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Retirement, Remixing, and the Religious Society of Friends

Holy Ordinary (Brent Bill) - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 9:17am
I don't post much here anymore since I mostly use Facebook, Twitter, and the like to offer thoughts. But what I have to say here requires a bit more space.

As my faithful reader (notice, singular, not plural) knows, I retired from full-time, paid employment a year ago. And while I'm as busy as I've ever been, I'm busy doing mostly things I really enjoy -- writing, leading retreats, hanging out with friends, and the like.

I've also come to really enjoy something else -- and that's watching friends of mine who are a generation or two younger than me move into really significant leadership and staff positions in the Religious Society of Friends. What I especially enjoy about this is seeing how they do things differently than I (and others of my advanced age) would do them.

Now, when I was younger and way more insecure (I'm still insecure -- just not as much as I used to be), I would have been critical of how they do things differently. After all, I did them the right way. And I did -- for my time and with my understanding of what was needed. But times have changed (my gosh, I sound like my Grandma Bill!) and ways doing things in the RSOF and its institutions and organizations need to change, too. I'm pleased that younger (than me) leaders are doing just that.

I'm just going to focus primarily on one example (because otherwise this post would become a book -- and I'm already working on a book with a deadline looming!!) and that's my friend Wess Daniels who serves as the William R Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College.

I've known Wess for a number of years and followed his thinking and writing -- especially about the RSOF and revitalization. He's a good thinker (but not as good a writer as I am -- kidding). And his thinking and writing have challenged me to rethink some of ways of how we do things. One of his most innovative ideas is that of remixing. I'm not going to go into it fully here (if you want to explore it further and I hope you do, check out his book A Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture or his recent Michener Seminar at Southeastern Yearly Meeting), but as I understand it, it is remaining faithful to the bedrock of our faith tradition while reinterpreting it (remixing) so it is hearable, usuable, and useful for today. He posits that "remixing" is what the early Friends did to revive their understanding of the spiritual vitality of primitive Christianity.

And now Wess is remixing in his position at Guilford. The good work of Friends Center and, especially its Quaker Leadership Scholars Program, was founded and grew thanks to the efforts of my dear friend (and Friend) Max Carter. It's been a joy to watch this program grow and prosper under Max's direction (and with the help of other friends/Friends like Frank Massey and Deborah Shaw). I've even had the good fortune to lead workshop or two there. Friends Center and QLSP made a huge difference in RSOF and in young adults' lives. Max's contributions can not be overstated (I only wish my own to the RSOF were anywhere as significant as his!). And his vital ministry to Friends continues (which is one of the fun things about retirement -- all the ministry without all the administration, budgeting, etc!).

I see Wess taking the bedrock of Friends Center's "tradition" and remixing it in ways that embrace that tradition and make it accessible in new ways to a new generation of students. I think that's grand. In the same way that it's grand that Gabe Ehri and the Friends Publishing folks have remixed Friends Journal, Marta Rusek and Dan Kasztelan are remixing communications at FGC and FUM, and on and on.

Part of what I believe is that we, as created in the image of God, are called to create -- and re-create. I see that happening around me and am grateful.

My prayer is that I can continue to celebrate the "re-creation" (remixing) even when it rubs up against my ideas about how things should be done. While I continue my ministry in new ways, freed from the constraints of having to earn a living, may I support those who are re-doing our ministry in new ways. To borrow an idea from the Bible -- "the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  Well, the "old" (at least my personal part of it!) has not quite gone yet (and I hope it doesn't for awhile!), but I rejoice that the "new is here."
Categories: Blogs

Writing Opp: Humor in Religion (due Jan 7)

Friends Journal - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 8:51am

Fast Facts:

We Quakers have a reputation for being a rather dour bunch. Frivolous entertainment and games of chance kept our spiritual forebears out of the rowdier spaces of public life. Jokes have been made at our expense, but we’re not well known for our improv comedy chops.

There’s a whole genre of early twentieth-century music with Quaker themes, like the immortal “All the Quakers are shoulder shakers (Down in Quaker town).” There’s the classic line from Woody Allen’s Sleeper: “I’m not the heroic type. I was beaten up by Quakers.” More worrisome, every time some sort of terror attack goes out on Twitter these days, Islamophobic wits will rush to reply that it must be the work of radical Quakers.

How can we use humor to come closer to God and our fellow humans? What role does humor have in our worldly outreach? What kind of humor would Quaker humor be if we were more humorous? Dry? Sarcastic? Awkward? Silly? You can even get mildly serious and write about the theology of Quaker humor past and present or explore why others like to use us as their punchline. As you’ll see from our issue title, we’ve even given ourselves a bit of a wider scope, calling it “Humor in Religion” in case it helps to look at a wider spectrum of spiritual funniness.

