Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 5 – Monday after 1st Sunday of Lent
Do you work gladly with other religious groups in the pursuit of common goals?
While remaining faithful to Quaker insights, try to enter imaginatively into the life and witness of other communities of faith, creating together the bonds of friendship.
(Advices & Queries #6)
From the Scriptures:
Truly, with stammering lip and with alien tongue
he will speak to this people,
12 to whom he has said,
‘This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose’;
yet they would not hear.
13 Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them,
‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little’;
in order that they may go, and fall backwards, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
How many times have you heard the argument that says religion is the cause of all war? How many occasions has someone belittled any good you have done because you have acted out of the depths of your faith? I suspect too many times – and trying to offer a rejoinder and a constructive answer that will change their mind seems futile.
What would things look like if, instead of arguing about the whys and wherefores of warfare, or instead of apologising for acting humanely, we simply showed people that we love everybody regardless of whatever faith they do or do not hold?
The words of A&Q#6 make a great deal of sense and it is difficult to gainsay them. It costs our faith nothing to work with people of other faiths and that intentionally and gladly. To work, and pray even, with other religions for the Common Good is surely not only good for those who are being helped but good for all the religions involved? If nothing else it silences the voices of those who, with justification, complain that religious people are only interested in their own provision, prosperity and protection.
Today’s Scripture, though talking originally about the fickleness of Israel, reminds us that even God gets fed up with the faithlessness of the faithful and sends them words from foreign places and faiths to bring light. Alongside that Jesus’ words from yesterday’s reflection ring true, ‘Whoever is not against us is for us’. (Mark 9v40)
What is it that prevents us from working more closely together with people of all faiths and none?
The need for control?
An obsession with always being correct?
The fear of being ‘contaminated’ by another’s way of service?
Or perhaps not believing deeply enough ourselves and so we use prejudice to strengthen our faith…?
As the late Jo Cox[i] reminded her fellow Members of Parliament of all flavours and opinions, ‘We are far more united and have more in common than that which divides us’
How much easier it would be if we learnt to live one of the sayings of Ram Das, ‘We’re all just walking each other home.’ That doesn’t mean we’re all travelling to the same home, though some readers may suspect and even hope that is the case, but that for a season we all share part of the same road as we accompany each to the other’s home.
Life is tough enough without making it extra lonely and extra difficult by refusing to pool resources and hoarding our own light to ourselves as if sharing it alongside the light of others might somehow diminish it.
If your faith journey has been more conservative, (mine began in a prefab preaching house of Sailors Rescue Mission) this will be more of a challenge as sometimes we teach people to hedge the faith around with creeds, covenants and altar calls instead of majoring on answering the challenge, attributed to John Wesley to do good at every opportunity.
This may mean we end up working with someone who prays in a different language to us, who worships on a different day to us, who has a different diet to us, who even names God differently to us.
Yet when we find the courage to do this we find ourselves serving the same people and the same purposes as The One Who Loves us Best Calls us to serve.
After all are we not many faiths bound together by the Golden Rule of loving others?
What’s not to like? And when we do this I am certain that God, regardless of the name we use, smiles.
Let us see one another through eyes enlightened
by understanding and compassion.
Release us from judgment
so we can receive the stories
of our sisters and brothers
with respect and attention.
Open our hearts to the cries of a suffering world
and the healing melodies of peace
and justice for all creation.
Empower us to be instruments of justice
and equality everywhere.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) Before Easter contribute, either by donation or in work, to a charity which is organised by a faith not your own
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