I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.
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Stay Curious

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

September 03, 2023

Click here to join our Meeting for Worship

Click to read in Swahili

Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

Exodus 3:1–15 (ESV)

1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

There was a new Pharaoh in Egypt that did not know Joseph. This is where we left off last week. Joseph was appointed by Pharaoh to the highest position in the land right under the king himself, because of Joseph’s faithfulness to his God. Pharaoh had a dream that disturbed him. He did not know what to make of it. He saw seven beautiful cows and seven skinny cows standing on the banks of the Nile, and the seven skinny cows consumed the healthy cows, and even though they had a hardy meal, they remained skinny, on the brink of death. Pharaoh told the leaders within the land about this dream, and no one could tell him what the dream meant.

When I hear this story, I am amazed at those words, and not in the way you might think. To me, the dream seems as clear as day. If you have seven healthy cows and seven skinny cows, and the skinny cows eat the fat cows, and they do not grow any better, it stands to reason that bad times are in the future. I tend to think Pharaoh understood his dream. I think he knew that hard times were coming in the future, and he was seeking someone that would tell him how to avoid disaster.

I say this because dream interpretation was a common thing in ancient religions. To this day there are people that want to interpret dreams, you can go to any book story and find a book that will help you come to some conclusion as to what your dream might mean. I am not encouraging you to do this because most of those books will leave you just as confused as you were to begin with, but this is something that humanity wants to know. In our mind there must be a reason for these vivid dramas that play on the backs of our eyelids at night.

Pharaoh knew that disaster loomed before him. He was faced with this reality, and he also knew that the entire nation looked to him as a god. His society was on the brink of collapse and only he could avert this disaster. Who would he find to help in this time of need? He called the wisemen together and they claimed that they could not give an interpretation. I want us to just stop and think about this for a moment.

In ancient Egyptian culture, nothing ever went wrong according to their history. Pharaohs always won the battles. The Nile always flowed. If something bad ever happened, it was the end of days. The favor of the gods had left the land, and it was Pharaoh’s fault. This put a great deal of stress on this leader. But more over this leader was in their minds appointed by their gods. What do you say to someone with divine wisdom? I do not think the wise men of Egypt could not interpret the dream; I think they were too afraid of divine retribution to speak. They did not want to give the dictator bad news. They did not want to bring into question the possibility of disaster. Egypt was filled with yes men.

Pharaoh knew that this was happening. Pharaoh knew that his advisors were short sighted and not willing to speak to potential failures of their king. This is where Joseph comes in. Joseph stood before this ruler of the greatest empire in ancient times, and he told him, “God will provide Pharaoh with an answer.”

Joseph spoke truth to power. He was willing to stand before the kingdom of the world. He stood before the very embodiment of the gods of this world, and he spoke plainly. “The true God will give you the answer.” We often miss just how powerful those words are. Joseph stood in defiance before the world’s system and proclaimed that there was a better way to live. This impressed Pharaoh. Who is willing to stand before the authorities and speak the truth? Joseph was facing off at that moment, he was staring death in the face and was willing to say what needed to be said. This is what Pharaoh needed to hear. And Pharaoh knew that Joseph was right, so he listened to the lone voice.

Everyone else was saying how great the pharaoh was and not to worry. Joseph was willing to say hard times are coming and you better be ready.

If we were to look through ancient historical records, we might find that this was a unique era in Egyptian history. There is something referred to as the Bronze age Collapse. The world was going along, and everything seemed to be going well. Then suddenly everything seemed to change. There were wars, famines, and plagues. There was once a thriving economy that linked the Mediterranean world all the way to the eastern regions of India. And seemingly overnight everything collapsed, but Egypt emerged out of this collapse retaining much of the power they had prior to it.

Now there is a new pharaoh. A pharaoh that did not know Joseph. He enslaved the people of Israel. He set taskmasters over them, and they were charged with construction and labored in the fields. They built the store cities of Pithom and Raamses.  This new king disregarded the wisdom of his ancestors and again listened to the voices of the moochers. I say moochers, because these advisors went along with enslaving a portion of the population, they wanted all the wealth but did not want to do the work. They reoriented their society in such a way that they took all but gave little back. Greed became the norm, instead of the wisdom Joseph taught. Joseph said, “God brought me here to preserve life.” But the leaders of Egypt in the Exodus did not care, preserving life was far from their mind, they wanted luxury and they did not care who had to die to give them what they wanted.

