express our present condition as a body. We labored with this during three of our business sessions before we came to unity on the following minute:
Stillwater Quarterly Meeting reported on its deliberations regarding the “Salem Statement” on the topic of human sexuality(1), considered during our 2010 sessions. Their seven Monthly Meetings went through the important exercise of considering what God desires of His children, rather than simply airing personal opinions. Each Monthly Meeting forwarded responses to Stillwater Quarterly Meeting, which summarized them as reported below.
Friends of various perspectives are equally committed to the Lord, and we recognize that we need additional enlightenment, understanding of the underlying issues, and an openness to learning more in whatever way presents itself. The question was raised how further dialogue might take place so we can be drawn into unity. We ask the Friends Center Committee to consider planning one or more events during the coming year; additional considerations should take place locally or Friend-to-Friend. If we are faithful, it is worth the exercise.
We have struggled with questions about human sexuality for years, and we hope that waiting and listening to God, laying down our own agendas, will open a way for us to be rightly guided. We want to approach the Lord in worship with these deep concerns and hear His word for the way forward. Real Truth spoken lovingly comes with strength to bear it.
Despite the challenge of facing head-on our varied understandings of human sexuality, we were able to not only confess our disagreements in the matter, but also to agree to continue the work of corporate wrestling with what Christ is asking of us as his Church. This is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thank you so much for your prayers. It is only through the power of prayer and obedience to the Word of God(2) in our hearts that we can be brought out of confusion and into the light of God’s Truth. As we are gathered together in him, Jesus gives us peace – not the human peace that comes through domination of one party over another, but the peace of his heavenly Kingdom where all contention and rancor are set aside as we humble ourselves before our Lord and our God.
Please continue to pray for us in Ohio Yearly Meeting. May we be led into all truth, trusting Jesus to show us the way that we are to walk. Our life, our faith, our unity is in him.
1. A minute from Salem Quarterly Meeting, forwarded to Ohio Yearly Meeting in 2010, which suggested the revision of the OYM discipline to – among other things – define marriage as being between “one man and one woman.”

2. That is, Christ Jesus.

Slowing Down and Listening – Ohio Yearly Meeting 2011

I am in Barnesville this week for the annual sessions of Ohio Yearly Meeting. I have been looking forward to being at OYM sessions for about a year and a half. I was unable to attend last year, because I was serving as one of the leaders of the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage. This is my first time attending OYM as a member, and it feels very good to be here.

