Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin’ Man

by Dr. Bruce Arnold

[I have several topics in the churn: Friends and homosexuality; immigration; and, recently, “what about Young Friends and their place in our Society?” All of those take thought, effort, meditation and prayer and will come in the fullness of time. Until then, some brief notes. Just ramblin’ a little.]

Idolatry

That one may make an idol of plain clothes, or of plainness itself, I have no doubt. It is suggestive to me that, of all the essays I’ve posted hereon, the one on plain clothing has attracted twice the readership of any.

It is neither plain clothing nor plainness, as such, which demand my attention. It is how we may enact, to the best of our comprehension, the leading of the Spirit within the most mundane details of our lives that I find compelling.

Those who are plain, for whom I have the utmost respect, are those whose lives embody the same concern.

Sacrifice and Submission

I recently heard a sermon by a preacher who suggested that sacrifice and submission were things to be avoided.

There are so many ways in which submission is not a bad thing. Anyone who has ever had a profound sexual encounter knows that it can’t be forced. You have to let go and submit to the experience. Falling in love, for that matter, is cut from the same cloth. It is only the voice of egocentricity which says “I must be in control at all times” that does not recognize the real significance of submission. Yes, there is an unhealthy sort of dominance/submission dance that people do play out. It is remarkably myopic to see that as the only context in which submission can be found.

As to sacrifice, any sober alcoholic or recovering addict knows that, while it may have seemed like a sacrifice at first, the life of joy and freedom which is made possible by recovery is no sacrifice at all. Yes, we sacrificed the use of mind and mood altering substances; so what? Might as well say that when we got clean we sacrificed a life of degradation, of obsession about using, of constant fear, of damage to those around us — if you call losing those things a “sacrifice.” Most of us prefer to call it “surrender” rather than sacrifice, but it amounts to the same thing: sometimes you have to lose in order to win. “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Traveling in the Ministry

Bonnie and I have been making use of occasional Sundays, when we have no other obligation, to travel. We have attended all but one of the Meetings within reasonable distance, and have plans to get to that one next month. It has been wonderful to meet new people, experience the different personalities of the Meetings as a whole, and to enjoy the time together.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a church here in New Bern which I would call a part of the emergent church movement. I have known the pastor, David McCants, for some time, and have real affection and respect for him. We have talked together, worked together, and prayed together.

This was the first time I went to his church. It was quite different, not just from an unprogrammed Quaker meeting, but from any mainstream Protestant church I’ve ever attended. For one thing (perhaps superficial, perhaps not) there was coffee and juice and water and snacks available, not in the fellowship hall for after the service, but in the sanctuary, for whenever. The rock and roll band playing the music is more and more common in a lot of churches, but it’s still not what I’m used to. No “Rock of Ages” and “Abide With Me” here. There was a great deal of informality; very few people dressed up. For most, it was like “casual Friday” at the office, a nice shirt and slacks. But there were some in shorts, and more than one t-shirt. Even one suit.

I love what this church does, and not just in the worship service. They do so much in the community as well. They really try to live the Gospel of service to “the least of these, my children.” Nothing is dearer to my heart, and this is one of the reasons I am so fond of David.

All in all, I liked it a lot, and so did Bonnie. It was a pleasant change of pace for both of us. In speaking with David afterwards, I said, “I really loved being here this morning. And it reminds me how glad I am to be a Quaker.” He got it. 🙂

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