But there was one segment of his population that did not fit the norm. They did not regard him as a god, they did not participate in the traditional Egyptian society. They became the scape goats for all that was wrong with Egypt, and because of this they had to bear the burden of society. Their population was growing while the rest of the culture seemed to dwindle. Kill the boys and leave the girls he said. But they still grew. Enslave and bind them so they cannot join our enemies. Throw the boys into the Nile, keep them in their proper place. We will not let them replace us. It is a story that repeats throughout history.

Pharaoh’s own daughter had compassion. She found one of the Hebrew children in the river. She saw the humanity of this child. She saw him and named him Moses.

Moses grew up in the house of Pharaoh. He had every opportunity that a royal Egyptian would have had. And yet he knew that he was different. He knew that he was from the tribes of Israel, and he wanted to help. He saw the brutality that his own people lived under, and it caused anger to burn within him. When he saw the whip being raised, he was enraged, and he murdered a man that inflicted torture upon the Hebrews.

You would think that this would have caused the people of Israel to be drawn to this man, but no good deed is left unpunished. The ones that bore the pain of the whip, looked at him and they did not see the body of their salvation instead they were terrified. “Are you going to kill us like you did the Egyptian?”

Moses in that instant knew that he was not going to change society. He was just one man. He realized that every advantage his upbringing provided was not enough to correct the trajectory of this crumbling society. He looked at the fate of the Hebrew people and his own life, He knew that no one would listen to him, he was nobody. He was just a pet raised in the house of Pharaoh’s daughter, a little Hebrew toy. Moses ran. He fled from that place, a place of affliction and slavery. Moses knew that even though he had privilege he too was just as much of a slave as the people under the whip.

But Moses had something that no one else had. He lived in the place between. He was and was not a slave. He was and was not an Egyptian. He was and was not. He lived between; he was of the world but not in the world. He understood the things of Egypt, and he understood that things of Hebrew. Because he walked this fine line between two worlds, he had a perspective that perceived both. It is not easy to live in that place between.

I have been in that place, between science and faith. Between culture and religion. Between Democrat and Republican. Between generations. Between.

In many ways this is exactly the place our culture is today, we are between. On one side are voices that want things to remain as they were and on the other are voices that long for progress. I think Moses lived in such a time and place. We could say that Joseph’s era was like the greatest generation, but there was a new king. And the boomers have taken the reigns. And then there is a future set before our culture. What is between?

I want us to just stop right there for a moment. Yes, I have said a great deal. And we could take offense. But I want us to take a deep breath. I have not made accusations; I have simply revealed the emotions of our culture. Progress feels like this story at times. There are people that do not want things to change, and they seemingly oppress those that embrace it. And at times those that seek progress seem to oppress those of us that are comfortable with how things have been. It is part of life. We fear what we do not know. We cannot embrace something we do not understand. And when the world seems to change faster than we can adjust we feel as if we must take flight or fight.

Moses ran. He ran to a region called Midian. To the house of the high priest of the land of Midian. I spent time this week just thinking about this. Moses did not run to Cannan but Midian. If we were to look up this region, we would find that the Midian people were also descendants of Abraham, but they were not from Sarah. After Abraham’s wife died, Abraham took another wife and this wife bore children to him. Abraham was well over a hundred years old at that time, and yet he had children. These children settled outside the area of promise, much like Abraham’s first son Ishmael. And they became the people of Midian. They became the people of contention and strife. I think it is fitting that this would be the place that Moses went, because this was what he was feeling.

Midian is a region between. It was between what would become Israel, and Egypt. The Sinia peninsula is a strip of land that connects Africa to Aisa, was part of this region. To the north of this peninsula is the Mediterranean Sea, to the West is the Gulf of Suez, to the east the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the south. This is like an island just barely connected to land surrounded by seas. And this is an area that even today is of high value. Whoever controls this region basically controls commerce in the entire world. It is a land of contention and strife.  A land between.

It is in this land that Moses begins his true journey. He was keeping his father-in-law’s sheep, and was near the mountain of God, and he saw a bush that was burning but was not consumed. And he thought to himself. “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

Here Moses is, in the land between. He is the man that lives between cultures, between social statuses, and between eras. He lives in a region of contention and strife. He had fled to this place and yet he remains curious. He does not give up on the world, he does not resign to some lot of life. He was once a child in Pharaoh’s court, and now he is tending sheep that are not his own. Most of us would have given up, yet Moses remains curious. He sees something that causes him to question the reality in which he resides, and he wants to find out why.

“I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” I want us to remain here. I know we all want to jump to the end of this section of verse to get to the mission that God gave to Moses, but before we can embrace that mission we must first remain here.

