As a Christian Quaker living in a post-Christian Quaker culture, I’m occasionally called upon to explain my Christianity to my fellow Quakers. I recently did this by saying ‘Jesus is the key that unlocks my experience of the world’. I was then asked ‘could you say more about that?’, and I didn’t really have an answer prepared! I’ve been reflecting on what my answer could have been over the Easter weekend, and thought I could share these rough reflections here.
Why Jesus the key?
There are two things at the back of my mind when I describe Jesus as ‘the key’. Firstly this is a traditional title for Jesus. In Rev 3:7 Christ is described as ‘the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens’, which is in turn a reference to Isa 22:22. You may be familiar with this title for Christ in the advent hymn ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’:
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Secondly, in his book ‘Orthodoxy’, G. K Chesterton (1874-1936) describes how when a key fits a complicated lock, you known it’s the right key. For Chesterton, the complexity of Christian doctrine matches and makes sense of the complexity of the world. For me, the Jesus story makes sense of my experience both emotionally and intellectually. It gives me answers to my questions. It has a depth and breadth that seems to contain everything, whilst never feeling restrictive.
Some rough reflections
The expansive nature of the Jesus story is part of the reason I fumbled my reply. There is so much to say about it! On the morning of Good Friday, I spent time in silence working my way through the various aspects of Jesus’ life, making the following jottings (presented here unedited):
- Jesus shows me what God is like.
- In his birth I see that God favours the backwaters of society. God places the future in the hands of those trodden down by empire. God brings new life where humanity can do no more, for with God nothing is impossible. A brown, teenage asylum seeker births God into the world with the powerful cry of a prophet. When we say yes to God – when we cooperate with God – hope is born afresh.
- In his ministry I see that God favours the outcast, the disabled and diseased, the unclean. I see that the religious and political elite are often blinded by their own fear. I see that those who think themselves wise can often miss the point. I see that there is no divide between the political and spiritual. The kingdom is so near we can taste it.
- In his passion and death I see that God is with criminals, the guilty and innocent, the repentant and unrepentant. God is with the betrayed and abandoned. Even when we feel Godforsaken, God is with us. It doesn’t take much for a crowd to turn from singing someone’s praises to shouting for their execution. Those who expect salvation to come in the form of violent revolution will be disappointed. Being with Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean understanding him. The peace of empire is built on the crushing of innocent people. The world cannot bear the Kingdom of God. Saying ‘not my will, but yours be done’ is really hard, and costly.
- In his resurrection I see that God brings something out of nothing. Empire is impotent. God is with those whose hopes have been dashed. God surprises and is never where we expect God to be. We carry our wounds with us into the Kingdom.
- In his parousia, his arrival which began at Pentecost, I see the Spirit being poured out on all flesh. I see that the future is Christ-shaped. I see the possibility of a community gathered together in, and empowered by this Spirit, witnessing to this arriving future. There is hope for the whole of creation.
There’s so much more I could add, there’s probably stuff I’ve missed out, and ask me again in a year’s time and I might give a different response. Next time I’m asked to say more about my Christianity, perhaps I’ll begin with ‘this may take some time…’
A happy Easter season to all jollyquaker readers who celebrate it!
22 thoughts on “Jesus the key to my experience”
Superb post, thanks Mark!
You’re welcome! Thanks for reading James.
Thank you for putting all this down. The church I belong to has let down a lot of people and keeps people out, and your words “I see that the religious and political elite are often blinded by their own fear. I see that those who think themselves wise can often miss the point” are particularly pertinent and helpful.
Thanks for reading Stella.
Thanks for these thoughts Mark -there is so much you have shared with us and many sentences on their own bear reflection and consideration, in the Presence. I was amazed listening to some of Jeremy Irons reading the psalms, how much that poetry reflects what Jesus showed us. I think there are still many Quakers who consider themselves Jesus’ disciples…….and we are all following on…
Thank you Mark. I really appreciate your thoughts. It is good to hear a Quaker speaking in this way. I have to say that I am finding it increasingly hard follow my Christian faith (which is far from narrow) within the current Quaker culture. Yet for me His whole message speaks of simplicity, equality, truth and peace.
You’re welcome. Thanks for reading. For me, being with other Christians is really important. What I want my fellow non-Christian Quakers to understand is that I can’t be a Christian by myself. It’s not a private, personal add-on to my Quakerism. I think describing myself as a Quaker-shaped Christian rather than a Christian-shaped Quaker captures something of that.
Thank you. Yes, I am very much in accord with that sentiment. It is a helpful way of looking at it.
Really great explanation and thoughts Mark. Thank you for sharing. I will save this as it has some helpful and enlightening reflections that also give voice toy experience and faith 😃
You’re welcome Jill. I’m glad it’s helpful! Thanks for reading.
[…] Jesus the key to my experience […]
This blog is very welcome; thanks Mark. For those who are inclined to leave the Society because they consider it “post-Christian” I say “STAY!”, and stand up for the Sermons of the Mount and Plain in the Society, stand up for the Kingdom of God–the central focus of Jesus and therefore of the early Friends. This Kingdom is the foundation of our Testimonies, worship and business method. Without the Kingdom of God (which I call “The Way”) there would never have been a Religious Society of Friends, and without it the Society will continue to decline. Hence, it is necessary for all Jesus-followers within our Society (they who follow Jesus in the Quaker way) to stay and maintain their witness.
Thanks for reading and for the encouragement Gerard.
Nicely put, Mark!
Thanks Mark – I appreciate your quote from Chesterton – that when a key fits a complicated lock, we know it is the right key. That’s a helpful way of expressing what I often stumble trying to say. I speak of both Quaker practice and my experience of Christ this way.
You’re welcome Rob. Thanks for reading!
I loved reading this. While we did leave a Meeting because it was decidedly not Christian, Quaker teaching and doctrine inform my prayer life and my daily life. We are currently in a Catholic church but I find that once you have learned to recognize the Spirit’s leadings it doesn’t matter too much what group of Christian believers surrounds you.
Thanks for reading Elizabeth!
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