4-15-18 - New Life, Inside!

New Life, Inside!

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

April 15, 2018



2 Corinthians 4:13-5:5 (MSG)


13-15 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.


5 1-5 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.



I love Paul’s giddiness this morning in our text.  I chose the Message version to emphasize this point:


“We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life.”


When the message is this exciting, there is no containing oneself.  I think we all can relate to this at one time or another.  The news is so good,

·        the announcement of the birth of a child, our a grandchild,

·        that promotion at work or new job,

·        that unexpected grade or comment,

·        that visit or phone call with exciting news,

·        you name it, it cannot be contained!   


But what specifically was Paul not able to “keep quiet” about?  To understand that we need to go back to verse 6 just prior to our text where Paul explains:


“It started when God said, “Light up the darkness.” And our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.”


Paul realized that something had happened inside of his heart – a Light had been lit!  A healing had taken place.  An inner change had occurred. 


What Paul had experienced was very similar to someone we are very familiar with in Quakerdom – and that is George Fox, the founder of our society of Friends.  Here is his experience in his own words,


“Christ it was who had enlightened me, that gave me his light to believe in, and gave me hope…revealed himself in me, and gave me his spirit and his grace, which I found in the depths and in weakness.”


Fox’s experience was very similar to Paul’s.  And let’s be honest, with all these “aha” moments and enlightenments there must be a back story. 


Fox said, “I found” this “in the depths and in weakness.” If you have ever taken the opportunity to read George Fox’s Journal you will find it paints a picture of struggle, development, and slow painstaking growth.  Fox says this in his journal,


“But my troubles continued, and I was often under great temptations, and I fasted much, and walked abroad in solitary places many days, and often took my Bible and went and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places till night came in; and frequently in the night I walked mournfully about by myself, for I was a man of sorrows in the times of the first working of the Lord in me.”


Paul described a similar experience just before our text today in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (again let me read it from the Message).


7-12 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!


Folks, in this world there is going to be suffering.


·        For some of us it is going to be physical suffering.

·        For others of us it is going to be mental/spiritual anguish (the sorrowful life that George Fox described).

·        And still others it may be persecution for what we believe and think. 


Yet, I don’t want to dwell on this aspect very long, because the HOPE is so evident in each of these stories. 


The HOPE that the Apostle Paul and George Fox experienced is the very life God is working to bring to fruition in our lives!


George Fox was enlightened – and found grace and the revelation of God’s own spirit within him and it moved him to change his world. 


Paul and the people of Corinth realized that God had not left them, even though they were broken completely. They were coming ALIVE from the inside and it moved them to change their world. 


The good news in all of this is that it is coming alive in each of us, as well!


Our suffering in this world is being transformed into vibrant LIFE – if we are willing to see it and go through it. 


When God breaks through – when the light comes on in our hearts – when brokenness starts to heal – we become like Paul exclaiming “I can’t keep quiet!” 


That may sound a bit weird for us quiet, contemplative, silence-loving Quakers.  I rather like to think that Paul was beginning to quake in the spirit (as we say).  He was being nudged to speak out to allow what God had put in his heart to be spoken aloud.  Much like when you or I are in waiting worship and we begin to feel uncomfortable – you know that feeling – when God has put something on your heart to say, and you begin to kind of quake inside – until finally you have to stand and share what God has put on your heart with the gathered meeting.  Often those moments are life giving and life altering and filled with hope! 


This is what Paul and George Fox and many since them have experienced. 


When our faith is bolstered, our life has meaning, it is then that our light begins to burn brightly!  As our text said for this morning…


“Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!”


Folks, this is what I sense and believe is happening right here at First Friends!


Because when you and I see it begin inside ourselves – soon we realize that we cannot contain what God is doing.  The light that goes out of this place each week in the lives of each of you is making a difference in Greater Indianapolis.



Yet, please understand, as our examples have shown us, this is always a process to get to that place.  I’ll be honest, sometimes my Inner Light is rather dim – it seems at times to have even gone out.  Maybe that is because life is often harder than we expect or that we allow our life to snuff out the joy building up in our hearts. 


Life throws us troubles, brokenness, sorrow, and pain…you know what it is for you.


And Paul knows we at times just want to give up.  Listen again to what he said,


“…we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.”


·        Maybe you feel like you are getting too old, that you are worn out, that life is just not working out the way it used to.


·        Maybe you feel like you are falling apart emotionally or spiritually, and you can’t seem to keep it together.


·        Maybe the plight of struggling people in our world, our current political situation, the onslaught of 24/7 media has you feeling down and defeated. 


·        Maybe you are failing at work, or desperately in need of a new job or career, and simply just trying to make it.


·        Maybe life makes no sense right now from the outside.


Paul and George Fox both say that no matter what is happening on the outside,  God is still at work – working on you from the inside to make new life come forth.


The text says, “Not a day goes by without God’s unfolding grace.” Do we notice it?  


Folks, let’s be honest…that is something to be excited about.  That is something to proclaim. 


·        God is still at work in your heart.

·        God is preparing you right now – in this present moment – for all that God has in store for you.

·        God is birthing NEW LIFE inside of you at all times.  This is what our personal incarnation looks like!


The question that we have to ask ourselves is…


Will we recognize God making that new life in us…or will we ignore it, suppress it, neglect it, even stifle it…by not responding to that of God inside ourselves?


We are so concerned as Quakers about seeing that of God in others – but have we seen that of God in ourselves, first?


We may not be able to see all that God is doing – or has been doing – right now.  But as God works in our hearts, incarnates himself inside of us, and turns on that light within us, we begin to see the eternal being birthed inside us.  This isn’t something for when we die, no this is the life we have been called to now.  This life God is working inside us to bring us alive so that others can come alive as well. 


It is what I believe Paul grasped when he wrote the words in 1 Corinthians 13:12:


“We don’t yet see things clearly.  We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We’ll see it all then, see it all clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” 


Most people take those words to mean someday – or in heaven.  But I think God is incarnating himself in us as we speak.  Right now, things that were unclear are being worked out.  The fog is lifting, the hope is shining inside of you!  And as we share that light inside each of us – others begin to see God more clearly as well!  


Looking back on my own life (something I suggest you do every once and a while – like, at least once a year), I always find how much I have changed and grown.  I see the places where God has turned on a light inside of me and it could not be contained. 


I remember a conversation with a friend in my driveway during high school that changed my view of the role of women in leadership in the church.  God was turning on a light inside of me.  It took several more years for me to acknowledge it – but I had to make some changes in my life to be a voice for women in leadership.


I remember reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown on vacation one summer and weeping as God enlightened me to the plight of the Native people’s in our country.  That was only the beginning of an ongoing discovery of the plight of other people groups in our history that are still suffering from genocide, racism, misogyny, and lack of basic civil rights.


I remember when my views began to change on LGBTQ rights and I found the light inside guiding me to stand with, instead of against -- and beginning to understand because of the persecution I, myself, endured in welcoming and affirming these friends.


And these are just a few of the many times God has turned on the light inside my heart and I could not, like Paul keep quiet!  NOT ON MY LIFE! 


So to conclude this morning, I want to share with you a favorite poem by Rumi, the 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim theologian and Sufi mystic (which many consider the Quakers of the Muslim faith).  In this poem Rumi shares a dialog with Love (who I believe we could call God). The interaction illustrates well all I have pointed out this morning.  May you sense what Paul, George Fox and Rumi sensed inside of them – coming alive this morning!


i was dead
i came alive
i was tears
i became laughter
all because of love
when it arrived
my temporal life
from then on
changed to eternal

love said to me
you are not
crazy enough
you don’t
fit this house

i went and
became crazy
crazy enough
to be in chains
love said
you are not
intoxicated enough
you don’t
fit the group

i went and
got drunk
drunk enough
to overflow
with light-headedness
love said
you are still
too clever
filled with
imagination and skepticism

i went and
became gullible
and in fright
pulled away
from it all
love said
you are a candle
attracting everyone
gathering every one
around you

i am no more
a candle spreading light
i gather no more crowds
and like smoke
i am all scattered now

love said
you are a teacher
you are a head
and for everyone
you are a leader
i am no more
not a teacher
not a leader
just a servant
to your wishes

love said
you already have
your own wings
i will not give you
more feathers
and then my heart
pulled itself apart
and filled to the brim
with a new light
overflowed with fresh life

now even the heavens
are thankful that
because of love
i have become
the giver of light”

― Rumi



4-8-18 - Now, What Are We to Do?

Now, what are we to do? 

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

April 8, 2018

John 20:19-29

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”


“Now, what are we to do?”  That must have been the question running through the disciples and followers of Christ’s minds. 


“Now, what are we to do?”


Much like last week’s text of Mary meeting the gardener, we again have a mix of emotions and experiences.  Today, we have the disciples cowering in fear behind locked doors.  Fearing not only the Roman Empire, but also the religious leaders of the day.  No one was safe at this time. I believe the disciples were in fear just as many of the people in Gaza are today. The disciples knew that the religious and state authorities had found a way to have Jesus crucified, and they knew they were already on the trail to find and do the same thing to them and the other followers of Christ.


Let’s be honest, religious and state authorities don’t often like the followers of blasphemous, rogue teachers, who want to make their leaders out to be martyrs. 


No, they would want to eliminate any possibility of this happening and do everything to keep their religion and state pure. This is sadly true of many religious and governmental groups in our world, still today.


Change is hard, and prophetic voices are those usually rallying for change.


It is one thing to watch someone die for a cause, but when you find out that the attention has turned on you because of your followership of this person, ANXIETY, FEAR, the NEED TO HIDE quickly overcome you. Your mind flashes with visions of you being tortured by the authorities, carrying your own cross through the city of Jerusalem, and being hung to suffer the agony of public execution on a cross. These would have been vivid images in the minds of the followers of Christ.


The process the disciples were running through in their minds was, what I would call, a personal incarnation.  They were beginning to incarnate (becoming a living embodiment of) what Christ had just gone through.  And the disciples were left to answer that big question,


“Now, what are we to do?”


Jesus never really taught about Part B…and let’s be honest, the disciples hardly understood Part A – let alone having a plan for after Jesus was gone from their presence.


You may be thinking this is hard to relate to – but just ask yourself:


·        When have you said, “Now, what are we to do?” or “Now, what am I to do?” in your own life.  

·        What was your difficult situation?

·        Have you ever been gripped by fear wondering what was going to happen?

·        Have you ever felt like you had no plan B – that life was at a dead end?