Since first coming to Barnesville, Ohio for the first QuakerSpring in the summer of 2007, I have returned frequently to the reassuring grounds of Stillwater Meeting House and Olney Friends School. Barnesville has become a place of comfort for me, a spiritual haven in a world where I often feel the need to keep my guard up. Somehow, among Friends in Barnesville I have always felt able to be myself, while at the same time being called into a deeper commitment to Jesus and the work of his Kingdom.
I need the peace I find in Barnesville now more than ever. Life in DC is accelerated, and I have been noticing lately that when I leave the city that I take this harried pace with me. I have allowed the busyness and stress of urban life seep into my bones. Returning to Barnesville is a good reminder to slow down. More than a reminder, being here provides me with a tangible opportunity to be re-baptized into the more deliberate pace of the discerning Body of Christ. Here, busyness is a vice, not a virtue. Listening, yieldedness and obedience – these things are valued more highly that any particular set of results that we might seek. The community of Friends gathered here in Barnesville embodies in our life-patterns and tradition a distinct sense of time and priorities.
While I do feel great joy to be here with my brothers and sisters at Ohio Yearly Meeting, I am also burdened by an unexpected spiritual heaviness. In the last year, long-standing differences within my Yearly Meeting have begun to come to the surface. I know that these wrestlings have been present for a long time, but for the first time over a decade, we are beginning to talk about it as a community.
As with many Christian bodies – Quaker or otherwise – Friends in Ohio are struggling over the question of how to understand God’s work in the lives of gay folks. Is homosexual orientation to be understood as a temptation to be overcome? Does it represent a call to celibacy? Or is it, in fact, a gift from God that the Church is called to affirm? These are some of the questions that we in Ohio Yearly Meeting are wrestling with right now.
At last year’s annual gathering, one of our Quarterly Meetings brought forward a proposal to amend our Book of Discipline (Faith and Practice). The suggested amendment would define marriage as being “between one man and one woman.” There was clear disunity on the floor of the Yearly Meeting regarding this potential change, and so the question was forwarded to my Quarterly Meeting. Each Monthly Meeting in Stillwater Quarter was asked to consider the suggested change to the discipline and respond at our Quarterly Meeting in July.
The response at Quarterly Meeting was striking. Almost none of our Monthly Meetings had unity one way or another on this question. As a Quarterly Meeting, we drafted a minute to the Yearly Meeting encouraging Friends to wait in patience, holding this question in prayer and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. We expressed our trust that, if we open ourselves to his guidance, the Lord Jesus will show us how we are to walk together. He will bring us into unity in the truth.
Tomorrow, during our morning business session, we will be considering the response from my Quarterly Meeting. I do not know what the results of that discussion will be, but I would invite your prayers for us. Please pray for the intercession of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, that we may be opened up to the Truth and be brought into unity. We all acknowledge that we cannot be brought into true unity unless we are prepared to change our hearts and minds. It is a great barrier to Christ’s work in our midst if we dig in our heels, resolutely asserting the rightness of our own opinions.
Yet, many of us do feel very strongly about this matter. Some of us feel very clear that homosexuality is a sinful pattern of relationship which should not be affirmed. Others of us are equally clear that God has created gay folks as they are, that this creation is good, and that our queer brothers and sisters should be treated just the same as those of us who are heterosexual. How are we to be united in the mind of Christ when our own minds are already so made up?
As many Christian bodies can attest, this is a very hard conversation to have. Many groups have already split over it, and there are others that will probably split over it in the future. I have been grateful that so far we in Ohio Yearly Meeting have been able to begin this conversation in a less contentious spirit. But we are still at the beginning, and there are more challenging days ahead. Please pray for us, that we in Ohio Yearly Meeting might meet this challenge with humility, compassion and submission to the will of God as revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.

Dawn Out Of Darkness – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #29

Dear Friends,

I have been laid very low in the last month, both spiritually and physically. It feels like the challenges really began with my trip to Philadelphia in mid-February. While my visit there was blessed and productive in many ways, I also faced a lot of spiritual barriers and struggles during my time in the city. By the time I got Micah Balesback home to Washington, I was quite exhausted. In this state of general fatigue, I came down with a severe cold that essentially incapacitated me for more than a week. Worst of all, this particular bug had the nasty side effect of leaving me without the ability to speak for several days.

Losing my voice was terrible. I had never been unable to speak like that, and, consequently, I never realized how completely I rely on my voice. Most of what I do on a daily basis is interpersonal in nature, and being unable to communicate verbally knocked me totally out of commission. While I was able to communicate again within a few days, the cold and associated congestion continued at a low level, tapering off gradually over the course of many weeks. Even now, more than a month later, I’m still not quite at 100%. To add insult to injury, I was unable to sing for almost a month. This was very disheartening for me, since song is one of the most important ways that I express myself and feel a connection to God.

Shortly after I had emerged from the most intense part of this lingering illness, Faith and I had the opportunity to attend a retreat for people experiencing a call to gospel ministry and eldership. This retreat was held in Barnesville, Ohio and was led by Brian Drayton, Jan Hoffman and Susan Smith. The gathering was a blessed occasion to share fellowship with other Friends who share similar concerns, and we enjoyed deep Sculpture - National Cathedralworship during our time together. For me personally, it was a reprieve from an otherwise very spiritually dark time. God came very near during our weekend together, and this was a great comfort to me.

