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Answering God – Day 32

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 32 – Thursday after 5th Sunday of Lent

A&Q sidewaysTo Read: 

Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs?
Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws.
Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life.
Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear.
Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?
(Advices & Queries #33)

From the Scriptures:

At mealtime Boaz said to [Ruth], ‘Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, ‘Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.’
(Ruth 2 14-16)

just love everyone  

To Reflect: 

The love story of Ruth and Boaz, who become the great-grandparents of King David, is sufficiently tender to stand as an example of how people of different races, Israelite and Moabite, and worshipping different gods, Yahweh and Chemosh, can live lives of righteousness.

desmond-tutu-prince-harry-meghan-markle-archie-displayDig a little deeper into the story and it will be seen that, written in post-exilic times, it is an antidote to the strict injunctions about inter-marriage found in Ezra and Nehemiah made against those returning from Babylon with foreign wives, (and so despoiling the ‘purity’ of Israel).  A similar rationale was used some 25 centuries later to justify the introduction of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act by the Apartheid South African government.  This made marriage and sex between people of different colours an offence subject to imprisonment.  A hateful practice that has now ended, and the love of couples such as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is celebrated there if not by some in their home nations of the United Kingdom and the United States.

The love story of Ruth and Boaz is a challenge to all those who hate foreigners, or people who worship gods other than their own, or the poor – even though the religion they profess to follow commands that they care for the stranger and the foreigner, the widow and the orphan.

love your different neighbourThe Book of Ruth is not only a tender love story.  It is a call to faithfulness. It is a protest against prejudice.  It is a demand that we use the bounty of God’s good creation to care for all of God’s children and not only those who look like us, think like us, and pray like us.

This is self-evident in the plain teaching of the Old Testament, scriptures which are holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians – whose adherents count for nearly 60% of the world’s people.

‘That’s all very well’, the police officer who lives inside most of us may say, ‘What about the law breakers and the criminals, the ne’er do wells and those who are just out to take advantage of the good will of others?’

Jesus of Nazareth and the Advices give little comfort to those who welcome others so others so long as they live by ‘our’ rules and praise punishment over rehabilitation.

The parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25  teaches us two lessons.

Firstly, if there is going to be any sort of judgement going on God is the one who will be the Judge.

Secondly, until then our task is to care for everyone, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner.

And we are to do this without any question as to how they came to that place and be fuelled by only a desire to do as Christ did to the stranger, the outcast and the lawbreaker himself.

So it should not surprise us that today’s Advices asks us to;

Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws.  

This goes against all forms of common sense, and it is not surprising that people of good heart baulk at these words.  ‘Surely offenders need to be punished?’ and ‘You can’t reward indigence with assistance?  If we do ‘they” will never learn’.  And once again we presume to take the place of God and judge others even as God has pronounced over us the words, not guilty.’

Elizabeth Fry £5 noteThe Religious Society of Friends has been at the forefront of care for those who break society’s conventions [and] laws through the pioneering work of people such as Elizabeth Fry and continue to be involved in Social Action to this day.  A mark of Fry’s pioneering work is that she, after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Florence Nightingale, is only the third woman to have her face on an English banknote

This work brings a reward in itself but those who undertake this find that the final part of today’s Advice almost always follows.  Fry found that as she helped prisoners they re-discovered their own dignity and began to help themselves.  My experience of working alongside communities in need and deprivation is the same.  As we work to bring about a just and compassionate society those with whom we work in partnership for their own good do not, as the nay-sayers insist, become scroungers and layabouts, but instead develop their capacities and foster [their own] desire to serve. 

fresh bread

And in so doing we find, as with the Blessed of Matthew 25, that we have not been helping the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner.  They have been helping us, and showing us our Beloved Christ who chooses to make a home amongst those for whom no one cares and whom we must serve if we are to meet the One who served us.

 

To Pray: 

Send Thy peace,
O Lord,
that we may endure all,
tolerate all,
in the thought of Thy grace and mercy.

Send Thy peace,
O Lord,
that our lives may become a Divine vision,
and in Thy light, all darkness may vanish.

Send Thy peace,
O Lord,
our Father and Mother,
that we Thy children on Earth
may all unite in one family.

(Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan)

  

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  Find out the name of the prison nearest to your home.  Contact the chaplain who ministers there and offer to provide small ‘luxuries’ they think would improve the lives of those in prison.

 

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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