Just like where we find the disciples this morning, it is often in our lowest moments, when our plans, our ideas, our hopes, our beliefs are stripped away, this is often when the presence of Jesus is felt and made known – or maybe it is in these times we finally recognize that God has been with us all along.


The text says that Jesus was literally “standing among them” and they didn’t even realize it.  How long was he standing there before someone noticed? 


Isn’t that how it is for us, often? The presence of God is in our midst, or even in our own hearts, and we don’t recognize him or acknowledge Him. Folks, we are Quakers, the ones who are always to look for that of God in those around us.  How often has the presence of God been in our midst in the likes of a friend, a parent, a child, at teacher, even a complete stranger, and we totally missed it?


And then comes those famous first words from Jesus, “PEACE BE WITH YOU.” The scriptures have recorded for us several other times when Jesus used those same words. Each time the disciples heard them he was using them to calm their lives. 


If you remember, it was these words that Jesus used to calm the storms on the water as their boat was violently shaken by the storm and everyone was in fear.  The disciples would have known these words to be an acknowledgment and reassurance of God’s presence in the storms of their lives. Yet, with all that they had been through during the last several days leading up to their best friend being executed in front of them, they still showed doubt this time.  This time they had been so shaken that he had to prove to them who he was so that their joy and peace would return. 


The disciple, Thomas, even has to go one step further – I think I might have been the same.  Thomas needed a hands-on-experience before he could believe.  Sometimes our lives are in such tumult that we need something a bit more tangible – a real-time, real-life experience. (see the modern version of this moment on the cover of the bulletin this morning).

Sometimes we need a physical – incarnate – experience.  We need to hear a parent’s voice, sometimes we need a hug, sometimes we need a physical connection. I think Thomas has been shafted by history.  Beyond needing proof, beyond assurance, beyond even finding inner peace, Thomas needed a physical connection as he tried to wrap his mind around that question, “Now, what are we to do?” 


And that physical connection again takes the shape of incarnation – embodying flesh or taking on flesh. Thomas was understanding the deep need for incarnation at this moment – he needed flesh to come to grips with what was going on.



I think too often the reason we cannot relate to Jesus, is because we cannot truly see him as a human being – with flesh. He was no different than any of us in this meetinghouse.  He had skin and bones, aches and pains, he bled…no different.  And what we need to realize is that Jesus showed us how with these fully human, fleshly bodies to truly live!  He taught us how to forgive, how to bring hope, how to reconcile, how to “incarnate” his life and ministry to our neighbors and to our world in this present moment. 


Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said it so well, “What Jesus wants from us is not admiration, but rather imitation.” 


It wasn’t just about the incarnation of Jesus, folks – no, it’s also about our incarnation. This is what Jesus was getting at in our text.


“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you!’ As the Father has sent me, I am sending YOU!”


You and I are now the incarnated Christ to our world.  We are the light-bearers being sent into our world. (Just like we heard last week with Mary.)  


Have you ever thought about the fact that the gathered meeting (or the universal church) was considered or called “The Body of Christ.”   We are the official incarnation of Christ to our world.  Let that sink in for a moment.


Ronald Rolheiser addresses this realization in his book, “The Holy Longing: The Search for Christian Spiritualty,” where he writes,


“If it is true that we are the Body of Christ, and it is, then God’s presence in the world today depends very much on us.  We have to keep God present in the world in the same way Jesus did.”


Or as St. Teresa of Avila prayed:


Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours,

Yours are the eyes through which

Christ’s compassion must look out on the world.

Yours are the feet with which

He is to go about doing good.

Yours are the hands with which

He is to bless us now.


We are the incarnation of Christ – We are the light bearers.


What we are called, sent to do is be Jesus and live as he did in our world.  We are filled with his light and love.  We are to take our inner light into our world and become the presence of Christ to our neighbors. 


Or as Ronald Rolheiser says,


“As God once acted through Christ, so he now acts through those who are conformed to the image of His son, and whose behavior-pattern is in imitation of his.”


To sense God’s peace, forgiveness, his love  - we must embody and live it in our world.  We must take on the attributes of Christ. 


As I watched the 50 Anniversary Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death this week, I could not help but notice the fact that Martin Luther King Jr., though often in fear, embodied and lived out the attributes of Jesus. Many including a Muslim leader acknowledged his Christ-like legacy. This is the impact we each could have if we were willing to live a life of purpose grounded on the attributes of Christ.


As the life of Martin Luther King Jr. can attest, to be God’s presence in our world, isn’t always easy and may lead us to our own death – laying our life down for others.    


Along with this call naturally comes fear, as is illustrated well by the disciples cowering in the upper room in our text this morning. Fear is real for most of us. 


Being a peacemaker, standing up for what you believe, seeking justice and mercy, even asking or giving forgiveness are not always easy and often they cause us to fear living out the life God is calling us to. 


Fear translates to hiding and worrying about what others think of us.  It leads us to cower, to isolate, and even build walls. [Pause for reflection].  


Sadly, a great deal of our politics, our military, our economics, our sports, our parenting styles, even much of our religiosity is based on fear and fear tactics.


But God is sending us into a world – not in fear – but rather in peace.  Filled with God’s spirit and light to offer forgiveness, to reconcile, to heal and bring harmony.  We are to offer the attributes of Jesus Christ – Grace, Mercy, Justice and Peace.  But sadly, it is our own fears that get in the way...


It’s like what Quaker Gene Knudsen-Hoffman wrote,


Fear which lingers,

Fear which lives on in us,

Fear which does not prompt us to wise remedial action,

Becomes engraved upon our hearts,

Becomes an addiction, becomes an armor which encases us.

This fear guards and guides us and determines our action.

It leads us directly toward that which we fear.


We can’t let our fear keep us in a tomb of death.  We can’t let fear keep us worried or fretting about what is going to happen.  We can’t let fear keep us hiding and avoiding and not acting. That I believe is the case too often with the church, today. 


People who take up the mantle of Jesus Christ – people who incarnate Christ in their own lives.  People who live out of peace, forgiveness, grace, mercy and love have learned to embrace their fears and step out in faith.




Fear is a major issue, but I think there is another. Let’s be honest, many people have given up on Jesus and his ways in our world.  For many the followers of Jesus that the world sees portrayed in the media and on T.V. no longer represent Christianity or for that matter Jesus – and many see them as an embarrassment and have a real fear of being misrepresented. Blogger and commentator, John Pavolitz, addressed this in a recent blog.  Let me read a part of his blog post this morning:  


The Jesus I knew as a child and came to aspire to in adulthood is still here, and it is the heretics who are preserving him.

It is the maligned backsliders, the Godless heathens, and the derided social justice warriors who are replicating his compassion for hurting people, his welcome for foreigners, his generosity toward the hungry, his gentleness for the marginalized.

I’ve been visiting these local Progressive faith communities every week, and they are doing joy-giving, life-affirming, wall-leveling work—alongside people of every color, orientation, and nation of origin.

They are providing Sanctuary for refugees, making meals for multitudes, offering embrace to the estranged, standing between the vulnerable people and the opportunistic predators around them—you know, like Jesus would.

And in our gatherings, Atheists and Muslims and Jews and Agnostics have stepped into these communities and found something they have not found in the counterfeit Christianity so loud in this country: they have found welcome.

It’s all been fully and beautifully surprising, to see this Jesus still alive here in these people.

You may have given up on a Christianity that resembles Jesus, and I can’t blame you. The people claiming his name right now who have the microphone, the platform, the headlines, and the legislative pull—are providing good reason to lose hope, ample cause to imagine Jesus’ extinction, great evidence that this thing is devoid of goodness.

But there is a quieter, more loving, less self-seeking, less headline grabbing expression of faith in this country, that is everything Jesus said he would be: good news to the poor and the disenfranchised, hope for those feeling tossed by the storms of this life, refuge for the oppressed—and trouble for the wolves who come to devour them.

In these progressive Christian communities all over this country, the peacemaking, neighbor loving, foot washing, leper-embracing Jesus is not only still present, but being multiplied by kind people determined to perpetuate him here.

There is a Jesus here who invites women into ministry, who feels compassion and not contempt for the poor; one who calls disparate people to join him, one who destroys all barriers.

There is a Jesus here of justice and mercy; one championing diversity and equality, one committed to altering the planet in a way that gives voice to the voiceless and resistance to the hateful.

This Jesus is here, and he will never be driven to extinction so long as there are heretics, heathens, and backsliders who refuse to let him die simply because religious people have no use for him.

These people are still reaching out a hand to this hurting world because they are compelled by their faith to do so.

If you are a person of faith and you’re exhausted from a Christianity of cruelty and malice; if you’ve given up on finding anything more redemptive or anything worthy of your presence and time, seek out a Progressive faith community this week—and allow yourself to be beautifully surprised by a radically loving, lavishly welcoming, compassionate activist Jesus you thought was gone for good.

Be encouraged.

So…Now, what are we to do? 

My hope is that we here at First Friends would be considered one of those Progressive Faith Communities that radically love, lavishly welcome, and are compassionately activist.  That we would be known by incarnating the true Jesus that the world needs.  That is what we are to do! 


How are you incarnating Jesus to your neighbor?

What fears are getting in your way? 



4-1-18 - Easter Sunday - The Gardener and Reoccurring Resurrection!

The Gardener and Reoccurring Resurrection!

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

April 1, 2018


On Easter the focus at most churches is Jesus. We are familiar with Jesus the Good Shepherd, the King of Kings, the Lord, the Savior and, especially for us Quakers, the Friend.


As well, many have considered him the Messiah, the Christ, the Great Teacher, the Prophet, the Way, our Inner Light, and yes, even the Truth and Life.  These are just a few of the many names we Quakers and fellow Christians, as well as, people of other faiths and even various scriptures including the Bible have given to the man known as Jesus. 


But there is one more name worth reflecting upon this morning, especially as we celebrate this Easter morning, and that is the name we seldom use for Jesus – THE GARDENER.  Just ask yourself, when was the last time you thought of Jesus as the gardener? Maybe we wish Jesus would do some gardening around our home or meeting.   


It seems like the other names hold so much more weight, theological significance, mystery, and have such a greater importance to the faith of the individual, while the name “Gardener” seems too common and simple.  But this morning, I want to look at the significance of what Mary saw that first Easter morning and its meaning for us today.


