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Even the Devil Can Quote Scripture – We Need the Word of God

Micah Bales - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 3:13pm

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 3/10/19, at Berkeley Friends Church. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13. 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

I’ve always loved this story of Jesus, going out into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Here it is. Jesus and the Devil. Mano a mano in a battle royale for the fate of the cosmos. Let me get my popcorn!

I mean, it’s such a great story. Even if I didn’t believe a word of it, I would want to watch the movie.

But the fact is, I do believe this story. And I believe it’s just as epic, just as consequential as the gospel writers portrayed it to be. It’s God’s story; and it’s the human story, too. It’s the story of two kingdoms. Two rulers. Two power structures and worldviews vying for our allegiance. It’s the story of Israel and the church, and what it means to be children of God.

It is written, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” It says that he was there for forty days, eating nothing and being tempted by the Devil.

Forty. Days. Can I see a show of hands – who here has fasted for one day? One day is a more significant challenge than you might think. Not eating, even for a day, opens something up inside of a person. It promotes awareness of all the things that we’re addicted to, dependent on. Forty days. I can’t even imagine what fasting for that long would be like. Jesus must have been fully awake.

He also must have been very weak. The contest that we see between Jesus and the Devil comes just at the moment when Jesus had reached the lowest valley of energy. Bear that in mind, because Satan doesn’t play fair.

And the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus is starving. Literally. All around him are rocks and shrubs. No food anywhere. If he’s the son of God, now would be a good time to use some of that cosmic power. John the Baptist just got done saying that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Why shouldn’t Jesus raise up loaves of bread to feed himself?

But despite his gnawing hunger and fatigue, Jesus recognizes this as a test, a temptation. And what is Jesus’ response to temptation, to testing? He returns to the words of Scripture. He goes back to the text. He quotes the Bible. The Hebrew scriptures. The book of Deuteronomy. Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

The written words that Jesus is referencing here are these, from Deuteronomy 8 (verses 2-3):

Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

These are the words of Moses to the people of Israel, as they were getting ready to enter the promised land. The good land, flowing with milk and honey, that God had promised them for generations. For forty years, God led them in the wilderness. For forty years, the people had fasted from the settled life of empire. They gave themselves over to God’s care. God fed them with manna from the sky. They drank water from a rock. They came to understand that all life and sustenance springs from God. None of us are self-made people. We are utterly dependent on God’s word, life, and power.

Power. That sounds pretty good, thought the Devil. Let’s try power.

It is written: “Then the Devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the Devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

In an instant. All the kingdoms of the world. “If you will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Now, again – this is God’s promise, right? God has promised to inaugurate the kingdom of God, the reign of God over all the earth. But here goes the Devil, twisting it around, just like he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden. “Oh, you want to be like God? You want to be in control? You want to understand how this world works? Disobey. Put God to the test. Seize the reigns and take charge. You won’t surely die.”

How does Jesus – the new Adam – respond to this line of attack?

Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Here, Jesus is once again remembering the words of Moses from Deuteronomy. This time Deuteronomy 6 (verses 12-15), where it says:

[After you enter the promised land,] take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, because the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the Lord your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth.

Again, the word of the Lord to Jesus. The word of the Lord from Jesus in rebuking the Devil. The word of the Lord to us gathered here today: Remember.

Do not forget the Lord who brought us up out of Egypt. Do not forget the God who guided us through the wilderness. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you. The gods of wealth, of power, of survival. Do not follow any of these, but worship the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery. Him alone shall you serve.

“Hmmm,” thinks the Devil. “This isn’t going well.” Jesus keeps countering every word of the evil one with the words of God. Maybe it’s time to try fighting fire with fire.

It says that the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and placed him on the highest point of the Temple. And the Devil taunted him, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written…”

And then the Devil proceeds to quote scripture at Jesus. Psalm 91, to be precise. The Devil quotes snippets. Here’s a longer portion – Psalm 91:11-16 – which Jesus surely had memorized:

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.

Oh, my, my. Sweet temptation. Beautiful temptation. Holy temptation. The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it. God will protect you, Jesus! God promised prosperity and protection to David, his chosen king. How much more so will he bless you Jesus? How much more will he protect you from any evil that might befall you.

“Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them.” Don’t worry Jesus – you’re bulletproof. No one can touch you!

“If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here…” Those words, and the words of Psalm 91, must have been burning in Jesus’ ears as he hung from the cross three years later. When the soldiers who crucified him, mocked him, saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”

I used to think that the temptation to seize power was the greatest of the three. But now I’m starting to think that it was this one. God has promised to stand with us. He has told us he loves us, that he will never forsake us, never abandon us. How can he allow us to face the cross? How can there be so much suffering, so much pain, so much injustice? How long, Lord? How long until you deliver us like you said you would?

But in his moment of greatest temptation, greatest testing – as Jesus hung upon the cross, he would say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” An obedient son to the end. Trusting in the power of God to deliver, even if he couldn’t see how. Even if it looked like defeat and death in the eyes of the world, the Devil and his kingdom. “Into your hands I commit my spirit!” Though all seems lost, I will trust you.

And so Jesus answered the Devil: “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, he references Deuteronomy 6 – the strong words of scripture, rooted in the experience of the desert. The experience of the manna and the water from the rock. The experience of loss and suffering, and of God’s presence in the midst. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” For he is with you.

He is with us. You want a psalm, Satan? “Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for God is with us.” Amen? God is with us.

Even when it’s dark. Even when we’re been in the desert for forty years and we can’t remember what real food tastes like. Even in the moment – especially in that moment just before the dawn breaks, when it seems like the darkness goes on forever.

Even when all hell is breaking loose, remember the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6, Remember the words that Jesus remembered when he was doing desert battle with that old tempter, Satan:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you. Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may go in and occupy the good land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you, thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.

Remember.

“The word is near to you, on your lips and in your heart,” says the apostle Paul. Oh, yeah. He was quoting Deuteronomy, too.

As Moses says:

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

We just have to remember. It’s so easy to forget. It’s so easy to follow other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around us. It’s easy to bow down to the Devil when he speaks to us with holy words. Or offers us power to change the world through coercion and violence. Or promises to save us from pain, hunger, weakness.

If we are friends of Jesus, then we are in the desert with Jesus. And we must remember. This is a time of testing. We must stay awake. This is a time of opportunity, because God is with us. With us in the desert. Present in this tent of meeting. Speaking to our hearts. Witnessed to in scripture.

We must remember who we are, and who we belong to. We are not sons and daughters of this world. We are not sons and daughters of Silicon Valley or Wall Street. We are not the children of border walls and drones. We are not citizens of an empire that survives by dividing and stratifying people, so that everyone knows their place.

We must remember. Because we belong to a different empire, a different kingdom. The reign of Jesus. Our teacher. Our Christ. Our king, who conquered the world on the cross. He lives today in the bodies of the hungry, the powerless, the unprotected.

It matters that Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert. Moses did the same thing as he wrote down God’s words, the words of the covenant. He fasted and waited and prayed.

It matters that the children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years, guided by God. They endured. Taught to be awake and obedient.

It matters. Because transformation takes a long time. Because we must remember, and remembering doesn’t come cheap.

We must be changed. Our minds, our lives, our whole worldview has to shift. We must become a people who remember. We must know who we are. A people who live by the word of God. Who dwell in the word of God. Who soak in the spirit of Jesus. Who live in the desert, even in the midst of this world’s empire.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do this by ourselves. We are a community. And at our center is the risen Jesus. He is our word. He is present with us just as surely as God traveled with the Hebrews in the wilderness. A pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Jesus is here in our midst, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is here.

We have the living Word of God, Jesus. We have the written words of scripture. We don’t have to go looking for it. We just have to remember. “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”

Is the Gospel Good News for Everyone? Quakers Don’t Baptize with Water – Should We?

The post Even the Devil Can Quote Scripture – We Need the Word of God appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

Disappointment, frustration, and betrayal

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 03/08/2019 - 4:27pm

From Johan Maurer:

What choices do we have? The most obvious and most glib answer is: leave! Escape! In fact, after prayer and consultation and weighing options, that may end up being the best answer.

This seems like a very grounded look at some of the oft-recurrent dysfunctions in churches. Check out the list of problems. I suspect thet most seekers have run into at least a fee of these in congregations.



Trustworthy, part three: choices

Political and cultural observations in light of Quaker discipleship. Recurring themes: Russia, peace, evangelism, blues.

blog.canyoubelieve.me
Categories: Blogs

The Lamb’s War and dietary non-violence

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 03/08/2019 - 4:11pm

On Friendly Fire:

I am thinking of those pretending compassion and love whilst consuming products of cruelty and brutality. We say with St. Paul: ‘I will eat no flesh whilst the world stands, because I will not hurt my brother.’ All creatures are our sisters and brothers, as Saint Francis of Assisi recognised centuries ago.