Also, and this is perhaps the most important thing we might learn from this issue: are there any legitimately funny Quaker jokes out there? The top Google result for “Quaker Jokes” has a page with a knock-knock joke whose punchline goes “Quaker / Quaker who? / Quaker Oats!” The second result is a Quora page that has a humdinger about a Catholic, a Jew, and a clearness committee. Really?


Submit a piece for our issue: Humor in Religion Learn more general information at Friendsjournal.org/submissions. There you will also find our newly updated list of upcoming issue themes through 2020.

The post Writing Opp: Humor in Religion (due Jan 7) appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

If Jesus is King, Why is the World Such a Mess?

Micah Bales - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 2:00am

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 11/25/18, at the Washington City Church of the Brethren. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 & Revelation 1:4b-8 & John 18:33-37. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (The spoken sermon differs from the written text.)

Listen to the Sermon Now

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

We need this grace this morning. We need the peace that comes from Jesus. We need the light of the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead – Jesus, the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Ruler of the kings of the earth. Presidents and prime ministers. Generals and department chairs. Princes and popes. Jesus is sovereign over all of them. God has given him “dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” He is king of kings and lord of lords. Can I get an ‘amen’?

It can be hard to tell, though, can’t it? It’s hard to blame us if we have a tough time believing that Jesus is master and commander of the world we live in. I mean, look at it! Wars and threats of violence. The rising tide of climate change – drought and smoke and hurricanes. Refugees by the millions. We live in a world where grinding poverty is the norm, while those at the top wallow in luxury and self-deception.

Something is wrong. Where are you, king Jesus? Where is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead? Where is the sovereign power that God has promised us for so long, the throne that will crush the might of the Beast and establish a society of peace and justice? I don’t see it. Do you?

How much longer are we supposed to wait?

That’s what the disciples wanted to know. Jesus’ first disciples, who followed him from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They knew their teacher was the future king of Israel. The messiah. He was going to be large and in charge, just you wait and see!

We’re still waiting. Just like Peter, James, John, and all the others, we modern-day disciples of Jesus are hungry to see “all peoples, nations, and languages [serving him.]” We long for the “everlasting dominion that shall not pass away,” the age of wholeness, healing, and truth that God’s messiah promises us.

We’ve been waiting a long time. For most of the two thousand years since the resurrection, the posture of the church has been one of expectant waiting. Living in the tension of “now, but not yet” – with an emphasis on the “not yet.” Grappling with the reality that things still aren’t the way they’re supposed to be – the way that God created us to live.
Despite the reality of the resurrection, everywhere we look, we find our world still in a fallen state. Sins and sorrows still grow. Thorns infest the ground. When will Jesus come to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found?

Joy to the world! That’s what we want to see. “Joy to world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.”

That’s the joy we seek. We saw it in the light of the resurrection. We saw it in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We’ve seen it again, and again, throughout successive movements of the Holy Spirit throughout history. Jesus keeps coming. Keeps teaching. Keeps reigning in our hearts, minds, spirits, and lives as communities. He is risen!

So why hasn’t he come to reign? I mean openly, outwardly, permanently? Why hasn’t Jesus conquered the world, banished sin and suffering forever? Why hasn’t God finally put an end to humanity’s madness and destroyed those who are destroying the earth? When will Jesus come to rule, not just in our hearts, not just in our personal lives, but in our life as a civilization? When will it finally be that every knee will bend, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord? When will we be changed, transformed once and for all?

That’s the promise, after all. That’s the end game. The Day of the Lord.

The prophets have been telling us about this day for thousands of years. The day when God will have the final victory. The earth will be restored. Justice will be done, and he will wipe away every tear. To use the imagery of the prophet Daniel, the court will sit in judgement and the books will be opened.

When will Jesus’ court finally be in session? When will he come to judge the nations and save us from ourselves? When will Jesus reign as king?

In our gospel reading this morning, John tells us about Jesus’ encounter with Pontius Pilate, the governor of Roman Palestine. Pilate is not a king, but he is a powerful man. He is the civil authority, appointed by the emperor to oversee the occupation of Judea. His job is to administer justice – to mete out rewards and punishments – in the kingdom of Caesar.

It says in our text that Pilate “entered his headquarters again” to talk with Jesus. “Again,” because he had just been outside talking with the Jewish religious authorities. Pilate suggests that the Jews should try Jesus according to Jewish law. But the priests ask Pilate to try the case, because only Rome is allowed to execute people.

That’s always been one of the major marks of sovereignty: A monopoly on violence. As imperial sovereign in the region, Rome reserves certain rights to itself. Especially the right to kill.