During the gathering at Barnesville, I felt the Lord revealing to me my own lack of trust in him. I saw more clearly the ways in which I try to control life and produce the outcomes I desire. Being shown this, I felt the hidden power of Christ rise up within me and liberate me from this bondage. For no discernable outward reason, my spiritual chains were loosened and I was released to follow Jesus in a more profound way. I experienced the freedom of deeper submission of my own will to the mind of Christ, and I was invited to live in this freedom always.

I have no doubt that I am only at the very beginning of my journey of inward transformation by the Holy Spirit, but I give thanks for the marvelous light of liberation that Christ shines in my heart. I know from repeated personal experience that the deepest spiritual darkness comes as a prelude to the rising of the Day Star – Christ Jesus – in my heart. It is by being baptized into death – staring despair and evil in the face – that I am prepared to receive Christ and be Sculptures - National Cathedraltransformed inwardly by him. I thank God for these opportunities to be baptized spiritually into Christ’s death so that I might share in his resurrection.

The spiritual unrest that I have experienced this month seems to have been, in retrospect, the darkness that comes before the dawn – not only for me, but also for Capitol Hill Friends. Something new is happening among Friends here in Washington, and March has been a pivotal month for our community. One sign of this transition has been our shift in meeting time. For the last year an a half, Capitol Hill Friends has met twice a month, on Wednesday evenings. This month, however, we made the decision to begin holding our gatherings every Sunday evening, except the first Sunday of the month. This new schedule means we will meet more often, three or four times a month instead of twice. It also means that some folks who were not able to participate on Wednesdays can now join us.

The shift in our gatherings, however, does not fully capture the deep change that I sense happening in our group. Within our leadership team – those of us who have committed ourselves to the CHF community and have taken on the responsibility for care and decision-making – we have experienced a big shake-up this calendar year, and especially in the last month. Perhaps the simplest way to express this change within the core group National Cathedralis to say that it is becoming clearer that we are being called to a more radical form of discipleship as a covenant community. Those of us who have committed ourselves to Capitol Hill Friends are feeling a call to go deeper.

This “going deeper” takes two forms. First, we sense that we need to do more in reaching out to our city, especially in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where we gather. We feel a call to rachet up the intensity of our evangelistic efforts. There is a sense that word-of-mouth outreach within the DC Quaker community has gone as far as it can. At this stage in our life as a community, we feel an urgency about sharing the good news beyond “the hedge,” beyond the DC Quaker bubble. We are looking at a variety of ways to do this, including internet advertising, putting a sign out on the sidewalk during our gatherings, and more direct relationship-building with the residents and commuters who walk by the William Penn House on a daily basis.

At the same time that we increase our outreach to our neighbors in Washington, we also feel a concern to nurture the development of covenant community within our core group. We desire to prioritize Micah Balesour life together in community, seeking ways to care for each other, learn and grow together, and to become more accountable to one another.

We also seek to make space for others who are feeling called to this path of common discipleship. We hope that in the coming years we might be joined by others who feel God calling them into a life of greater commitment to Christ in the context of community. With a bonded, loving and accountable community of disciples at its core, it is our prayer that Capitol Hill Friends will be a blessing to the city of Washington, embodying the love and peace of Jesus in our daily interactions and lifestyles.

Please continue to pray for us as we seek God’s guidance for our community. Please pray also that the Spirit will raise up women and men who are called to join us in this labor. We sense that we cannot do this work as isolated individuals, and we yearn to have others of like mind and heart join us in the harvest field that we are discovering in the District of Colombia.

In the Light that overcomes the ocean of darkness,

Micah Bales

Ministers and Elders Retreat in Barnesville

This weekend, Faith and I traveled out to southeastern Ohio to attend a retreat for Friends with a call to gospel ministry or eldership. The retreat was held at the Friends Center of Ohio Yearly Meeting, near Stillwater Meeting House.