We live in Midian. We live in a land between. We live on the cusp of progress. We do not know what the world ahead of us will provide, and we know that as much as we would like we cannot go back to the way things used to be. And if we are honest, why would we. We look back with nostalgia, but are we able to see the truth? Do we really want to live in a world where nuclear war was a constant threat? Do we want to live in a world where polio was a reality that every family faced? Do we really want to live in a world where segregation dehumanized half of our population? Do we want to go back to a world without smart phones, streaming services, or no internet?

We might like to say that we would, but we are lying to ourselves. The world we live in today is better than the world our great grandparents could have ever imagined. Do we still have problems? Of course, we do because we are living in between.

We cannot go back, and we fear the path forward into the unknown.

We are trapped between. Either the slaves to progress or the oppressors. I do not even know who what is, and which is who. We are simply stuck in strife, tending to someone else’s sheep.But there is something for us just beyond what we currently see. The way we get there is to remain curious. God gained Moses’ attention through a bush that burned but was not consumed. How is He getting our attention? Or are we even looking?

A few weeks ago, I attended a zoom meeting with a few others within my generation. The question posed was if there is hope for the future of Friends. There was a representative from each of the major branches of friends in that meeting. Friends from the General conference, from the United Meeting, from the Evangelicals, and independents. Some were hopelessly caught in the strife, but others had hope. It was one of the most fascinating meetings I had ever attended, because it surprised me.

I listened to the stories given. I heard stories of pain, stories of strife and stories of loss. And the voices that held hope were those that were experiencing the greatest struggles. Moses was curious. This is the first step. Curiosity. The quest, the challenge. That goal put before us, is found in the struggle but we must first be curious to begin to see around the strife.  

We can look at the world and we can see all the problems. But I want us to take a step back. Could it be that those wayward individuals we get annoyed with are simply trying to find something to grab their attention and pique their curiosity?

Moses was curious, so he journeyed to the bush the burned but was not consumed. And in that place, he found God. It was in that place between, in the region of Midian, the land of strife, he was given an adventure to live into. But he was hesitant. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Who am I that anyone would listen to me?

I ask this question many times. I do not have an answer. I do not even know if there is an answer. I do not know why I became a pastor, I do not even like talking. But I have always been curious. I have always had questions and I have always wanted to find some sort of answer to those questions. What I have found along that quest is more and more questions, and more people asking similar questions. What if as we walk in this place between, we are exactly where God wants us to be? What if all he wants at this moment is for us to be curious and to walk up to the burning bush to see why the thing isn’t burnt to a crisp. Could it be that in the moment of time where we are stuck between the greatest generation and generations that close out the alphabet, we are simply supposed to be curious and let God be God? Stay curious, Friends, and let us allow God to speak to our future.

Would that We…

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church September 24, 2023 Click here to join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Exodus 16:2–15 (ESV) 2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said…

Lift up Your Hands

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church September 17, 2023 Click here to join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Exodus 14:19–31 (ESV) 19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved…

Hope in Sorrow

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church September 10, 2023 Click to Join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Exodus 12:1–14 (ESV) 1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall…

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Being Mindful

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

August 27, 2023

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Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Exodus 1:8–2:10 (ESV)

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Today we again reflect on one of the Queries from our Faith and Practice. This is the first Query Sunday using the queries from the newest edition of our Faith and Practice. You might wonder why I do not just start at the first Query since we have a new edition, and the reason is simple. The Queries have not changed much since the first Unified Discipline of the Friends Church. In fact, Query #7 has been the seventh query since that time.

Do you try to observe simplicity in your manner of living? Do you frequently inspect your affairs and settle your accounts? Are you careful to live within your income and avoid involving yourselves in business beyond your ability to manage? Are you just in your dealings, punctual to your promises, prompt in the payment of your debts, and free from defrauding the public revenue?

When we look at these questions, we might quickly give an answer without any thought. When we do this, we neglect the purpose of the reading of the Queries. I did not understand the point of the queries for many years. I felt as if they were the most pointless portion of the entire Discipline. They do not provide any information as to how to conduct a Meeting for Business or discuss how to structure our committees. What good are they?

I grew up in the Friends Church. There was a moment when I was in college where I explored other expressions of faith, but I never felt at home. There is something unique and beautiful about Friends. For the past twenty years as I have been a minister among Friends, I have explored why I have always felt at home with Friends, and why I have not had similar experiences with other expressions. While taking this journey, I realized that it was the queries that provided that comfort.

