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Answering God – Day 17

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends

(Quakers)

Day 17 – Monday after 3rd Sunday of Lent

A&Q sidewaysTo Read: 

How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome?
Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another.
As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.
(Advices & Queries #18)

From the Scriptures: 

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those Coventry Father forgivewho rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12v9-18)

  

To Reflect: 

Think about a recent disagreement, or even argument, that you have had.  You know the one that keeps on nagging at you and you can’t seem to put it down.  What was it about? Can you change anything about the other person in the disagreement to resolve it?  No?  Who then, is the only person who can make a difference?

Every time I ask myself those questions I get really annoyed with the answer.  Why?  Because the answer is always, infuriatingly, ‘me’.

I try to do things differently.  I try to see the other person’s point of view.  I know I have the personal ‘agency’ and skills to receive things differently and walk away from conflict.  But I do so enjoy returning to futile arguments until I ‘win’, which means the other person loses.  And when they ‘win’ all I do is get yet another callous on my shoulders from the pointless sport of grudge-carrying. (If it were a sport I would be an Olympic Champion several times over!)

How very far away is this from today’s Advice;

Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another.

and

‘…enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it…’

If only I could learn to let go of things then I might become a source of comfort andIn a batte of ego joy to my estranged fellow pilgrim instead of a stumbling block on both of our journeys.

I have noticed how, when I come to learn of a life-crisis (a grief, a serious illness, a life limiting accident) in the other person I am suddenly much more able to be loving and understanding.  At this I hang my head in shame as it should not take an injury to remind me to, ‘…enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help…

How shallow of me… Forgive me, Lord.

How can I, how can we, make things different?

Richard Carlson in his collection of inspirational quotes that make up the bulk of his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff[i] reminds us, often in the name of enlightened self-interest, that is, in fact ‘all Small Stuff’ and there is pretty much nothing that hurts us that is worth holding on to.

don't sweat the small stuffRather than being over concerned with niggles, insults (presumed and genuine), being the Alpha Male, and winning Ego battles.  Would it not be more fruitful if we were concerned for the good health and prosperity of our adversary instead of plotting their downfall?  If we did there is a slim chance that everybody would win.

Surely this is what it will take if we are to…

Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal,

and

bear the burden of each other’s failings.

Too often when one of those who irritates, bad mouths, and frustrates me has a fall I am (to my shame) besotted with glee and self-righteousness instead of carrying and caring for them.  This is very far removed from the example of the One who loved me to death and while on the Cross proclaimed, ‘Father, forgive’.

As I read and re-read these Advices and Queries I have come to realise that when the Scriptures commend us to fulfil the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens[ii] there is no description of the burdens that others are carrying!

We are to bear the burdens of those who have much to carry.
We are to bear the burdens of those who are carrying for others.
We are to bear the burdens of those who picked up things they should not have picked up.
We are to bear the burdens of those who are failing and falling.
We are to bear the burdens of those who even see us as a burden.

As we do this it is only then when we fulfil the law of Christ.

We are not here to stand over each other in judgement.  Instead we are to accept, nurture, welcome, carry, each other.  Only then do we stand any chance of becoming channels for God’s love and forgiveness.

gal-6-22 Good News Bible

To Pray:

In humility is the greatest freedom.
As long as you have to defend the imaginary self
that you think is important,
you lose your peace of heart. 
As soon as you compare that shadow
with the shadows of other people,
you lose all joy,
because you have begun to trade in unrealities
and there is no joy in things that do not exist.
(Thomas Merton)

  

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  That grudge you’ve been carrying against a Christian sister or brother, you know the one the Holy Spirit has been nudging you about as you read these words, put it down.  In its place hold out the right hand of fellowship to your brother and sister and carry them instead.

 

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

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