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Archive for November, 2011

Finding Christ in the Quaker Church

Presence in the midst

Finding Jesus in the Quaker Church has been an ongoing process for me because I have found Him in a variety of ways. I grew up in the Evangelical Friends Churches from EFC Southwest and EFC Eastern Region in the Hispanic churches. One of the ways that I found Jesus was as a child when in church I was told that Jesus was our Friend and that he would never let us down. Until that point I had only seen God as a faraway remote unreachable untouchable being up in heaven. It was then that I started to understand the Quaker message of Jesus coming to earth to live with us and above that to die for us and save us, and the amazing part is that He still continues to be here and wants a relationship with each and every single individual. The Quaker Church helped me understand Jesus message found in

John 15:9-17
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

It was an amazing discovery as a child to know this that Jesus chose us. It would be so amazing if all children would be able to listen to this message because as humans at an early age we discover the need of a friend for that reason many children make up an imaginary friend. My friend as a child was not imaginary it was real in my life and I could feel Him when I most needed Him I could talk to him. When my mother died I felt Jesus there with us I always felt his comfort through my father, grandparents and in the Friends’ Church that opened their arms for us helping us morally financially and in more ways that would be too long to mention, I knew that he had not abandoned us. Jesus was there with us through all the loving people we encountered during those difficult times.
Through Friends’ history I have found Jesus in the Friends Church. Years ago I had the opportunity to go England there I took a tour of the Lancaster Castle where early Friends had been imprisoned and tortured for their believes there I was able to see the tools they used to torture them. At that point Jesus words came to my mind: as I have loved you. Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Friend’s relationship with Jesus was being tested and for this friendship they were able to give up their lives not because they were righteous or good but because they loved the One that had laid down His life for them before. They were only doing what Jesus had done for them and following His commandments. These Friends demonstrated the deep level of intimacy they had reached with Jesus that they felt that it was necessary to die in His Name before denying Him just like early Christians did. At that point I asked myself do Jesus and I have that type of relationship that I would laid down my life for His Name just like he died for me on the cross?
Friend’s testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality have reminded me of Jesus words: that you should go and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain. Friends have given fruit we can see this throughout Quakerism’s history. Jesus came to this earth in a very simple way from the very beginning of his human life, he did not come like an earthly king with a gold crown and majestic clothing he came to this earth in a very humble form even though he was God. For this reason the Jews did not accept him because they could not accept that their king would lead such a simple life and the opposite of what is considered to be majestic in our human terms Friends have only learned simplicity from our Great Master. Friends have learned peace through Jesus; if Jesus reigns in our hearts we will experience inward peace because Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If we have inner peace then the desire to wage war will cease and that can only be acquired with Jesus in our hearts. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, and to turn the other cheek this are the type of passages that Friends take literally and obeying this commands is the only way to acquire peace. Jesus wants us to live in peace with our neighbors even when those neighbors are our enemies. Friends have always valued community by loving each other and also the world. Wesley advised that Methodist should take care of one another just like the Quakers do and he observed that he never saw a raggedy Quaker. Quakers have also cared for the communities that they lived in not only their own Quaker community. One example of this was in Ireland Quakers began the soup kitchens when they were going through the great famine. Quakers fed people, just like Jesus fed the 5,000. Another example was of William Penn establishing a community based in equality and peace in Pennsylvania and Delaware. William Penn signed peace treaties with the Indians treating them equally and fairly, Penn also welcomed other people regardless of their race and religion to live in his colonies without being persecuted. Jesus gave many examples of how to care for our community Jesus said to a rich man to go and sell everything he had and to give to the poor; Jesus also told us if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Friends take Jesus commandment to love one another seriously for this reason community is very important. Jesus thought us that all humans are equal in his eyes. Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman in the well in a time that women were not considered of any value and to top things off she was a gentile. Jesus also healed the son of a Roman centurion even though this man served the empire that was oppressing his people. Jesus also ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, and Jesus also promised eternal life to a criminal that society despised. Although Jesus disciples wanted the children to leave Jesus alone Jesus said to allow them to come to Him. Jesus had no limits he loved each and every single one of us equally. From these great examples Friends have developed the testimony of Equality we have seen Friends were one of the early groups to allow women to preach in their meetings and to send them as missionaries. Friends also established Friends academies and allowed not only Quakers to get an education in their schools. Friends also pioneered causes such as the women’s suffrage movement with Lucretia Mott and the abolition of slavery that were led by John Woolman and Levy Cofin. But the Friend’s testimonies are not original to Quakerism we have only found Jesus example and followed it. I have definitely found Jesus through Friends’ testimonies since Jesus is the great example of our testimonies.
Another way that I found Jesus in the Quaker Church was ironically not in the Friends’ Church but brought me back to the Friends’ Church. This was when I was 14 years old my father was a professor at an Assembly of God Hispanic Seminary and in this town there was no Friends’ Meeting around so we attended the Assembly of God church. This church was loving and we felt the Holy Spirit there, we were very happy there. One day the pastor of the church asked us if my sister and I wanted to be involved we said yes we want to so he asked us well the only requirement is to be baptized and he asked if we had been water baptized and I said no we have not been water baptized. This conversation made me ask myself why do Friends don’t practice the rite of water baptism, all other churches do it and a small number of denominations even say that is for salvation. Have we been part of a false cult all along? At this time the only place that I could go to answer this questions was in the bible with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In short I found passages that said that the baptism of Jesus (Acts 2:38) was done by Jesus with the Holy Spirit not by a human being with water. Jesus is the baptizer (Mathew 3:11) and the only that can clean our sins is the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Please don’t get me wrong I understand why my brethren in Christ from other churches water baptize and I belief that is very meaningful rite. But I also understand that the early Quakers decided not to practice it because many have come to depend on a physical ritual thus replacing the real baptism of Jesus that John tells us is to be done with the Holy Spirit. This all goes back to a personal relationship with Jesus that He himself wants to baptize us with the Holy Spirit without the intervention of another human being. Jesus has prepared everything in a way that our relationship is something just between Him and us. Jesus told us that all we need to do is to ask the Father in His Name and the Holy Spirit shall be given to us. I find this to be so amazing that Friends have discovered that baptism is an affair only between Jesus and the individual. So yes I found that baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, and only because we have been baptize we can give fruit but the only one that can grant us this baptism is Jesus himself.
The way that I tried to live out my Quaker values in the world with family and community is by being obedient to the Holy Spirit and trying to do what he leads me to do even when it is not easy to do. I believe that one of the great opportunities I’ve had has been helping young single mothers that have been domestically and mentally abused to get out of that situation, we have opened the doors of our home. I don’t offer counseling because I am no professional in that area the only thing I tried to do is to just be a friend to them and reassure them that we will be there. Recently I have been trying to be conscious of taking care of creation by being a more conscious consumer and becoming a vegetarian. I believe that one of our duties as Christians is to take care of the home that God has created for us and also to take care of our neighbor. I have been to my own country in Guatemala and I see that even a small contribution would help a family, for that reason I tried to shop fairly traded products from third world countries. The most important is trying to share Jesus in every opportunity I get I would like people to know I am a Quaker because of my testimony and my deeds to match my verbal testimony.
To non-Quakers I would encourage to seek Jesus, to live with and like Jesus. This is the only way to be a Quaker I have known of groups that are not at all affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends but I considered them Quakers because the only thing that they are doing is being obedient to the Holy Spirit that is the inward light that can lead us all. And that Quakerism is great community of intentional prayer and seeking of the Holy Spirit and is so great to be part of a community that intentionally seeks to have a relationship with Jesus. Quakerism is not a religion is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
What I would like more mature Quakers to know about my commitment to the Friends’ Church is that my primary commitment is with Jesus and thus this has lead me to a commitment with Friends’ Church, because I feel that it’s the best expression of Christianity that I could try to live with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I perceive Quakerism as primitive Christianity Revived!