So Pilate re-enters his headquarters to conduct a cross-examination. Who is this Jesus? Is he a revolutionary, someone worthy of being broken on a Roman cross? Or is he just some local heretic, a danger to the priestly establishment perhaps, but no threat to Rome?

“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks Jesus. “Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Now something that I find interesting here is that according to John’s gospel the Jewish authorities don’t accuse Jesus of claiming to be king. But Pilate wants to know. For Pilate, probably the only crime worth his time and attention is insurrection. So is Jesus an insurrectionist? Does he challenge the lordship of Caesar? Is he a king?

Something I love about Jesus is that he never answers questions directly if they’re asked in bad faith. So when Pilate asks him whether he’s a king, Jesus replies in this way: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus has come to testify to the A and the Z, the beginning and the end. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to his voice. Everyone who hears the word of God – and does it – is his mother, sister, and brother. Jesus has been given an everlasting dominion that shall never pass away, because the truth will never pass away. When we hear the truth and obey it, Jesus becomes our king.

And that’s great. But it’s also a little bit vague, isn’t it? Pilate obviously thinks so. His response to Jesus’ words: “What is truth?”

What is truth? It’s a fair question. Because it’s hard to tell sometimes. The rulers of this world all have their own version of ‘truth.’ There’s the truth of the marketplace, the truth of Wall Street. There’s the truth of endless technological progress and innovation, the truth of Silicon Valley. There’s the truth of might-makes-right, the truth of the Pentagon. There are so many truths, and so many powers vying for our allegiance. These kingdoms of money and violence and progress are so seductive, because they have demonstrated their power again and again. We know the pleasure they can provide and the terror they can inflict.

But what is the truth Jesus speaks of? What kind of kingdom is this? What does it mean to listen to his voice amidst the roar of empires?

The reign of Jesus is unlike anything we have ever experienced before, ever could experience within the intellectual and emotional confines of human empire. Jesus tries to explain this to Pilate. He says, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

My kingdom is not from here. Not from this world.

Well, what world is it then? What is this world where truth is alive and Jesus is king? When will we see this world outside our windows, in the workplace, and in our public policy? When will the kingdom finally come, as we have been promised throughout scripture, with visible power and glory? “One like a human being, coming with the clouds of heaven.”

We’ve been waiting for so long.

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come … and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

We need this grace. We need this truth. We need the reality of his resurrection in our own bodies. We need his love – for ourselves, and to share with the broken world around us.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world – this present social order, economic system, and spiritual state that we’re in. His kingdom can’t be held back or denied by all the lies that this world calls “truth.” It can’t be snuffed out by the darkness of evil, cowardice, and indifference. This light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

We need this light. We need the presence “of him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father.” That’s our calling. That’s our destiny. That’s our kingdom, even in the midst of all this grief and loss. To be freed from all the weights and confusions that hold us back from love.

We are called into a new social reality as his followers, disciples who belong to the truth and listen to his voice. We are, each and every one of us, called to be priests serving the God and father of our Lord Jesus. Belonging to the truth, we listen to his voice.

We’ve been waiting for so long.

The kingdom of God is coming, and it’s here. It’s like a mustard seed, growing before our eyes. Growing right back up even when the evil of this world takes a lawnmower to it. The darkness cannot overcome it. It cannot overcome us. It cannot defeat us as we hear the truth and listen to Jesus’ voice.

In spite of our weariness and doubt and waiting, we say with the early church:

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.

Related Posts: The Kingdom of God Can Be Yours – All It Will Cost You Is Everything In These Days of Despair, There Is A Way of Hope

The post If Jesus is King, Why is the World Such a Mess? appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Traveling in the ministry in the “old style”

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 2:31pm

Wess Daniels on Lloyd Lee Wilson’s traveling style

Most folks can guess what it means to travel in the ministry. You visit different churches and meetings and share gifts of ministry with the community there. “In the old style” is a reference to how many early Friends would travel, by sensing a call to go and worship with Friends in other parts of the country and world, with no clear outcome or goal, and only trusting that by showing up and worshiping with Friends “something divinely good would happen.”

On Traveling in the Ministry

Learning How to Travel in the Ministry: The Past Bears Weight on the Present This is a post…

Categories: Blogs

UK Quakers will not profit from the occupation of Palestine

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:57am

British Friends become first church in UK to pull investments in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. From recording clerk Paul Parker:

As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money. We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.

As you’d might expect, there’s been backlash. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has condemned Britain Yearly Meeting’s decision as a “biased and petulant act.”.