Our facilitators for the weekend were Brian Drayton and Jan Hoffman, both ministers from New England Yearly Meeting, and Eric and SusanSusan Smith, an elder from Ohio Yearly Meeting. I really appreciated their work in helping us reflect on the distinctions between ministry and eldership. I was especially glad for their willingness to examine how these mysterious gifts manifest uniquely in each person. For the most part, we stayed away from one-size-fits-all definitions and sought to understand how God’s gifts were at work in each of our lives.

Besides our leaders, there were twenty of us in attendance – the maximum capacity for Friends Center. Six attenders were from Ohio Yearly Meeting, four from New England Yearly Meeting and three from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. The rest of us came from Baltimore, Illinois, Western, New York, Canadian and Pacific Yearly Meetings, as well as a Friend from Alaska Friends Noah and JimConference. There was a wide range of experience represented. Some of us were seasoned Friends with decades of ministry/eldership experience, while others of us were still still emerging in our gifts. Some attended as a part of the process of discernment of calling and gifting.

I felt blessed to gather with Friends from a wide range of Yearly Meeting backgrounds under the explicitly Christian auspices of Ohio Yearly Meeting. While there were certainly a variety of perspectives and understandings present, it felt like we were brought together in Christ Jesus. Over the course of the weekend, we received God’s word in our hearts and heard substantial, grounded vocal ministry. We were strengthened and deepened in our common walk of Christian discipleship. We received wisdom and teaching as we continue to seek God’s purpose for our lives.

In our meeting for worship on Saturday evening, I felt that the word of the Lord to the group was that we are called to theBrian and Elaine baptism of fire that John the Baptist proclaimed and that Jesus offers us. We were reminded that we are born of water and given spirit/breath by our Creator. After these baptisms of water and spirit comes the baptism of fire, which is a spiritual circumcision. The baptism of fire is a cutting, a stripping down and cleansing of all rebellion and ungodliness. It is a baptism into holiness.

While we were called to pass through the crucible of inward spiritual baptism and crucifixion of self-will, we were also reminded that dying to self is the beginning of new life in Christ. We were exhorted to rememberJoe and Cathy that the good news of Jesus Christ is not the fire, but the life, joy and peace that lies beyond it. As ministers and elders, we are called to act as midwives to the birthing of new, everlasting life in the Spirit.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to be present at this gathering of Friends. Over the course of the weekend, the Holy Spirit worked on my heart, bringing me to a clearer understanding of my own spiritual condition. In particular, I became even more aware of my own need to be humbled and yielded to Christ’s lordship. I was shown that I am called to greater singleness of purpose in my life.

For years, I have run myself ragged, seeking to accomplish more, do more, be more. But this weekend the Lord deepened my understanding of what Christ asks of me. I saw that God desires not achievement but submission. The Spirit calls me to not greatness but yieldedness. To walk in the way of Jesus is to embrace not human honor and glory but anonymous love and self-sacrifice. I am convicted that my anxiety is a sign of my sin, not of Jan Hoffmanmy diligence. I am called to simple, childlike trust. Worry is not a part of God’s plan for me, because the power of the Lord is indeed over all.

I am grateful for the work of the organizers this weekend, and for all of the ministers and elders who traveled to be with us. I give thanks for the powerful ways that God has moved among us, and for Jesus’ resurrected presence in our midst. He continues to teach us, and I pray for the grace to yield to his instruction. I can trust his word to me. I know he loves me. My only job is to love him back, and share that love with others.

