Quakerism 1

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This message was given at my meeting today:

God is One, and God calls us to be one people. God calls us together to worship not for our refreshment, but to serve God’s ends.

God permits us diversity of belief and various world-views, but God calls us to be of one mind. And God calls us to obedience. And God calls on us, in all our affairs, to seek unity.

In our gatherings for worship, no words are to be spoken but the words God puts into our mouth. All others are forbidden.

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3 Responses to “Quakerism 1”

  1. Diane Says:

    There seems to be an us-them ring to this message, that may not be on target, outside some sort of limited context. At large, aren’t we seeking clarity and discernment more than submission to rules? Given that we are born of spirit, aren’t we seeking to recognize ourselves as spirit and how to take that to world, to help us know our hearts (not just someone’s version of them)?

    We are seeking intuitive knowledge and comprehension, a clearing away of the distractions and debris. Isn’t obedience another name for understanding, integration, and practice? This, after all, is not the same obedience understood in cults.

    What can be forbidden? “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Eph 3.12

    In worship, there may be need for instruction on how we know ourselves, on how we may improve our gathering, but I think this is a bit too cryptic for me to understand how this “forbidden” message helps us discern true messages from the voice within.

    Moving beyond requires constant search and questioning to have a well-informed faith. Sorry to be so negative, but this is the flip side.

    • Thy Friend John Says:

      Thank you for this, Diane! Your response raises good points.

      The question to be raised about any piece of vocal ministry is, was it given by the Holy Spirit through the Friend that offered it? If so, why might the Holy Spirit have given it?

      In this case, did the Holy Spirit mean to declare ego-born “junk ministry” a forbidden offense, or just, perhaps, an inadvisable one, and did this all-too-human minister taint the message with his own impatience and anger by ending it with the word “forbidden?” Another Friend besides you, Diane, has raised that suspicion. And the minister does admit to carrying impatience and anger about the matter. But the minister reports that he has no clarity yet as to whether the Holy Spirit put the word “forbidden” into his mouth, or he put the word into the Holy Spirit’s mouth. He agrees that it’s an important question, and prays to be shown the answer. If the Lord shows him that he erred in using that word, he promises to issue a public retraction.

      “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient,” wrote Paul, describing his glorious freedom in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23). If I understand Paul’s message and my own experience, we who have been freed from the spirit of error have also been freed from the law that once ordained “touch not, handle not” in God’s name. We’ve died to sin, our flesh has been crucified with Christ, and we’ve risen again to live after the Spirit. Now nothing is “forbidden” to us as it once was; but the tender heart of Christ, now alive in us and guiding us, makes us want to avoid doing anything that would cause a brother or sister to stumble. In this sense, and only in this sense, I might say (and truthfully) that I’m “forbidden” to carry a gun, tell lies or cruel jokes, help advertise bad products, cheat on my income taxes, or flirt adulterously.

      The Religious Society of Friends was born when seekers of Christ’s guidance gathered together in worship to wait on God. The presumption was that when someone broke the silence with speech, it was at the behest of the Holy Spirit. When, today, our meetings for worship are strained by what is not Spirit-led ministry but at best “worship-sharing,” or worse, by counterfeit Spirit-led ministry, is this not contrary to the very idea of a Friends’ meeting for worship? The likeness that suggests itself to me is of a vehicle going the wrong way in a traffic lane on a public road: it is forbidden. We may forgive it; we may decide to excuse it, or make an exception for it if it’s an emergency vehicle; we may punish it with nothing severer than a stern look, or even smile at it. But unless we continue to agree that there is communication that comes from the small self, and holy communication that comes from Something Higher, and only one of those two kinds of communication is welcome in unprogrammed Quaker worship, we have lost the raison d’etre of Quakerism, and can only expect our meetings for worship to become less and less hospitable to true manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

      “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief,” Matthew 13:58, and “they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it,” Amos 8:12. I pray that my meeting not degenerate from a body of worshippers of the One God into a social club that merely has consensus on “Quaker values.” But if it must, may the Living God then gather us under some other roof, and make clear to us when the time has come for us to leave the empty shell.

  2. Diane Says:

    What I liked best about the original message (during meeting) was that it said “G-d is One” rather than “one G-d”. I believe that was accurate. I see a difference, though I may not be able to articulate it so easily… it is more about the unity (despite diversity) rather than a separateness of being that requires social conformity. To me, we each emanate from that divinity, not as supplicants to an external force. What divinity comes to us, now, comes through the individuality we are (and others are) and we all struggle to find the “balancing of clouds.”

    How we understand and practice “surrendering” spiritually is very important, as a result, because we need to bring all that we are with us so that we find the “fullness” of the life given us. We can’t all agree on this apparently. I resist any personal agenda of another, however, if it confuses my work with their work. Gita 3:35: “It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.”

    I appreciate the people in the room that take care to protect the sacred space. I truly do. Materialism and empty forms pervade so-called spiritual spaces, no doubt. Moving on is something I just recently did, with great pain, after trying hard to stay. So I think I understand your point. People will not come/stay if some semblance of order isn’t understood (or if too much jargon is used, or if told what kind of Quaker to be, etc.).

    I just try to bring myself to be present, and I try to bring a question or thought to focus on. And it has been an outstanding experience for me. As someone relatively new to the sitting in meetings, but one who has long valued the practice of waiting in silence, I am enjoying the silent gathering and what it means to sit together as an aggregate of minds. It has occurred to me that there will always be too many divergent needs of a spiritual nature for most gatherings, if we are talking about approaches to the Spirit Within.

    I admit some people seem to use it as an opportunity for adding their own sermon, as if their work was mine. Sometimes I even work at not worrying about it and how it affects newcomers. I recently had a minor moment of despair when my own situation laid itself out before me, when I was lonely for my past friends and associates at a former community, that I no longer wanted to be a part of. I realized I needed to live with what I had before me, I looked around the Meeting room and I sincerely put forth the thought, “who are these people?” who I was sitting with, and sure enough, one by one they stood and told me their stories. It was an unusual unprogrammed service in the number of people who spoke and the personal nature of the messages. Way over the top, it seemed. This was an affront to what should have been, and at first I was upset then even angry, but about halfway through when I realized what my question had been, I laughed at myself and to myself, and I felt perhaps I helped bring it on, without saying a word. I am much more careful about what I ask now. This may be all my story, but I think it happened that way. We are working with the metaphysics of minds sitting together, after all.

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