The Lamb’s War and dietary non-violence

‘The Lamb was always on the offensive’ wrote John Punshon. Refusing to consume meat and dairy is one…

Friendly Fire Collective
Categories: Blogs

QuakerSpeak season 6 is starting

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 8:11pm

Six seasons of the awesomest video series about Friends. There’s also a newly reenergized podcast version so subscribe to that if audio is your favorite medium!



Welcome to QuakerSpeak || Season 6

We’re back from our break! And we have a few announcements.

QuakerSpeak
Categories: Blogs

A more modern commission

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 7:51pm

As an East Coast unprogrammed Friend, Quaker mission work is still a bit exotic. We’re used to reading of well-meaning nineteenth century Friends whose attitudes shock us today. But here’s a story of some Midwest mission work with the Shawnee in the 1970s and 80s.

Their “mission” work consists of farming, teaching, music and woodworking and language translating, lots of transporting children and teens. It also involves preaching each week, and participation in funerals, weddings, and other traditional pastoral duties, all aimed at introducing people to Jesus.

Their “mission” work consists of farming, teaching, music and woodworking and language translating, lots of transporting children and teens. It also involves preaching each week, and participation in funerals, weddings, and other traditional pastoral duties, all aimed at introducing people to Jesus. 



our-great-commission | Opinion

MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron In high school I ran cross country at Shawnee Mission North. At least once…

www.liberalfirst.com
Categories: Blogs

What Does the Outside Say?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 7:34pm

Also in Friends Journal’s issue, “Outside the Meetinghouse,” a piece from Brad Stocker of Miami Meeting in Florida:

Most Friends have an understanding of the architectural message that our meetinghouses express. We understand the simplicity of the structure. We understand the reason there are no steeples or crosses on the outside and why we have clear windows placed so as to invite the light to enter. We are equally sensitive to interior design. While we come into frequent, intimate contact with the meetinghouse exterior, and the land it sits on, we may be less aware of the message they convey.

There may be a little whiplash to talk about butterfly gardens after the recent article on Quaker worship from prison but I like the intentionality of Stocker’s observations: we are always making statements with the care (or non-care) of our physical space. Miami’s the kind of coastal city where climate change is very much not a theoretical issue and Stocker is very involved in his yearly meeting’s earthcare education initiatives. The meetinghouse grounds are a place to model good stewardship; taking the care to have them be inviting and quietly demonstrative of Quaker values is important outreach.

Categories: Blogs

A bit of racism at Sidwell

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 7:34pm

Not cool: some students at the ritzy DC Quaker school made up racist usernames in a projected in-school discussion:

School officials say several of the student’s usernames were racist toward Asians and Native Americans and two of the usernames included images of swastikas. As soon as the names and images were recognized the projector was turned off and the presentation was ended.

Not many of the students at Sidwell are Friends so it’s highly unlikely that these were Quaker kids. But it’s never good to hear of behavior like this.



Racist words, swastikas displayed at Sidwell Friends School student presentation

Racist words and swastikas were displayed during an assembly at an elite Washington, D.C. school where one of…

WTTG
Categories: Blogs

Young Friends in UK write a Trans and Non-binary Statement

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 12:42pm

This seems partly in response to controversies around anti-trans feminists booking Quaker meetinghouses for talks.

YFGM aims to be a welcoming and accessible space for people of all gender identities where people feel included and oppressive behaviour is not accepted. We recognise we have further work to do including some more immediate changes, and creating space to nurture deeper cultural changes within both YFGM and the wider Society of Friends.



Trans and Non-binary Statement

Trans and non-binary inclusion Introduction As Young Friends General Meeting (YFGM), we have been aware of, and sometimes…

Young Friends General Meeting
Categories: Blogs

Mowing Down Free Speech in the Heart of Carolina

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 9:20pm

On Monday March 4, I visited the Johnston County NC County Commission.

I’ve been there many times, since 2006. Whenever I spoke, I raised the issue of the Johnston County Airport being home to “torture taxis” through a CIA front company based there, Aero Contractors. (More details here.) I regularly urged them to investigate the company, because involvement in torture is already against U.S. federal law, and international law as well. (They listened, but haven’t acted yet.)

There have been anti-torture protests at this airport since 2005. They continue, even though the “War On Terror” is supposedly over (replaced, of course, by the Endless-String-of-Bloody-“Little”-Mostly-Secret-Wars). One effect of this shift is that the CIA front company is not only still there, it’s grown, and upgraded its security by several levels of paranoia. In the era of endless war, business for Aero Contractors is still good.

Over thirteen years, I’ve been part of many, maybe most of the protests there. So the County Commissioners were doubtless not surprised to see me in their chamber Monday evening. That’s because the Commission has a “free speech” period before they begin work on their formal agenda, when anyone can address them, for several minutes, on whatever is on their minds.

[Above: Chuck Fager speaking to the Johnston County Commission, January 2019.]

This time I shifted a bit from my usual call for an investigation of Aero, because I was targeting the board of the entire Airport. Just two week before, on February 18, the Airport Authority had suddenly issued a new handbook of rules for tenants and visitors to the facility.

Most of these had to do with technicalities about safety procedures, runway rules, noise abatement and suchlike. All above my pay grade.

What got our attention were new sections on “Non-commercial Activities,” and in particular, “Demonstration.”

In sum, the new rules would make such activities more  or less impossible. I showed these sections to the Commissioners, and urged them to work to get them revised, and pointed out that there was something called the First Amendment involved. The new  rules seem aimed at excluding it from this public airport, and turn it into a No Free Speech Zone.

Protesting at Aero, with their hangars behind us. We can’t do that now; security is much stiffer.

Rather than going on a big rant about this here, I’ve copied out the relevant sections, pasted them in below, and included my specific suggestion to return the First Amendment to the Airport’s public service mission (there’s only the one suggestion, but I repeated it several times, at the points where the new rules seemed meant to stomp on it like a bug). I printed this out in a flyer which I gave out to all the Commission members. 

The flyer included several photos taken over the years, which are also here, illustrating our ragtag crew of anti-torture activists, busily exercising what used to be our First Amendment rights there. I emphasized that all our protests have been entirely peaceful, with no property damage, no injuries, and even frequent cleanups. 

Anyway, where will this matter end? Maybe we’ll wind up in court, or in the hoosegow for doing things we’ve done for years without trouble. Plans are being made for future free speech exercises there. Will they be able to happen?

The text excerpts are below. I don’t think the whole handbook is online yet; but if anyone wants a copy, email me at qkrtheology@nullgmail.com . The bit in bold red italic is my suggested revision; again, there’s only one, but it’s repeated.

Thirteen years on this case. Am I tired? Am I discouraged?  Is this image an illusion?

 

Johnston County NC Airport (JNX)
New Rules – Excerpts & Suggestions:
Presented by Chuck Fager
to the
Johnston County Commission
March 4, 2019

 II Activities on Airport Property

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Non-Commercial Activity

  2. No person may engage in activities undertaken for non-commercial, nonprofit purposes, defined as the distribution of any written or printed matter to the general public not described above, on the Airport property without first applying to and obtaining a written permit to conduct such activity from the Airport Authority as provided herein.

3. Demonstration

      [We picked up trash outside the airport every quarter for four years. More on that project here and hear.]

  1.  No person may engage in demonstration activities, defined as the act of picketing, parading, marching, carrying, or displaying signs or placards or assembling in groups for the purpose of promoting, objecting to, or otherwise commenting upon a political, economic, social, governmental, or religious issue not described above on the Airport without first applying to and obtaining a written permit to conduct such activity from the Airport Authority as provided herein.

  2. Use of mobile devices

Mobile devices include moveable devices and vehicles.

  1. No person may operate or station any vehicle with operating amplified audio device or mobile billboard on the Airport Property, whether for commercial or non- commercial purposes, without first having obtained the written approval of the Airport Authority.

[We parked our cars in the Airport public lot, usually on weekends, when there were many open spaces. And we didn’t have a permit — except the First Amendment.]

