04 February 2007

A Beacon in the Night

There's an old man in my Meeting who shines with Light. He has gotten very frail in the past year, but he attends Meeting regularly. The past month or so, he rises to speak every First Day.

His words don't usually sound like ministry, but his face glows with the ministry he lives. He doesn't talk about God. He talks about children and war and beauty and music and senseless death. His heart is full of love for the Meeting. Sometimes, I get the sense that he rises because he cannot contain his joy at being among Friends.

He stands in the larger world, too. He stands every week on a street corner as a witness against war. Sometimes he carries a sign with information about children who have died in war. Sometimes he carries a sign with photos of all the American servicemen killed in Iraq.

When he struggled to his feet this morning, I thought about the kind of Quaker that this Friend is. He doesn't quote the Bible or talk about God. He doesn't debate the finer points of Quakerism or argue about the color of the carpet. He speaks simply and with great love even when he is telling us things we'd rather not hear.

He is not, perhaps, the sort of Quaker that some people want in their Meetinghouse, but I am very glad that he is in ours. In his simple, straightforward way, he shows me more about the teachings of Jesus than any dozen Biblical or Quaker scholars. His heart is big enough to contain the joy of a child's smile and the pain of global conflict.

Every time this Friend rises, I am filled with joy and sorrow. I feel fortunate to see his life bear witness to the great beauty and the great evil in the world.

1 comment:

Liz Opp said...

Very touching... Your description of this Friend, his ministry, and his testimony to love reminds me of a similar though less frail Friend in the monthly meeting where I attend.

I remember an Adult Ed program in which the Friend leading the discussion asked everyone who wanted to, to move in the room and take a stance or position that best reflected their relationship to Jesus. Maybe two-thirds of the group participated.

I stood behind a pillar and would occasionally take a peek around it.

After a minute or two, we went back to our seats and were asked to speak about why we placed ourselves the way we did.

This particular Friend that your own Friend reminds me of happened to be sitting next to a beloved member of the meeting who is blind. The Friend raised his hand and said to the group something like,

Since Jesus says to love thy neighbor, I decided to stay right here next to Ralph.

It was such a beautiful lesson for me, about the distinction between DOING the work we are commanded to do, as compared to the exercise of explaining why we BELIEVE we should be doing the work we are only now beginning to THINK about doing.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up