The Business of Our Lives
Pastor Bob Henry
Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
July 9, 2017
Sue the boys and I have spent a lot of time crossing the country over the last several years. We have taken several different routes, stopped on numerous occasions to see odd road-side sights (everything from Wall Drugs in South Dakota to a giant Van Gogh painting in Goodland, Kansas), and then all the memorials, historical sites, and literal wonders of our beautiful country. Two of those times we were crossing the country to start new ventures, one was for a funeral, and another was to take our oldest son to Huntington University (just up the road).
What I have come to realize is that journeys are always filled with learning experiences, growth, and yes, occasionally some surprises.
We are so glad our move back to Indiana was less eventful than our move to Oregon - where our moving truck broke down three times and then finally had to be changed out somewhere in Minnesota. The most eventful thing this trip was simply trying to get all of what we needed to live for the next two months into our van. We packed and repacked it several times before departure. Every night as we stopped at the hotel, we slowly opened the back of our van in preparation for the explosion of items that had shifted on the move.
I believe one of the valuable lessons of traveling across the United States is taking in our nation’s history first hand. It makes our history books and nation’s stories come alive. There is nothing like actually walking in the house and farm in St. Louis where future general and president Ulysses S. Grant worked alongside 35 slaves in his youth, or standing on the grave littered fields at Little Bighorn in Montana where the white man learned a horrific lesson, or taking a moment to pause on the porch of the home in Atlanta where Martin Luther King Jr. began to formulate his dream. Or as Sam and I did on Friday, crawling into the garret of Quaker’s Levi and Catherine Coffin’s home to experience where slaves were hidden on their way to freedom.
If we are willing for a moment to look past the shiny monuments and beautifully manicured parks and sites of our nation, we just might begin to see a deeper story emerging. What I have learned over the many journeys we have taken is that the stories behind our monuments, protected sites, and historic markers are often not all that we have been taught. They don’t always speak of “amber waves of grain” or “where the deer and antelope play” but rather of pain, war, discrimination, injustice and failure. A foundation that I believe still haunts us as Americans.
Whenever I come to a new place, I try and learn a little about it’s history. Since I was born and raised just up the road in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area, I had Indiana history in 4th grade. I took a field trip to the replica of Fort Wayne and even walked down and saw Chief Little Turtle’s burial sight. No one really explained to me then that Fort Wayne (or even the land right here this morning) was located on Miami Indian territory or how the Treaty of St. Mary removed the Native American’s from Indiana (especially right in this area of Indianapolis) and put them on the Trail of Tears. There is always more to our stories, isn’t there?
Somewhat ironic, I found it interesting that the three meetings for worship that I attended at First Friends before becoming your pastor all had similar focuses to what I am talking about today. My first Sunday, your former pastor, Ruthie spoke of adventure and starting out with Lewis and Clark across America. My second visit, when we were here buying a home, was a presentation about Mary Bateman Clark’s fight to make sure slavery would not exist in Indiana by Ethel McCane and Eunice Trotter. And just last week, we heard from Friend Jon Berry about the importance of “becoming a guest” to our Muslim sisters and brothers.
I don’t think these experiences and teachings are a coincidence.
Just last year, a church in Portland, Oregon, was worshipping as usual on a normal Sunday when a disgruntled person broke their silence, yelling at the pastor and the people causing him to be escorted out of the worship space - and what was he all upset about? Well, the church was dedicated to loving ALL people. His outbreak happened after the congregation shared these words of welcome together as they did each week: (You may read them in your bulletin in the reflections section.)
We are glad you are here this morning. We offer our respect to the ancestors and descendents of the original people of this land, we invoke their presence with us. And as well we say to everyone - members, visitors, friends…whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
Let’s admit it, we live in a hurting world. Yet I believe I hear a prophetic call rising from the deepest places in our souls, from the crevices of our history, in the news stories on our TV’s, and from the depths of our Quaker heritage.
Do you feel it? Do you sense it?
I believe, and have believed for quite some time now, that it is our time as Quakers to answer that call. Folks, we have so much to offer our ailing world. It’s time we live out our uniqueness.
I think you would agree that our world needs some SPICE (that would be some Quaker SPICE) - we need to live more simply, more peacefully, with more integrity, as a community, and with equality.
Our world is crying out for the Quaker Way!
Quaker John Woolman, who heard the call of his day, referred to this as the “business of our lives.” He said it this way,
“Our gracious Creator cares and provides for all his creatures. His tender mercies are over all his works, and so far as his love influences our minds, so far we become interested in his workmanship and feel a desire to take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted and increase the happiness of the creation. Here we have a prospect of one common interest from which our own is inseparable - that to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.” - John Woolman.
It was Jesus himself who in answering one of the teachers of the law of his day who had asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” spoke of this universal love...Jesus said:
29-31“The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” - Mark 12:30-31 (MSG)
As a pastor who has ministered for over 20 plus years, I have found those seemingly simple words to roll off our tongues, “Love God and Love Others.” Yet as our own history shows, it just isn’t that easy.
My hope is that over the coming years at First Friends, we will answer that call of universal love to all those we meet. That with passion, prayer, intelligence and energy we would LOVE well! Or as Quaker John Woolman said,
To allow God’s universal love to influence our minds.
To take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted,
To increase the happiness of the creation.
We at First Friends can and will change the world we live in if we are willing to answer this call of universal love! I am excited to see all the ways that we will do just that as I serve along side each of you in the coming days, months, and years! I hope you are as excited as I am!
Now, let’s take a moment this morning to join together in Waiting Worship and ponder our call and the queries provided for you in the bulletin.