Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 27 – Friday after 4th Sunday of Lent
Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities.
Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt.
Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.
(Advices & Queries #28)
From the Scriptures:
I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Occasionally, when the various denominations of the Christian Churches come to their senses about the foolhardiness of their disunity, there come moments of clarity. Moments when almost everyone looks at what one part of the Body of Christ is doing, indulges in an ecclesiastical fist pump, and says, ‘yes’.
The Methodist Covenant Prayer, borne out of the New Year’s Eve ‘Watch Night’ Service, has found its way into the prayer books of many traditions as a contemporary version of Ignatius Loyola’s Suscipe Prayer.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
I am no longer my own but yours – The Covenant Prayer
I have learned to be content with whatever I have – The Apostle Paul
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty – Ignatius Loyola
Discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities – Advices & Queries
There is a common thread here. A desire to surrender for service and a willing acceptance of the gentle rule of the One Who Loves us Best.
Yesterday we spent time learning about saying ‘yes’ to new challenges and learning to live adventurously. Today we are called to put all that we have said and done aside and allow another, deeper, call to direct us into the ways of righteousness. Learning to respond to divine guidance… without undue pride or guilt is a fearsome challenge. We too easily flit and flirt between the obese self-pride of Little Jack Horner and the haunted half-life of Raskolnikov in ‘Crime and Punishment’.
What we need is an acceptance and an assurance (another good word from Methodism) that, to quote another Christian Mystic, who lived not too far away from me, that ‘All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’. We need to get out of the habit of giving God orders and instead be ready to welcome them. This is especially so when God’s word to us is ‘slow down’ or ‘do something you’re not good at’ or even (my pet dislike) simply, ‘stop!’
Too often I find myself, in all sincerity and commitment, saying ‘Jesus, take the wheel’ only to grab it back every time he takes what I think is a wrong turn or doesn’t travel fast enough to meet my needs.
My experience is that, if I do not learn to stop and listen, God will bring me to a place where I am forced to stop and can do nothing other than listen.
Those of us who are over-busy in the Lord’s work (and in so doing flirt with the temptation to add our own items to God’s agenda) need to learn the lesson of the Apostle Peter at the very end of John’s Gospel. Knowing he had messed up he wants to make amends and will to do anything and everything for his Saviour, even surpassing that young whippersnapper John the Beloved. Poor Peter, he wants to do good and is instead told that his future is no longer his to control.
To follow Jesus means to not look at another’s journey with envy, or even disdain.
To follow Jesus means to be led rather than to lead, even to places where we would rather not go.
To follow Jesus means to glorify God, even if this is at the cost of life itself.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, facing his own execution would later say, ‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die’. Or in the words of my beloved Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur, we must see every part of the call as ‘a chance to die’.
I am no longer my own but yours
– The Covenant Prayer
I have learned to be content with whatever I have
– The Apostle Paul
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty
– Ignatius Loyola
Discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities
– Advices & Queries
Yes, I guess that is what it is all about really.
Recognising that to say ‘yes’ to our Beloved demands that we say ‘no’ to ourselves.
Only when we learn this will we have begun to attend to what love requires of [us].
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty.
Take my memory, understanding, and entire will.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me;
I give it all to you, and surrender it
wholly to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
With these I am rich enough,
and ask for nothing more.
(Suscipe Prayer – Ignatius of Loyola)
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) Quick now, the sands of Lent are running away and we have little time left before Easter arrives. The Lord knows that many things we love prevent us from loving God more fully. Choose one part of your life that needs to ‘die’ in these last weeks before we greet the resurrection.
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.