Thought for the week: Kate McNally comes to Jesus
The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found inspiration in the life and teachings of Jesus. How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage? How does Jesus speak to you today? Are you following Jesus’ example of love in action? Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God? How does his relationship with God challenge and inspire you? (Advices & queries 4)
We are taught that Quakerism is rooted in Christianity without much explanation of what that means. Just as early Christianity was rooted in Judaism, we are rooted in Christianity. It is our spiritual culture, our grounding, the language we use to describe our experiences with God.
Our roots nourish us and hold us steady, but we are not our roots. Rather, we grow beyond them. In the same way that early Christians grew from their Jewish roots into something different, Quakers take their Christian roots and grow into something different. Jesus was rooted in his family, in his culture and in his religion. They informed every aspect of his life. But he was not only that culture – he went beyond it. He even rejected large parts of it.
I can’t claim to be a student of the Bible, but I’m pretty sure that Jesus never said: ‘Pick up your cross and worship me’. I think what he said was ‘follow me’. Do what I do: tend the sick, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger. I believe that the Quaker form of worship helps us to connect to our roots and then go beyond them to ‘let our lives speak’; to work for the world we want to see.
Gandhi is often quoted as saying: ‘Your Christians are so unlike your Christ’. Quakerism began as a return to early Christianity, to the work of Jesus. At our best, Quakers continue to do this, to follow the one who said that we need to love one another.
I often think about Jesus – the man, not the Christ. I wonder, for example, what kind of accent did he have and what did that say about him? How did he part his hair? What did he call his mum? We hear he was a carpenter – was there one piece he created that he was particularly proud of? Did he like his work? What did he say when he smashed his thumb with a hammer? What was his favorite colour? His favourite meal? His favourite swear word? Could he swim? There is so much we do not know about this man and about the things that formed him to be the one we still talk about 2,000 years after his death.
One of the things that first attracted me to Quakers is the notion that revelation didn’t stop 2,000 years ago. It continues today, as Friends wait for divine inspiration and then share ministry with each other and with the world.
What does this mean, then? The mystical nature of Quakerism means that my experience may not be yours. But I believe that the roots of Quakerism are not in the steeplehouses and the hierarchies of Christianity. I believe that those roots are in the man who taught us to love one another. It’s that simple and that difficult.
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