Come closer

I woke up in Spencerville, Maryland, this morning. I’ve been here since Friday, worshiping alongside members of the Friends of Jesus, a Conservative Quaker gathering with meetings in Philadelphia, Detroit, and D.C. We had rain on Saturday – not much, but enough to keep us inside, sitting around tables in the wood-floored dining hall, talking about what it means to be a Friend, talking about our experiences with scripture, talking about where we’ve been and why we came this weekend, talking about all the things folks who care about Jesus talk about when there’s enough rain to keep them inside.

Some of the talk was good.

How does your view of the atonement affect the ways you welcome fellow wanderers? What’s an image that’s been helpful in thinking about what it means to be a gathered community? Where are you experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we prophetic? Are we willing to be?

Some of the talk was hard.

There were disagreements. There were times when people shared vulnerably and weren’t received, times when their experiences were questioned or corrected. There were tears of release, and there was also deep pain. Isolation. A sense that even here, where we are really trying, there might not be safety for those who need it most.

On Saturday night, I felt a leading to share out of Mark 3, a passage in which Jesus goes home, and a crowd gathers. Scribes come down from Jerusalem and accuse Jesus, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” Jesus “called them to him, and spoke to them.” For the next seven verses, we get a sense of what Jesus said to the scribes. And then his family shows up, “and standing outside, they sent to him.” But Jesus points to the people he’s been talking to: “Here are my mother and my brothers!”

There are gaps in the passage that invite additional interpretive work, but I have two noticings. The first is that Jesus appears to have conceded nothing in this conflict. He simply called them to him. And the scribes, also, as far as I can tell, conceded nothing. They simply came closer to Jesus.

And that made all the difference.

Eric Muhr