To understand the title, Gardener, we must go back to that first Easter morning.  The place was the Garden at Golgotha.  Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb.  She leans down into the opening of the dark tomb and sees it empty and begins to weep.  One of the texts says that what looked like two angels tried to console her.  As she explains her reasoning for weeping she turns and sees a figure through her tear-filled eyes. 


Now, there are many theories about why Mary did not recognize Jesus, but I am going to go with two simple physical ones.  First, Mary is crying her eyes out (weeping heavily) for her beloved friend who was gone – executed, hung naked before her very eyes on a cross.  I don’t think we take into consideration the horror and emotional anxiety seeing this would cause. We in our day have been numbed by mass shootings weekly on our news and violence on TV and in the movies.  


Yet at some point, most of us can relate – at some time, we too have cried so hard over the loss of someone very close. 


I remember after the funeral of my college roommate’s mother, who lost an ugly battle with cancer, I was crying so hard that a police officer pulled me over as I left the funeral to make sure I was ok, because I was swerving and driving way too slow. He was probably right to pull me over and have me pull myself together, because I really couldn’t see what was going on.


Through heavy tears it is hard to see anything. 


Also, it was sunrise on that first Easter morning, tombs were set facing the East in Jerusalem – as it was a symbol of hope of a resurrection with the sun’s rising – a new day dawning.  As Mary would emerge from that dark tomb she would have been blinded by the light of dawn breaking forth.  


So as Mary turns to address the figure outside the tomb in the garden all she probably saw was a black outline or a shadowed figure like the painting I painted on the cover of our bulletin this morning. 


And let’s be honest, who else would be in the garden that early in the morning addressing her?  It had to have been the gardener, she thought.   


Scriptures say Mary “supposed he was the gardener” (John 20:15).  Weeping, she explains that she is seeking the body of Jesus.  Then “Jesus says to her, “Mary” (20:16). (This is the official April Fools Moment!) From just the sound of his voice saying her name, Mary immediately recognizes that it is Jesus and in that moment everything changes. 

The artist Albrecht Durer captures this scene in his print entitled, “Christ as Gardener.” which I had put on the back of the bulletin.  I love this image of Jesus looking more like Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean.  With his large gardening hat, carrying a shovel, looking as though he has put in some time weeding or tilling the soil. 


I think it is very fitting that Jesus would be mistaken by Mary as the Gardener outside the tomb.  Some may disagree and just say, oh it is coincidence.  But I believe to picture and see Jesus as the Gardener very much agrees with one of the themes of the entire Bible – that being the importance of the symbolism of gardens. 


Let me give you a quick overview:  In the book of Genesis, we are introduced to the Creator God placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where one of the first tasks was to be stewards/caretakers of the garden. It says in Genesis 2:15,


“The Lord God took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to till and to keep it.”


That garden was not just for Adam and Eve, the story tells us it was also where God was found. God actually was known to walk in that Garden with Adam and Eve and had a relationship with them.


I always remember those signs that I thought were rather cliché or cheesy that read, “One is closer to God in a Garden, than anywhere on Earth.”


As one who has grown to appreciate gardening (and like I said last week – have a passion for it) I have found spending time in my garden an important way to connect to my Inner Light and bask in the beauty of creation.  It also is like therapy for me – pulling weeds, pruning, planting and watering all give new life to the spaces that surround me – and for that matter, to me as well.


Even though Adam and Eve in the creation story chose a different path than what God intended which led them out of that beautiful original garden, God promised he would never abandoned his creation.


Instead God sent people to be light-bearers, people like the patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith, the prophets, faithful kings and judges of justice to teach, admonish, correct and gather the people of Israel, encourage them, and ultimately send them out into the world to be hope and beauty and bring peace to everyone.  This is played out over and over throughout our Old Testament – there is so much more there than just a wrathful God if we are willing to look.    


And then as the New Testament opens, we are introduced to Jesus, the next in this long line of individuals who God has sent to try to point to a better way.  Jesus is raised in Nazareth and begins his ministry of doing good, healing and teaching, gathering a new community of disciples that he too would send into the world to be hope and beauty and bring peace.  But before we get to that sending…


We must not miss the end of his public ministry, what this week leading to Easter has been all about. Here Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem the place where he was rejected, suffered, and died at the hands of the Roman Empire who did not want his way of peace but rather wanted power and control.


Since Jesus walked this earth 2000 some years ago, people have joined Jesus on remembering his journey to Jerusalem. Some faith traditions have journeyed to the cross by taking the actual Via Dolorosa in the old part of Jerusalem - following what is believed to be the actual way Jesus journeyed to the cross.


Others have marked specific events leading up to Jesus’ death to pause and remember: The triumphal entry into Jerusalem (which we celebrated last week and ironically also started in a garden - the Mount of Olives), the clearing of the temple, the Seder Meal or Last Supper with his disciples, and then the biggest turn of events – which goes down in another garden at the base of the Mount of Olives – the Garden of Gethsemane.


As the gospel of John explains, “After the discourse, Jesus went out with the disciples across the Kidron Valley.  There was a garden there, and he and his disciples entered it (John 18:1).  John adds that it was familiar, “because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (John 18:2).  In this garden, not only had Jesus been preparing and teaching his disciples, but now Jesus would show us his human vulnerability and fear. He would pray in great agony, and courageously commit himself to do his Father’s will of laying down his life for others.


Later that evening again in this garden, the soldiers would come, Judas would betray Jesus, and they would arrest Jesus to be ushered off to imprisonment and put on trial.


You may have never noticed, but even on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion there is another garden. After Jesus is condemned to death he proceeds in agony to carry his cross on the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha.  John again notes, “In the place where he had been crucified, there was a garden.” Golgotha, the actually place of Jesus’ death is a garden place. Very interesting.


And the story doesn’t end there. Jesus is taken down from the cross and buried in a borrowed tomb, actually in that garden. 


Three days later, Jesus begins to appear to his friends.  He meets Mary and she confuses him for the gardener – catching us up to our text for this morning.   


As is evident by the gardens we have looked at, the garden throughout scripture is the place where God has been revealed and new life has begun!   


We can understand this – gardens are to be places of new and recurrent life, where plants, flowers, shrubs, vegetables come to life - Spring Time after Spring Time.


It’s like when you were a kid and you planted seeds for the first time, it was an exciting day when you started to see life bursting forth out of the Dixie cups in the window soon to be planted in the garden box or back yard to fully flourish in the soil!             


And the gardener is one who oversees and does their part to ensure the cycle of life reoccurs.  The gardener plants and prunes, digs, fertilizes and waters so that trees and plants can bear fruit and beauty in abundance. This is what Jesus did and continues to do in our lives.


So just as the creation story states, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so now Jesus walks with Mary in the gardens of Golgotha as the gardener.


I remember learning in 8th grade in my Christians school another name for Jesus that I didn’t mention at the beginning, and that is “The New Adam.”  Here Jesus is the new Adam seen as the gardener in a new garden of hope.   


Jesus shares this hope with Mary.  He instructs her, “Do not cling to me…rather go to my brothers and tell them I am going to my father and your father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).  Mary, a woman, would be the first person in which Jesus would send to share his message of hope.  She is sent to bear fruit and beauty to her world beginning with those closest to Jesus who were hiding in fear of the Roman authorities.  I can’t even imagine Mary’s enthusiasm as she went to share this good news.  What Beth read was so appropriate, when Mary states, “Simon, dance with me!  Hug me and spin me around, because I have just seen the Lord!”


And folks, it didn’t stop on that first Easter morning with Mary, no, the work of Jesus the gardener continues today. Walking with our God in this world, we too, like Mary are sent to bear good fruit and bring hope and peace.  We are called to blossom, and color, and bring fragrance to our world of darkness and death.  We are being sent with a message of hope and peace to our American Empire that is clearly at war with itself.  


This is what it means to be resurrection people.


There is one last garden described in scripture.


In the 21st chapter of John’s vision or revelation at the end of the Bible, John describes heaven in wildly symbolic ways.  He calls heaven the New Jerusalem – a city with mighty walls and ornate gates.  And in that city is a LIGHT or lamp which is Christ. And then lastly he speaks of a Garden, with a river of life-giving water…which flowed down the middle of the streets.”  On either side of the river grew the trees of life” Rev. 22:1-2).  This was to show that God, from the beginning to the end, was about bringing life and light, and beauty into our world. 


We are part of that beauty.  We are part of that NEW LIFE.  Resurrection means to give something that once had life – NEW LIFE. 


This is what happens in gardens, especially here in Indiana.  We plant seeds or small plants, and then they grow, some give beauty through buds and flowers and brightly colored leaves, some give off seeds and give the opportunity for new life, some die and go into the ground, and in several months give new life again.  The garden is the perfect example of reoccurring resurrection.


No wonder gardens are throughout scripture.  No wonder the story says it all began in a garden and will end in a garden. 


Mary was called by the Gardener that first Easter morning to be life to those around her in that Garden of death.  And that is what we are called to this Easter morning.  You and I are called to blossom, to flower, to bear fruit, to bring beauty and joy and peace to a world who is often dead or almost there.  That is living the reoccurring resurrection!


Will you pray with me before we enter our time of waiting worship?


God, we come to you this morning with a deep sense of gratitude, care, concern, devotion, love for you, and desire to live responsively to you.  We sense that we’re with friends in your company of followers – friends who share the life of resurrection and want others to get in on it, notice it, and begin participating at the center of what you’re doing rather than on the periphery.  We pray for strength and discernment to understand the culture we are in – the deadening effects the seductive lures.  We pray that whatever has been said this morning will sharpen what we are doing.  We ask your blessing on this meeting and all places of worship – scattered and dispersed and many in despair.  We pray that wherever we are and whatever places we go back into – work, home, or play – we may be part of this reoccurring resurrection life, knowing that you are present and doing your work. You’re not anxious about what is going to work or not.  It’s worked a long, long time and will continue working.  Mostly, keep us faithful, attentive, sacrificial, and personal. And finally help us to bloom, bear fruit, and give beauty and peace to our world.  Amen.      (Adapted from Eugene Peterson’s book, “Living the Resurrection.”)    


How am I blossoming, bearing fruit, and giving beauty and peace to my world?



3-25-18 - Entering in with Compassion

Entering In with Compassion

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

March 25, 2018


Mark 11:1-11 (NRSV)

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10     Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.