For most of my life, the queries were read during a meeting of business. Usually, it was the first meeting for business of the year. The clerk of the meeting would stand before us and would slowly read all ten of the queries aloud. The weighty Friends would all sit nodding their heads in affirmation and occasionally sigh or grunt as they reflected. But I was a kid, to me it was a list of questions that I either answered yes or no to. I was ready to move on by the time they would read the associated scripture. But then I had to register for selective service. I had listened to the queries for my entire childhood, paid little attention to them and then suddenly one afternoon as I sat filling out that postcard and seeing that there was not a place to check conscientious objector, I realized that the world outside of Friends values vastly different things.

I sat with that postcard for a while. I remember asking my mother how I was supposed to fill it out. I remember her taking it from my hands in disbelief, thinking I was just reading it improperly. In her defense that happened often, and it is a wonder I did not kill anyone when I actually cooked. She read the entire card and we both sat there. The query, the testimony of peace that I had been taught my entire life, the right I was taught was mine as a member of the Friends Church, the right to object to the participation of war, was not printed on the card. For the first time, I had to truly examine what I believed and consider just how I would live it out in the world.

The queries, are just that. They are questions that should direct our mind and our spirit to examination. What do I really believe? And are those outside my community able to observe the things I claim to believe through my words and conduct?

Friends are unique among the expressions of faith. We emerged during the English Civil War, a war that in many ways was a conflict of both politics and faith. On one side were the Monarchists, and the Church of England over which the royal family presided. On the other side were the parliamentarians, the non-conformists, or who we now call the Puritans. Both sides of the battles focused on faith and power, who held the power, and who possessed the proper faith. It is a gross simplification of deep history, but it was from that place in history the Society of Friends was formed.

We did not fit. Those valiant sixty who traveled across the English countryside and throughout Europe, could not understand why people that claimed to believe in the same God, could fight with such ferocity while killing those that claimed a similar faith. As a result, they removed and distilled our faith to what they regarded as the most essential. They removed the ceremonial aspects of faith, the sacraments that the priests and pastors of the various branches of the church performed. And they instead focused on word and deed, meaning if we believe what we say, that should be reflected in how we live our lives. Without communion bread and wine, without the waters of baptism either sprinkled on an infant or the plunging of an adult, how will those around you know what you believe?

In many ways it is more difficult. I cannot rely on ceremony. I cannot show up to worship and go through the motions of accepting communion to present to everyone in the community that I am who I say I am. For you to believe that I have faith, I must show you. That means that every aspect of my faith must be so incorporated in my lifestyle that people would not question it. Do you see the difficulty?

As the various meetings of friends joined together to participate in greater cooperations they formed quarterly and yearly meetings. And eventually shortly after the American Civil War, they made the first Five Year Meeting. It was the Five-Year Meeting that gave us the Unified Discipline. Through all those years, those weighty and respected Friends would meet with people under their care and ask them questions or queries. These questions revolved around our testimonies, and how we express our faith in our daily living. We can learn a great deal about what a group regards as important by the questions they ask.

Do you try to observe simplicity? There is so much packed into this little question. Friends emerged in England and in Europe. Throughout that continent you will see monuments built by people of faith. Grand cathedrals, stained glass windows, and tools of worship plated in precious metals. George Fox would walk around England and see these massive Steeplehouses and the community they were in. It bothered him. These great buildings were constructed while the people within the community existed in poverty. He then looked inside the buildings and he would see hireling pastors striving for the greatest position or most lucrative post, while neglecting those that needed them the most. This was not all pastors or even all perishes, but those were George’s observations.

The testimony of simplicity comes from the earliest days of our faith. There is a Quaker folk song about George Fox that I learned as a child. “Walk in the light, wherever you may be, Walk in the light, wherever you may be! ‘In my old leather breeches and my shaggy, shaggy locks, I am walking in the glory of the light,’ said Fox!” This song expresses Fox’s understanding of life in many ways. He oriented everything he did so that he was free to live the life he sensed as his calling. Yes, he wore leather breeches. He chose to wear them, not because they were comfortable, but durable.

Fox and those early Friends dedicated their lives to ministry. They would often go without luxury items so that they could be free to invest their time and wealth in the community around them. Have you ever wondered why our Meetinghouse looks like a house instead of a traditional church? The same can be said about Quaker structures. They focus on durability, and utility so that more can be used in ministry.  

Richard Foster, probably the most well-known Quaker in contemporary history, says in his book Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World, “The goal of work is not to gain wealth and possessions, but to serve the common good and bring glory to God.”  He also says, “God’s blessing is not for personal aggrandizement, but to benefit and bless all the peoples of the earth. To understand the distinction makes all the difference in the world. The theology of wealth says, ‘I give so that I can get.’ Christian simplicity says, ‘I get so that I can give.’ The difference is profound.”

