Trees of Righteousness

Today was the last day of College Park Quarterly Meeting's spring session at Ben Lomond Quaker Center, under the redwoods.

Robin M. has already blogged about the session from on site at Quaker Center. I'm back on the land line at home.

The official theme for the weekend was diversity and differences among Friends. I missed most of the special sessions on the topic, though. Instead, I spent a lot of time hanging out at the children's program, both to be present to my sons, especially Six Year Old, after a week of many evening or morning meetings for work; and to give moral support and a listening ear to the single member of the Children's Program Committee who actually attended the sessions.

There was a fair amount of discussion throughout the weekend. One exercise, which I missed, involved people placing adhesive dots on several ribbons that each illustrated a spectrum between poles of several axes of diversity: gender identity, sexual orientation, seasoned Friend or new, young/old, etc. Interestingly, class was one of the axes, but "white/person of color" was not.

For me, the spectrum from "Bible-centered/Christ-centered" to "nontheist," with the label "universalist" on the middle, was simply inadequate. There are nontheists who are strictly a-theistic, and there are some who acknowledge a mystery greater than ourselves which they cannot with integrity give a name to. There are Christian universalists. I clearly am a Quaker who reads the Bible, yet personally, being "in the middle" didn't seem to fit, because I identify somewhat with all these pieces. Perhaps fortunately, I missed doing the exercise in real time, so it was only intellectual for me at that point.

I had promised to participate in a Saturday interest group on "Scripture as a guide to Friends." For me, this was the real theme of the weekend. Fortunately, I didn't have to prepare anything, and the primary person who was asked to help with this interest group actually had done a great worksheet that I'll write about later.

I also attended half of Bible study both Saturday and Sunday, so that added to the scriptural focus for me.

Today, the plenary session ended with worship sharing on some queries about diversity. It was quite powerful. After a short break, we entered intergenerational meeting for worship with the children among us for about 35 minutes. Ministry rose up that had started working in me during the worship sharing. There was a piece I meant to include at the end, which I left out and which seems right to include at the end of this brief summary here:
According to the book of Luke, Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee with the scroll of Isaiah, at the start of what we label chapter 61: "The LORD has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news, to heal the brokenhearted, and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives. This is the year when the LORD God will show kindness to us."

The passage goes on to say, "The LORD has sent me to comfort those who mourn... He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts. They will be called "Trees of Justice," planted by the LORD to honor his name."

I believe Jesus was referring to this passage when, in Mark, he said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted... Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right, for they will be filled."

We are called to different pieces of this work of justice, whether to end the death penalty, end the war in Iraq, teach young people, teach adults, or bring ethical principles into business.
What I didn't say, but which caused me to choke up when reading the phrase "Trees of Righteousness," is how much I have gained by getting to know the sturdy Quaker trees of my monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings. Praise be to God that I have been given these blessings, these blessed Friends!


Liz Opp said...

Thanks for the report, Chris. I sense a great deal of ministry and service that you are providing, both to children and to individual adult Friends. I hope you are feeling well used and appreciated.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Heather said...

I would like to agree with Liz's comment. Thank you for such an interesting report!

I have included you on the blogroll on my site www.heather-still-life.blogspot.com. I hope this is OK.


forrest said...

"Scripture as a guide for Friends." I think I would have been interested, if this had been anywhere nearby.

We've still got many Friends more than eager to chuck the Bible in the nearest potty, as well as Friends who so distrust the Spirit that they cling to the Bible as a sort of poor substitute.

If that Bible has "a message," I think it's: "There have been people who have known and learned from God." You find many people who want to stop at that, rather than go on to "And why not us?!" I joined the Quaker thing because I saw it as following the implications of that step all the way out, not basing Authority on some writing or on some interpretor but on the Source HeSheself. (But of course we find people with that insight in a great many traditions, these days.)

Scripture can help keep us honest, keep reminding us of those Poor whom Jacques Ellul called "God's question to us"--can remind us that that implicit question is too vital to just be dissipated with Clean&Safe patrols. But of course, scripture won't have much authority for anyone who's lost the underlying axiom, that there is a God with things to say to us!

Rodger Kamenetz's latest book, _The History of Last Night's Dream_, points out how the first three dreams in Genesis are straightforward messages from God. All the dreams past there get interpreted; some Authority puts his oar in and tries to say what the dream means for it--symptomatic of a distrust of our deep psyche that has been with us ever since.

Our dreams tend not to even make sense to us--not because some Evil Entity is trying to distort what they're saying, but because the first message we need to understand is what they're saying about who we are--which is hard for us to digest precisely because of our being that way! As if a note in plain sight said, "You need to be quiet and read this," while we kept talking instead of reading it...

Chris M. said...

Liz: Thanks, and yes I am.

Heather: Thank you, and yes, that would be fine.

Forrest: Yes, I think you would have liked the discussion(s). Keep us honest, yes, and also provide us with models, tropes, metaphors, and figures to understand what's around us.

("Figures" is how Fox frequently described biblical stories and precedents, which Friends were to live out in their own lives. This is according to Doug Gwyn in _Apocalypse of the Word_, which I recently read. (Y'know, escape from Pharaoh, encounter God like Abraham, live out the crucifixion, go up past the flaming sword etc.)

Patrick Ruth said...

I too feel touched by those Quaker "trees"and appreciate them,their inspiration, and this post. Made me reflect on the " cloud of witnesses" that came before ,exists now, and goes forward. I see alot I would have enjoyed at this Quarterly, but couldn't make it (sigh), so thanks for the views and observations. Patrick Ruth