We make a big deal about “entrances” these days.  From inaugural parties to red carpet events, to movie premiers.  We still at most wedding receptions continue the tradition of announcing the parties as they enter just like those grand entrances on one of Sue and I’s favorite shows, Downton Abby.  If you watched Downton Abby you will remember Mr. Carson strolling into the room and announcing,

“Lord Grantham accompanied by...”


Yet this morning in our text we have one of those grand entrances for Jesus.  It seems completely out of place – or at least uncharacteristic of Jesus. Even though I have always loved the Palm Sunday story, it has always made me wonder what was behind this grand entrance into Jerusalem. 


The gospel of Mark which we heard read gives a shorter version of this story and then in Luke’s gospel he seems to fill in the details. 


What Luke adds is very important when looking at Jesus “entering in.”  Let me read some additional verses from Luke 19.


Vs. 41-42.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.”


This is a picture of someone with great “compassion” for the people.  This was becoming way more than a grand entrance. This was way more than a sign of the arrival of some sort of king or new leader.  Jesus knew this entrance entailed much more and was going to ask much more of him.  But then, if you have ever studied Jesus, you know this was Jesus’ way.  Throughout scripture as Jesus enters a town or looks at a gathered crowd approaching it states,


“…he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”


Matthew in his gospel even says, that Jesus states this about Jerusalem specifically,


“I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”


For Jesus to “Enter In” took much more than we see at first glance.  Scripture is clear that part of his preparation was to have compassion on the people – he knew what he was getting into because he knew the people in which he was serving. These people had great issues and there was great suffering because they had no direction and were being harassed by the Roman Empire. Thus Jesus had a deep sense of compassion for all the people both Jew and Gentile, follower or Roman soldier, friend or enemy.  


In the book, “The Rebirthing of God” by John Philip Newell, he describes this compassion in the following way, he says…


“The word compassion simply means “being with suffering.” “…compassion is about honoring the relationship between two people or between one group and another, and remembering those who suffer. It is about making the connection between the heart of my being and the heart of yours.”


Before Jesus “enters in” to any situation he considers the suffering of the people.  And he “enters into” it before actually getting involved.


Before healing.

Before teaching or preaching.

Before making a point.

Before arriving…                Jesus is found leading with compassion.


Jesus makes a connection between the heart of His being and the Heart of the suffering person or people.


I believe this may be why too often when the presence of Christ enters our situations – we seem surprised or shocked or even confused.  The presence of Christ brings to light, illumines those things that we may not be expecting – because God is connecting with us on such a personal level.


We too often are like the people in our text making Jesus out to be what we want him to be.  They turned his simple donkey ride into Jerusalem into a political event.  The signs were all there – palms or foliage put down on the road, even laying down their cloaks to make a path, the singing of “Hosanna,” Even the processional and the specific East gate in which he entered --- all were political and would have seemed very out of place and even radical in Jesus’ day.


Jesus had known for quite some time what they really wanted – but he was focused on what they really needed. 


Jesus wasn’t connecting to their political need for a king – in reality he was looking at


·        their division,

·        their lack of peace,

·        their anger at their enemies


He was connecting at a heart level and by doing that he was allowing himself to enter their suffering.


Actually, I would go one step further…Jesus was BECOMING THEIR SUFFERING.


His compassion for the people of this world went SO DEEP that it became his passion.


It is not ironic that this week is often termed “The Passion of Christ.” Just like the Mel Gibson directed movie.  Some call this week “Holy Week” but it is also interestingly called “Passion Week.”


The dictionary actually notes that “Passion” means suffering.  Not only is it a strong and barely controllable emotion, but it also can mean suffering, agony, even martyrdom.


 This week leading to Easter was a week of suffering for Jesus.  Including sufferings of 

·        betrayal,

·        physical exhaustion and pain,

·        emotional anguish,

·        torture and exhaustion,

·        and ultimately capital punishment and execution.       


Henri Nouwen and his co-authors, Donald McNeill and Douglas Morrison in the book, “Compassion: A Reflection of the Christian Life,” point out this connection between the passion of Jesus and his compassion when they write:


“Not only did he [Jesus] taste fully the dependent and fearful condition of being human, but he also experienced the most despicable, and horrifying form of death – death on a cross…he also became human in the most dejected and rejected way.  Not only did he know human uncertainties and fears, but he also experienced the agony, pain and total degredation of the bloody torture and death of a convicted criminal. In this humiliation, Jesus lived out the full implications of emptying himself to be with us in compassion.  He not only suffered our painful human condition in all its concrete-ness but he also suffered death with us in one of its rawest, ugliest, and most degrading forms.”   


This was Jesus’ compassionate way of becoming the suffering – this was his passion. He was laying down his own life for all those suffering in this world.


Yet, I hear people today almost flippantly use that term “passion” – do we really mean that we will “enter into” the suffering of something when we state….


·        I have a passion for gardening.

·        I have a passion for hats.

·        I have a passion for good coffee. 


That is honestly not giving this word the credit it is due. Especially, in light of what Jesus went through.  


Maybe we need to look behind our “passions” like Jesus did. 


When I start to think about this….I begin to ask myself some questions.. Just take for instance my three, kind of, flippant examples I gave of having passion. 


I have a passion for gardening. But…


·        What about the land, our animals, the natural resources, migrant workers and slave labor, organic and natural foods, people with cancer because of pesticides, maybe I do have a passion for gardening? 


I have a passion for hats. (I wear caps much of the time) But…


·        Where are my hats made?  Who makes them?  What are they made of? Maybe I do have a passion for hats?


I have a passion for coffee. But…


·        Is my coffee “fair trade”?  What big business owns my coffee?  What environmental suffering is caused by my K-cups?  Maybe I have a passion for coffee.


And that is just the start.


I believe God is calling us to ask these questions of ourselves, but then comes the hard part – actually “entering in” to the suffering as Jesus did.  Are we willing to lay our lives down for our friends and family?  Are we even willing to suffer with someone, alongside them, through a difficult time? Are we willing educate ourselves, so that we can stand against something that is causing suffering in this world, or to lobby, or to refuse to eat, drink, or wear, or shop or purchase specific items from specific stores?   




Jesus in most religions is known for COMPASSION.  It is often his most recognized attribute.  If we are to follow and live a life in the manner of Jesus – then before we “enter into” any situation – we will need to begin with having compassion on those suffering in our world – and that means in both our feeling and acting


Again I return to the book “The Rebirthing of God” where John Philip Newell says,


“There is a direct relationship between allowing ourselves to truly feel and the decision to act.  Compassionate action is sustained by the courage to feel.”


Jesus felt and out of that acted!  He wept over Jerusalem before he entered in to give his life.   


What does this look like for us?  Again, I turn to the book, “Compassion”


“Often, our lives get so overburdened that it takes every bit of energy to survive the day. Then it becomes hard to value the present moment, and we can only dream about a future time and place where everything will be different.  We want to move away from the present moment as quickly as possible and create a new situation in which present pains are absent.  But such impatient action prevent us from recognizing the possibilities of the moment and thus easily leads us to an intolerant fanaticism.  Action as a discipline of compassion requires the willingness to respond to the very concrete needs of the moment.”


And that is our call this Palm Sunday morning.  Let our feelings, our passions, the suffering in this world move us to respond with compassion and action!


As we enter into waiting worship consider the following queries.


·        Who are the suffering in your life?  Around you?

·        How will you “enter into” their suffering as Jesus did?

·        What is your “passion” really?



3-18-18 - It Begins in the Heart Where God Put It!

It Begins in the Heart Where God Put It!

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

March 18, 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-33 (NRSV)

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,[a] says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.


I found myself on several occasions this week talking about how to be a nonviolent presence in our world. With students walking out of schools and plans being made for marches it seemed to be on many people’s mind. Sadly, too often the nonviolent efforts don’t make the news because they often are hard to sensationalize. This week’s walk outs and the continued marches across our country are a continuation of a long history of nonviolent ways to speak to injustices and violence in our country and world.  


It has been 11 years since a good friend of mine and a pacifist-progressive-Mennonite introduced me to this nonviolent way through two life-changing books by John H. Yoder. Sadly, John Yoder was disgraced over sexual harassment allegations and passed away at the age of 70, but his work in the area of nonviolence and what he coined “The Politics of Jesus” (the title of one of the books) are still classics on the subject and transcend his personal life. 


Yoder’s book, “If a Violent Person Threatened to Harm a Loved One…What Would You Do?” (which is a compilation of answers to that question from the likes of Leo Tolstoy to Joan Baez) stopped me in my tracks.  For the first time, I was challenged to see the issue of violence and nonviolence as not just an outward reaction, but something that was happening within my own heart. I realized I needed to ask some serious queries of myself in relation to my own views and what I actually believed.  This in many ways started a crisis of faith in my own understanding.    


It was in this crisis and discovery that I headed into a year of diversity training at Huntington University and my first classes as a doctoral student at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. I found myself reading the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, John Woolman, and many more.  All people who found the benefit of nonviolence and have taught on its value. 


Yet, it was specifically in my study for a paper about Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr.’s spirituality where I began to hone my understanding of nonviolence and its importance at the core of my life. Since this time, I have come to learn that Gandhi and King are essential reads in understanding nonviolence and its impact on our world.


It was the following quote from Gandhi, in a book edited by Thomas Merton titled, “On Non-Violence” which first grabbed my attention. Mahatma Gandhi says,


Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being. . . . If love or non-violence be not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces. . . . Belief in non-violence is based on the assumption that human nature in its essence is one and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love. . . . If one does not practice non-violence in one’s personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken.


To begin seeing the seat of nonviolence as my heart, started an evolution in my soul. In many ways, I was learning that the condition of my heart was key to how I respond to my world. This was a little different than just saying I had the love of Jesus down in my heart, like I was taught in the Sunday School song. This was saying that it was more than an acknowledgement or belief. For the first time, I sensed the need to take care of nurturing my heart, finding inner peace, and connecting to my inner light (as we practiced last week) to help me become a more peaceful and non-violent presence in this world.  I had to admit that some of the violence I experienced in this world – I actually caused – and it stemmed from my own soul. 


Gandhi wrestled with this as well. Not only did he begin to see non-violence (or as he named it Satyagraha) as inseperable from our being, he also saw it as desperately important to the future and shalom (peace) of humankind. Unless we found the seeds of nonviolence in our own lives, the world was not going to get any better.


Ironically, many people do not know this, but in my research I learned that Gandhi said many times that he developed his ideas about Satyagraha (nonviolence) in large part from the New Testament teachings of Jesus.