There is Power in the Name

In June of 2008, I attended the General Gathering of Conservative Friends in Barnesville, Ohio. This gathering, sponsored by Friends in Ohio Yearly Meeting, was one of my first interactions with the Conservative Quaker stream. Though I learned much and saw many Ohio Yearly Meeting Sessions, 2009new things at this gathering, there is one moment that stands out for me most vividly:
During one of the meetings for worship, a minister knelt down and delivered a vocal prayer. She declared that, “there is power in the name of Jesus – not the word, but the Name.” This immediately struck me as a deep teaching, and it is one that has stayed with me ever since. The longer that I have allowed this teaching to season and work on my heart, the deeper its significance has become in my own walk with Christ.

Many today have come to believe that Jesus is merely a historical figure – a time-bound prophet, like Moses or John the Baptist. Many good people today believe that “Christ” is just a word, a label for God that can be comfortably interchanged with any other. But I have been convinced – and my conviction grows daily – Convergent Friends Gathering, 2008that the name of Jesus the Messiah is indeed the Name above every name.(1)

His name is not, of course, the word itself. The word for “Jesus” varies depending on the language; and in some cultures, many people today are named “Jesus.” The name of Jesus is not the word itself, but the one to whom it refers: Jesus of Nazareth, the living Word of God. There is power in his name as we abide in him – in the living reality of Jesus, who once walked among us as the Word made flesh, suffered and died for our sakes, and who now lives within the hearts of those who accept him and allow him to transform our lives.

This past week, as I traveled among Friends in Philadelphia, the reality of the power of Jesus’ name has been especially alive to me. I have seen vivid examples of the difference it makes whether our meetings together are explicitly gathered in his name. I have also seen that the spiritual forces of darkness are desperate to discourage us from naming our submission to Christ as a community. As wellCenter City Philadelphia they should be. When we gather together in Jesus’ name, we are knitted together in his love, mercy and power. He gives us strength, comfort and courage for the work of the Kingdom. He casts out all fear.

When we fail to invite Jesus to come into our midst and gather us as a community, we risk losing the opportunity to be united in his presence. Jesus said he would always be with us(2), but this promise is not unconditional. It is when two or three are gathered together in his name, that Jesus promises to be present in our midst.(3) If we earnestly seek together the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, he will gather and teach us. But we must invite him in.

I must emphasize again that the power I describe does not come from the word “Jesus.” We can say, “Lord, Lord,” all day long, and yet if we are not living in humble submission to Christ’s living teaching and presence in our hearts, we put on a form of godliness while denying the living power of the Spirit.(4) Nevertheless, we must remember the importance of explicitly acknowledging Jesus inQuaker Camp, 2007 our gatherings. This reminder is especially crucial for Friends, whose default is to remain silent.

Often our silence does us credit, enabling us to avoid the profusion of empty words that so often characterizes the worship life of the wider Church. However, sometimes we remain silent when we should speak. We should take care that we never avoid speaking the name of Jesus in our gatherings. If we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us.(5)

When we are deeply in love, it takes great effort not to say the name of the beloved. We want to repeat it – to shout it from the rooftops. We want to share the joy of our love with everyone we meet. Do we love Jesus this way? Do we want to share the beauty of the love we have found in him? Do we want to rejoice in his name in our gatherings as Friends? If we truly love Jesus, if we desireGreat Plains Yearly Meeting, 2008 his presence with us in our life together as a community, let us be unafraid to invite him into our gatherings.

There is power in the name of Jesus – not in the word, but in the Name. The forces of darkness shriek and rage against his life and presence; they seek to convince us to refrain from mentioning his name, whispering that we should be “respectable” and “broad-minded.” Despite all of the obstacles that we face, let us never be ashamed of his name, his life, his beautiful presence that lives among us. He loves us as an older brother cherishes and guards his sisters and brothers from those who seek to harm them. Let us confess our love for him without shame and without guile.

Come, Lord Jesus! You are our Life, our Truth, our Beauty and our Safety. We invite you to enter into our hearts and our communities. Stay with us this night, dear Lord. You are radiant!

1. Philippians 2:9
2. Matthew 28:20
3. Matthew 18:20
4. 2 Timothy 3:5
5. Mark 8:38