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Answering God – Day 4

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 4 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday

To Read:A&Q sideways

Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light.
Remember the importance of the Bible, the writings of Friends and all writings which reveal the ways of God.
As you learn from others, can you in turn give freely from what you have gained?
While respecting the experiences and opinions of others, do not be afraid to say what you have found and what you value.
Appreciate that doubt and questioning can also lead to spiritual growth and to a greater awareness of the Light that is in us all.

(Advices & Queries #5)

From the Scriptures:

John said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ 39 But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me.

(Mark 9v38-39)

To Reflect: 

During the days of Apartheid South Africa did not have a ‘State Church’ but, in the same way that the Church of England has been previously named the Conservative Party at Prayer, the task of being the National Party at prayer fell squarely into the hands of the Dutch Reformed Church – a denomination in the Calvinist tradition.  Within this church Apartheid found a home and a theology with great emphasis placed on narrow interpretations of Biblical texts such as Romans 13v1-5[i]

As the Apartheid project progressed some members became more hardline in their reading of Scriptures and others more generous.  This led to a split in the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk and the founding of the stricter Nederduits Hervormde Kerk.  Both were found to be apostate by some so out of it was born the Gereformeerde Kerk.  Finally, in much the same way of the Revd Ian Paisley in Ulster, Dominee Andries Treurnicht (a member of Parliament) founded the extreme Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk.  All four of these churches claim they are the true Reformed church in South Africa and Namibia and each is anathema to the other.  Thankfully, for the last dozen years or so there have been moves towards reunification and an acknowledgement that they all hold the same beliefs.

Of course there are other churches that have similar problems with what is called Broedertwis[ii] not least the Anglican Church in Southern Africa which had three different incarnations when our family returned home to England at the turn of the Millennium.

Somewhere along the way we have forgotten the lesson of Jesus to John that all good being done should be welcomed by whoever is doing it.  ‘No one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me.’

candle-mirror-FSo also in today’s note from Advices & Queries challenges the faithful to recognise the faithfulness of others and rejoice in the wonderful possibility that people who follow traditions different to our own may also be travelling towards the light.

Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light.  

yet also

While respecting the experiences and opinions of others, do not be afraid to say what you have found and what you value.  

It is a great sadness when one group of people hog all the light, or at least think they do, and boldly proclaim all others to be beyond the pale and anathema. What is there to gain from such actions?  Today’s call is not for some sort of syncretism but rather a recognition that we all have treasure to share, and if we are serious about our faith we will want to share it.  We should not be afraid to Let our Little Light Shine[iii] but also not shun the light that others bring into our lives.

In his recent Presidential Address to the General Synod of the Church of England Archbishop Justin Welby spoke about the sadness of division with the church and how:

“As a Church, Anglicans – all Anglicans but particularly the Church of England – Welby Feb 2020 Synodalways have been and always will be prone to shoot ourselves in the foot, quite often while the foot is firmly in the mouth.”

He goes on to tell the church to not:

‘misidentify their own brothers and sisters as the enemy, “…biting and snapping at one another… “Your enemy [is] the devil; not your enemy the people who disagree with you, not those who troll you on Twitter, not those who say nasty things in Synod, not your enemy because they are of a different form of churchmanship.” 

It seems that within our own ranks, and probably within our own congregations, we are tempted to think that one group (my’ group of course) has a monopoly on revelation, orthodoxy and the commission of acts of charity.  Anybody else is proclaimed to be lacking commitment, acting out of self-interest, and stealing our thunder.

We did not learn this from Christ and God must weep each time we use the light we have to help us see to bite each other more deeply rather than to scatter the darkness of the world more completely.

Yes, we are called to hold fast to the witness we have received, after all that is what first drew us into the light, but we impoverish ourselves and belittle others if we are so prejudiced that only my own ‘Little light can shine’.

To Pray:  

We light the light of a new idea.
It is the light of our coming together.
It is the light of our growing;
to know new things,
to see new beauty, to feel new love.

(Unitarian Chalice Lighting Invocation)

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  Read some words from the leader of a denomination or a faith different to your own.  If stuck for ideas look up pretty much anything written by the Sufi mystic Rumi.

 

Acknowledgements:

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

[i] Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.

[ii] https://dsae.co.za/entry/broedertwis/e01287

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCN893hzueQ

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