What would be a local list of the beatitudes for your community look like if you were to make one?
Lia Scholl, pastor of First Friends Meeting here in Greensboro, recently preached on Mt 5 and the Beatitudes. The message was great and she pointed out that in her reading the characteristics Jesus names are things most humans experience.
Whether that is being “poor in spirit,” grieving, being meek, being persecuted for trying to challenge the status quo, standing up for justice, etc.
For Lia, everyone can and probably has experienced at least one of these.
Even better, Ebony Watkins told me she was moved by the chapter so much so that she made a powerful artistic rendition of it as a part of the We Cry Justice Cultural Arts Project (above).
I wanted an opportunity to share Ebony’s artwork with you (shared with permission) because I think you’ll find it inspiring too. And if you want to hear about her process and some of the meanings behind what is in the piece you can listen to the Freedom Church Service here where she shared.
Below you will find the remarks I made about Revelation 13 as a precursor to what Ebony shared about her artwork.
Rev. 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servantsa of our God with a seal on their foreheads.”
Rev. 7:4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel: Rev. 7:5 From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.
When Adam Barnes messaged me about the idea for a teaching on dispelling some of the destructive myths of Revelation I struggled with choosing what text.
How do you select a text from a book of the Bible that has been so abused over time?
Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerability more than our triumphs, when we are under the strong illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die (71).
Friends transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on (74).
The ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self: the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.
This is the message I gave at Deep River Friends Meeting December 16, 2022 based on Luke 1: 46-55:
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
In our family, the advent season is extra special. M, our middle daughter, was born on Nov 27, 2009. Just a few days before the start of advent on the liturgical calendar.
L, our oldest daughter, was born on December 19, 2007. She was due on Christmas, but thankfully my wife Emily’s prayers were heard and L was born 6 days before. Now she doesn’t have to competing for spotlight with the Son of God.
As you can see advent is special in our house the birthday boy, Jesus, notwithstanding.
Advent is a time of waiting and joyful anticipation of arrival. It is very much like the Quaker concept of “expectant waiting” that we share together in open worship.
In our waiting, we expect for something to happen.
There is so much build up to the moment of a birth. And, I think, what can be just as important, is the experience and memory of birth and sharing those memories over time.
One of the practices that we do each year with the kids is we have a special birthday dinner where the kids pick what they want to eat. Sometimes we make a meal, sometimes we go out to eat, but in either case, over dinner Emily and I pitch in to tell our celebrant their birth story.
L’s is focused around the anticipation of our first child. Her birth made us parents and a family is a new way.
M’s birth involves being born in water.
C’s involves time, patience, and a sense of calm.
Each birth and birth story is special. Each year the details remain more or less consistent due to Emily’s high functioning memory, no matter how much I try and add exaggerations to the story.
But those stories do adapt and change as they get older and we get to see more of their personalities. What from those early memories do they need to hear and know now?
A convergent Model of Renewal lays out a model for working with congregations and communities alike, interested in maintaining their tradition while also becoming more connected to their context and needs of their community.
The Quaker World is a book with over 50 authors around the world covering sections such as global Quaker history, to spirituality, and embodiment and emphasizes global Quaker diversity and biographies of Quakers.