Gandhi considered Satyagraha a way to synthesize Jesus’ teaching about peace and non-violence into the life of the individual. He believed that non-violence came through embracing the qualities Jesus lived out in his life – such as:  

n  loving our enemies,

n  seeking truth,

n  experiencing personal transformation,

n  being people of virtue,

n  and having a religious faith

 all things that Jesus had lived out in his life and had said should flow from our hearts.


If you remember, on one occasion, Jesus goes out of his way to make a point about where our thoughts, beliefs, actions, and what we say stem from with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Jesus said,  


“You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season.” (MSG)


The importance of the condition of the heart was something that Martin Luther King Jr. learned from Jesus but allowed to be nurtured by studying Gandhi during the difficult days of the Civil Rights movement. King knew that retaliation or violent means were not what should flow from the heart and if they did it would only make things worse. Gandhi was leading sit-ins, walk-outs, and marches in India with non-violent methods and King adopted the same perspectives for his movement.  The key for both of them was to make sure their heart was centered and in the right place.  This is exactly what I saw many students do this week across the country as they walked out in the same non-violent tradition. King learned that nonviolence and nonviolent resistance as Gandhi taught were better responses to what he was facing just like the students in Parkland, FL.  King also realized that to do this work meant to go deeper and see what was behind the outward violence – something many people are calling our politicians, administrators, and leaders on today.


For Martin Luther King Jr. going deeper and seeing behind the violence meant to start within himself.  King said this,    


“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”


King’s views changed dramatically as he internalized an ethos of nonviolence and allowed his responses to flow from that centered-space.


I believe, King and Gandhi both realized that nonviolence transcends our outward actions and must be rooted in our hearts where true love is found and nonviolence has it’s beginnings. 


Gandhi said,  


“Nonviolence which is a quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.”


Nonviolence was not simply a body of knowledge to learn or be taught – it was something that (as I said in this week’s “As Way Opens” in Friend to Friend) is  planted deep within each of us and must be cultivated and nurtured by actually living it out through our love for God and others.  


Just inside the door of my office, I have hanging the Six Principles of Nonviolence  which I purchased at the King Center in Atlanta on one of my visits. These are a summary of Kings thoughts on nonviolence which he compiled after learning from Gandhi.  They show just how nonviolence must stem from our depths. Just listen as I read these 6 principles to you:


Principle 1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

Principle 2: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.

Principle 3: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.

Principle 4: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.

Principle 5: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Principle 6: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.


And this takes me back to our text for this morning which Eric read. God says the new covenant is 

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

What did that look like?  What was God writing on our hearts?  The prophet Micah gets to the details when he writes,


He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?


What God wants of us resonates with Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Merton and many more.  It sounds simple, but it is the foundation for building an “ethos of peace” in our world.  Our hearts should be filled with the desire to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our God – and that, I believe describes a nonviolent spirit.   


Folks, love is nonviolent. Love is peaceful. Love is kind. Love is what binds us to one another.  And when that is what is found in our hearts we can understand better Martin Luther King Jr.’s words,


“Love is a force by which God binds man to Himself and man to man.  Such love goes to the extreme; it remains loving and forgiving even in the midst of hostility. It matches the capacity of evil to inflict suffering with an even more enduring capacity to absorb evil, all the while persisting in love.”



I want to end this sermon with reading what we as Quakers say about being people of peace and nonviolence.  This is from the American Friends Service Committee webpage under Quaker Testimonies.


In renouncing war and violence, Friends embrace the transforming power of love and the power of nonviolence, striving for peace in daily interactions with family, neighbors, fellow community members, and those from every corner of the world.


This is who we are – people who embrace the transforming power of love and the power of nonviolence.  When we live this out – we too have the ability to change our world like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. before us.  Let’s join our children and take up that mantle of nonviolence and march forward with love and nonviolence in our hearts!



American Friends Service Committee has offered some queries for us to ponder regarding nonviolence (I have included them on the back of your bulletin). As we enter waiting worship, take some time to ponder these as we wait and listen.


How can I nurture the seeds of peace within myself, my community, and the world?


How can I work to eliminate hatred, injustice, and both physical and institutional violence?


How can I be more open to seeking the goodness in people who act with violence

and hatred?


How can I increase my understanding of nonviolence and use it in all my interactions?




3-11-18 - Come to the Light

Come to the Light

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

March 11, 2018


A few months ago, I read to you a description of Quakers by Rex Ambler in one of my sermons. It has come to resonate with me and many of you, and I find it speaking to our condition again and again. This week as I was reading more from Rex Ambler, I returned to his description as a grounding statement for us as Quakers, but also as a way to focus our attention on the Quaker spiritual experience that I am planning to lead you through in a couple of minutes. For now, I would like to read Rex’s description once again as a way to begin our process of centering down this morning.

Quakers sit in silence because they want to know something that words cannot tell them. They want to feel something or become aware of something that they can really make connection with. It is something fundamental to their life, they know that, indeed it is the underlying reality of their life, but they are not normally aware of it.

They are preoccupied with other things. They are taken up, like others, with the relatively shallow things of life, encouraged by the media and contemporary culture generally, and they hardly feel the depth of it all.      So they feel the loss, the distance, and want somehow to get close to this deeper reality.

They want to become "the Friends of Truth," as they liked to call themselves at the beginning. Not any truth, but a truth that relates specifically to their deepest felt needs, and to the needs of the world. They are looking for a truth by which to live, that is, a sense of reality that tells them who they are and how they should live.

Part of the reality of their life, of course, is their relationship with one another and with other people, both near and far. So they want to "discern" what happens between people, what makes for a good life together, and what makes for a bad one.

They want to learn in their own experience how relationships that are broken can be mended, how conflicts can be resolved, and how "the Friends of Truth" can work together to make these things happen in the world. (pp.10-11 from The Quaker Way: A Rediscovery)


John 3:19-21 (NRSV)

19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”


Sarah just read to us a very Quakerly passage of scripture – “but those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”


Quakers are always taking about “the light.”  We use the phrase to say things like,


“I am holding you in the light.” 

“We need to mind the light.”

“I am seeking my inner light” or “the light within.”


It also has been associated in Quaker circles with the historical Christ and as well the metaphorical understanding of Christ. We have a variety of names for Christ that speak of light:


Light of the World.

Father of Lights.

Light of Lights.

Light of God.

And the list could go on.


But for most Quakers our obsession with “the light” metaphor goes back to our founder, Geroge Fox.  Here is a modern English translation of George Fox’s words:


“So long as you live in the light nothing can trip you up, because you will see everything in the light.  Do you love the light? Then here’s your teacher!  When you are out walking it’s there with you, in your heart – you don’t have to say ‘Look over here’, ‘Look over there’. And as you lie in bed it’s there with you too, teaching you, making you aware of that wandering mind of yours that likes to wander off, and of your attempts to master everything with your own thought and imagination – they themselves are mastered by the light. For if you follow your own thoughts you will soon get lost. But if you live in the light it will reveal to you the root of your wrong doing, and the distortions of your life, and the degraded condition in which you live, and your endless thinking about everything.”


That sounds very similar to our scripture reading for this morning.  The light is our inner teacher and is shedding light on the darkness of our life – bringing awareness, capturing our wandering mind, and helping us find direction.


The problem is that for many people, we have a hard time connecting to that inner light on a daily basis – especially in our busy lives.  Rex Ambler in his studies started to wonder similar things. His journey took him back to the early Quakers to see how they found joy, peace of mind and courage to share it with others even when beaten and imprisoned for doing so. 


Rex knew that Quakers didn’t have specific spiritual practices of this nature and honestly, “how to” manuals weren’t that big in the 17th century.  But as he looked through the Early Quaker writings he found a clear pattern emerge.  Which Rex shares in his book, Light to live by: an exploration in Quaker spirituality.


On his website “Experiment with Light,” Rex identified 4 stages of a spiritual practice which early Friends used and described.


1.     Mind the Light.  This means stopping to consider what the Light within you shows you about what is happening in your life. Is anything causing you unease? Is there anything you need to attend to?


2.     Open your heart to the Truth.  Be honest and open with yourself and with God. Let the Truth emerge of its own accord. Don’t try to evade or excuse anything that you are shown. But don’t let yourself become confused or guilty.


3.     Wait in the Light. Instead of worrying over what the Light shows you, or trying to come up with solutions, be calm and patient. The Light itself, as it shows you the Truth, is a sign of something of God which is in you. Its power can show you what you need to understand (or to do!) in order to achieve peace of mind—providing you don’t lose yourself in troubled emotions. “Be cool” said Fox in his longest account of the process (GFJ, p.346).


4.     Submit to the Truth. Fox wrote in a letter, “When you have seen what’s going on in your mind, and the temptations there, do not think but submit... You will then receive power. So, stand still in the Light, submit to it, and all the rest will quieten down or disappear”. At times, the Light impels you to a necessary course of action, and then submitting means obeying it.


So to help modern Quakers understand and find a practical use for what the early Quakers knew and taught, Rex created what he called an “Experiment with Light.” In creating this, Rex realized these steps were very similar to psychologist Eugene Gendlin’s therapeutic process of “Focusing.” This led Rex to finding a way to re-introduce the early Quaker spiritual practice to us today. 


This morning I sense we need to experience Rex’s “Experiment with Light” based on Early Quaker understandings. For several weeks we have been wrestling deeply with issues in our lives and country, and our minds and lives are full. Several of you have asked me about how to center down and mind the light in your personal lives but in the manner of Friends. This is one helpful way that I have found to allow myself to focus on the light and let it be my present teacher. 


Don’t worry, you will be able to stay right where you are seated. I will be reading a prompt and then giving about 4 minutes after each prompt to allow you to experience the light. In the times of silence, please stay silent – this will be both our teaching time and our waiting worship.  At the very end I will give you a chance to share if you are so led. Then we will greet each other and sing the closing hymn.


Let us begin the “Experiment with Light.”   


1. Relax your body and mind. Make yourself comfortable. Feel the weight of your body on the pew or chair. Let all the tension go, in each part of your

body (start with your head and work all the way down to your toes). Let your immediate worries go, your current preoccupations. Be relaxed,

but alert. [Control your breathing.] Let yourself become wholly receptive.


2. In this receptive state of mind, let the real concerns of your life

emerge. Ask yourself, 'What is really going on in my life?', but do not try to answer the question. Let the answer come. You can be specific: 'What is happening in my relationships, my work, my country, my Meeting, in my own heart and mind?' And more specifically still: 'Is there anything here that makes me feel uncomfortable, uneasy?' As we gradually become aware of these things we are beginning to experience the light.