I want those words to sit with you.

Foster, in the same book also states, “People need the truth. It does them no good to remain ignorant. They need the freedom that comes through the grace of simplicity. And if we are to bring the whole counsel of God, we must give attention to these issues that enslave people so savagely.”

Why do we go to work every day? Are we going so that we can have more, or are we working for something greater?

“Therefore,” Jesus says in the passage from Matthew, “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Look at the birds of the air… Consider the lilies of the field…” How many of us live in that kind of anxiety? How many of us live lives enslaved by the anxiety of our finances?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest example of simplicity. Those early Friends did not have paid clergy, or hireling priests. Yet I am a paid pastor. And if I am honest, I need to be paid because I have debts. I am required, because of my past decisions, to limit what I can do in ministry. What I mean by this is that I cannot be like Fox, I cannot just walk around England preaching wherever I feel led, because I have bills to pay.

That is the point of Jesus’ teaching and that of Foster and Fox. We often enslave ourselves because of our choices.

Many students do not want to be harassed at school so they spend all their money on the name brand shoes, and clothing so that they can fit in. I recently watched an interview with Shaquille O’Neal. I never really cared for him when he was playing basketball. It was nothing about him, personally, I just did not care for professional basketball. But in this interview, he spoke about an interaction with a mother. He had just signed an exclusive deal with a shoe company promoting their high-priced shoes. And this mother mentioned it would be nice if someone would make good shoes that were affordable. I have been in that place, wanting something to fit in and not wanting what I could afford. Shaq took that lady’s comments to heart and developed a line of shoes with durability and affordability in mind. And he did this because he understood how the world around us can exert pressure.

Do you try to observe simplicity in your manner of living?

I have sat with this query several times. It is queries like this that have constantly drawn me back to Friends. We do not necessarily tell you what to believe, instead we encourage you to be mindful of your words and actions.

As I sat thinking about these words. As I sat examining my life. I think about many things. Simplicity is not only financial. We tend to go that direction because that is probably a place most of us lack simplicity. I have student loans, credit cards, and a car payment. All of these have entangled my life to the point that I often feel trapped. But have we considered other areas of simplicity?

What consumes our time? What consumes our energy? Are these blessing or draining our life?

 I speak often in terms of economy, because that is one of the areas of study my mind finds interesting. We so often think that economics is the study of wealth and money, it is so much more than that. Economics is the study of life choices. In economics there is a law of diminishing returns. This law states that an input will yield a certain return. When you add additional inputs, we expect the return to be double what it was before, but instead it is slightly less. With each additional input the return decreases, to the point the return becomes negative. It begins to drain.

We have experienced this in many areas of life. Something that was once a blessing, has become a source of anxiety. Instead of encouraging life, it consumes. A life of simplicity does not necessarily prevent this, but it creates margin, another good economic term. Margin provides a buffer and can come in many forms. When there is money remaining in your account at the end of the month, that is margin. You feel just a bit better, less anxious. When you have completed your daily tasks with time to spare, that is margin. When we have a margin in time, we can use that unallocated time for something we enjoy.

We need margin. And we can only have margin if we are mindful. In the Exodus reading, a new king emerged over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. I think we often forget the importance of that one phrase. Joseph was enslaved in Egypt, yet he lived his life in a manner where he became a blessing to those he served. This lifestyle eventually brought him to a position second only to Pharaoh. Joseph lived a life of margin because he was a blessing to others. We saw that in his response to his brothers. “God brought me here to preserve life.” That is profound.

Now there is a new king, one that did not know Joseph. Joseph was a blessing to Egypt, and to the surrounding nations. It was through Joseph’s wisdom that Egypt retained its power during a period of famine and decline. This new king forgot how Joseph preserved his nation, and neglected what was learned from him. He soon became fearful of the people of Israel. “Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and if war breaks out, they join our enemies.” I want us to stop and think about that statement.

There are too many of them. We need to control and regulate them. We need to preserve ourselves, is what he is saying. There is something happening in Egypt at this moment in time where stress and anxiety are the driving factors within their decision making. They see a problem and they see someone they can blame, Israel.

Then there is something else. Israel had taskmasters over them, they were afflicted, and enslaved. Whatever was affecting Egypt, the same thing affected Israel. Israel had nothing to offer because they had neglected the ways of Joseph and became powerless leaving submission as their only option.

