As I have come to experience God’s abundance this past month, I have also sensed that my faith community, my Quaker meeting, isn’t a natural place for me to explore abundance. (In fact, I almost wrote a piece entitled “Would someone please give my Meeting some Prozac?” before I determined that my musings on that belonged in a different forum.) As I talk to people from other churches, too, I hear that they don’t feel supported as they experience God’s abundance overflow into care for the marginalized, either.
Does it matter whether I and others feel supported in this by our faith communities? Yes and no.
It doesn’t matter in the sense that I am a resourceful person who can find like-minded people for spiritual sustenance and accountability on my journey. Even more importantly, as I wrote in my previous post, God speaks to me without intermediary and abundantly provides all the sustenance and accountability anyone could ever need! Hallelujah!
However, it does matter in the sense in which George Fox, the man who is credited with founding Quakerism around 1650, saved a special kind of rage for the priests of his time because he felt they didn’t teach people the things that were really important about religion. George read all the passages in the Old Testament and New about sheep and shepherds, perhaps especially John 10 in which Jesus weeps over the “hired shepherd”, who when he sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep and runs away, leaving the sheep to be snatched or scattered by the wolf. George really had it in for priests who were only in it for the paycheck….
“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.” Jeremiah 50:6 (NIV)
So what is this thing that is at the core of Christianity that the church should be teaching? Jim Wallis often talks about one of his professors in seminary telling the class to take a pair of scissors and cut out of the Bible every story and passage that has to do with God requiring people to show special concern for the marginalized. The class did as they were told, and discovered there was almost nothing left when they were finished!
In my mind, a faith community that does not evoke the sense of God’s abundance is not doing its job. A church/Meeting that doesn’t put care for the marginalized at the center is “letting its sheep stray”. Like George Fox, I can tap into a whole lot of anger on this topic, and maybe that’s why I am called to ministry as a chaplain and spiritual director.
What does this stir up in you, gentle reader?
Query for prayerful consideration:
Does my faith community put at its center the things that I believe are at the heart of my faith? Does it matter whether or not it does?