Sunday, March 28, 2010
Today is Palm Sunday, the day that Christians remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. As he passed by, people shouted with joy, welcoming him.
Because I am a Quaker, the story of Palm Sunday reminds me of the story of James Nayler, who also rode into town on a donkey.
After that, things did not go well for either of them.
A week later, the same crowd killed Jesus. And although the government did not kill Nayler, it came close. Nayler was branded, tortured, and broken, and his friends deserted him.
Friends tend to tell the story of Nayler as a cautionary tale, that he had delusions of grandeur. But I think that James Naylor knew that if you walk in the steps of Jesus, you may end up suffering the way he did.
The saddest part of the story for me is how Nayler was abandoned by Friends. It seems to me that these early Friends acted out of fear in turning their backs on him. Even if they were convinced that he was mistaken in his leading, he was a part of their community, and doing what he felt led to do.
Sometimes when we follow leadings, others will cheer and welcome us joyfully. It is more likely, though, that others will be confused or even hostile. How can we support each other in our leadings when they are difficult or challenging? How do we hold each other when we make mistakes, as we surely will?
As I venture out in ministry, I want my community to see me when it seems like things are going well. But I need my community more when I mess up. I hope that my mistakes will not be as public and humiliating as James Nayler's, but even if they are, I hope that f/Friends will be there to help catch me when I fall.