3. Permit for Non-commercial or Demonstration activities

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Permit Required

  2. Each person conducting any non-commercial activity or demonstration as defined above must hold a valid permit issued by the Airport Authority and shall conduct such activity in conformance with the terms of the permit issued therefore and the requirements of this Chapter. Each permit shall be issued on a non-discriminatory basis, subject to availability, the provisions of these Ordinances, and all restrictions aimed at avoiding injury or property damage and assuring the safe and orderly use of the Airport. Each permit shall describe the activity authorized, the area within which it may be conducted, and the period of time for which the permit is issued. Each permit shall be non-transferable and non-assignable. The Authority shall limit the number and type of permits issued as needed based on safety concerns, venue availability, other Airport users and Airport development with the purpose of avoiding injury or property damage and/or assuring the safe and orderly use and operation of the Airport.
    [Above: This sign was on the Airport lawn. And “each person” did not have a permit, except the First Amendment.]

3. Permit Application

  1. Each person seeking to conduct any non-commercial activity or demonstration shall submit a signed written application in the form prescribed by the Authority setting forth the following information:

1)            The applicant’s name, mailing address, and telephone number;

2)            If the applicant is an agent of or represents an organized body or institution, the name, address, and telephone number of the entity, and a letter or other documentation certifying that the applicant has current authority to represent the organization or entity;

3)            The name and title of the person who will have the immediate supervision of and responsibility for the applicant’s activities at the Airport;

4)            The type and purpose of the proposed activity;

We also prayed about it. (This time was at the courthouse; but the Airport was the subject of all the transcendent appeals.)

5)            The dates and hours during which the proposed activity is requested to be permitted;

6)            The number of persons who will be engaged in the proposed activity at any one time;

7)            A certification that all persons participating in the proposed demonstration will be fully instructed concerning the Ordinances and will conform with and abide by the same during all periods of demonstration activity; and

8)            Any information concerning potential activities that may be hostile or antagonistic to the proposed activity and might tend to create disturbances or security problems.

  1. Applications shall be submitted to the Airport Authority at least 30 days prior to the date of the requested activity. An applicant’s failure to submit the required information and/or to do so in the time prescribed shall result in the denial of a permit. An applicant’s submission of false information shall result in the denial of a permit or the cancellation of a permit in the event that the false information is discovered after the issuance of a permit. In the event that the requirements of these Ordinances are satisfied the Airport Authority shall issue a permit, valid for a period not to exceed 7 days.

[Below: Professor Deborah Weissman, of the University of NC Law School, speaking at the Airport in 2012 (with an amplified microphone, which the new rules much dislike) about the release of a detailed report which meticulously corroborated complicity with torture by Aero Contractors, located at the Airport. Numerous media reporters were there. Nobody had a permit — except the First Amendment.]

  1. Additional Prohibitions

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Prohibited Conduct

    2.             Notwithstanding any provision contained herein, it shall be a violation of these Ordinances for any person to engage in any activity described in this Chapter in the following manner:

9)            While using a table, counter, or stand without the express written permission of the Airport Authority . . . .

[Above: the 2012 Weissman-UNC Law report on torture complicity at the Airport. It was distributed from a table, while Weissman spoke. The event was peaceful and professional.]

VII. Improper Sound Devices and Airport Public Address System

  1. The following prohibitions are in addition to the prohibitions stated throughout these Rules and Regulations:

  2.  Sound-amplifying devices, amplified sound-reproduction

machines, and sound trucks are prohibited on the Airport unless prior written authorization has been received from the Airport Director. . . .

XIV.            Special Events

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Festivities, trade shows, exhibits, and any other special events that are not part of normal business operations conducted on Airport property require coordination, regulation, and prior written authorization by the Airport Director.

  2. Requests for special events shall be in letter form to the Airport Director.

  3. The Airport Director reserves the right to decline events or activities that may interfere with normal operations or use of the property at his or her discretion.

XVI.            Commercial Photography, Filming, and Recording

SUGGESTED ADDITION: The Airport Authority shall at all times respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. The Airport Authority shall also at all times respect the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

  1. The Airport Director reserves the right to deny permission for filming on its property for any reason.[NOTE: This display was mounted on the fence at Aero Contractors during a protest in 2007. When it ended, all these images were carefully removed, without damage to the fence. And we didn’t have a permit — except the First Amendment.]

 

The post Mowing Down Free Speech in the Heart of Carolina appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Never Having Set Foot in the Meetinghouse

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 3:41pm

Yohannes “Knowledge” Johnson is a member of Bulls Head—Oswego Meeting even though he has never set foot in the meetinghouse. He hasn’t because he’s been a guest of the New York State prison system for almost forty years (murder and attempted murder in 1980). Johnson talks about how he centers and participates despite the walls and bars surrounding him:

Centering is always a welcome challenge, for, as one would expect, prison can be a noisy place and competing conversations can be overwhelming. What I do is draw myself into the pictures and focus upon the images and people therein. I have accompanying pictures of places visited by Friends and sent to me over the years with scenery that, for me as a person raised on the concrete pavements of New York City, gives me visions of natural beauty without the clutter of building structures and the like.



Never Having Set Foot in the Meetinghouse

When the meetinghouse is on the other side of state prison walls.

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Why are Kenya’s Quakers ‘noisy’?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 1:42pm

From the BBC of all places:

While known as a traditionally quiet community within Christianity, in Kenya their gatherings are loud and proud. For some, being ‘noisy’ is the reason young people are still being attracted to the Church.



BBC World Service — Heart and Soul, Kenya’s Quakers: Best of Friends, Why are Kenya’s Quakers ‘noisy’?

Quakers are traditionally quiet

BBC
Categories: Blogs

The Attack of the Generic Meds

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 7:42am

So I was in Wal-Mart yesterday at the prescription counter. Had two renewals to pick up. One was Losartan, for blood pressure. W-M had sent me a text that it was ready. The other was — well, another blood thing.

There was a line. It was moving slow. I was pressed for time.

A harried-looking clerk called “Next.” I was next. I told her my name and birthdate. She went rummaging among the long row of white plastic bags hanging on a rack, then walked to a corner of the back and murmured to another clerk, who was tapping on a computer screen.

She came back looking more harried. “They’re both not ready,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“But they sent me a text, at least about the Losartan.”

She sighed. “Yes, but there’s been more recalls of it. We don’t have any.” The other one was tied up somehow too. I left with no med refills.

 This was not a matter of money: their prices were tolerable. I had heard about the recalls.

Not only from the “mainstream media,” but also from the FDA’s most persistent gadfly critics, Joe & Terry Graedon, who operate the People’s Pharmacy. They recently reported, with an appropriate bit of snark, “Another Day Another Losartan Recall | Can We Trust the FDA?”Adding, “Are you one of the millions of people taking an ARB for hypertension like losartan or valsartan? Did you know there’s a NEW losartan recall? Are you fed up?”

{NOTE: The Graedons are Quakers, and their well-informed site is a fine example of speaking truth to power, Big Pharma being one of the main financial, political, and cultural superpowers of our day.}

And yes, I’m one of the millions who take blood pressure meds, including Losartan. The reported problems with much Losartan have to do with contaminated batches produced by Chinese & Indian manufacturers: they include chemicals that seem to be carcinogenic.

(Hmmm. Trading heart disease for cancer; now there’s a different idea . . .)

Well, I was taking the stuff; I’m on an involuntary hiatus at the moment.  (I have some left of the other one I was seeking, so maybe that will be straightened out before they’re gone too. Maybe . . .)

But the generic issue won’t go away when the new bottle of Losartan arrives. For years the Graedons have been collecting adverse reports about FDA oversight (or lack thereof) on generics, and their site is stuffed with bad reports on safety & effectiveness. Their bulletins practically scream its rhetorical question: “Are Fears About FDA’s Generic Drug Oversight Justified?” Adding,There have been so many reports of problems with FDA’s oversight of generic drugs, we have lost count.” They also flag an extensive new investigative report by Bloomberg that is very scary.

I have other unnerving drug stories too. In 2004 I began taking a new generic version of Prilosec for esophageal strictures (If you don’t know what those are, good. Suffice to say they don’t seem to be life-threatening; they just feel like it.)

The label on the pills said, don’t take it for more than two weeks.(Same warning is on name-brand Prilosec.)

I asked the Doc about that; he shrugged. There’s no evidence it’s bad for you, he said. Don’t worry.

But I’ve been a reporter too long to swallow that: “No evidence” about a new drug (or new use of an old one) does NOT mean “It’s safe.” It means there haven’t been enough people using the new drug or the new regimen for long enough to discover what the effects of long-term use will turn out to be. That takes time and careful information-gathering.

But meantime, the Prilosec (& generic versions) did its main job for me:

it stopped the esophageal strictures cold. I guess it also worked for others; soon millions of us were/are taking it.

