Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 1 – Ash Wednesday
Bring the whole of your life under the ordering of the spirit of Christ.
Are you open to the healing power of God’s love?
Cherish that of God within you, so that this love may grow in you and guide you.
Let your worship and your daily life enrich each other.
Treasure your experience of God, however it comes to you.
Remember that Christianity is not a notion but a way.
(Advices & Queries #2)
From the Scriptures:
So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’.
Sometimes I think the Followers of the Way of the Lord at Antioch did the Church a great disservice when they became known as Christians.
Whenever something is given a name, a status, the presumption of achievement, (of having ‘arrived’) follows swiftly after. Of this the Church and those who own the name ‘Christian’ need to be wary. When the Church claims to have arrived, proclaims itself the arbiter of all things pertaining to Christ, and runs the risk of subscribing to the theology of ‘Little Jack Horner’ wherein we tell all and sundry how good we are.
Thank heavens each year for the season of Lent, with its dig in the ribs from our Beloved, reminds us that we are not yet the Church Triumphant but remain the Church Militant. A Church whose enemies we most often have to face lie buried deep within us.
In the early Church people wondered at how deep was the love that Christians had for each other and for those for whom no one else cared.[i] Sadly in the Western World today to be called a Christian can at best be a dismissive nod to an irrelevant way of living or an insult to those who only ever seem to care about themselves and insist, Pharisee like, to enforce their ways on others[ii]
This is what happens when we prefer status to the journey and find that assent to the Creeds and the Covenants of our traditions makes us into people who Lord it over others instead of being humble followers of a Servant King…
‘Remember that Christianity is not a notion but a way’.
Right at the beginning of our Lenten journey it is good to remember that our faith is indeed a journey. Faith is not ‘a notion’ to which we have given our assent but instead ‘a way’ whose path is not yet clear.
The First Letter of John reminds us that there is to be a contended faithful agnosticism about our journey[iii], a handing over of status and control to the One Who Loves us Best and who has trodden the Way ahead of us.
This makes Lent a risky, liminal place. A place where we may well have made plans to regain control of our faith when in fact what may be required of us is that we commit ourselves to a journey whose end we have not pre-determined.
As we start this journey we may well have made plans for renewed discipline, study and service (I know I have), todays word from Advices & Queries challenges us to sit lightly on our commitments.
Perhaps not be too fierce in prosecuting them, be ready to let go of the ones that don’t help and maybe change tack as the Way unfolds, discard any Lenten discipline that diminishes our relationship with others. For there is no gain in polishing up our discipleship if it mean another soul feels weak and unable to continue at our pace.
Let’s allow God to dig us in the ribs this Lent and shake us out of our comfortable routines for putting the old faith back together and instead dance with our Beloved along the road to Easter
Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say;
and, keep me out of your way.
Fr Mychal Judge – Chaplain to FDNY – Victim #0001 of the Twin Towers
Look at what you have planned for Lent and question how your disciplines will benefit others as well as yourself. Although Lent is about self-discipline it should never be about self-satisfaction….
Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright © Becca Anderson 2017
These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged