Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 9 – Friday after 1st Sunday of Lent
Come regularly to meeting for worship even when you are angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold. In the silence ask for and accept the prayerful support of others joined with you in worship.
Try to find a spiritual wholeness which encompasses suffering as well as thankfulness and joy.
Prayer, springing from a deep place in the heart, may bring healing and unity as nothing else can.
Let meeting for worship nourish your whole life.
(Advices & Queries #10)
From the Scriptures:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
As an advert to encourage people to attend your regular church service I am not sure what I have written above will encourage too many people to get out of bed early on a Sunday morning!
When I am ‘angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold’ the very last thing I think I need is to be involved in the everyday almost banal act that can be Sunday at Church.
When I am angry I want to rage against the institution that we have created out of the pure love that was born in the Jesus Movement.
When I am depressed, like Greta Garbo ‘I want to be left alone’. I definitely do not want to be surrounded by well-meaning people who ask, ‘Are you okay?’ to which I will respond with the ubiquitous yet empty, ‘I’m fine, thank you’.
When I am tired I crave the oblivion of sleep rather than the glazed look of pretending to listen to yet another sermon that tells me I have messed up my life.
And, even though I know the only place where I can re-light the spiritual passion in me that has grown cold, I refuse to ask for prayer, comfort or help for fear that I might be found out as not yet having a perfect faith that moves mountains like clockwork.
However, I have also learnt that licking my own wounds – refusing to meet with the other members of the Body of Christ – means that I am left with nothing except open wounds. I know I need others to tend my wounds, to provide weal for my woe. It remains impossible for Physicians to heal themselves (cf. Luke 4v23) and we are fools, regardless of what weight or pain we bear, to not bring it to the family of God to share.
Why then do we not run to the fountainhead when we need to wash?
Why do we separate ourselves from fellowship when we need reconciliation?
Why do we wallow in anger and despair when Peace is freely available in the Family of the Church?
For me, and that is the only person for whom I can speak, I know I do this because (despite the free gift of My Beloved Saviour) I think I have to do this by myself.
Last Holy Week at our Chrism Mass Joe Hawes, the Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral told a story of a wise nun who helped him during his curacy. After a time of struggling with his call she came to him and said, ‘Joe, I have good news for you, there is a Saviour… and it’s not you.’
Whether we don’t let the Body of Christ nourish us because we are still stuck in a medieval aberration of the Gospel that demands salvation by works,
or we feel we have to earn our Beloved’s love,
or even that we feel we have failed and so can never be restored,
It is of paramount importance that we do ‘not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another.’
The road home is hard and difficult and we will need people to call us onward and catch us when we fall. Perhaps we need to refuse to see the Church as a hindrance to holiness but instead a place, the only place, that will ‘nourish our whole life.’
O my God, O my Lord, O my Master!
I beg thee to forgive me for seeking any pleasure save Thy love,
or any comfort except Thy nearness,
or any delight besides Thy good-pleasure,
or any existence other than communion with Thee.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again.
2) Make a commitment to attend worship at least once each week.
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