Monday, October 26, 2009

Friendly Bible Study in Woodland, NC

I spent the weekend in Woodland, NC for the tenth month Representative Body meeting of North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative. On first day morning, we had a Friendly bible study before meeting for worship. Rich Square Friends have a simple form of bible study in which someone reads some verses aloud and then they wait for reflections to arise. This is different from the Friends' tradition of bible reading in which Friends sit together and read the bible, sharing with the group as they feel led, but not inviting reflection on the text.

Rich Square Friends use the Revised Common Lectionary as the source of the week's verses. I have often thought that it would be good for Friends to at least be familiar with the lectionary readings so that they had some sense of what other folks may have read that weekend in their church. This may give opportunities for discussion and open new avenues for ministry. I see it as a way of preparing the ground.

At times I felt almost giddy during the bible study because it felt so special to have this communal sharing of bible study, and at many different levels. Some Friends were very familiar with the bible, others were not. Some had insights into the particular historical and cultural context of the readings, while others offered real life experiences that reflected on the text. It was beautiful that Friends felt open to discuss their difficulties with various verses, and there was an indescribable way in which these difficulties felt like they belonged to all of us. It felt like the unity of the body of Christ that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12:24-26:

But God has combined the various parts of the body, giving special honour to the humbler parts, so that there might be no division in the body, but that all its parts might feel the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all suffer together; if one flourishes, all rejoice together.

Every time I have done this form of bible study with Rich Square Friends it has been a deep, and wonderful experience.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Nobel Peace Prize

I saw some e-mails recently on a mailing list that were proclaiming great joy over Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The general tone of the messages felt to me like anyone who didn't agree with the choice didn't understand, or didn't pay attention, or didn't read the committee's statement. In fact, even after I posted a message expressing my trouble with this attitude, another Friend posted a message suggesting that anyone who questions the prize isn't paying attention.

It is not my intention to argue one way or another, but to suggest that when we are unwilling to accept that people may actual have a rational basis to disagree with us, we are sowing seeds of war. Paul wrote that "We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." I think we should take this as a reminder that we are not fighting other people - that we should be careful not to personalize things, nor should we lump people into groups such that they lose their identity. When faced with a disagreement, we should sink down to the Seed and seek guidance from God. Perhaps some things are not worth arguing over, or perhaps there are lessons we need to learn. Perhaps we are even wrong.

I have also seen some Friends mention the AFSC / FSC Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, as if it makes us experts in the awarding of the prize. As I settled into worship yesterday, I felt led to read from First John, and I encountered this verse:

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are of this world.

I took this as a reminder that we shouldn't be looking to other people for validation of what we do, but we should be attentive to God for validation. Sooner or later, the life of the Kingdom of Heaven threatens worldly comfort zones, and people (including us) may become defensive. Instead of being concerned with worldly prizes, we should be saying something similar to Paul when he said "I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."