Joseph’s life was one of margin. He taught simplicity, we know this because he was able to store grain during the good times and when the famine hit, they lived off what was left over. But now they did not know Joseph. They no longer followed his ways, and they, both Egypt and Israel, began to live an undisciplined lifestyle.

Egypt was anxious and they pinned all their anxiety on Israel. They became the scape goats for all of Egypt’s problems. I do not have, because of them. We see this throughout history, and even in our own country. Not too long ago, many within our nation were bemoaning immigration as the root of all our problems. Immigration is not the problem, our nation has always been a nation of immigrants. That is a scape goat mentality. But before you begin to think I am too liberal, tax the rich, is also scape goat thinking. If you think all your problems are because Jeff Bezos is a billionaire while you open your front door to pick up your amazon order, you are also overlooking the real problem.

The problem is we live in an overextended culture. We live without margin. We constantly want more and more, but in the pursuit of this goal we get less and less in return. And suddenly we find ourselves in a place where we are in too deep.

We are often overextended. We are busy. We are in debt. We work and work. We neglect our family and our health. We forget to rest. We do not utilize our vacation time, and we go to work sick. We make justifications and point at scape goats. These are not signs of dedication, but symptoms of disease. We need margin, and the only way we will obtain that is if we observe simplicity in our living.

Richard Foster, again in his book about Simplicity says, “We too are yoked to One who is trained. Our only task is to keep in step with him. He chooses the direction and leads the way. As we walk step by step with him, we soon discover that we have lost the crushing burden of needing to take care of ourselves and get our own way, and we discover that the burden is indeed light. We come into the joyful, simple life of hearing and obeying.”

with him, we soon discover that we have lost the crushing burden of needing to take care of ourselves The simple life requires discipline, but when we enter that life, we find freedom. We will see as we free time, money, and countless other resources, that the margin returns. When we have that buffer, when the struggles of life come in, we are able to respond without fear and anxiety and can offer those around us assistance in their own personal famines. “Consider the birds,” Jesus says, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Do You try to observe simplicity in your manner of living? What is preventing you?

Stay Curious

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church September 03, 2023 Click here to join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Exodus 3:1–15 (ESV) 1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of…

God Has Brought You Here

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church August 20, 2023 Click here to join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Genesis 45:1–15 (ESV) 1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one…

Steps Toward Heartbreak or Hope

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church August 13, 2023 Click to Join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Genesis 37:1–4, 12-28 (ESV) 1 Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen…

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God Has Brought You Here

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

August 20, 2023

Click here to join our Meeting for Worship

Click to read in Swahili

Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

Genesis 45:1–15 (ESV)

1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. 4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

The story of Joseph is one that often captures the imagination. It is no wonder that this story was adapted to become one of the most well-known musicals in contemporary history. And has been the subject of children’s movies as well as the feature in children’s books. There is something about this story that grabs hold of our hearts and gives us sparks of hope.

Today’s story started long before the words that we read today. I started while he still lived in his father’s house. Why did the brothers despise Joseph in the first place? We could make a case that it was because he was given the steward’s coat, which elevated his stature as the second youngest son to that of the first born. But I presented an argument last week that Jacob was not necessarily outside of the cultural norms by doing this. Joseph was the first born of Jacob’s second wife. When Reuben brought dishonor to the family and was disinherited this left a gap within the family. Jacob could have transferred the honor to the second born son, but that son was from the same mother as Reuben. Reuben’s actions did not only affect him, but they also affected that entire line. Each of Leah’s sons carried similar personality traits. They were quick to act without thinking things through. They had spent the most time with their maternal grandfather, so they had the potential to continue that lifestyle, a lifestyle Jacob had hoped to leave in the past. The lifestyle so manipulation and self-centered desires.

Reuben’s sin not only disqualified him, but half the family. The rights of the first born were by necessity transferred to the line of the second wife. I can understand the contempt that the elder sons held. No one likes being passed over when it comes to honor and position. But what made everything worse. The aspect of Joseph that irritated them above everything else was his dreams.

I will not go deeply into these dreams, but we need to mention them in passing. These dreams leave little to interpretation, in each case Joseph found himself in the center of the dream, and surrounding him were symbolic representations of his brothers, and even his parents. In each case these symbolic representations gave homage to Joseph. The thing I find most interesting about the dreams is that Joseph was not something different from the brothers. They were sheaves of wheat, as was Joseph. They were stars, and so was Joseph. The only symbolic image that was of different initial status within the dreams were of the sun and moon. These, the greater and lesser lights of the heavens, seemed to represent the most important aspects of a culture. Many ancient religions would have their greatest god within their pantheon represented as the sun and in most cases the greatest goddess was the moon. This dualistic nature would often represent the dual aspects of human experience. Labor and rest. Male and female. Order and chaos. Light and dark. Ying and Yang. The dreams that Joseph had prophesied of humble beginnings being lifted into greatness. Greatness so substantial that even the foundations of society within a culture would pay homage to him.

