Renewal and Outreach

New GrowthI had the opportunity to spend time with a number of Friends in New England this past weekend to discuss the importance of Quakers practicing outreach. I am still processing what I heard and what I learned from that very rich and deep time. Here is one thought that arises.

There is a need to relink the life of the Spirit with our thinking around outreach, or as some would say, “the mission of the church.” I realize that this language – outreach or mission – is normal for some Friends and sounds really scary for others. I’m less invested in reclaiming the word “mission,” than I have been in the past, but it gives us a jumping off point. I know that when we hear this word we think of colonialism, gentrification and church growth. So let’s talk about that. And let’s look at where we are guilty of these things, rather than assume that only those Christians over there are the guilty party on this. And let’s talk about alternative ways of understanding what it means to practice outreach, “witness” or in the words of George Fox, “let your life preach.”

Ever since the origins of Christianity, there has been a push and pull between word and deed. This has been exacerbated by the rise of the sacred and secular split in the West with the dawning of the Enlightenment and modernity, but it is nothing new and it still impacts how we frame these conversations. In the Jesus’ teachings, there is no distinction between a faith that is vibrant and a faith that is embodied publicly, or in the world. Jesus’ view is integrated and non-dual. One’s life in God informs one’s life in the world, and one’s life in the world informs how we approach, speak of, and narrate our experiences of the Divine. Faith in a non-dual perspective is a way of life, rather than a series of scheduled events, responsibilities, or labels we apply to ourselves and others. Continue reading Renewal and Outreach

The Lamb That Was Slain and the Politics of Scapegoating (Rev. 5:11-15)

Lamb-slain

This is the message I brought to Deep River Friends Church on April 11, 2016.

A Revelation about Revelation

I wanted to speak to you this morning from the book of Revelation, but as with anytime I talk on this subject, I want to give you a little disclaimer.

A few years back I was spending time in discernment about what next to preach on and I was inspired by something I heard the Quaker author Parker Palmer say once during a retreat I was on with him. He said that

“he never writes books about things he knows, he only writes on things that baffle him.”

What fun is it to write about things that you know well enough that you could do in your sleep? Where is the life in doing something that is so easy that it requires no risk, no chance?

So as I thought about what to preach I thought “What is the thing I’d like to preach least about?”

And before I could even finish asking the question, I already had the answer and wished I’d never asked that darn question: Revelation. Continue reading The Lamb That Was Slain and the Politics of Scapegoating (Rev. 5:11-15)

A Concise Sermon on the Mount by Peggy Morrison

We currently have this up on the white board at Friends Center and we’ve been discussing it in various groups. It has generated a lot of good conversation and it seemed right to share it here with all of you. It is from my good friend, Peggy Morrison.

A Concise Sermon on the Mount

The down will be up – 5:3-12

You are supposed to be effective –5:13

You are supposed to be noticed – 5:14-16

Don’t do it to be noticed – 6:1-8,6:16-18

Perfection= inside and out the same – 5:17-28

Make peace – 5:23-26

Get rid of whatever traps you – 5:29-30

Give without limits – 5:38-42

Tell the truth – all the time – 5:33-37

Love without Limits – 5:43-47

Pray – simply and often – 6:9-13

Forgive – 6:14-15

Trust – it is the anxiety killer – 6:19-34

Don’t judge-

It makes you look stupid and hypocritical – 7:1-6

Ask persistently – 7:7-11

Treat People right – 5:31-32, 7:12

This is simple but not easy – 7:13

You may have to do it alone – 7:14

Don’t be fooled by imposters – 7:15-20

Act on what you know – 7:21-23

It is a foundation that will not fail – 7:24-29

-Jesus (via Peggy Morrison)

 You can download a .PDF of this here: A Concise Sermon On the Mount.

A Listening That is So Alive

Douglas Steere speaks of listening to one another with a depth that might change the speaker, and also the listener. He uses Kierkegaard’s image of vocal ministry in describing this listening which is ‘so alive that judgment is withheld…To listen correctly, we must radically shift the roles. Now it is not the deliverer of the message who is performing before me, but I myself am on the stage speaking the part. Now there is only a single listener in the audience. That listener is God.

— Marge Abbott in An Experiment in Faith: Quaker Women Transcending Difference (Pendle Hill #323).

Fear as a Prison

In The Way of Love, Anthony de Mello writes about the prisons we each live in created by layers of beliefs, ideas, habits and attachments and fears. Each layer is added by culture, traditionalisms, mass media, families, religions, etc. Each is a layer of prejudice that keeps us from being awake, leaves us reactionary and with little sense of self or courage in the face of angry mobs. Sound familiar?

In response de Mello writes:

Realize that you are surrounded by prison walls, that your mind has gone to sleep. It does not even occur to most people to see this, so they live and die as prison inmates. Most people end up being conformists; they adapt to prison life. A few become reformers; they fight for better living conditions in the prison, better lighting, better ventilation. Hardly anyone becomes a rebel, a revolutionary who breaks down the prison walls. You can only be a revolutionary when you see the prison walls in the first place (65).

One of the fears that I have struggled with all my life is the fear of “what people will think?” I am afraid that I will reveal myself as someone who isn’t as smart or creative as people imagine or as I want to project, so I often remain quiet. I am afraid that I won’t be the kind of friend in solidarity with those I aspire to be in solidarity with; that I’ll say the wrong thing, or worse, say hurtful things, and in the process damage relationships. So I don’t always risk the kind of vulnerability needed to create deep friendships. I am afraid that people will think I am a self-promoter, so I have an uncomfotable relationship with being a leader. I am afraid that I’ll reveal my own ignorance and my blindness to my privilege, so I avoid the hard conversations. I am also afraid of what happens once these things are revealed. In the age of the Internet, folks can be merciless. Two seconds of misspeak on the Internet can equal years of dealing with collateral damage.

I am trying to be honest about my fears here because I want defang them. I want to move past them as a friend and as a leader. When I became a pastor, I slowed down in my writing due to workload and because it was hard to know how to be a public writer and a pastor whose work is primarily local and often confidential. Now that I am at a College, and my relationship to work is different, I am again wondering where my voice fits and how do I speak in ways that are authentic and true, while facing these fears that leave me within a prison of self-doubt and questioning?

Continue reading Fear as a Prison

Life is a symphony – Anthony de Mello

I love this whole meditation on life and the sympathy from Anthony de Mello but this line in particular continues to ring in my heart.

…You will no longer say to your friend, “How happy you have made me.” For in so saying you flatter his ego and manipulate him into wanting to please you again. And you give yourself the illusion that your happiness depends on your friend. “Rather you will say, “When you and I met, happiness arose.”

Source: Call to Love – Meditations by Anthony de Mello SJ: Meditation 10 – Life is a symphony

“We” Is the Most Important Word – William Barber

“‘We’ is the most important word in the social justice vocabulary. The issue is not what we can’t do, but what we CAN do when we stand together. With an upsurge in racism/hate crimes, criminalization of young black males, insensitivity to the poor, educational genocide, and the moral/economic cost of a war, we must STAND together now like never before.”

Source: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II