So I put off worrying about the long-term effects. In fact, I took it happily for 13 years.

Well, happily at first. But soon the sheen wore off. After a decade, the long-term arrived: data about side effects piled up, and analysts dug through it. And I saw the reports.

What the analysts found was bad. Lots of ways bad. Everything from spikes in the incidence of softening bones to suspicions about promoting Alzheimer’s to —breaking news — solid reports about big risks of kidney damage. Read ’em and weep, all ye Prilosec takers!

So after a few years, I began to get nervous; the more data came out, the nervouser I got. Finally I went and had a bone scan; sure enough, my bones were getting soft not osteoporosis soft; not yet, but on the path.

Yikes! What was I supposed to do? The Prilosec was still keeping the esophageal episodes at bay. But kidneys, and bones and Alzheimers — oh my! (There are, I am discovering, numerous such medication dilemmas waiting for us as we get older, which many docs and Big Pharma want us to just pass whistling by.)

Anyway, I finally, reluctantly, after much hesitation & procrastination, made a tough decision: I quit Prilosec. A very tough decision. It is now well-known that quitting it brings back heartburn and such in spades — and getting past that takes a long while.

Yep that’s been true for me; and the esophageal stricture episodes reappeared too, though not as often as Back in the Pre-Prilosec Day. (Had an awful attack on Christmas; don’t get me started.)

So I’m relieved to be off. But what about Losartan? My family Doc insists I should go to a bigger dose — oh and she also wants me to go back on Prilosec, and up that dose, too.

No thanks.

The clerk fidgeted when she gave me the bad news. “I’m ready to quit,” she said. Too much confusion and trouble.

I can dig it.

And before you chide me about shopping at Wal-Mart, consider: they’re the good guys, at least in this case. They pulled the sketchy  Losartan. How many others would just have filled the bottle and let me go on my toxic way?

 

 

The post The Attack of the Generic Meds appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Quaker Theology: Weaponizing “Quaker Process”

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Thu, 02/28/2019 - 10:14am

What accounts for the wave of schisms we at Quaker Theology have been chronicling since 2010 & dubbed “The Separation Generation”? And what could be done about it? In our 20th Anniversary issue of Quaker Theology, we began to raise these questions in a survey of the carnage inflicted by these disruptions.

Doug Bennett, former president of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.

Doug Bennett, a former president of Earlham College and a savvy Friend, provides one of the key clues.

While at Earlham he was a member of an Indiana  meeting which went through the purge of 2011-12. Afterward,  he reflected delicately on what had happened in a blog post from  September 7, 2012:

“Schisms require some governance fiddle.

My earliest wondering about schisms was about how they could ever occur given Friends governance practices, our commitment to acting in unity through attending to our business in worship.  If we have to act in unity, how can we divide?

I think the answer must be that somewhere, somehow in each schism there has been some forcing, some deviation from our best governance practices. We have divided by not finding unity – or declaring  ‘unity’ when there was none.”

Our reporting on these recent crackups persuades me that Bennett is basically right, and his insight here is a very important one. Still, I have some quibbles.

My first quibble is that his post falls short of the Friends aspiration to “plain speaking.” That is, “Fiddle” is a woefully insufficient word to describe much of what happened. “Cheating” is plainer, thus more accurate. Chicanery, duplicity and treachery are apt corollaries. 

In some of these recent cases, particularly Indiana and Northwest yes, the fiddlers/cheaters got their way. In North Carolina, Western &  Wilmington YMs, they faced pushback, and the “fiddles” didn’t work out as planned. In our culture today, it’s a pushback world. 

So that’s another quibble with Bennett. Cheating,  if identified and faced, can be stopped, or at least blunted; but besides calling a treacherous spade a corrupt shovel, a meaningful response requires courage. Speaking truth to power, carrying the cross, and all that. Or, in pietist argot, “spiritual combat.”

Western Yearly Meeting was graced with a Clerk who spoke and was “valiant for the truth” about the body, which was that there was nothing close to the demanded “unity” to banish Phil Gulley, notwithstanding the scheming of a vocal pastoral faction. Hence Western got through its ordeal, though in a wounded, reduced state. Wilmington likewise.

On the other hand, Northwest’s powers, operating in a culture of extreme secrecy that could teach the CIA some lessons, struck like nighttime lightning. In North Carolina, the oldest of the five, the conflict was particularly ugly, and the only way the cheaters could succeed was by treachery and ultimately an act of utter, shocking self-destruction.

A final caveat, not really a quibble, is that Bennett’s trenchant observation calls for, but hasn’t received, more attention.

What is to be done about leadership and factional cheating and malpractice? About weaponizing “Quaker process”?

From the jump such malpractice requires the intentional undermining of the discipline more familiarly known as “Quaker process.” Many Quakers, especially convinced Friends escaped from openly authoritarian churches, can become quite sentimental about this. But such sentimentality can easily facilitate victimization. 

How do we identify and call out such maneuvers, not in histories composed long afterward, but as they unfold?

In conventional “Roberts Rules” proceedings, there are at least the beginning of such tools: motions to appeal from the ruling of the chair; motions to delay, etc. To be sure, such rules are also vulnerable; anyone watching the U.S. Congress can see that. But at the least, truth can usually be spoken, and find a place in the record. Friends do not seem to have much of a counterpart.

Another widespread weakness is what I call the Quaker Doormat Syndrome; others have named it the Curse of Quaker Niceness: a carefully-prepared faction makes strident demands; too many others then simply roll over and let themselves be trampled. This is part introversion wanting peace and quiet–Quaker Process seen as a warm fuzzy security blanket; part a conflict avoidance reflex by those who have faced abuse or major trauma; and part plain old fear, even panic. 

We don’t have a settled prescription for dealing with this disorder. But I contend that to start with, Friends need to follow Doug Bennett’s example, speak its name and begin to face up to it. Serious grappling, intellectual, historical, and spiritual, is called for.

So thanks again to Doug Bennett for surfacing this malady. Although it’s been rampant in The Separation Generation, it is nothing new, in Friends or Christian history.
And it’s not always successful. We can push back. And the first push is not to ignore it or accept it passively.

The post Quaker Theology: Weaponizing “Quaker Process” appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Quaker Theology and Today’s “Separation Generation”

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 1:17am

The journal Quaker Theology was started to promote & participate in informed theological discussion & engagement. The need for such  engagement was made clear, at least to this editor, by what turned out to be a major, but unexpected themes of the two decades of publication, the rise of what is called  in the 20th Anniversary issue, The Separation Generation.In this period, five U.S. yearly meetings have split; one of them disappeared entirely, after 320 years.

It’s not easy – in fact, impossible – to pick a starting date for this schismatic wave in American Quakerism. My personal preference is July 1977, when the first major interbranch conference in decades nearly blew apart in Wichita, Kansas, over the surfacing and demand for recognition by gay men.

That was surely a dramatic moment. Others might home in on the “Realignment” struggle of 1990-1991, with its undercurrents of panic over feminist Wicca and (nonexistent) Satanism. The goal of “Realignment” (not yet realized, but which some still hope for) was the ripping apart of the umbrella group, Friends United Meeting (FUM), which once straddled these lines. [Both these incidents are described in my book, Without Apology (1995)].

But others could leapfrog over that, to 1957 when much of Nebraska Yearly Meeting demanded to be “set off” as a separate, evangelical group, which became the evangelical Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting.  Or to the years 1926 to 1937, which saw secession from FUM’s predecessor, the Five Years Meeting, by the evangelically-oriented Oregon YM (1926).

That same year brought a fundamentalist schism in Western and Indiana YMs, from which came Central YM; and then, in 1937, the departure of Kansas YM, also evangelical, from Five Years Meeting.

Or even return to 1904, when North Carolina YM, an Orthodox group, saw an exodus by its monthly meetings which had rejected the YM’s shift to leadership by paid pastors, with programmed worship and the related new “Holiness” theologies.

The exiles named themselves North Carolina YM (Conservative). We published a sketch of this group on its centennial in QT #11. In Iowa, a similar division in 1877 had produced Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), and planted the seeds of an independent Quakerism on the West Coast. 

That’s not to mention the earlier Conservative (or Wilburite) separations, beginning in 1854, or the contemporaneous Progressive Friends insurgency among Hicksites. And behind them all, dim now after nearly two centuries, remains the cataclysm of 1827-1828, when most YMs splintered into Orthodox and Hicksites.

