Monday, November 19, 2012

Quaker Revival in West Philadelphia

...Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:1b-2

The Body of Christ stands today at a crossroads. Western society is in the midst of a worldview shift like nothing since the Renaissance. Like both the early Church and the first generation of Quakers, we live in a world that is being turned upside down.

For fifteen centuries, western society took Christian truth claims for granted, at least on a superficial level. Today, however, we can no longer lean on the wider culture to back up our fundamental assumptions. This represents a deep challenge. After more than a thousand years of privileged status, we have mostly forgotten how to live as a people on the margins. We have gotten by as loyal citizens of Empire for so long that our life together has taken on Roman hues.

Though Friends aspire to be an egalitarian community, our structures are geared toward centralized management. While we acknowledge that the gospel is about loving relationship, we still tend to retreat into tidy propositional statements. Whether our favorite line is that "there is that of God in everyone," or that "Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world," these statements of belief, by themselves, cannot save us. We mistake the form for the substance.

Our world hungers to see a community that lives in the life and power of Jesus. Our great need today is not more information about God, but rather to witness the Word made flesh. All our proud traditions, fantastic ideas and noble acts of service are empty if we are not filled with the dynamic energy of the Holy Spirit. If we are to live into the great adventure that we sense God calling us into, our very lives must become the sacramental presence of Jesus.

This call to transformation is the centerpiece of any genuine movement of the Spirit. The call to turn toward God and away from darkness, lies at the heart of the message and ministry of the first Quakers, the early Church, and Jesus himself. If we are to live together in the life and power of Jesus Christ, our basic motion must be one of turning towards God, and away from the seduction of Empire.

In many branches of the Christian Church, there is a developed tradition of holding periodic revival meetings. A revival meeting is a special gathering for worship, which is focused on turning away from darkness and embracing the light. We are invited to cast aside the ways in which we separate ourselves from God, and to allow Jesus to embrace our hearts. Revival meetings operate on the principle that miraculous things can happen we hand ourselves over to the Lord and allow him to transform us in body, mind, heart and spirit.

Sensing the deep need that we in the North American Quaker community have for this kind of deep change, transformation and total surrender to Christ, several other Friends ministers and I have felt God leading us to hold a public revival meeting in West Philadelphia next month. We are inviting Friends - and anyone who is seeking a deeper relationship with God - to gather together to wait upon the living presence of Jesus, opening ourselves to what it would mean to truly surrender ourselves to his radical leadership.

Are we ready to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, being transformed by the renewing of our minds? What would it feel like to see the world through eyes unstained by hatred, fear, greed or pride? Are we ready to hold our structures, institutions, traditions and ideologies in the refining light of Christ's presence? What would it mean to take the first step in turning away from the systems of death that enslave us and accepting the gift of abundant life that Jesus offers us?

Thursday, December 6th, you are invited to join us at 4718 Windsor Ave Philadelphia, PA 19143 for an evening of prayerful waiting on the Spirit of God. Together, we will offer up our lives for transformation and re-orientation in the service of love and truth.


Details for the Revival in West Philly:

Thursday, December 6th
Potluck at 6:00pm & Worship at 7:00pm
With visiting ministers from DC, Baltimore and Detroit
Check out the event on Facebook!


Jenny58 said...

Hello Micah, In your blog you refer to sensing the deep need in the North American Quaker community. I wonder if you could speak a little more about how you have seen that need amongst Canadian and Mexican Friends. I also wonder if you could clarify about the organizational structures that you are concerned about - with a few countries, many YMs, FGC, FUM,FWCC etc there are many very varied "structures" - please could you explain that further.
Thank you, Jane Stokes

Micah Bales said...

Hi Jane!

I realized after publishing this post that the whole third paragraph could probably be ditched without any significant loss in meaning - and perhaps with added clarity!

I don't have a lot of experience among Canadian Friends, although I have lived among Friends in Mexico and have an outsider's perspective on the life of the Spirit there. I'm also a current or former member of FGC, FUM, EFCI and Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative), so I've got some background in a wide range of Friends experience, faith and practice.

The thing that we who are helping to put on this revival are most concerned about is the life of the Spirit and the relationship that we all have - or might have - with Jesus Christ. If we have concerns about our structures, beliefs and identities as Friends, it is that we are so easily tempted to cling to these things rather than to the source of all life and truth, Jesus.

As we prepare for this revival meeting, we are seeking to be faithful to a calling we sense to turn away from all the things that distract us, addict us, distancing us from the living presence of God. We long to see Friends embrace that abundant life that Christ offers us, dedicating our lives whole-heartedly to him.

We would be very grateful for your prayers as we continue to prepare a space for transformation, to become a community that is clothed in righteousness, justice and mercy.

In the Spirit of love and truth,


James Breiling said...

Best wishes.

There is certainly a need to re-establish a base for Quaker testimonies. Many if not most of those who attend the five Quaker meetings in the DC Metro area with which I am acquainted have largely put aside the original base in the Bible (in a way, continuing revelation continues, but its spiritual base is unclear).

I yearn for a theology and spiritual community that

(1) puts aside the myths in the pre-scientific Bible about the creation of the universe and of living life on earth (including homo sapiens) for the face-based scientific findings of astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology about these things, and

(2) puts aside most of the Bible to focus on what has come down to us about the teachings/instructions and example of Jesus and how we can be ever better in following Him, from the simple but generally disregarded instruction in the Sermon on the Mount about prayer to treating our thoughts as behaviors and as such subject to the prohibitions of the law to responding to anger, aggression and violence without anger, aggression and violence with love and forgiveness and standing for right.

The above (the second) desired focus may seem strange in that one would think it was a basic given for so-called Christian churches, but consider how infrequently there is such a focus in the allegedly Christian churches.

Jenny58 said...

Michah, You might be interested in the series of talks that led off the Quaker Bible study at the sessions of Canadian Yearly Meeting last summer. You can listen to them from the home page of the Canadian Yearly Meeting web page. I wish that I had been there to hear the discussions following each talk, given the broad spectrum of Friends I am sure it was lively.The language of revivalism does not speak to me personally however I am interested in the revitalization of Friends. I will hold your planned evening in my prayers.
In Friendship, Jane

David H. Finke said...

I welcome the vision and the initiative you and colleagues are undertaking in Faithfulness. Some of your fellow-planners are giving me a sense of the intensity and the reality of Promise which infuses this.
Although my situation in the midwest prevents me from coming to this particular event, I will watch for other such Opportunities.
Your time and date are in my calendar, and I will unite with you from afar. When we are joined in Christ, there is no distance between us.