3. Now, focus on one issue that presents itself, one thing that gives you a sense of unease. Try to get a sense of this thing as a whole. Deep down you know what it is all about, but you don't normally allow yourself to take it all in and absorb the reality of it. Now is the time to do so. You don't have to get involved in it again, or get entangled with the feelings around it. Keep a little distance, so that you can see it clearly. Let the light show you what is really going on here. ‘What is it about this thing’, you can ask, ‘that makes me feel uncomfortable?’ Let the answer come. And when it does, let a word or image also come that says what it's really like, this thing that concerns me.


4. Now ask yourself what makes it like that. Don’t try to explain it. Just wait in the light till you can see what it is. Let the full truth reveal itself, or as much truth as you are able to take at this moment. The answer will come.


5. When the answer comes welcome it. It may be painful or difficult to believe with your normal conscious mind, but if it is the truth you will recognize it immediately. You will realize that it is something that you need to know. Trust the light. Say yes to it. It will show you new possibilities. It will show you the way through. So, however the news seems to be at first, accept it and let its truth pervade your whole being.


6. As soon as you accept what is being revealed to you, you will begin to feel different. Accepting truth about yourself is like making peace. Something is

being resolved. If none of this seems to have happened, do not worry. It may take longer. Notice how far you have got this time and pick it up on another occasion. In any case this is a process we do well to go through again and again, so that we can continue to grow and become more like the people we are meant to be.



When you feel ready, open your eyes, stretch your limbs, and bring the meditation to an end.


At this time, if you are led to speak out of the silence, you may. 



3-4-18 - Be Angry Like Jesus

Be Angry Like Jesus!

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

March 4, 2018


John 2:13-22 (NRSV)

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.



This coming Thursday is a very important day – it is International Women’s Day.  Thus, I would like to have us acknowledge that this morning. I am considering this International Women’s Sunday.  If you weren’t aware, International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911.  It is also know as the United Nations Day for Woman’s Rights and International Peace.


Woman have come a long way since 1911, but let’t be honest – IT NOT FAR ENOUGH!  To even think that tonight’s Oscar Ceremony (along with the Golden Globes a few months ago) is being overshadowed by the need for a “Me Too” or previously an “I’m With Her” campaign shows that we still need a lot of work. The way men in the highest offices, in powerful positions, and in the media have been exposed is a wake-up call of grand importance in our day, and it is just one of many ways that we need reverse the abuse and acknowledge and lift up the importance of women in our world. 


Sadly, we keep seeing our government cut funding for women’s organizations, human trafficking is still on the rise, and abuse, neglect, and belittlement of women continue to be reported nightly on our news.


I will be honest.  As a man, not only am I embarrassed at how men in our world have behaved, but I too have honestly had to take a look in the mirror and make some changes in my own life.  Sadly, how I was raised right here in Indiana taught me differently and in all reality it hasn’t changed that much in my 45 years.  Even the church taught me differently.  The church I grew up in would not allow women in leadership.  They taught that men were the head of the household – and that the Bible supported the unhealthy view of marital control by the man.


I remember getting in a huge argument in my Freshman year of college because I said that women should be pastors (and that was in my Freshman initiation) I hadn’t even taken a class.  Overtime, Sue and I were drawn away from this damaging thinking and soon found ourselves seeking out the Quaker Faith where women were valued as equal, where they had an important voice, where from the beginning they were respected and listened too and allowed to make an impact in their world.


Today, it makes me angry, yes angry, to think about what history has missed because of the way we have and continue to treat women.  There should be no need for a “Me Too” or “I’m With Her” movement.  There should be no different pay scales for women, or barriers or hurdles to cross. There should be no “war on women,” no need for a women’s march, but sadly that is simply not the world we live in. 


Now, before I get to far on my soapbox, I want to return to our scriptures.  Megan read one of the most controversial stories about Jesus.  Most people have a hard time with Jesus getting angry and taking it out on the money-changers in the temple – they say, “This doesn’t seem like something the Jesus I follow would do?” In reality, most of the time we have such a weak view of Jesus that we cannot imagine or even understand this outburst by him.   


The issue with seeing Jesus angry is that it doesn’t fit our desired views of God.  Whenever I come across this conversation in theological circles, the conversation quickly digresses to the topic of wrath.  Pastor Dawn Hutchings sheds some light on this as well. She says,


“In Latin, “ira” is often translated as wrath, but the church liked the more generic form of ira and so wrath quickly became known as anger.  Now, you can call me cynical if you like, but I can think of all sorts of reasons why a budding institution that was developing an elaborate hierarchy might want to warn its members not to get angry. Anger is, if you will pardon the pun, the mortal enemy of institutions and most particularily hierarchal institutions like the church, so it is easy to see why Jesus was stripped of this common and indeed most useful of human emotions.”


Why can’t Jesus get angry?  That’s the question. Why not?


To understand this, we need to see Jesus holistically. His great compassion has to be balanced by his passion for justice.  Too often we have him out in the pastures with cute white puffy lambs, when Jesus was actually a pretty serious radical.  Throughout history the Institutional Church has wanted to balance his anger with patience. Which all that does is lessen the blow and allow for us to manage Jesus. 


Pastor Dawn Hutchings points out the fact that


“Nowadays, the most common word associated with anger is management. We have become obsessed with controlling our anger, and so we send offenders to anger management courses to insure that they learn not to offend us with their anger.”


Why we don’t like Jesus getting angry is simple – we can’t control Jesus and make him out to be what we want.  I am so glad that this story is found in the bible – and especially in the gospels. This means we have to wrestle with it and try and relate and understand what is going on.


Now, Jesus was angry for a pretty good reason.  He was so exasperated by the merging of the religious officials and the Roman Empire, that he loses it. (In the past election cycle – we saw the same thing in our own country. Something that has been going on for a long time.)  Yet, the compassion of Jesus for the poor and his passion for justice has him storm into the Temple to put on a protest for political change. That may be a new way of seeing our text this morning.  Some may say, Jesus had become imbalanced – the patience that we so often encounter with Jesus had given way to his anger at the injustice. 


We don’t like Jesus getting angry because honestly it makes him too human.  Keeping him divine makes Jesus easier.  We can explain away the divine as almost magic or what in religious circles we call a miracle.  But anger is not explained away that easily – even though we try.


Again, Pastor Dawn Hutchings enlightened me on this, she says,


“Anger is a useful human emotion. Anger lies at the heart of human evolution. Our anger at the way things are can be just the impetus we need to compel us to change the way things are.  When anger moves us to reject the status quo, our protests can become the means by which we effect change.” 


I don’t know how many times, I have talked with young people (and adults) about anger, and I always ask them, what is the opposite of anger.  And the answer is always “Love.”  If you are not angry at them, well, you love them.  But as a father, I know that is not always true.  Sometimes I get angry because I love my boys so much.  I want them to learn, to obey, to see things differently. Sometimes we have all the right to get angry about a situation - that doesn’t mean we have to be abusive or hurt someone, but we can be angry.


As I was writing this sermon, I recalled a paper I wrote in my Master’s Program on God’s Wrath and Anger.  It was called “Wrath: A Corallary of God’s Love.” 


The feminist theologian Beverly Wildung Harrison in her essay, "The Power of Anger in the Work of Love," says,


"Anger is not the opposite of love. It is better understood as a feeling-signal that all is not well in our relation to other persons or groups or to the world around us. Anger is a mode of connectedness to others and it is always a vivid form of caring." She goes on to write, "Where anger rises, there the energy to act is present."


Just because Jesus made a whip and physically cleared out the temple doesn’t mean it was the only time he was angered.  From the very beginning he was angered at the plight of the people. In his very first sermon (Luke 4:16-21), Jesus called for change for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. 


And on numerous occasions Jesus was found a bit angry over other injustices – the bible points them out rather specifically.  Jesus became angry over things like:


·        Hypocrisy

·        Greed

·        Lukewarm Living

·        Hard Heartedness

·         (religious, political, culturally, and I believe marital as well) Superiority

·        and Spiritual Pride


And yes, I believe if Jesus was here today he would be angry over some of these same things…like…


·        The greed of our politicians that willingly put money in their campaigns before considering the safety of their constituents.

·        The superiority of men over women, whites over blacks, the church over the LGBTQ, the government and the First Nations People.

·        The hypocrisy of our country being founded by refugees and our spiritual pride that led to the genocide of the First Nations People. 

·        The hard heartedness to being stewards of creation and being concerned for our environment.

·        The lukewarm living that has allowed women to become sexual objects rather than honored and respected individuals in society. 


I think Jesus might still have a little anger in him, today.  The point I am trying to make here is – if we are to follow the example of Jesus – then just maybe we too should be getting a little angry over what we are seeing in our world and the plight of the people in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces…


Just maybe we need to be like Emma Gonzales, the student from Parkland, FL who stood before the world and said, “I call B.S.”


Last week, we concluded our service with sharing the words, “I need you” with others.  Once we recognize that need and connectedness, we begin to see the injustices happening in our world.  Loving God and loving our neighbor becomes much more. 


And I know for me, at least, if I am not getting a little angry at the plight of the people in my world and work to do something about it, I will get comfortable and lack care for the people surrounding me. Yes, I will become myopic, selfish and   I will hurt my neighbor through my hypocricy, my greed, my lukewarm living, my hard heartedness, my superiority, and my spiritual pride. 


I believe we need to get angry like Jesus did when we see injustice. 

·        I am currently angered by the plight of the African Americans in this town whose communities are being gentrified – what the black community calls the New Jim Crow. I have been meeting with several different community leaders to understand this better and figure out what we can do.

·        I am currently angered by the plight of our children who continue to face horrific mass shootings with no response. I stand with them and support them as they, our children and young people, take up this mantle for change.  

·        I am currently angered by the plight of the Dreamers who not only need protected, but need acknowledged.  And I am willing to protect and give sanctuary, and fight legislation for those needing help – because that is what I believe as Christians we are called to do.

·        And on this International Women’s Sunday, I am angered by the plight of women in this country, and I want to do everything I can to help women feel respected and acknowledged for all they have to offer. 


And the list could go on…


As we move into our time of waiting worship.  I have a couple of queries to ponder… What injustices in our world anger you?  Where do you need to respond as Jesus did out of love and care for your neighbors?