These dreams annoyed the elder brothers. Joseph was just like them. Who or what did he think he was. He might have been given the honor of family steward, but he was still one among equals. In Joseph naivety as an adolescent, he shared these odd dreams with them. I do not think he intended to exert himself over the others by sharing these revelations, I really think he was confused by the dreams. Joseph knew who he was. He knew he was a simple farm laborer. He knew he was just one son among many. He might have found the dreams to be interesting, but it is only a dream.

These dreams angered the brothers, and it became more aggravating when they began to see that the dream come to fruition. Reuben had fallen from his place of honor and now out of weird cultural tradition this boy was being lifted over them. Well, it was ten to one why not just get rid of him and his ridiculous dreams.

I am not saying that they are bad people. They are simply people of the world. This is often how the world works. Our problems are caused by some outside factor. You can fill in what that factor is with pretty much anything you would like. They are the reason I do not have what I want, so we must rid the world of that influence. We see it in the news, we see it on display every election cycle. We see it in our workplaces, and in the interactions of our children. The ideology of the scape goat runs deep in most cultures.

The brothers schemed to murder their problem, but then they decided that they should profit instead. They sold their brother into slavery, and Joseph found himself in a far-off foreign land.

Joseph was sold into slavery. This practice is quite possibly the vilest of any human activity. It dehumanizes individuals that bear the same image of God as us. It cannot be justified no matter how hard people try. It is vile and in complete opposition to our faith. Joseph had a dream that he would become great, and his brothers dehumanized him, and said no you are beneath us, you are subhuman. Joseph left in chains. He was a slave and a prisoner, in both cases, he became indispensable to those that he served. He was alone in the world and yet he did not allow his circumstances to overcome him.

It would have been easy for him to fall into dismay. No one would have blamed him to simply give up. But that was not how he lived his life. He was sold, he might have wallowed in self-pity for a moment, but he quickly got to work. He worked his way up to the very position he once held in his father’s house, he became the steward. Then he was cut down again by a false accusation. Again, he could have wallowed in depression but instead he became an asset to the warden of the prison. And through all of this he remembered the God of his Father.

Then dreams come to play again. I am not one that will say that every dream has spiritual significance, but I do believe that God can use dreams. I say this because that is what scripture indicates. You do not need to go and get a book to help you interpret every symbolic meaning within a dream but if you do have a dream that strikes you as important use it to deepen your life of prayer and allow it along with scripture to guide your actions within the world you live. Joseph had dreams, and he knew that those dreams held something important. He knew that they spoke deeply to him, and likely influenced him through the dark days of his life in chains. Eventually others spoke of their dreams to him, and because of his contemplative nature and devotion to God, he was able to speak to their conditions. This eventually took him to the very feet of Pharaoh.

What caused Pharaoh to see Joseph? What caused him to believe the words that Joseph spoke as being truth? God gave him the power to interpret dreams. But Pharaoh did not believe that Joseph’s God was any greater than his own. What caused Pharaoh to believe the words of Joseph was the lifestyle that Joseph led. A man living in prison is not often brought before the leader of an empire for counsel. Pharaoh likely asked the jailer, and everyone connected to Joseph about him. He watched Joseph as he walked into the room. He observed the way he carried himself. And how he spoke. Joseph did not take undue credit, instead he was honest.

Joseph is the ultimate rags to riches story. We have lifted him up as the pillar of human achievement and the ability to overcome adversity.  When we do that, we miss the point. Joseph was not a pull yourself up by the bootstrap’s kind of guy. Joseph was the opposite of that mentality. Joseph lived and worked within the community. He took life as it came and made the most with what was offered. He honored God and those around him as he did this. “It is not me, God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

Fast forward to today’s passage. God provided Pharaoh with the favorable answer through Joseph, and because of this Joseph was lifted up to being father or advisor to Pharaoh. He was once the steward over the house as a slave, he became steward of the jail, and now he is the steward over all of Egypt. He had been knocked back time and again. Yet he remained true to who he was. He was just a sheath of wheat. Nothing spectacular, common. One among a multitude, but he was dedicated to working for the good of his community. It was the community that took president over all else. This community mindedness allowed Egypt to survive and to become a blessing during the hardship.

