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Picking up the threads of my last journal entry, I wrote an article for Friends Journal called Do this in Remembrance of Me, mainly to satisfy the submission demands of one of my classes. Here's an excerpt:

I can't help thinking that the experience of communion practiced by Friends is deeply connected to the vision of God revealed in Eucharist. There has been a great deal written on this subject from the vantage point of other traditions, but I would like to focus on the fundamental attitude toward reality presented in the Eucharist narrative, an attitude shared by the early Quakers and deeply nourishing for Friends today. [...]

On the night that he was arrested, Yeshua joined his disciples in a Passover meal which he vividly connected to the suffering he anticipated. The New Revised Standard Version reads:

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."
Narrative of the arrest, trial, and execution of Christ immediately follows, and throughout these anguishing events, the rabbi remains unwaveringly faithful to his vision of divine love and justice. Because of this juxtaposition, I would suggest that the meditation captured in the above text is much more than an injunction to carry out a ritual of remembrance. The words "do this in remembrance of me" are referring not only to the meal, but also to the radical faithfulness demanded by God in the trials of our times.

This idea of Living in the Cross, “radical faithfulness” to God's love and justice, is something I've been wrestling with a lot, and I still feel like I've failed to articulate the blood & guts of it. This week, I found a reading by Rich Foster that seems to express the idea almost elegantly:

The foremost symbol of this radical servanthood* is the cross. “He [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). But note this: Christ not only died a “cross-death,” he live a “cross-life.” The way of the cross, the way of the suffering servant was essential to his ministry.

[...]Jesus called his followers to live the cross-life. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). He flatly told his disciples, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). When Jesus immortalized the principle of the cross-life by washing his disciples' feet, he added, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission. The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood.

* emphases mine

Foster makes it clear that the “freely accepted servanthood” of Living in the Cross should not lead Christians into sniveling complicity with evil and injustice, even when it is perpetrated by their own government. Indeed, revolutionary subordination demands the courage to transform our communities, even through civil disobedience: “[The apostles] illustrated revolutionary subordination by meekly refusing a destructive command and being willing to suffer the consequences. The German thinker Johannes Hamel says that subordination includes 'the possibility of a spirit-driven resistance, of an appropriate disavowal and a refusal ready to accept suffering at this or that particular point.'”

Living in the Cross is a vocation of service to all people, and service calls us into the field of action. Yet it is so easy to get sniveling with complicity when dealing with the beurocracies, institutions, social conventions, and other powers that crush human dignity and turn us away from Friendship. I remember working in Human Resources a couple years ago, and being subject to a culture of somewhat dehumanizing policy. It took a constant exertion of will to align my priorities with the needs of my coworkers, to provide them with support in navigating the maze of paperwork and policy regarding their payroll and benefits. Subordinating the demands of the institution to the needs of the community created a friendlier environment all the way to the customer.

I can't talk about that with more wit because labor relations isn't my main interest. While studying toward teacher certification, I have found other concerns that I feel I must carry in serving my community:

  • Kids need experience-based training in constructive alternatives to violence. We need to foster a culture in our schools that empowers young people with creative skills in conflict transformation.
  • Families need stronger connections with their coworkers and neighbors. When crap hits the fan, it will be the people in my neighborhood and workplace who need my help, and who can help my family. Political, economic, and cultural divisions are all red herrings. The real issue is our commitment to divine love and justice.
  • Religious strife is rapidly sending us back into the dark ages. Our different traditions provide us with unique visions of God and unique vocations in the world, but when our relationship with each other is defined by enmity instead of service, we have regretably departed from our calling. We need to support loving dialogue that builds a robust spirit of fellowship across denominational boundaries.
These aren't things I have any natural gifts for, but they are the concerns that drive my present work and study.

That's enough high-falutin' for now. Time to read some bed-time stories and rest in the questions and mysterious silence that follow.

posted by john | June 5, 2005 02:55 AM


I would kindly ask You where the quotation by Johannes Hamel is taken from?
Thanks! J. Runge

posted by: Jürgen Runge | November 14, 2005 11:28 AM

Guten tag!

The Hamel quotation comes from a book by Richard Foster called Celebration of Discipline. Foster does not include citations, and their are no works listed under Hamel in his bibliography.

From what I can tell, Foster is involved in the Renovaré site and it may be possible to reach him using their contact page. His eMail address and contact number are listed in the Frequently Asked Questions under the heading How do I invite Richard Foster to speak at a function?

I hope this helps! If I find out anything further, I will post it here.

posted by: jan pawel [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 15, 2005 05:41 PM

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