Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 20 – Thursday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
Do you cherish your friendships, so that they grow in depth and understanding and mutual respect?
In close relationships we may risk pain as well as finding joy.
When experiencing great happiness or great hurt we may be more open to the working of the Spirit.
(Advices & Queries #21)
From the Scriptures:
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
(1 Corinthians 16v20)
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
(2 Corinthians 13v12)
Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.
(1 Thessalonians 5v26)
How do we, in a time of a worldwide pandemic over a Corona Virus, square the circle of ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Greeting one another with a holy kiss’? The Advices give us a lead today when they call us to ‘cherish our friendships’ yet at the same time being real about the fact that entering closer into friendship may reveal more about ourselves than we are comfortable to deal with.
We need to move beyond the clinical and practical demands of the current situation. In our worship for the last few Sundays we enjoyed learning British Sign Language so that we could share the Peace without touching. The younger at heart learnt how to ‘elbow bump’ and became proficient in the Vulcan greeting of ‘Live long and prosper’.
Now that we can no longer gather for public worship and the Body of Christ is literally reduced to ‘two or three gathered in my name’ (albeit two metres apart from each other), how will we ‘cherish our friendships’?
These are vital times for the Church, by definition a group of people called apart to gather together. Now is the time for us to move beyond the sometimes routine and rote ‘Peace be with you’ of our regular meeting to a deeper, more costly, even uncomfortable care that begins every conversation with listening to the heart of the other and only tentatively sharing our own pain, always preferring others before ourselves.
This is what it means to ’cherish’.
We are not called to be casual acquaintances who meet just once a week for a common purpose. Though not always able to be physically present together as the people of God, we nonetheless remain the Body of Christ each part free to reveal our hurt and our happiness and so becoming even more open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
I write these words with tears in my eyes.
Earlier today I was met with coldness and distance from someone with whom I have disagreed and I so wish we could hug it out. But, ‘Social distancing’ not withstanding, this seems not yet possible. After meeting them I came home to hear from a colleague now moving into self-isolation because their spouse’s health has worsened and the spectre of death looms over their family.
I am heartbroken and want to take back all the harsh words I have ever said, all the cruel thoughts that have ever entered my mind, and every single time when I have stood in judgement over another.
My beloved friend Desmond Tutu, in the midst of the heat and hatred of Apartheid said this:
In this world there is not enough time to hate.
There is only enough time to love.
Friends, now is the time for the Body of Christ to greet not only one another but the whole world with ‘a holy kiss’. We know the freedom bought for all by the One who Loves us Best who came to ‘free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death’. Living that truth means learning and choosing to cherish each and every person made in the image of our loving Creator, even if it hurts, and so turn the world’s sorrow into joy.
May all be fed.
May all be healed.
May all be loved.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) Forgive someone today, even if it is yourself.
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