Transformation and transition – growing as a resurrection community

Why do I go to Quaker Meeting? I go to be transformed by God. Whether this language chimes with other Quakers or not, I hope no one expects to leave Meeting for Worship the same as when they arrive.

My desire is that everyday I will become a better follower of Jesus. This requires not only my own effort but also God’s grace. I meet with others to learn what committed discipleship looks like and witness how God’s grace is manifest in the lives of my fellow pilgrims. In a Quaker intentional community, I hope we would support each other on this step-by-step journey.

My friend Hannah pointed me to an article about Mark Boyle, a man prophetically living a life without money. Not only his words, but his very way of living presents us with a challenge. At the moment, I cannot imagine the giant leap that would be required for me to live in such a manner. I can, however, think of one small step I could take tomorrow to make my life less dependent on a capitalist economy, less damaging to the environment or more energy efficient. This idea of step-by-step transformation is encapsulated in the Transition Towns movement, communities gradually preparing themselves for a future without oil.

This weekend, the worldwide Christian family commemorates and celebrates the crucifixion and resurrection of their Good Shepherd, Jesus. The implications of this event aren’t felt in heaven alone. Aligning yourself with the crucified Christ has realm practical, social, political and economic implications for how you live your life. You’d think from some bishops’ words in the press this weekend that Jesus died for our right to accessorise. Thanks to Gerry for sending me these wise words of Clarence Jordan as an antidote: “The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church.”

Easter is about transformation and transition. What small steps can we take tomorrow, both individually and as a community, to more deeply, widely and joyfully sow the seeds of God’s Kingdom?

I’ve been staying with my parents for the last few days. As often happens, my Dad and I will get into a loud debate about politics, and I found myself getting all preachy about how one of the best ways to tackle climate change as an individual is to become vegan. I’ve been vegetarian for around four years, always knowing that if I were to follow my reasons to their logical conclusion I should be vegan. Is now the time for me to become less of a hypocrite and embrace veganism? Can I envisage my life without yoghurt? Should I commit to it for a week or a day at first? The place to begin is to imagine how the next step will be different.

One more step along the world I go, one more step along the world I go; from the old things to the new keep me travelling along with you… Hymn by Sydney Carter, Quaker.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 7, 2012 at 10:58am

Yes. No.

Anyone's ideas about what makes a person "a better follower of Christ" are likely to 1) run afoul of what's called "counterwill', and 2) be quite significantly mistaken.

"Significantly mistaken?-- Do you mean I shouldn't help old ladies cross the street? Isn't that part of what Christ wants?"

Christ wants you free to help old ladies cross the street. So that if an old lady wants help, you'll help. And if she doesn't, you won't be grabbing her arm. So that you won't be anguishing for hours about some old lady you didn't help.

Christ wants you alive. When you're alive, helping people feels right.

---

Short poem by Wendy Cope (from Serious Concerns (c)1992):

This poem was commissioned by the editor of The Orange Dove of Fiji, an anthology for the benefit of the World Wide Fund for Nature. It was rejected as unsuitable.

If I went vegetarian

And didn't eat lambs for dinner

I think I'd be a better person

And also thinner.

But the lamb is not endangered

And at least I can truthfully say

I have never, ever eaten a barn owl

So perhaps I am okay.

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

Perhaps you are okay. Perhaps your Dad is okay. Perhaps your argument will be okay.

What is it about "God loves you" that people find so very hard to accept?

Comment by Mark Russ on 4th mo. 7, 2012 at 5:36pm

Sorry Forrest, I'm confused by your comment. Could you clarify it for me?

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 7, 2012 at 7:06pm

It takes at least a pair o docs to keep one person half-way sane?

Taking the Christian approach, you end up needing to juggle two considerations: that Jesus loves, and wants you to love, people who are no better than you. And so far as you're trying to improve yourself by trying to accomplish this, you're missing the fact that this person you are, whom you think 'needs to be transformed' is precisely the sort of person you're expecting yourself to love-- without transforming them.

Loving somebody without feeling that you need to transform them-- can be very transformative. But in your relationship to yourself, you are considering yourself unsatisfactory-- and it's quite natural to resist anyone taking that attitude to you!

Maybe God wants you to "grow up," not in the pejorative "change yourself from who you are" sense, but in the sense of "develop naturally." Who you are is all right; who you're going to be will be different, and that too will be all right. You don't need to get a grip on yourself if you're already in Good Hands.

Everyone struggles with this, and it's easier if one just comes along quietly...

Comment by Mark Russ on 4th mo. 13, 2012 at 11:52am

Thanks Forrest, I understand you now. Thanks for your truthful words. I was writing about transformation not from a place of self-loathing, but rather from a place of becoming more and more on the outside what God is revealing on the inside.

So many of our actions end up coming from guilt rather than self-love (the good kind). I once had an image given to me during meeting for worship of the interior of a house. It appeared dark and dank and horribly unwholesome. Then a fire was kindled and the true interior was revealed to be comfy, cosy and altogether lovely. I had a strong sense that the fire was self-love and I needed to devote more time to feeding it.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 13, 2012 at 2:56pm

Been there! Occasionally find myself visiting that state... Not that I'm a heap of self-loathing, either, but I'll suddenly catch myself at it--  realize that I've been trying to change myself again; while I wasn't the one to make that really happen.

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