At Camas Friends Church, we’re reading through the journal of John Woolman, a Quaker minister and abolitionist from the 18th century. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the values we often unknowingly impress upon our children. Many of the activities we engage our children in have some kind of underlying “theology” or value-system they propose. By entering into these things, we enter into those narratives and are often shaped by them. We are not always aware of these invisible “forces,” that’s the nature of culture, nor would we necessarily be happy or ready to give them up if we realized this. Yet, many of these values and narratives we enter into are counter the narrative of the Gospels. Woolman found this to be true in his own time with the keeping of slaves. Many people engaged in these activities and practices without ever questioning the underlying stories were shaped by. Today I read through chapter four of his journal and was pleased to come across this letter he wrote to Quaker meetings in North Carolina, and his concern for the “dangerous snares” we often set for our children in this manner.
Finish this statement: Intercession is…
Growing up in the church I was most used to hearing about intercession in the form of prayer, intercessory prayer was kind of like an intervention for a family member but done by means of prayer. And this is clearly one way that we intercede for people.
Here are some other questions we might use to examine intercession in relation to our text:
- What is intercession in light of this text? And how do Moses & YHWH address it?
- Do you think there are ways in which intercession is helpful/hurtful?
- How might we identify ourselves with Moses in this kind of role?
- Who are the intercessors today?
- How can the church learn to intercede?
You can drive around most neighborhoods here in the suburbs and find at least some vacant buildings. Some of them are small, and if not historic, they at least have a history. While others are just enormous squares, nondescript, no personality or history at all. “throwaway” buildings might be a way to think about it. On our drive to take our oldest daughter to school, we drive past an old Car Dealership that is either defunct or has moved to a more “developed” part of town. In Either case these three or four separate parking lots, and multiple-unit buildings have sat empty as long as we’ve lived here and show no signs of being bought. The weeds and grass have begun their revolt, and I hope they succeed. Surrounding these vacant lots are open fields. Every time I drive by I am sad that these lots are taking up with could otherwise be open fields with trees and animals living there.
But this happens all the time. Some new franchise opens in an already over-saturated market, tries to out advertise, out sell, and out yell, with new products or looks, but underneath, we all know it’s the same story being sold just repacked with a different logo. And soon enough, everything closes down and those once wild fields of life and now empty fields of tar.
This is the message I gave at Camas Friends Church this past Sunday.
Weve been doing a series on the book of exodus with an eye, or an ear, or both, to Gods concern about liberation and concern for the poor. A couple of weeks back I shared about the 10 commandments as the founding documents for Israel in becoming an alternative society to Pharaohs empire. The commandments of love as we called them seemed most interested in shaping the community in the direction of love rather than in the direction of oppression.
And you remember that the children of Israel could not handle hearing YHWHs voice directly so they asked Moses to intervene. Moses you take notes and then let us know what you and God decide. Wed rather stay down here. As a pastor, Im surprised by how long we as humans have been deferring the responsibility of our own formation to others. When we talk about the church being called to be a participatory community, this isnt what we mean. This passivity of the people lands them down at the bottom of Mt. Sinai while Moses enjoys a mountain all to himself with YHWH.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at George Fox’s Chapel on my talk which was titled Tradition, Quakers and the Resurrection Community. I’ll post it here within the next day or so. In the talk I tell a little of my own story, discuss the idea of remix, and suggest that George Fox was a “DJ” in his own right, and that Quakers today might engage in a little resurrection remix of their own.
This is a snapshot of what I’ll be speaking about next Monday at George Fox University’s chapel.
You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it (Acts 13).
I did not grow up a Quaker. I grew up in a church that was non-denominational, but that translated into more of a feeling of anti-any tradition at all. Everything changed for me when I attended, unknown to me, a Friends college in the Midwest. In a critical moment for me I went from losing my way to finding myself a part of a much bigger story. The Quaker story is an alternative Christian story. When Quakers first hit the streets of England in the 17th century it was with a prophetic fire that has since turned the world upside down. The Quaker story is one that finds its roots in a different way of living and being in the world than I was used to and it was (and still is) compelling to me.
An early church father, we know as St. Iraneaus, wrote in the 2nd century that “The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive.” And recently I heard someone (mis)quote this in a really useful way, saying that God finds pleasure in human beings who are fully alive. How many of us long for that kind of freedom, grace and humility? I love the thought of actually bringing God pleasure with our lives. Will you enter into this time of transition with a renewed sense of investment and deep hunger for the abundant life? Will you join with me as we work out what it means to be a community of people fully alive, as colorful as the leaves on the trees, falling upward to Gods pleasure and grace that surrounds us?
Damage by Wendell Berry
I have a steep wooded hillside that I wanted to be able to pasture occasionally, but it had no water supply.
About halfway to the top of the slop there is a narrow bench, on which I thought I could make a small pond. I hired a man with a bulldozer to dig one. He cleared away trees and then formed the pond, cutting into the hill on the upper side, piling the loosened dirt into a curving earthwork on the lower.
The pond appeared to be a success. Before the bulldozer quit work, water had already begun to seep in. Soon there was enough to support a few head of stock. To heal the exposed ground, i fertilized it and sowed it with grass and clover.
We had an extremely wet fall and winter, with the usual freezing and thawing. The ground grew heavy with water, and soft. The earthwork slumped; a large slice of the woods floor on the upper side slipped down into the pond.
The trouble was a familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge. The fault was mine.
[First I asked some questions about people’s interactions with the ten commandments and we had a good time of sharing out of that. Then I shared a number of ten commandment-styled lists, such as the ten commandments of facebook.]
The Ten Commandments and Today
Given these lists it seems like the 10 commandments are both a popular thing, but that maybe we have come to a place where they are mostly gone from our collective memory, or they just dont seem important to us anymore.
If theres anything that can be said about Exodus 20 this morning it is that the giving of the divine law by YHWH directly to the people, notice that these 10 are the only portion of the law that YHWH delivers directly to the people, would have been something very grave, something rather traumatic. After all, as soon as God is done with the ten what do they ask Moses to do? They ask him to mediate for them because they are afraid they are going to die. Its like, on second thought maybe we dont really want to know what God has to say in such a upclose and personal way! These traumatically imposed Divine Commandments as one philosopher puts it, bore a great weight for the newly liberate people, but thousands of years later they seem to have very little weight or meaning for us.
Why is that?
About a month ago we began a Wednesday evening meeting at Camas Friends (the Quaker meeting I pastor). The goal of these meetings are to build our friendships with each other (so we eat together before the class begins), as well as add to our being a learning community. The first book we decided to work through is a book on discernment and is called, Practicing Discernment Together by Lon Fendell, Jan Wood and Bruce Bishop. The book was written by three Quakers here in the Northwest and is a really useful guide and introduction to learning about the practice of discernment. While the book draws heavily on the experience and wisdom of the Quaker tradition, it is not an overly Quaker book in the sense that it is not bogged down with jargon or insider-speak. It would be beneficial for anyone interested in learning more about this topic. And it does seem that there is a growing interest in the Quaker practice of discernment. I have had a lot of people interested in knowing more about the way Quakers make decisions together without voting.