I was reading Friend Mark's blog - Community, build it or break it.  It's dangerous reading Quaker blogs after meeting for worship when you have let down your guard and opened yourself up to God's will.  He raises a point I have heard in my own meeting and that is that our meeting houses are in affluent areas.  This is raised as an answer to the question of why don't we minister to the poor as much as the early Quakers did.  So as a suicidal act that will make me personna non grata at my meeting and among Quaker meetings in general I pose the question - should we sell our meeting houses that are located in affluent areas and follow Jesus?  Check a concordance for "come follow me".  Do it with bible software or a real paper bible.  Read "Deny yourself", "Sell what you have", "give to the poor", etc.

When I was enjoying my early walk with Jesus I was repeatedly told that I had responsibilities.  I had a family.  I couldn't sell everything I had and follow Him.  But can't we sell a building?  Can't we buy a building in a poor part of town and be a light and a source of help and programs to the poor?  Our buildings don't have stained glass windows (at least not that I know of), they don't have ornate decorations and works of art.  They are not supposed to be shrines.  But are they?  Are they touchable or sacred cows?  Do we who look down on the edifices of vanity of our religious brethren live in glass (meeting) houses?  Is all the discussion about conservative vs. liberal; homosexual vs. heterosexual, a distraction from the real call to love our neighbor by selling what we have and following Jesus wheresoever He leads us.  Love hurts.  Are we hurting enough?  Do we care enough?  Are we asking God to help our unbelief in His message to Come follow me?

I fear I hear a voice.  It's saying unless a seed fall to the ground and die it cannot bear fruit.  Are we ready to die that we may live or are we going to wait until we are cut down like an old tree full of leaves but no fruit?

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 29, 2012 at 5:45pm

This was a no-brainer for me in 1991 when I'd rediscovered Friends and was beginning regular attendance. I used to read the old histories, and I'd say, "Yeah! That's what it should be like."

And when I raised this as a Concern, everyone was polite-- but "We're too old and tired for that," and "I wouldn't be caught dead having my Memorial in that neighborhood."

So, I'd thought I was joining a Church; only the members thought they belonged to a Social Club.

And now we've finished this fine new building; and next week we're scheduled to have a Revisioning meeting to see if we're dead yet!

Meanwhile, my wife may be joining the local Episcopalians; today we went to the adult Sunday school & met a really nice bunch of people, unafraid to say the G word in public-- and they're in a storefront in an interesting area... Allergic as I am to ceremonial stuff, this may well be the kind of call you're describing. (There's a tutoring program I need to find out more about...)

But I also think Alice Y has it right, that the specifics of our calls will be different for everyone.

What Jesus was talking about may look like "death". But it's supposed to be life. The other day I found a good Sufi piece I think is close to what he meant:

-------------------

"It's not necessary, or even desirable, to eradicate "I"--  but rather every word and every act of the reborn "I" should be inspired and informed by the clarity, understanding, loving-kindness and beauty of the heart.

"A student of Sri Ramakrishna said:  Sir, if one gave up the I, nothing whatsoever would remain.

"Ramakrishna replied:  I am not asking you to give up all of the I. You should give up only the unripe I. The unripe I makes one feel: I am the doer, these are my wife and children, I am a teacher.

"Renounce this unripe I and keep the ripe I which makes you feel that you are God's servant, His devotee, and that God is the doer and you are His instrument."

Comment by Bruce R. Arnold on 4th mo. 29, 2012 at 6:11pm

Why wait until anyone else feels ready to sell the meeting house? Here's a different suggestion:

Start to get to know the poor where you are. Don't have a project or a mission. Just get to know them. Let them know you. Introduce them to others you know, and be introduced by them. Organically, out of the talk that comes up, maybe a week from now, maybe a year, a need starts to define itself. It keeps coming up, in different ways, with different details. As the issue emerges, solutions rise and fall. Most are unworkable. Some aren't. You start to put the workable pieces together. Using your own more privileged status in society, you help to access resources that would not be available to your friends. Maybe, if you have more time, you do more of the work. But it's not a project or a program or a mission. It's people solving problems together.

And if Friends see this happening, some will be part of it.

Trying to convince others what they should do is a losing game. Go ahead and do what it is that you can see to do, what you can do even if no one else sees it.

Comment by Olivia on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 10:51am

Thank you, James!   This is a beautiful post.   Bruce, thank you too for this idea. 

Bruce's post makes me think of Margaret Fell who after days or weeks living in the squalid underground jail cell with the children, in wretchedness, suddenly realized she needed to start sweeping up the cell, soaping up the children and teaching them!

This is not to say that we shouldn't be willing to immediately give up everything and live with those poorer than ourselves.  I expect that we must be willing to do that to accurately discern whether we are being led to another solution less drastic and more about helping the poor have things better.  Only when we are fully open to the really mortifying option will we know if that doesn't pan out that it was God's will.

Comment by Olivia on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 11:04am

As for being fully open to the mortifying option, I see now that James has actually already addressed this on another discussion:

I have found that when I am in doubt about what God would have me do, I try to do that which is loving and against my natural instinct.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 1:38pm

Loving is against James' natural instinct?

I seriously doubt that! Maybe he means something more like, "I try to do 'that which is loving and looks like it might be a whole lot more trouble than I'd been looking forward to.'?"

"Following" is key.

Not 'the idea of "following" ':  "I couldn't figure out what You wanted so I sold all I had and gave it to someone who needed a fix bad, and now You're saying what? 'Get away from Me; I never knew you!'?"

It isn't that we shouldn't find ways to give what we have for God's purposes; but we really can ask God and come to know what we're called to give: now, and how!

God leads each person, in particular, via particular thoughts which that particular person really does think at the time. Leads that person towards a more enlightened, loving, creative thought than he'd started from (if he follows)-- But whose thinker was the person expecting to think it with, anyway?

Something about "Give it all away to someone who needs it!" does appeal to a "natural" instinct in us, to the fact that we want to do right and to the fact that we've become real sick of hanging on to each penny of our personal poverty! But it isn't our noble idea of this we want to perform; we want to be called into the Kingdom and given our true work there... Even if that's just: "Sit down, relax! We've got to Talk! You've just arrived, and all you want is to do the dishes? What about what I want?"

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