People from the surrounding regions all came to Egypt because they had what no one else had. They had hope. Even the sons of Jacob, looked to Egypt as a land of hope in hardship. Joseph recognized them as they approached, he challenged and tested them, as he accused them of wrongdoing. He observed a change within his brothers that he did not expect. The very one that presented the idea of selling Joseph, came to the defense of Benjamin the youngest son.

This moved Joseph. It took him by surprise. These were his brothers, but they were not the same as they once were. There was a change within them. They once sold their brother, and now they were willing to give their life for a brother. Joseph is moved to tears and he sends everyone out except these men from Cannan. This is odd. Joseph had only spoken to these men through interpreters before, so the fact that he remained alone with them caused the entire court to become curious.

He then speaks to his brothers. Scholars have noticed the change in the language usage at this point. Prior to this point, Joseph only spoke of Jacob as “Your father”. This they say indicated that the words were spoken through translators. But now Joseph says, “my father”. He is no longer speaking in the language of Egypt but that of Cannan, the language of his brothers. “I am Joseph! Is my father alive?” He looks at his brothers and he inquiries about his father’s health. The brothers stand in shock before him.

Their entire life came to a halt. There was only one person in the world that could accuse them of wrong. Others could dislike them, but their actions were justifiable. Joseph was the only one that was wronged out of spite. And he had not only a reason but the power to seek justice.

The brothers were speechless, and dismayed. Our English translations do not do this justice. They were not just dismayed they were terrified. The word translated dismayed here is bahal. In the Lexham Research Commentary of Genesis 12-50 they say, “This is a term used of paralyzing fear as felt by those involved in war, it indicates the panic that seizes a person when surprised by obvious doom.” They are like deer in the headlights. Unable to move or speak because their demise is quickly approaching.

Joseph then does something interesting. He calls them closer. “Come near to me, please. I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

God has brought you here. I do not know every aspect of your life; I do not know every hardship you have faced. I do not know if those hardships were brought about by injustice within this world or if they were consequences that resulted from your own actions. We all face hardships. Some might even make the argument that to be human is to suffer. That is a pessimistic way of thinking, but hardship is part of life.

God has brought you here. I do not say this lightly. I am not saying that it is fate that you must endure what you have endured because it is God’s providence. I am not saying that God wants you to suffer. What I mean is that there are times where the hardships we endure can be used to bring about something beautiful.

It was terrible that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. It is something that cannot be justified and anyone that tries is as vile as those that sold him in the first place. Slavery is never good. Yet Joseph looks at his brothers in complete honesty. He does not overlook their transgression, nor does he demand repentance. He simply speaks the truth. “You sold me,” he says, “but get over yourselves. I don’t want to get even. Because if I was not here, I could not help.” Joseph was mature enough in his faith to realize that God was able to use this terrible situation to save lives. The hardships he endured provided him with the wisdom and empathy to lead them through this trial.

Your hardships are hard, and they should not be taken lightly. They are painful, and traumatic. But I want to ask a simple question. What are you going to do about it? God has brought you here. I do not know why, and at times I am just as upset about it as you are. My little sister died when she was ten years old. Nothing can fill that void, that loss. As much as I would like to explain why that had to happen I cannot. Yet I know that God has brought me here. He has carried me through that hardship, he has shown me time and time again that there is hope even though the way seems dark. God is not the cause of our troubles, but he is with us through them.

Joseph faced his trials with integrity and hope. He continued to pursue the life he knew he should. He became a blessing to those around him and he encouraged his community. It does not change the fact that his own brothers sold him. It does not change the fact that he sat in prison for a crime he did not commit. It does not change anything, but he made a choice. He did not let the circumstances surrounding him determine how he lived. He chose to honor God in all that he did as a son, as a slave, as a prisoner, and as a steward of Egypt. God brought him there. God did not cause the hardship, the brothers started that, but God was with Joseph even in the darkest time. And God was able to show Joseph how he could help his community prosper within his new situation.

God has brought us here. How or why, we can ponder, but what are we going to do about it? Will you allow yourself to be sucked into the ideologies of the world, casting blame on scape goats, or will you seek God? Will you be pulled into the darkness of self-pity, or will you stand like Joseph. We are here. God has brought us here. We might as well make the most of it.  

Being Mindful

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church August 27, 2023 Click here to join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV) 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body,…

Who Are You?

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church August 06, 2023 Click to Join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Genesis 32:22–31 (ESV) 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.…

Standing at the Gate

By Jared Warner Willow Creek Friends Church July 23, 2023 Click to Join our Meeting for Worship Click to read in Swahili Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili Genesis 28:10–19 (ESV) 10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set.…

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