A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Location: Arkansas

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Expensive perfume

Here's my comment on yesterday's passage at Friendly Skripture Study, Mark 14.3-11, in which a woman pours some very expensive perfume or oil on Jesus's head and is criticized by his followers for wasting expensive oil that could be sold for money that could be given to the poor. Jesus comes to her defense, upbraiding his followers for their critcism.

I get a sense of Jesus perhaps warning his followers not to get too hung up on only one aspect of his teaching. That its important to help the poor does not mean there can never be some "extravagance" for example. One might take this as a lesson not to go too far overboard on one aspect of spiritual life to the neglect of others. We often seek a sense of security in spiritual things, "Eureka! I've got it!" A good spiritual teacher might often find him or herself saying to such aspirants, "Eureka, you don't!" In that sense, Margaret Fell's declaration that a proscription against wearing red was "a silly, poor gospel" could be related. Another possibility is the suggestion that, far from being an extravagance, he was about to die and "deserved" some TLC beforehand, or at least, that this was an appropriate act given the circumstances. Or perhaps Jesus simply saw in the woman a generous, unselfish and compassionate spirit, which, in greater supply would redound to everyone's benefit, the poor included.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Back in the Bloggle

Its been awhile since I've posted here. Even shut it down for awhile. I was a bit chagrined when I read another Friend's blog in which she announced she was shutting it down, because someone thanked her for having the courtesy to explain what was going on. I really didn't intend to go away for so long. But I wondered about the "accountability" of just shutting it down with no explanation. I'm not conceited enough to think this was of concern to anyone at all, although a few Friends in my meeting mentioned it.

My thinking about this blog and its purpose has undergone some significant change. Initially the idea was to share, well, whatever I felt led, in a serious Quaker sense of "leading," to share. It turned out though that this became a place to explore some of my "issues" with Christianity, and to struggle with what it meant to be a "Friend" -- looking at some of my aversion and fear of the Christian label, while at the same time feeling drawn to the roots of Quakerism in the Bible, or at least the light that they found evidenced there. I half-expected myself to reach some sort of watershed some day in which I would here proclaim that I had "found Jesus" and was now "a Christian."

The truth is a little different and perhaps much stranger. But suffice to say for now that that struggle subsided. I do feel "engaged with" the Judaeo-Christian tradition. I'm currently reading "The Great Omission" by Dallas Willard, a book about the need in evangelical Christianity for discipleship to Christ, which he asserts comes through "the disciplines" such as silence, solitude, fasting, journaling, and others. The goal, he says, is to become ever more like Christ. While these disciplines do not "earn" us anything, they open us to God's grace. "Grace is not opposed to effort, only earning," he says. This speaks to me because, while I still really don't grok what the Nicene creed, for example, says about Jesus, he is a figure I can't really ignore. I have no personal conviction that he is actually "present" in the sense that, say, Rich in Brooklyn, is present (hey Rich!) (never met him personally but reading his blog makes his present existence fairly convincing). But, if Christianity can have any meaning for me, than it has to be more centered on what Jesus was "about" than upon Jesus himself. While Willard probably wouldn't go that far, he does emphasize that doing what Jesus taught and learning to be more like him is an essential piece of what a Christian must do. So while my dubiousness about worshiping Jesus as a Lord would probably exclude me from membership in most Christian circles, the "praxis" of opening myself to the possiblity of living his teachings might place me somewhere in the Christian stratosphere.

'What can I do?' - SiCKO