I don’t want to go back that far, though; 1827 and the Wilburite separations have been chronicled extensively, and some of the best Quaker historians have tackled the “Holiness”/pastoral rise. Moreover, there were similar controversies within and among groups that stayed in the Five Years Meeting through most of the twentieth century. Besides, the profusion of initials and labels which sprouted amid the doctrinal and organizational weeds is dizzying; I’ve studied it for years, and am still only moderately confident I know what they all mean.

The giant corpse flower. When it blooms, the stink is like death ad it spreads widely. Have American Friends been living through a “Corpse Flower” blooming?

So here we’ll fast forward again, skip past Wichita and “Realignment,” to land in western Indiana, home of Western (Indiana) Yearly Meeting, in 2003. Then the spotlight was on a Friends pastor named Phil Gulley. His ordeal, marked the beginning of what we call The Separation Generation. Like the blooming of the Titan Arum, one of the largest, most acridly malodorous of blossoms, its vapors spread widely and rapidly.

Phil Gulley, 2016

There was an acrid premonitory whiff of this in 2003’s QT #9, in a review of Gulley’s book, If Grace is True. Phil Gulley was (and remains) a Quaker pastor living near Indianapolis. He had also built a successful side career as an author of homely, Lake-Wobegon-in-Indiana-like “Front Porch Tales.”

But both his “day job” as a pastor and his achievements as an author seemed to be in mortal peril when Grace appeared. In it he made an argument for a universalist Christian theology, and critiquing the orthodox theories of atonement and hellfire he had abandoned. Our review spoke of the resulting outcry by some hardline pastors to “unfrock” Gulley for his book’s “heresy” as if it were all over with. Our naïveté was soon obvious: the struggle continued for six more years; by the time it abated i Western YM, it had also migrated and expanded.

As a result, beginning in QT #18, in the fall of 2010, there began crowding into the pages  of Quaker Theology a procession of yearly meeting schisms and purges. Like a stubborn grassfire they raged from sea (in Atlantic-bordering North Carolina) to shining sea (Oregon-Washington at the Pacific’s edge), with outbreaks in flyover country too. Our overall impression at this point is that these years could mark as deep a rupture as that of the “Great” Separation of 1827, when Orthodox and Hicksite divided.

Theology was, at least rhetorically, central to all:

Who was Jesus? What is the Bible’s status? Do we need to be “saved”? From what? By whom, and how? Is there a Quaker creed (in fact, if not in name)? How (and again by whom) are allegedly holy books to be interpreted, and yearly meetings to be governed? Should LGBT persons be affirmed?

These and related issues recurred; answers are still in dispute, and the membership of many individuals, the legitimacy of monthly meetings, and even the existence of yearly meetings – all were at stake.

The Editors of Quaker Theology have had their opinions here, which have not been hidden; but we don’t pretend to have resolved these matters.

Instead, we worked as hard as we could just to keep up (barely) with the struggles, in a largely journalistic fashion. At first this was an opportunity; soon, it became a duty. That’s because coverage of these struggles by other Quaker publications has been so sparse as to be nearly nonexistent. 

Someday (we hope), serious Friends and scholars will review, extend and correct our reporting; in the meantime, Quaker Theology has by default become the “paper of record” for this decade-plus of upheaval.

As the 20th Anniversary issue took shape, it was our impression that the Separation Generation may be largely played out.

But then again, maybe not; perhaps it is only shifting shapes and venues: we note that some liberal yearly meetings have of late been tying themselves up in knots over identity issues, especially race. These too have theological dimensions, even though many liberals foolishly think they are “beyond” or “above” such stuff. Will these struggles be peaceably resolved, or will they lead to new divisions?

We hope not: a respite from the corpse flower stench of schism would be very welcome.

Yet just as we were finishing up this post, came the disconcerting news of the Methodist Church’s rejection of same sex marriage and LGBT affirmation, which could portend schism in that much larger denomination. We won’t make predictions about that, except to venture that it seems a sign this struggle is far from over, outside Friends as well as within our own ranks.

Further, it recalls the warning of Koheleth in the Book of Ecclesiastes (8:17), that humans will “never be able to understand what God is doing. However hard you try, you will never find out. The wise may claim to know, but they don’t.”

And neither, for that latter, do we.

If you find this post of interest, please pass it on.

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Categories: Blogs

Quaker Theology at 20: People, Witness, and Ideas

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 10:24am

Much of what we’ve published in the journal Quaker Theology has been about people, mostly Quakers, past and present. This may be unusual in theological journals, but Quakerism is very much a lived religion, embodied in people, their witness, and their thought.

[The first 32 issues of Quaker Theology are all online here [www.quakertheology.org], available to all in searchable form. The 20th Anniversary issue, #33, is now ready at Amazon (https://tinyurl.com/y26gmlbj ), and will be on the web soon. ]

Theology is about more than persons, though; it also deals with ideas. And while theological notions are often arcane and tedious, some can be startling, even shocking. At least several times in this effort they have shocked this editor. Many of these shocks came from reading and reviewing books. (It does help if a theologian is something of a book nerd.) 

For instance, the most acute critique of the reigning ideology of permanent war that has possessed America’s rulers since at least 2001came to my desk not from a liberal or left-winger, but from their polar opposite, a strict evangelical-fundamentalist and libertarian named Laurence M. Vance.

His book, Christianity and War, and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, was miles ahead of most other antiwar screeds I have read (or written); it was reviewed and excerpted in QT #20. 

I was handed the book by a young soldier who was considering becoming a Conscientious Objector.  At that point I’d been searching for a liberal/left or conventionally evangelical challenger to what I call “American War Christianity,” a cult which is deeply (and dangerously) rooted in the U.S. military. But I had found nothing of any consequence.

But  Christianity and War wielded its theological bat like Babe Ruth on a tear, knocking pro-war piety right out of the park. A representative affirmation: 

“The love affair that many conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have with the military is an illicit affair. It is contrary to the tenor of the New Testament. It is an affront to the Savior. It is a cancer on Christianity.”(254) 

Further, as a biblical literalist, Vance believes that indeed, “God commanded the nation of Israel in the Old Testament to fight against heathen nations (Judges 6:16). . .” 

But . . .

(Then he goes right for the jugular): 

but [the U. S. president] is not God, and America is not the nation of Israel . . . .God sponsored these [ancient Hebrew] wars, and used his chosen nation (Deuteronomy 7:11-12) to conduct them, [but] it does not follow that God sponsors American wars, or that America is God’s chosen nation. It does not follow unless, of course, one is a Christian apologist for the U.S. government and its wars.” (p. 126, 129) [Emphasis added.]

And that is precisely what American War Christianity comes down to: the shockingly idolatrous identification of U.S. interests as being dictated by God, and treating its leaders (especially conservative presidents), as the equivalent of God. But it was Vance, the avowed fundamentalist, who published the most trenchant religious naming & critique of it I have seen.

Equally shocking, in a very different way, was another tome, Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, by Aric Mcbay, Lierre Keith, and Derrick Jensen; DGR for short.  The title seemed appealing, and there were several favorable references to Quakers in the hefty text. 

Yet its “strategy to save the planet” came down to a dead-serious plan to do that by eliminating the large majority of humans. Yes, they called for, and laid out a detailed plan to, carry out genocide on a mega-industrial scale, using conspiratorial tactics directly copied from terrorist groups of various stripes.

We surveyed this scheme in QT #21, from 2012, and note here that the group and its agenda is still out there, presumably working in secret toward making its neo-September 11 big debut.

Am I exaggerating in this description of DGR here? Well, consider this Q&A snippet from their website:

[Q].If we dismantle civilization, won’t that kill millions of people in cities? What about them?

[A] Derrick Jensen: No matter what you do, your hands will be blood red. If you participate in the global economy, your hands are blood red because the global economy is murdering humans and non-humans the planet over. A half million children die every year as a direct result of so-called “debt repayment” from non-industrialized nations to industrialized nations. Sixty thousand people die every day from pollution. And what about all the people who are being forced off their land? There are a lot of people dying already. Failing to act in the face of atrocity is no answer. . . .

I take that as a “Yes.”

A more familiar demon appeared in QT #5: the Ku Klux Klan. The vehicle was, of all genres, a 1999 young adult novel: Mim and the Klan, by Cynthia Stanley Russell. The story is straightforward: Mim Hanley is an Indiana teenager, whose passage through a seemingly ideal small town adolescence is disrupted by the discovery that her beloved, doting grandfather was a Ku Klux Klansman during the Klan’s 1920s revival.

This is not the shocking part; nor is the disclosure that grandfather Hanley is a devoted lifelong Quaker; and not even the fact that there were other Indiana Quaker Klansmen (and women) in those days.