2-25-18 - Weaving a Fabric of Care

Weaving A Fabric of Care

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

February 25, 2018

Galatians 6:1-10

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

6 Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.


This morning, I would like the sermon to serve as a multifaceted teaching.  I would like to have a little history lesson, some street art appreciation, and some Biblical exegisis.  Most of this will happen around the subject of “weaving.”  Last week we heard in our text to “tend to our knitting” so this week I thought I would continue that thought and expand it to the subject of weaving in general – which knitting is one type as we will learn.  When we leave this morning, my hope is that we will have a new metaphor for the care of our world.  


Let’s start with some history.  


Janis Rozentals gives us a great overview of weaving history on her website –


She says,


“Weaving is acknowledged as one of the oldest surviving crafts in the world. The tradition of weaving traces back to Neolithic times – approx.. 12,000 years ago.  Even before the actual process of weaving was discovered, the basic principle of weaving was applied to interlace branches and twigs to create fences, shelters, and baskets for protection.


So it is safe to say that weaving is part of our core knowledge. From the beginning weaving has been about taking care of ourselves, our possessions, our families, pets, etc… Weaving is an essential skill. Just look in this room at all that is affected by weaving:

  • Our clothing

  • The carpet

  • Wood beams

  • Books – hymnals and bibles have weaving in their spines

  • Even our hair – some of us with longer hair may have it in a pony tail or braided.


Janis goes on to point out:


“…early man developed the first string by twisting together plant fibers.  Preparing thin bundles of plant material and stretching them out while twisting them together produced a fine string of thread.”


Soon we had the need for stronger and stronger thread…


This concept is actually acknowledged early on in the wisdom literature of the scriptures where we read in Ecclesiastes 4:12


“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”


Janis says,


“During the Neolithic Era mankind developed great skills in weaving cloth.  Every household produced cloth for their own needs.  By the 11th century many of the weaving patterns used today had been invented. Weaving was not only an essential skill – it was foundational for protecting and caring for each other.”


That gives a deeper meaning to our text from last week – “Tend to your knitting.”  Knitting is an essential and foundational skill.


A couple weekends ago, Sue was trying to learn how to knit by using a training video. I picked up some knowledge as she was learning and it helped me consider even more in depth this process.   


I have learned that there are many different methods in which threads are woven. Some call it knitting, felting, braiding, plaiting, crochet, macramé, and the list goes on.  All of these weaving methods use at least two basic threads – a warp (longitudinal) and a weft (lateral) threads.


How these two threads come together through the process of weaving affects characteristics of the cloth.  Such as the tighter the knit – the stronger the weave.


Not only does it take two threads…when the loom is introduced to history to make the process easier – it actually required TWO PEOPLE.  Thus…


Weaving was a communal event – for a communal purpose.


Those who still utilize traditional or early methods of weaving see it as a communal event.  Quakers have a great history with weaving in many forms being a communal event. From Quilting groups to knitting clubs, to crochet gatherings. Even at our own meeting we have a sewing group that meets in our Fellowship Hall once a month. Even after World War I Quakers provided relief efforts to Europe and Russia through the Friends’ Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee by creating weaving huts to make cloth, blankets and more (see picture on front of bulletin).


In the town of Silverton, Oregon, where we used to live there was a shop called “Apples and Oranges” which provided yarn and materials for weaving of all types.  They had men’s and women’s knitting groups and crochet clubs throughout the week. I have noticed several shops of this nature in Indianapolis as well.  Weaving has become rather popular again.


Even when I served in Campus Ministries at Huntington University, one of the fastest growing clubs was the knitting club for both male and female students.


We even have what are called “Yarn Bombers.”  Actually one of the most famous Yarn Bomber was Grace Brett (she is on the bulletin cover with some of her work) – sadly just last year she passed away at 106 years old.  Look her up on the internet and you will see her still at 104 utilizing her knitting skills to brighten up her community.  It is amazing what all she would cover with her knitting.  She would cover lamp posts, rocks, fences, you name it…she made yarn creations for just about anything.  


So, now that we have had this lesson on weaving, what does this have to do with our text for this morning?


I believe “weaving” is a metaphor for our work as the body of Christ on this planet.


Jesus said it himself in Matthew 18:20:


“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them. “


And like weaving – we can’t do it with one string.  It takes at least two.


You could take this metaphor and run with it.  

  • You want stronger string – add more – make a cord.

  • You want strong materials – weave tight cords together.


Weaving supports the way Jesus approached our care for one another.


Just like in weaving…how we (you and I) come together affects the characteristics of the whole.


And that is where our text comes in…


To “weave a fabric of care” we must know how to live together and why we are coming together, and what affect we have when we do interweave our lives.


Prior to our text, Paul addresses the Galatians and exhorts them to live by the “Fruit of the Spirit.” We have probably heard these a few times in our lifetime -- Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.


He then moves into our text for this morning – and explains what it looks like to live by the fruit.

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

6 Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

To weave a fabric of care involves our lives and communities.

  • We need to forgive and be forgiven.

  • We need to reach out to the oppressed.

  • We need to share the burdens of others.


That will take (as we said a few weeks ago)

  • Examining ourselves.

  • Knowing our calling or skills and doing them to the best of our ability.


It also means

  • We shouldn’t be too impressed with ourselves.

  • Or compare ourselves with others.


When we do those things we stop the weaving process and it affects the creativity.  It is a fact – ask anyone who has used a loom for weaving - One knot can screw up an entire woven piece.


It means as it says in verse 6 that we are going to have to enter into a “common life” with our sisters and brothers sharing the good life and experiences.  

  • This is what Threshing at the Tap and Women at the Well is all about.  

  • This is what small groups, choir, book groups are all about.  

  • This is what serving at the food pantry, teaming up with Shalom Zone, and community soups are all about.  

  • This is what youth groups, children’s ministry, even bowling together is all about.

  • This is what Creation Care, lobbying our government, and social action is all about.

  • And this is what Meetings for Worship are about – ENTERING THE COMMON LIFE TOGETHER.


The German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his classic Life Together:


“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.”


Being a Quaker is not a personal or private thing – it takes each other. He goes on to say.

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves around them will create community.”


In verses 7 and 8 Paul then returns to the metaphor of “planting a harvest.” He says,

“the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”

Real life is holistic – it takes you and me and all our gifts, abilities, talents, and care, support and love.  

Weaving a fabric of care needs others – it takes us all and all of life.  

And yes – sometimes it will wear us out – fatigue us.

A while back, Relevant Magazine posted an article by Eddie Kaufholz who spoke to this. He said,

“…there can be drama within a group of people, even people who follow Jesus. This of course, is not because they’re bad people.  It’s because of sin, clashing personalities, circumstances, genuine mistakes, family dysfunctions, mental health issues, substance issues, bad weather, bad college sports teams – and the list continues…

Nothing about community, even with all of its beauty and God-centeredness, will be clean.  People will fight and disappoint you. People will fail to live up to expectations and fall short of God’s glory. In short, people will be as they’ve always been.

But it isn’t God’s best for us.”

God’s best is when we choose to “weave a fabric of care” with each other for the benefit of ALL.      AND IT STARTS RIGHT HERE IN THIS ROOM!


As we enter waiting worship – ask yourself:  

  • Where am I “weaving a “fabric of care” at First Friends?

  • What causes me to be a “knot” in the fabric?

  • How can I enter more fully into the “Common Life” at First Friends?



2-18-18 - The Humble Learner

The Humble Learner

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

February 18, 2018

Romans 14:5-12 (MSG)

5 Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.


6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit.


Read it for yourself in Scripture:


“As I live and breathe,” God says, “every knee will bow before me;

Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.”


So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.


How many of you have a day that is sacred during your week?

You may call it your sabbath, your day of rest, your day off, your play day…


●     Every so often when I was a kid we had what my parents called a “Bobby Day.”  This was a set apart day where I would get to pick what we did for the day. This became a tradition that has been passed down in our family and we try and do this with our own boys - setting apart special days for each of them. 


●     Fridays (ever since I started ministry) have always been my “Sabbath” or day of rest - a day where I don’t do work, try not to answer phones and emails. It is a day to recenter me. Usually, I spend time painting, going to vinyl record shops, and art museums. 


●     Saturdays are usually days for family in the Henry household and we try to spend the entire day together (which is often difficult with busy lives).


●     And yes, Sue and I continue dating after 22 years of marriage - setting apart a night or day every once and a while to keep our marriage alive.  


For me these days or nights are all sacred and needed in our lives.


Can you believe, back in Bible times people fought over what days were sacred? Sure, their lifestyles were much different than ours and time was determined by sun up and sun down, and then there was the many rules associated with their down time put on them by the religious leaders. Yet the biggest discussion was centered around the day or days -- whether it should be Friday at sundown until Sunday at sunrise...Maybe just Saturday....and then later even just Sunday.


Today, we still debate and struggle with what is the real sacred day.  Seventh Day Adventists hold to Saturdays like our Jewish brothers and Sisters.  And with work schedules and lifestyles changing, Sunday morning activities have often reluctantly been moved to Saturday nights, or a weeknight, leaving the debate brewing.  So not much has changed.


But, we as Quakers make this much easier.  For Quakers EVERYDAY is special. If you didn’t know, early Quakers rejected Sabbath-keeping as practiced by the church in England. They felt that everyday life could be lived as sacred if one attended to The Light Within on a daily basis.


I think it is important to hear what our text said for this morning: person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.



Then, right after this, Paul jumps from sacred days to talking about food. So typical of religious people concerned about meeting days and food. I love what it says in The Message:


What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters.


You may not know this, but for about 8 years Sue and I were vegetarians. We started when we lived in Indiana before moving to Oregon. The one thing that was evident was that there was a big difference when we said we were vegetarians here in Indiana vs. out in Oregon. Here we were labeled, people assumed they knew who we voted for, and we were at times considered everything from hippies to anti-farming (and my wife grew up on a farm!). Things were different in Oregon. In all reality though, the reason we became vegetarians was because I was challenged by a professor and fellow colleague in looking at vegetarianism as a spiritual discipline. Later, we had to give it up for health reasons.


What I think is interesting is that these were huge issues for the early church. Sacred days and what food they ate caused big debates.


Let’s be honest, not much has changed. Many meetings, churches, religious groups still like to debate things...maybe not sacred days and food per se but things like...

●     Worship styles

●     Social, political, and theological views and change.

●     The end times.

