Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 37 – Wednesday in Holy Week
If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity,
are you prepared to resist it?
Our responsibilities to God and our neighbour may involve us in taking
Do not let the desire to be sociable, or the fear of seeming peculiar,
determine your decisions.
(Advices & Queries #38)
From the Scriptures:
With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
(Romans 12v1-2 – JB Phillips)
I, in common with many of my colleagues, am a well-qualified book-keeper. I keep far too many of them! My Personal Rule of Life includes a promise to give away at least one book a month to bring relief to the over-burdened shelves of my study! There are, however, two books that I try to not give away. Both are copies of the Scriptures. One, from the Naval & Military Bible Society was given to me by my school Chaplain when I first joined the Royal Hospital School. The other is JB Philips New Testament in Modern English which I bought for myself soon after I was confirmed. Some say this paraphrase (for a Biblical Scholar) is a little simple and too British in its vocabulary. For a simple young teenager struggling to follow the Good News in the middle of Boarding school life it was a godsend.
The opening words of Romans in this version are one of the two scripture passages closest to my heart (the other is John 9v25). There were many times in my adolescent years when I was faced with the challenge of ‘going with the flow’ of doing what everyone else did or being rejected for being a ‘sky pilot’ and left all alone – the cruellest of all childhood’s punishments.
Later, in South Africa, trying to answer a vocation to serve all of God’s children, and not only those who looked and spoke like me, meant swimming not just against the world and the evils of Apartheid, but often against the counsels of a Church that desired a peaceful life and preferred quietism to setting the oppressed free.
These words from Romans 12, which today’s Advices echo, have got me into trouble frequently and regularly. I have no problems, although it still hurts, being a member of the Awkward Squad. Even though those who work with me, and the bishops I serve under, are often sighing and muttering under their breath, ‘What on earth has he gone and done now?’
We are not called to be awkward (after all we are proclaiming ‘Good’ News).
We are called to be obedient.
When we follow God’s call to be transformed by the message of the Gospel, to be obedient to the Call of the One Who Loves us Best, that will mean we choose to not listen to the other voices around us that want us to conform to their way of living.
It is not a comfortable place. On occasion we will know that obeying the Call of Love is unpopular and few people will want us to hang out with them.
It is a place where we stick out like sore thumbs and will not only seem to be peculiar but be labelled, boxed, pigeon-holed, and then dismissed and disregarded as such.
This comes at a price both in coping with the emptiness that comes with choosing to swim against the tide and with the rejection that comes from organisations and groups as it becomes clear that you will not ‘play along’.
When this happens,
When you feel rejected.
When you feel isolated.
When you are friendless.
When you are shunned by those who are meant to love you.
Do not give up!
A world that has grown deaf to the voice of the Beloved needs you and I, the ‘awkward squad’, to sift through the clamour of the everyday and hear the clarion call of the Eternal.
In doing this we refuse to be afraid to march or even dance, to the beat of a different drum. Or, perhaps more correctly, march to the beat of a different drummer.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now.
We’ve got some difficult days ahead.
But it doesn’t matter with me now.
Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I’m not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God’s will.
And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I’ve looked over.
And I’ve seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight, that we,
as a people will get to the promised land.
And I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord.
(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) The next time you feel rejected because you have stood firm for a Gospel truth offer your pain to the One who was left alone and wounded on the Cross.
Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008
The Scripture quotation is copyright © The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.
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