On Quaker PR: Salt, Light and Transformation (Matthew 5:13-20)

Resurrection City

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16 NRSV)

Do we have a PR Problem?

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone you are a Quaker or that you go to a Quaker meeting and get a bit of a blank stare? You watch as the wheels turn and then the person you’re speaking with says one of these things:

  • So you’re amish?
  • You mean like the guy on the Quaker oats container?
  • I have no idea what you’re talking about?
  • If you’re lucky, you might get a response like “Wow, I really like what I’ve read about Quakers.” Aren’t they the folks who were involved in the abolition movement and women’s suffrage?

I actually don’t mind any of these responses because they’re all something to start with, and usually the person I’m speaking with is interested enough to give me a minute or two to explain myself further. And with of all the brands we could be associated with, I suppose it could be a lot worse than oatmeal.

And as amazing as it is to have folks know that the Quakers are associated with great historical movements like abolition and women’s suffrage to name only a couple, that was more than 100 years ago. Continue reading “On Quaker PR: Salt, Light and Transformation (Matthew 5:13-20)”

Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)

eyes covered (2)

This is the third of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

Another thing this parable teaches us that prayer can help us to see ourselves more clearly.

We all know what a blind spot is. We have blind spots when there is “an obstruction in our visual field.” We talk about blind spots when we are driving. We talk about blind spots in all kinds of life. Continue reading “Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)”

Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)

Flickr image: Thomas Hawk

This is the second of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

A second thing we might learn from this parable is by considering how the pharisee and the tax collector are worlds apart socially. The distance between these to characters is like saying the Wall-Street Exec. and a person living on welfare went into a church together to pray. Continue reading “Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)”

Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)

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This week I have four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

This parable is in many ways about prayer, but it isn’t trying to teach us what to say, so much as the kind of attitude, or posture we are to have when we pray.

Story

The Catholic football team was on its way to an important game. A reporter boarded the train and asked for the football coach.

“I understand,” said the reporter, “that you carry a chaplain to pray for the success of the team. Would you mind introducing me to him?”

“That would be a pleasure,” said the coach. “Which one do you want to meet, the offensive or the defensive chaplain?”

From Anthony de Mello’s Song of the Bird (p.150)

Many of us are probably familiar with at least the idea of the great lengths that sport fans will go to make sure their team is on the winning side. But there’s another way to hear this second parable and it is about the attitude in which we pray. Continue reading “Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)”

Darkness, Lampstands and Light (Revelation 2-3)

Lamp

The Lampstands in the Darkness

This past week the American consciousness has been tilted towards the East Coast. Every news source, every line posted to social media, and many of the prayers offered up have been on behalf of those who were injured, killed and/or traumatized on Monday in the Boston marathon bombing.

You may have been like some and couldn’t get enough of the news. Or maybe you felt like you just wanted to get away from it. I swung back and forth between these poles. Although I have to say it’s thrilling conclusion on Friday evening was captivating.

One of the things that Monday did for all of us who live in America was remind us of the simple fact that darkness is all around us. We don’t have to know the motives of the brothers, or whether they were helped by some terrorist network to know that these two young men were draw into a seductive darkness that is far more overwhelming than they clearly understood.

This darkness is seductive because it can pull even the most unsuspecting people into its influence and service. Continue reading “Darkness, Lampstands and Light (Revelation 2-3)”

The Bible is the People’s Book

This is a message I gave a couple years ago and coming across it today I feel it’s worth sharing again. We in the church have a paradoxical relationship with the bible. Many inside and outside the church have misgivings about certain texts or whole swaths of texts, while other texts serve as basic idioms and metaphors in our culture so much so that we don’t even notice it anymore. Is the Bible still a relevant book for us? I contend yes, but not in the ways we’ve often been taught. I argue that there is a Quaker way of reading the bible that bypasses at least some of our modern hang-ups, and I suggest that the Bible really is the people’s book. It is a collection of stories that give witness to God’s liberating work throughout human history. Seen in this light, we can find ways to enter into the story as our own and become participants in God’s transformation of ourselves and the world.