●     Music (hymns or praise songs, Drums or guitar use in church)

●     What version of their scriptures is the proper version. (There are churches in this city that have “KJV Only” written on their sign)

●     Even whether gatherings should happen in set-apart religious buildings or in homes, coffee houses, or even warehouses.

●     And the list could go on…


What I believe God is trying to tell us this morning is that we all have different preferences...AND THAT IS OK.  Or as it said in our text...


 “...each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.”


The only big problem is when it simply becomes all about what I want instead of having or picking preferences that give God glory.  This is where there is a difference. I think God wants us to have preferences, sure, but to be humble about it.  Like in our text where it says...  


“None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other.”


It is our entire life that is to be lived for the glory of God - 24/7 - from birth to life.  The whole shabbang! 

●     Not just Sunday!

●     Not just on my Bobby Day or my Day Off.

●     Not just when things are going good.

●     Not just when I get my way.

●     Not just when someone else thinks things are going good for me. 


Life is to be lived for God’s glory because it keeps our focus on what God is up to in our lives.  Paul says it this way…the reason we are to live our lives for the glory of God is...


“so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.


Now, some of us may have just brisseled a little.  To have God be a “master” over all aspects of our lives can bring up negative thoughts. 


The word most translated here is “Lord or Master”  But let’s be honest, we don’t like it when people “lord over us” and the idea of God being a “Master” brings up the idea we are merely slaves or puppets. Those don’t seem to be helpful thoughts either. 


Actually, for many people these concepts of God send mixed signals and even more mixed messages. 


Think about our text alone God is saying we have freedom to choose preferences and yet we are being Mastered by God. 


It is almost like God is saying “You have Freedom...not really, Psych!” 


I will be honest...this is exactly how many churches and religious groups out there draw people in.  You think you have freedom...and then they give you God’s rules (or what they have written down as God’s rules - often rules that more resemble the rules of the pharisees than God’s).  Things that seem as trivial as what day is sacred and what food is clean enough to eat. 


Paul must have realized human nature though, because as he continues to explain this he paints a different picture which, I believe, is very important for us - and I think he does it through some good old Quaker Queries… In vs. 10 he asks:


10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother?

And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister?


Paul finishes with his own answer: “I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse.“ These are the “petty tyrannies of each other” that he was talking about freeing us from earlier in the text.


Paul is saying...our arguing, criticizing, looking down on, condescending leaves us trying to be the MASTER or LORDing it over some one else.  It puts you and me in the place of God. It puts you and me in the place of receiving the glory. 


Now, if you remember, last week my challenge was to “Be the Shepherd.”  A shepherd guides, cares for, protects those they have been placed over.  And sadly, some shepherds can become abusive. They begin to control, to play God, to forget that, as I said last week, they are also sheep.   


Folks, we are not the master of others.

●     We may want to be at times.

●     We may think we are at times.


But what I believe Paul is emphasizing is that when we try to be the Master and not do all we do for the Glory of God - we go beyond being “good shepherds” and we do it all for our own glory or power.  There is a difference between being a shepherd and a master.   


If you look at the dictionary’s definitions of master you will find three definitions:


1.   A person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something.

2.   An owner of a slave, animal, etc...


Those are what we usually think of first, but I sense Paul is saying that God is a master or Lord like the third definition (which is the adjective form):


3. Having or showing very great skill or proficiency. One who has acquired complete knowledge of a situation or subject.


So back to our text - Paul says,


“Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:


“As I live and breathe,” God says,

    “every knee will bow before me;

Every tongue will tell the honest truth

    that I and only I am God.””


Throughout scripture, when it speaks of “every knee bowing” and “kneeling together” it is talking about taking a humble position.  Not a position of power or control or criticizing or condescending, but rather, what I would like think of as a “humble learner.” 


That third dictionary definition of Master is not the Mastor of a slave, but rather a student or pupil - We are familiar with this relationship - it is the Rabbi Jesus and his disciples, it is the Zen Master and their Deshi, it is the Jedi and their Padawan. 


Putting ourselves under the Master means our actions will look like those of our master as much as what we say (confess) will sound like them as well.


So Paul wraps this up rather simply. 


“So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.” 


I love Eugene Peterson’s translation because he brings it back to the ordinary.  Tend to the ordinary.  The things that are uniquely you.  The things you love to do - your preferences.  Don’t get so caught up in pointing fingers and arguing and trying to Master others.  Enjoy life!  Take care of yourself by being a pupil of God’s Life - and really living!


So ask yourself this morning…


What “debates” in my life keep me from the freedom I could have?


Where in my life am I trying to be the “Master” instead of the “humble learner”? 





2-4-18 - Be The Shepherd

Be The Shepherd

Indianapolis First Friends

Pastor Bob Henry

February 4, 2018


 John 10:11-16 (NRSV)


11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.



“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.”


This phrase from our text is loaded for those listening to Jesus.  Especially for his Hebrew audience. First, he describes himself as a “good shepherd” -- sometimes it is even translated “great” - but here it is good.  


“Good” like the word used to describe God’s creative work in the creation poem in Genesis - “God saw all that he made and it was good.”


And then he calls himself a shepherd -- interesting that he didn’t call himself a king or a ruler or a rabbi or high priest, not a business man, not even a typical “blue collar”  worker of his day, but rather the bottom of the barrel,  a stinky, useless, ignored shepherd.  This was the lowest of the low in Jesus’ day. You may be unaware of the fact that shepherds weren’t even allowed to worship in the synogogue or temple, nor were they were  allowed to participate in society.  Very similar to the more modern banning of African Americans, women, the LGBTQ and even immmigrants in churches and society.


It is even worse than we are imagining - Shepherds were ritually defiled. If you read the book of Leviticus carefully, it is clear that there were a multitude of things people living under the Law had to do to please the Lord in Jesus’ day. Among those were prohibitions against making contact with feces or dead things - something that any shepherd dealt with on a daily basis.  Thus they were never clean - or maybe I should say clean enough. The society of this day was fanatical about cleanliness, thus shepherds had to stand aside. They were never clean; it was impossible. They were constantly walking about in excrement and touching dead things, and both activities left them in a state of ritual impurity.


Think about that not only did Jesus identify with shepherds - he called himself a “good shepherd” That would have been considered an oxymoron in his day and down right wrong.


It is kinda funny how we 2000 years later connect with this imagery.  Some of the most recognizable pieces of art in the Christian world are of Jesus the Great Shepherd. 


As well, the most popular psalm - actually one of the most popular texts from the entire bible - only out done by John 3:16 is Psalm 23, which begins... 


“The Lord is my shepherd.” 


It is one of the most used scriptures at funerals, at hospital and hospice bedsides, and in hundreds of pieces of music.


So, the Hebrew people had been hearing of their God identifying as a shepherd for quite some time. I am sure it was not as popular of a metaphor for them as we have made it in our day.  With our fluffy white sheep and our smiling Jesus walking in a lush meadow.  I am sure their image was quite different - maybe even difficult to relate with the God of the Universe. 


In the book “A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller, he relates to this difficulty. He says…


“Now the beautiful relationships given to us repeatedly in Scripture between God and man are those of a Father and his children and a shepherd to his sheep...These concepts were first conceived in the mind of God our Father. They were made possible and practical through the work of Christ. They are confirmed and made real in me through the agency of the gracious Holy Spirit. 


So when the simple -- though sublime -- statement is made by a man or woman that “The Lord is my Shepherd,” it immediately implies a profound yet practical working relationship between a human being and his Maker. 


It links a lump of common clay to divine destiny -- it means a mere mortal becomes the cherished object of divine diligence...To think that God in Christ is deeply concerned about me as a practical person immediately gives great purpose and enormous meaning to my short sojourn upon this planet.”


Folks, we must remember the Good Shepherd knows his sheep. 


The word know in Greek (ginosko) means - TO PRECEIVE, TO FEEL, TO UNDERSTAND, and TO BECOME KNOWN.  


So this means that God - the Good Shepherd- preceives, feels, understands, and knows you and me - and wants to become known in our lives and we in his. 


You and I are cherished by God - we are deeply known.  God knows us so intimately (the word known in the Jewish culture is a actually a sexual term) - sadly that doesn’t have the depth of meaning in our day and age due to our over sexualized media and world.


Let me give you a picture of the depth of what God is saying by reading a modern interpretation of Psalm 23 - from the book Psalms, NOW! (actually I am not sure how modern it is - I noticed in the front cover it was released the year I was born.).  The words speak of this intimate relationship between the Good Shepherd who truly knows his sheep.


The Lord is my constant companion.

There is no need that He cannot fulfill.

Whether His course for me points

          to the mountaintops of glorious ecstacy

or to the valley of human suffering,

He is by my side,

He is ever present with me.

He is close beside me.

          when I tread the dark streets of danger,

          and when I flirt with death itself,

          He will not leave me.

When the pain is severe,

          He is near to comfort.

When the burden heavy,

          He is there to lean upon.

When depression darkens my soul,

          He touches me with eternal joy.

When I feel empty and alone,

          He fills the aching vacuum with His power.

My security is in His promise

          to be near to me always,

          and in the knowledge

          that He will never let me go. 


Realizing this relationship with the God of the Universe can be overwhelming.  When we realize that God loves us this much (as our query from last week prompted us to consider) it may take us some time to fully grasp it.  That is why I believe God says in Psalms, “Be Still and Know that I am God.”


God knows you and me - I can understand that -- but for me to know God takes a lot more. 


Actually, it may not be possible until we actually step into the Good Shepherd’s shoes (or maybe I should say sandals).  Jesus actually shifts the metaphor after the resurrection with his conversation with Peter.  Her says…


Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”   [BE THE SHEPHERD]


He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”     [BE THE SHEPHERD]


Then he said it a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”


Peter was upset that he asked him for the third time, “Do you love me?”

So he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you. “ 


Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”  [BE THE SHEPHERD]



Wow!  This means you and I are both sheep and shepherds.  As Quakers we can understand this because we believe in the priesthood of all believers or that everyone is a minister. 


We are to imitate God in our daily life - and that means we must become shepherds -

●     Shepherds in our families [Feed my children]

●     Shepherds in our neighborhoods [Feed my neighbors]

●     Shepherds in our workplaces [Feed my workers]

●     Shepherds in our schools [Feed my students]

●     Shepherds in our government [Feed my citizens and immigrants]

●     Shepherds in our Scout Troops [Feed my scouts]

●     Shepherds in our Meeting [Feed ONE ANOTHER]




How are you being called to “Be the Shepherd” in your world this week?