Quakers will not profit from the occupation of Palestine

Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest…

Categories: Blogs

Genesis: Outer Space and Inner Light, by

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:57am

John A. Minahan has written this week’s featured Friends Journal article, a nicely paced exploration that touches on personal memoir, human milestones, cultural memory, and the Book of Genesis:

Now the astronauts had used that same rhetorical strategy but on a planetary and even interplanetary scale. Speaking the words of Genesis, they sent a message of healing to a wounded world; they expressed a certain cosmic humility about our place in the universe; and, most of all, they shared goodwill, jaw‐dropping in its simplicity, with “all of you on the good earth.” A moral and existential vision took hold of me in that moment and has never let go. Though I couldn’t have articulated it as such then, it was a realization of original goodness.

Genesis: Outer Space and Inner Light

Outer space and Inner Light

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

New eBook “Remixing Faith” Now Available

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:15am

From Wess Daniels:

I have put this talk together in ebook form complete with lots of pictures and illustrations and formatting that adds to the reading experience. I wanted to share this with all of you and make it as accessible as possible, so it is free to download. It should work with most modern-day eBook readers and apps. If that doesn’t work for you, I have also turned the talk into a downloadable .PDF.

New eBook “Remixing Faith” Now Available

My new eBook “Remixing Faith: Seeds of Renewal” is now available for (free) download as an eBook or…

Categories: Blogs

The Kingdom of God Can Be Yours – All It Will Cost You Is Everything

Micah Bales - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 2:00am

The early church was marked by intensity. Men and women filled with power and conviction that came down from the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; their unity was remarkable. They had become family in every important sense. The first believers, thousands of them, laid aside everything that they had possessed before, holding all things in common. They become one people, one body, in the kingdom of God.

The demands of the gospel experienced by the early church were total. This was not a Sunday-morning activity. It was not an add-on. The life of the early Christians was not a mere sub-culture or “identity” that served as flavor for the rest of their life as residents of imperial Roman society. For these women, men, and children, Jesus Christ had become the core and center of a new shared life. Together, they experienced and followed the inward Rabbi, the resurrected Lord who guided them through the Holy Spirit.

So much of what passes for Christianity today is a pale reflection of that fellowship. The church has become a club, a tradition, a tribe – just one more identity thrown into the melting pot of the imperial cosmopolis. I’m Quaker. You’re Brethren. She’s Catholic. He’s Orthodox. What difference does it make? Caesar still reigns supreme. Our loyalty is divided. We have failed to become family.

The gospel of Jesus is more than personal improvement, social engagement, and friendly potlucks. The good news of the kingdom is a direct challenge to imperial culture. As citizens of the kingdom of God, we are called out of the centrifuge of individual achievement and consumerism that transforms us into loyal imperial subjects. Jesus calls us to de-center the wealth, power, and violent glory of America and all other empires.

We cannot enter the kingdom of God alone. Only by shedding our success, our wealth, our security and privilege can we pass through the eye of the needle and become part of a new society. True freedom is only possible when we surrender everything to follow Jesus.

What is holding you back from surrendering all? What keeps you clinging to the false promises of empire? What are the people, places, things, and ideas that you still haven’t surrendered to God? When will you finally enter through the narrow gate, becoming a brother or sister of Jesus?

Related Posts: Are You Able to Drink the Cup of Jesus? Without the Spirit, The Body of Christ Is Just a Corpse!

The post The Kingdom of God Can Be Yours – All It Will Cost You Is Everything appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Reddit: Quakerism without Jesus

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 8:57am

Two much-discussed threads on /reddit/Quakers, the first pondering Quakerism with Jesus, and the second—a response—arguing for Jesus’s centrality. Both original posts are perhaps a bit predictable but the conversations go into interesting contradictions and dilemmas.

Also, an early plug that the December Friends Journal will focus on Quakers and Christianity.

r/Quakers — Quakerism without Jesus

12 votes and 42 comments so far on Reddit

Categories: Blogs

Kindertransport survivors call for routes to sanctuary for child refugees

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 12:53pm

At an 80th anniversary of the UK kindertransport program (which we read about a few days ago), survivors and Friends call for wider support for today’s refugees and asylum seekers:

Helen Drewery, Head of Witness and Worship for Quakers in Britain, welcoming all to Friends House, said, “We are pleased to be hosting an event which honours all those – including Quakers who put the Kindertransport into effect. Their endeavours are being echoed today by nearly 100 Quaker meetings across Britain which have identified themselves as Sanctuary Meetings and are supporting people who have fled from danger in their home countries. We are glad that these Meetings and the people they are supporting are represented at today’s event. We join them in pressing for more safe passages.”

Ekklesia | Kindertransport survivors call for routes to sanctuary for child refugees

Categories: Blogs
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