This is an astonishing point of view, especially when one considers that Paul’s lists ranked miracle-working and healing alongside prophecy as among the “best gifts”. Ordinary people living according to Christ’s commandments, walking in Christ’s footsteps, taking up his Cross, and thereby receiving the power to work miracles, heal the sick and prophesy! Wow.
This whole idea of kharismata drives home the fact that, for Peter and Paul, Christianity was not just about “accepting Christ as your personal savior”. Far less was it only about the liberal social gospel of political and economic justice for the poor, or the Christian Right’s agenda of stopping abortion, homosexuals and socialists, or the Quaker worshiper’s hope of having a nice deep meeting for worship.
Christianity was also, and above all that, about walking the path, and thereby opening a door through which Christ himself could re-manifest in the world.
When we think of evangelical outreach, we normally think of a message that needs to be spoken. But what Confucius was saying … raises the interesting question of whether actions might not be a better way to express the Good News than words.
If even one person manifests the body of Christ … that will be a bit of the Good News made flesh: people will be drawn to it, and will want to be in community with that person and with Christ. As with Paul and Silas’s jailer, their conversions will not be far off.
There were good reasons for dividing this set of duties … as Friends eventually divided them, between two groups, the elders and the overseers…. But Dewsbury’s letter helps us see that a single type of person is needed for both sorts of duties: someone who
is himself (or herself) very familiar with such issues and their real-life solutions,
has shown sufficient steadiness and integrity to be worthy of Friends’ trust in handling them,
has developed the detachment and perspective needed to hear of them as they arise without becoming unduly disturbed, and
has gained the strength needed to deal with such issues without becoming faint of heart
— or as Dewsbury puts it, someone who is “grown in the power and life, and in the pure discernment in the Truth.”
And this insight, as to what qualifies Friends for eldership, is important for us here because it demystifies the matter.
We can see that in Dewsbury’s (and George Fox’s) estimation, an elder is not someone who has charismatic gifts beyond the measure of ordinary mortals; he or she is simply someone who has the necessary experience, seasoning and discipline to do the job right and without transgressing.
Dusk would fall, and the tattered clouds would scud and tumble over the emptying branches of the trees. Crows would call to one another. Leaves would tumble past my feet.
Would Jesus vote at all? And if he would not, why should we do so as his followers?
I’ve always felt that there is a real and good purpose to the way the universe is designed, and the way we are called to live within it, and it makes sense to me that God would not want us forgetting that purpose and just talking — or doing — aimlessly.
Jên is the spirit that causes a person to be welcomed into a community and kept in its embrace. It’s the bonding celebrated by Garrison Keillor and Philip Gulley.