A Unity that Binds Us Together
Last Sunday at West Hills Friends in Portland, Oregon, a plea was made for prayer for Indiana Yearly Meeting. I am saddened by what I read and hear about the troubles in that meeting and its splitting up. I have not followed the story closely and I cannot deal with particular situations. However, I feel led to make a plea for a unity that binds together Friends of differing outlooks.
My faith leads me to read and re-read the Gospels, consider the life and teaching of Jesus, and to find guidance for my own life and the life of my community of faith.
As I read the Gospels, Jesus worked to create a community committed to the Kingdom of God. It is harsh to put it this way, but Jesus failed. At the time of his crucifixion, “they all forsook him and fled.” At the cross, it seems John is the only one of the twelve there along with several of the faithful women.
This is not a surprising outcome considering the mixed group that he chose as disciples. They were a tough bunch to teach. In the narrative I cannot think of a single instance when a disciple raises a concern and Jesus replies, “You got that right.”
However, all that changed with the resurrection. The disciples are drawn back together. Not just the remaining eleven, but also with the women who followed Jesus in his lifetime, and many others. On the day of Pentecost there were not twelve, but 120, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. They went forth and spread the Gospel across the whole Roman Empire and into Africa, and perhaps even India in their generation.
Did the coming of the Holy Spirit remold the hearts and minds of those people so that they all had the same opinions, the same concerns, and acted in the same ways? No! Rather, it is clear that they had disagreements, even on very important matters. Soon they were acknowledging their differences and honoring their various gifts. Their commitment to the risen Christ outweighed all differences, sometimes after long, serious and agonizing discussion.
Today Indiana Yearly Meeting is not the only one in the midst of significant and contentious consideration of issues that have no easy answers. My prayer for every yearly meeting and for every monthly meeting is that commitment to the Lord, Jesus Christ, will give leadings and courage to raise up peacemakers in these difficult situations.
Contributed by Wilbur Wood, West Hills Friends