Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 26 – Thursday after 4th Sunday of Lent
When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community?
Let your life speak.
When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?
(Advices & Queries #27)
From the Scriptures:
After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
Our eldest son Tim is a hang-gliding pilot. There is nothing that lifts his soul so much as his feet leaving ‘terra firma’ after jumping off a cliff edge with nothing but aluminium spars and canvas sheeting strapped to his back. And when he flies he sings.
I try to go with him as often as I can to help out. I’m not a pilot but the driver. I marshal the pilots as they jump. I retrieve them as they land and offer them a cold beer while they tell each other stories of their flights in the back seat of the vicarmobile. They call me ‘Rev Retrieve’ and perhaps regard me as a sort of heavenly flight insurance. And it is my pleasure to indeed pray for them as they ‘wheel and soar and swing and touch the face of God’.
Am I a pilot myself? Not a chance! Although perhaps after the scourge of this current Corona Virus has run its course I need to slip my svelte 64-year-old body into a harness and helmet and at least go on a tandem flight,
‘Live adventurously.’ The Advices challenge and bewitch us at the same time. But, despite the holy temptation to give ourselves away, too often we don’t. Instead we sit with the One Talent Slave and, grudgingly, throw the gifts with which we have been endowed (and whose only purpose is to remind us of God’s love) back into the face of God and proclaim, ‘Here you have what is yours.’
Living adventurously is risky. You may end up in trouble with your family, or legal authority, or (worst of all) with the Bishop. I have been there and seem to be often found, as Richard Rohr says, ‘on the inside of the edge’. Not completely outside the church and her needful rules and regulations, but so close to the edge that fellow believers may take a deep breath and suck their teeth when they hear you name mentioned.
When we lived in South Africa I was involved in many protests against Apartheid and was even arrested a few times. Every time this happened my father, who was in the South African Navy, was called in for a quiet chat with his Commanding Officer. When he got home he would turn on the TV news and shout to my mum, ‘What has that b****y boy done now!’ Bless him, in his own way he was proud of how I was involved in society but, having spent his whole life in the Navy, making waves was not a recommended activity.
Now I am older I play things a little safer (although my bishop and archdeacon still shake their heads frequently) and I worry that I haven’t been obedient enough to the call. Have I become a One Talent Slave? Am I someone whose life is marked by a sour face rather than the Joy of the Spirit? Do I take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of [my] gifts in the service of God and the community? Have I become a play-it-safe follower of the One who risked everything for love of my love on a hill far away?
There are problems with activism, after all 64-year-old bodies cannot run as quickly from canisters of CS gas as a 30-year-old body can. However physical infirmity (or if I’m honest middle-aged spread) should not limit the complete offering of all of our lives to the active service of God and God’s people. It simply means we serve differently but still just as fully and completely.
Of course we do not do this alone, that way lies hubris and the making of a god in our own image. We do this in company with others, and after prayer and counsel. If not letting our lives speak runs the risk of becoming merely a rant.
The first time I was arrested in Johannesburg was under the gentle measured guidance of Bishop Timothy Bavin who, calling his clergy together at the Cathedral in a Sacred Synod, told how his Suffragan bishop Sigisbert Ndwandwe had been arrested for an offence of which we were all guilty and suggested we all take a stroll (processions and marching being forbidden) to the infamous John Vorster Square Police Station and join him in the cells. Over a hundred of us crowded into a small Charge Office and we sing hymns and parts of the Liturgy in Xhosa (the best language to use in worship!) and were eventually shooed home. Sigisbert was released a few days later and the word of God continued to spread. He then went on himself to be part of another protest ‘walk’ to John Vorster Square..
We may not all have the privilege of feeling adrenaline course through our veins because of faith and fear and righteousness, but we are all called, with 64-year-old bodies or 30-year-old-bodies, to Live adventurously.
I guess I had better go and get measured up for a hang-gliding harness…
When you pray,
move your feet.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to God’s call to something that was beyond what was normal and expected and common duty? What ‘yes’ is God asking of you know?
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