No, what’s shocking about all this is that Mim & the Klan, seventy years after the fact, was the first published Quaker-oriented reference I found to this Kan-Quaker alliance. After all, it’s not a rumor: secular researchers have known about it for years. But there has been a kind of omerta oath of silence about it among Quaker historians. [A few years later, this KKK-Quaker connection was mentioned briefly in the landmark book, Fit For Freedom, Not For Friendship, which we reviewed in QT #16.] And in 2019, the shock persists, as the KKK’s apparently easy infiltration into much of Midwestern Quakerism still awaits detailed examination (and stock-taking) by Quaker scholars and theologians.

Yes, theologians. For after all, if the Klan was anything, it was a theology-driven movement. (Reminder: they burned crosses, not dollar signs or flags; these pyres were not to destroy, but to project the cross, as a sign of searing theocratic –aka theologically-justified — power.) The Klan handbooks were full of their theology; and each klavern had one or more chaplains, called a Kludd. 

And not least, while the Klan as an organization has largely withered, its theology and basic agenda have not only persisted, but have now leaped into the highest circles of public power. Our contention is that meaningful resistance to this resurgence will require theological, as well as other forms of engagement by many. And that work includes Quakers.

The need for such engagement was made clear, at least to this editor, by the other major theme of the two decades of Quaker Theology’s publication, what is called there The Separation Generation. We’ll take a look at that in the next post.

If you find this post of interest, please pass it on.

 

 

 

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Categories: Blogs

Showing Kindness by Anne M. Scherer

What Canst Thou Say - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 9:07pm

Showing kindness

every single day

each action you take

it’s all about mindfulness.

Think about the words you say

showing kindness everyday

someone old or young, in a wheelchair,

needs a warm smile, not a stare.

Small, tall or color of skin

all that truly matters is what’s within

we all have minds and a heart

showing kindness is being smart.

Straight, Bi, Transgender, Lesbian or Gay

people tend to judge; so show kindness

think of people as a rainbow

you will see equality and know.

Everyone has emotions, feelings deep inside

happy, sad or feeling mad and sometimes want to shout

when you see someone sad, ask “Would you like a hug?”

showing kindness helps others let their feelings out.

How many ways can you show kindness?

Did you help your mom or dad, a friend in need

or a neighbor? Did you brush your cat, walk the dog,

fill their bowls with food to feed.

There are so many ways to be kind

it brings love and joy

showing kindness

is all about mindfulness.

 

Categories: Blogs

Is the Gospel Good News for Everyone?

Micah Bales - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 4:00am

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 2/10/19, at Berkeley Friends Church. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Isaiah 6:1-13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; & Luke 5:1-11. 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

If Isaiah were with us today, we might think he was a little nuts. This is a man who at one point walked barefoot and naked through the streets of Jerusalem for three years as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia. He used his own children as prophetic signs, naming his three sons: “A remnant shall return,” “God is with us,” and “Spoil quickly, plunder speedily.” Can you imagine the teasing in middle school?

For all his apparently crazy behavior, Isaiah was not a fringe character. He was a major figure – a sort of celebrity –  in the kingdom of Judah for decades. He outlived several kings, and had criticisms for all of them. He had audacity, social standing, and a total lack of a self-preservation instinct that allowed him to pick public fights with the top leadership of Judah.

He had one other thing. The most critical thing. This was the alpha and omega of his ministry: Isaiah had an experience of God. A living relationship with the creator of the cosmos.

That sounds lovely, right? What a beautiful thing – a personal relationship with God. That’s what we all want, right? That’s what every Christian church in town is offering, isn’t it? A personal relationship with God.

Well, it’s not so warm and fuzzy for Isaiah. Isaiah doesn’t have his heart strangely warmed. He doesn’t feel an ineffable sense of oneness with the cosmos or the warm embrace of comforting love.

The beginning of Isaiah’s ministry is a moment of terror. It’s an encounter with the unknown and unknowable God – the Holy One of Israel. This is a God that is so different from us that no one can see him and live. A God who is so terrifyingly awesome that his presence can’t be contained in any building, any nation, any ideology. This is the God that Isaiah meets in 742 BC – the year that king Uzziah died.

In our reading from Isaiah 6 this morning, he writes:

“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;  the whole earth is full of his glory.’”

We don’t even know what these creatures really looked like. I think a lot of people imagine that the seraphim look like conventional statuary angels – you know, buff, beautiful men with big white wings, who look like they spend all their time in heaven lifting weights. But most of the imagery we have in the Bible about heavenly beings is far more alien, far more frightening. 

The commentaries I’ve read suggest that it’s likely that these seraphim were snake-like, maybe an amalgam of several different kinds of animal. The word “seraph” means “one who burns.” Maybe the angels were on fire. Whatever they were, these heavenly creatures were just as fearsome, just as utterly different from human beings as the God who created them. 

In Isaiah’s vision, the boundary between heaven and earth had been utterly shattered, and all the scary things that human beings should never see were pouring into his reality. It says that the whole building shook with the power of the heavenly creatures’ voices. The hem of God’s robe filled the temple, and the house was filled with smoke. It’s like a rock concert from hell – oh wait, heaven!

Heaven and hell are both within the human heart. They can coexist in one moment. In this startling, mind-blowing vision, Isaiah comes face to face with that which is totally other and transcendent. The utterly unknowable. The Holy One of Israel.

How would you respond to this? What would your reaction be? What are we to do in the face of the unspeakable holiness, power, and majesty of God?

Well we know what Isaiah did. He nearly fell into despair. Here he was, standing in the light of God, and all he could see was darkness. The smoke of God’s glory covered him. It was choking him.

Standing in the presence of God, Isaiah became aware of his own distance from God. His wickedness. His rebellion against the love and power of God.

“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah had an encounter with the glory of God, and all he could see was the way that he and his fellow countrymen fell short of that glory. What a horrifying thing to see. Especially because of who Isaiah was, an upstanding member of Jerusalem’s priestly elite. Even at twenty years old, Isaiah was already in many ways a holy man. A holy man among the holy people of the holy city of David.

But when he came into the presence of God, all that human pretense fell away. Awareness of his own sin, and the sin of his holy people, overwhelmed him.

But before Isaiah could become totally lost in the despair of his own darkness, one of the seraphim took a live coal from the altar. Holding it with a pair of tongs, it flew over to Isaiah and touched the burning coal to his lips.

Ouch!

And the seraph said, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”

Isaiah was free. Free from sin. Free from the desolate darkness that he had experienced upon entering into the presence of God. He was clean. Holy. Welcomed into the presence of a mystery and power so awesome that he could barely stand to be in the presence of the hem of his garment.

This freedom is an unconditional gift. Isaiah cries out in his distress, and God sends the seraph to cleanse and heal him. To liberate him from his sin. To make him the kind of person who can stand in the presence of the heavenly beings and speak the words of God to his people.

And then Isaiah hears the voice of God call out, from beyond the temple, somewhere up in the heavenly realm, speaking to the great council of heavenly beings: “Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us?”

And immediately, Isaiah cries out again from the floor of the temple: “Here I am! Send me!”

Such boldness. Such reckless readiness to be the emissary of the Most High. This was unthinkable just moments before. But now the seraph has touched the burning coal to Isaiah’s lips. His guilt has departed and his sin is blotted out. He is ready to be a servant of God. A prophet. A man who speaks the words of God to his people.

What are those words? What is the message?

Turns out, it’s not good.

Go and say to this people:  
“Keep listening, but do not comprehend; 
keep looking, but do not understand.’  
Make the mind of this people dull, 
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,  
so that they may not look with their eyes, 
and listen with their ears,  
and comprehend with their minds, 
and turn and be healed.

Isaiah thought he was out of the woods, but now he’s back in the darkness. He’s passed through God’s purifying fire. But the recipients of his prophetic message have not experienced that transformation. Isaiah has changed, but his people haven’t.

“How long, O Lord?” Isaiah cries out. How long until all the people of Jerusalem will see with the same eyes and hear with listening ears? How long until God sends a hot coal for every set of lips?

“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,  
and houses without people, 
and the land is utterly desolate;  
until the Lord sends everyone far away, 
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.  
Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again,  
like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.”

Whoa. This sounds really, really bad. There’s a purification coming, and it’s going to make that hot coal from the seraph taste like nice cup of cocoa. God says the land of Judah is going to be smashed – laid waste, until not even a tenth of the people are left. 

And Isaiah says, “The holy seed is its stump.” There will be a remnant. Out of all this horror and destruction, there will be a purified community that will emerge, ready to speak the truth and live God’s mercy and justice. But this transformation will only come about through a horrifying process of national purgation.

