The Underground Railroad
In a meeting for worship this fall I spoke about the faith of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe and was healed and the faith of the people who lined the road leading to the temple so that they would be healed by Peter's shadow falling on them. Such faith is important and all of us need healing at one time or another but we are called to more. We got the name Society of Friends from what Jesus said on the night of the Last Supper. I no longer call you servants, I call you friends because now you know everything. Barclay says that the privilege of the Christian is to know their master's voice. We need to know the voice of God as well as we know the voice of a friend who we recognize on the phone even before they say their name. We need to know our teacher and friend's voice so well that we can recognize it even when it is speaking in a crowd.
Later a visiting Friend spoke about how Moses had followed the voice of God and led a whole people to freedom. Harriet Tubman had done things on a smaller scale. Instead of leading a whole people, she went to the South and led individuals to freedom. She went and looked individuals in the eye and saw if they were ready for freedom and the difficulties of the journey. If they were, she would lead them or tell them the way.
I was struck by this as a metaphor for the Gospel Ministry and for the nurturing role of the elder. The job is to look people in the eye and see if they are ready for the rigors of the path to Gospel Freedom. Are they willing to go into the forest and risk pursuit and capture; to trust in strangers; to go a place they have never seen to be cared for by people they have never met.
Isn't this also the spiritual path? And isn't the role of the minister and elder like that of the conductor on the Underground Railroad? To find people and build them up until they are ready to leave their home in captivity and undertake the dangerous journey to freedom. To help strengthen them on their journey. To provide safety and healing when needed and to move them along when it is time. At the end of our journey, may we all be able to say, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last.”
Blessings to all,