That’s so intense. Right? I mean, what do you even say to that? Your people will be saved, but only after they’re mostly annihilated. You will see the glory of the Lord, but Jerusalem will be burned to the ground first. The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple – but not one stone will be left on stone.

Which brings us to Jesus. Jesus was engaged in ministry during a time that was, in some ways, quite similar to that of Isaiah. Both Isaiah’s and Jesus’ ministry began in a period of relative peace and prosperity. A time when the people of Israel imagined that things were just going to keep getting better. More freedom, greater wealth, and independence were on the way!

But what the people didn’t know, didn’t want to know or understand, was that God was not pleased with the status quo. God didn’t approve of the selfish, faithless rulers of Isaiah’s time, or the self-serving hypocrites who reigned in the Jerusalem of Jesus. A time of purification was coming. The temple would be overthrown. Foreign powers would conquer Jerusalem. All of this had happened before, and would happen again.

This is the context for Jesus’ first encounter with Peter, James, and John, on the Sea of Galilee. The old order is falling away. They don’t know it yet, but God has pronounced judgment over the corrupt rulers and authorities in Jerusalem. Terrible purification is coming, but a remnant will be saved.

Now it says that Jesus is teaching by the sea, and the crowds are so intense that he asks a fisherman named Simon to let him jump in his boat and preach from there. Simon agrees, and so there Jesus is, preaching from this fishing boat, sitting out in the water. I mean, I can relate to this. Sometimes I have to go to great lengths to avoid being mobbed by crowds when I’m preaching.

Anyway. When Jesus is done with his teaching, he says, “Hey, Simon – why don’t you put out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish?”

Simon and his crew had just got done pulling an all-nighter. In fact, when Jesus got into their boat, they had been cleaning off their nets and preparing to put them away. They spent the whole night looking for fish, but didn’t catch anything. And here was Jesus, saying, “hey, guys, why don’t you try to catch some fish?”

Now, if I were Simon in this situation, I can imagine feeling a little upset. I’ve already done this Jesus guy a favor by letting him preach from my boat. I’m tired. I’ve been up all night. I still haven’t finished cleaning my nets, and all I want to do is go home and get some sleep. 

But even though Simon might be justified at getting upset with Jesus, he doesn’t. He says, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

You’ll never guess what happens next! Oh, well, I guess you will, since we just read the scripture earlier. They pull in so much fish that the nets are starting to break. They catch so much fish, that they have to call over to the other boat in their little flotilla, to get their help in pulling in their catch. They land so much fish, that the two boats are completely full, to the point that there is some concern that both boats might go under due to the weight!

This is when Simon has his Isaiah moment. Simon is standing in the temple, and the hem of the Lord’s robe is filling the space. The room is full of smoke. The seraphim are flying and crying out, “Holy, holy, holy!” The whole earth is proclaiming the glory of God. The sea and its fish declare the presence of the Holy One of Israel.

And Simon has the same response that Isaiah did. It says that he fell down at Jesus’ feet and cried out: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

In the presence of Jesus, Simon saw his darkness more clearly than ever. In the presence of glory, Simon could not escape his unworthiness. In the presence of divine mystery and power, Simon fell to his knees in awe and fear.

But Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be fishing for people.”

And it says that they brought their boats to shore. They left everything. They followed him.

Jesus came with good news. Before this passage we read this morning, Jesus was healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching the people, and transforming lives. After this encounter with Simon and his friends, Jesus keeps healing and teaching and proclaiming the reign of God.

Jesus came with good news, but it’s not good news for everyone. It’s not good news for those who are rich. For those who are in the center of power. For those who think they are in control. It’s not good news for the people of Jerusalem who will rise up in rebellion against Rome, and who will be crushed when the Roman legions arrive. The good news of God’s empire is a terror to those who lean on the world’s vision of success – governments, and armies, and central banks, and power politics.

But for those who are being saved, the gospel is the power of God. It is the hot coal touching the lips. The gospel cleanses from sin and transforms blindness into true sight. It’s a grace that upends lives and gathers community around the love and power of God.

In their encounters with God, both Isaiah and Simon first had to face the darkness. In the light of God’s presence, they saw their own darkness – all the ways in which they had turned away from the source of life to worship their own wills, their own judgments. 

Yet both Simon and Isaiah also discovered that sin is not just an individual problem. In the words of Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” Righteousness and sinfulness are not merely questions of personal morality. We live in a social reality that shapes our sense of right and wrong, that governs our imagination and sense of the possible. To a great degree, we are sick because we are part of a sickened humanity. We are blind as part of a society that has forgotten how to see. We hate what we’ve been taught to hate, and fear what we’ve been taught to fear.

Isaiah and Simon knew that sin is not an individual problem. And yet they chose to take personal responsibility for it. They accepted an invitation to become vessels of God’s word in the world – to become prophets of the living God, the Holy One of Israel.

Sin is not an individual problem, but the prophets choose to take personal responsibility. The prophets act as a bridge between the irrevocable holiness and set-apartness of God, and the lost state of the human family. The prophets take responsibility, not only for their own sin, but for the sin of their brothers and sisters. The prophets surrender themselves to God, and God gives them the strength to live as part of a truly counter-cultural community. A community that lives in the reign of God, now, even in the midst of a society that is actively in rebellion against God.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be such a community – a prophetic community. We are called to stand in the presence of the seraphim, to have our lips cleansed with the burning coal. We are called to hear from God the hard truths about our society, and to speak this message to a world that does not want to hear it.

Like the first disciples of Jesus, we are called to gather together into community that embodies the way of God in a world that rejects him. This may mean that we look a little weird. If we’re like Isaiah and are called to walk naked and barefoot for three years as a sign, we might look really weird!

But whatever the call, wherever this road ultimately takes us, we are invited into the prophetic ministry of Isaiah and Simon, of John and Jesus. We are invited into a path in which God makes us fearless. Fearing God, we can have no fear of any human being. No ruler or authority can intimidate those who have stood in the presence of the Almighty and received absolution from the seraphim. Standing in the presence of Jesus, we are called to be indomitable in the face of men.

Let’s stand in that presence, together. Let’s fall to our knees before Jesus. Let’s kiss the coal as it touches our lips. And dedicate our lives to speaking the truth boldly, loving our neighbors fully, and offering up our lives for the formation of the remnant community that God is gathering together even now.

Related Posts: Think You Know Jesus? Don’t Be So Sure Lift Up Your Heads – Our Redemption is Drawing Near

The post Is the Gospel Good News for Everyone? appeared first on Micah Bales.

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Think You Know Jesus? Don’t Be So Sure

Micah Bales - Tue, 01/29/2019 - 2:00am

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 1/27/19, at Berkeley Friends Church. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, & Luke 4:14-21. 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

Wow, Jesus. They really wanted to kill you. I mean, really – these were the people who knew you as a little kid. These should be the folks inclined to think the best of you. They should like, you Jesus! Yet by the end of your first sermon in their synagogue, they’re ready to run you off a cliff.

How did it get to this point? How does a community go from loving and admiring this young man, to wanting to tear him apart with their bare hands? How does a congregation go from being impressed with Jesus’ sermon to being so enraged they can’t contain themselves? What did you do, Jesus?

When Jesus showed back up in his hometown, Nazareth, he already had quite a reputation. He’d been gone a long time. He’d been out exploring. Learning. Growing. Getting baptized in the river Jordan. Living out in the wilderness with the wild animals. Doing battle with the Devil and being attended to by the angels. Jesus had seen some things.

And now the world was seeing some things from Jesus. It says that Jesus returned to his homeland of Nazareth, after his sojourn with John the Baptist and his experience in the desert. It says he was “filled with the power of the Spirit.” Word had spread about Jesus. This man was on fire. You just had to hear him.

And so they did. Throughout Galilee, Jesus visited his people in their synagogues. He taught them, fed them, healed them. He brought them the good news of God’s empire – the reign of peace, justice, and love that would overcome the empires of this world. And people were just lapping it up. The scripture says that he was “praised by everyone.”

Praised by everyone. That’s always nice, isn’t it? I like it when I’m praised by everyone.

So Jesus has been in Galilee a while. News has spread, and some folks in his hometown are probably even getting a bit frustrated. “Hey, Jesus. You grew up here, man. When are you going to come visit? You’ve been everywhere else. We heard what you did in Capernaum – a city full of gentiles. When are you gonna come and give some love to your own people, the folks who raised you?”

Jesus does eventually make it to Nazareth. Apparently not his first stop, but he gets around to it eventually. And it makes me wonder: Was there some hesitation on Jesus’ part? Did he stay away from Nazareth for a reason? What was holding him back?

We’re about to find out, aren’t we?

When Jesus gets to Nazareth, it says he does the same thing he always does when he’s in a new town. He sees the sights. He checks out the local cuisine. Maybe goes to a party or two. And he most definitely makes it to synagogue on the Sabbath.

So there he is. It’s Saturday morning. Jesus walks into the synagogue, and everyone is waiting to hear him preach. There’s no TV, no radio, and it’s like a young Michael Jackson just showed up in Nazareth. Except, you know, imagine that Michael is your nephew.

They give Jesus the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and he reads from it:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And with that, Jesus rolls up the scroll, passes it back to the attendant, and sits down.

Now, I’d assume that Jesus was done at that point. Because for me, culturally, sitting down in a big gathering like that means that you’re ceding the floor. You’re fading back into the woodwork. Someone else is going to talk now. But that’s not how things worked in the synagogue in Jesus’ day. When you were reading, you stood up. But when you were preaching, you sat down.

And so Jesus began to preach. He says:

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Boom. Jesus reads from Isaiah, from a passage announcing the coming of God’s anointed. He reads about a leader who will bring good news to the poor. Release for the captives. Sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed. He tells the people gathered in the synagogue that day, “You’ve been waiting for a liberator. You’ve been waiting for a savior. Don’t wait anymore. He’s sitting right in front of you.”

Just let that sink in for a moment. How radical that must have been. How politically charged that statement must have felt. How much emotion those words must have inspired. What a huge claim Jesus was making. Here was the neighborhood kid, back from his study abroad program, and he was claiming to be the King of Israel, the anointed one of God.

I guess I’d only expect two kinds of reactions to this message. Either ecstatic joy, or total rejection. I mean, what else is there? You either believe he’s God’s anointed, or you don’t. You either are ready to follow him and face the slings and arrows of the Roman occupation – or you’re not. It’s gut check time.

And it says that, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’”

“Is not this Joseph’s son?”

So they liked him – they really liked him! Jesus was a very impressive man, and he won the people of Nazareth right over. Here was their Messiah! He’s our guy! He’s the son of Joseph. This Jesus is our very own, home-grown Messiah. Hallelujah!

Can you imagine the civic pride? I mean, I don’t know how things are here in California, but back in Kansas where I grew up, small towns will put information about notable locals on their welcome signs. Like, “Welcome to Abilene, Kansas – home of Dwight D. Eisenhower!”

Oh yes, the elders of Nazareth could see it now. “Nazareth, home of God’s anointed!” Our boy Jesus is going to be large and in charge. Life is gonna be pretty good!

But that’s not the kind of messiah God had anointed Jesus to be. Jesus knew where his identity came from. He knew who his daddy was. It wasn’t Joseph, and it most certainly wasn’t the Greater Nazareth Chamber of Commerce. Jesus didn’t come to make the comfortable feel even better about themselves. He didn’t come to privilege his clan over the others. He didn’t even come to bless the Jews rather than the gentiles.

The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus; a spirit that dwells with the humble, the lost, the marginalized, the weak. It’s a spirit that finds its home among those who have been broken. This spirit doesn’t care about your genealogy or your resume.

This is where Jesus’ sermon takes a sharp turn. It’s like a Jesus is rolling down the highway, doing ninety in his dodge minivan, and all of a sudden he just rips hard to the left. He crosses the median and all four lanes of traffic – right out into the desert.

[Jesus] said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.”

The people of Nazareth still hadn’t understood who Jesus was. They still thought he was Joseph’s son. They thought they could own Jesus, appropriate him as a member of their clan. And Jesus knew that they would demand signs of him.

Jesus has come to Nazareth with a big message of redemption. The Kingdom of God is at hand, and Jesus is inaugurating it. Jesus is the doctor, and he’s been healing all sorts of people throughout Galilee. He’s healed Jews aplenty, and there’s word that he’s even healed people in Capernaum, a gentile enclave.

So for Jesus – the doctor – to cure “himself”, that meant to heal his own people in Nazareth. If he was able to do signs and wonders among the gentiles, surely he could do the same or better among his Jewish relatives.

The Nazarenes would “believe in him”, alright. They would acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah – but only so long as he was the right kind of messiah. A messiah who performed miracles for them. A messiah who bolstered their own sense of exceptionalism. A messiah who told them that they were the center of the universe. That God was for them and not for others.

But that’s not the kind of messiah Jesus is. Jesus is a servant of the unknown God. The God of the tent, who can’t be tied down by human demands. Jesus is the Messiah of the wilderness, who rejects the call for signs and wonders. He is the prophetic voice who brings liberation for those who are the margins, and who restores the sight of those who know they are blind. For those who place themselves at the center, for those who believe that they already see just fine, he has nothing to offer.

And so Jesus tells them this. He reminds them of the actions of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Both of them performed great miracles for people who were beyond the bounds of Israel. The pagan widow at Zarapeth, the gentile warlord Naaman. People who were indifferent to the Jews at best, enemies of Israel at worst. Jesus tells his people that being blood relatives of the Messiah won’t earn them God’s favor. The healing power of God will pass them over as good news is preached to the poor, the marginalized, the outsider.

Basically, Jesus says to his aunts and uncles, cousins and nephews, “I have nothing for you. You never knew me. And you definitely don’t know what God is up to. Repent. The empire of God has come near.” In the words of John the Baptist from the previous chapter of Luke:

Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Don’t wait for signs and wonders. Bear fruit. Don’t place yourselves at the center and expect blessings to come. Bear fruit. The ax is lying at the foot of the tree, and the woodsman is coming. Bear fruit.

We can see now that Jesus is walking in the path that John made straight. That path is the way of the prophets.

Jesus’ relatives in the Nazareth synagogue see it, too. And they’re not happy. They’re enraged, as a matter of fact. They’re so furious that it says everyone stood up and chased Jesus out of the synagogue.

They wanted to kill him. They would have killed him. They would have thrown him off a cliff. But it wasn’t Jesus time yet, and so it says that, “he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” On to greener pastures. On to minister to those who were ready to hear his words, to bear fruit worthy of repentance.

In our reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we hear about how the church is the Body of Christ. All of us – gathered together in this room, much like Jesus’ synagogue two thousand years ago – we are the body of Christ. Just as the body is one and has many members, so it is with Christ’s body. As Paul says, “In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

The body of Christ isn’t about our biological parentage. It isn’t about how important we are in the world around us. In fact, all those factors might get in the way of discovering who we really are in the Holy Spirit. Whose children we truly are.

We are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. God has given us roles to perform and gifts to share. Apostles, prophets, teachers, deeds of power, healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. God gives gifts and calls us to ministry as members of the body. These treasures are given through the individual for the community. And, because we are the body of Jesus the crucified one, our community is given up to death for the salvation of the whole world.

What would Jesus find if he came to preach in our churches today? Would he encounter a people prepared? A people of inner strength and humility? A people given up to death and aware of our amazing responsibility as his body?

How would we react if Jesus came to us with the same message he had for his own home synagogue? What if Jesus told us, “Don’t ask for signs from me. Don’t ask for miracles. Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Serve the poor and needy. Live among the marginalized and oppressed. Make common cause with the despised and imprisoned. Don’t expect signs and wonders from me. You must become the signs and wonders.”

Are we ready to become the signs and wonders? Are we prepared to grapple with the reality of what it means to be the body of Christ in this world? Are we ready to bear fruit worthy of repentance, and to face the cross like Jesus has? Are we ready to move beyond ourselves, to become the body and blood of Christ, broken and poured out for our neighbors and for the whole creation?

Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” But we have become one with the Doctor. We have been baptized into his life and spirit. We are his body, and individually members of it. It is we who are called to heal. To liberate. To give sight to the blind and proclaim good news to the poor. It is we who are to become vessels of the miraculous.

Related Posts: Lift Up Your Heads – Our Redemption is Drawing Near
In These Days of Despair, There Is A Way of Hope

The post Think You Know Jesus? Don’t Be So Sure appeared first on Micah Bales.

Categories: Blogs

MOTIVES

Quaker Mystics - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 11:16pm

Dearest God
my motives are never pure

I want so badly
to serve
contribute

Yet I’m so limited

I see my efforts
ignored

indifferent surroundings
unchanged

Direct me
Teach me

Comfort me
as I look at myself

So I can
keep going

Imperfectly
Impurely

Your
old fool

Categories: Blogs

MY PRAYER

Quaker Mystics - Tue, 07/24/2018 - 10:32pm

Help us

Forgive us

Use us

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