The Glorious Gospel and the Friends’ Meeting in the Shadow

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I just came back from an “Eldering in the 21st Century” workshop at Powell House, feeling both a heightened sense of responsibility for my meeting’s condition and an increased competence to help it, so long as I remain faithful to the Lord’s guidance. At the heart of my renewed hopefulness is renewed joy in the goodness of God, whose intent, I believe, is the restoration of all His (Her, Its) beloved children to innocence and bliss. (This particular view of God’s intent didn’t come up during the workshop, but a theme was “Ministry is anything that makes God’s love more visible.”) It doesn’t matter that many of my fellow Quakers may not share my trust in a God with personhood and a will, or my notions about a Savior, Jesus Christ, carrying out that will. Neither does it matter that many of my fellow Quakers seem wiser than I, more dedicated to eradicating evil and relieving suffering. My job is to love them, support them, pray for them, and do my best to live by the Lord’s glorious gospel, trusting Jesus to do the rest.

Let’s talk a little about that glorious gospel. Lately I’ve been struck by its central paradox: on the one hand, it’s “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10), from a God who is Love Itself (1 John 4:8), and we don’t need to have the “right” theology in order to benefit from it. Hallelujah! But on the other hand, it requires us to walk a path that’s hard to find and leads through a narrow gate, “for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matt. 7:13-14). No, it’s not bad-cop Paul who makes heaven sound hard for us sinners to get into while good-cop Jesus gathers little children to His bosom and welcomes everybody. It’s Jesus Himself who warns us that we have to repent, take up our cross, forgive everyone everything, and be ready to lose our life for the truth’s sake, or else risk being cast into an outer darkness where there’s wailing and gnashing of teeth, (In Matthew’s gospel, we’re ejected into it; in John’s, we choose it freely because we’ve come to love darkness rather than light.) Now, these demands are just plain scary. And yet what better news could we hear than that we needn’t fear death, or any of this world’s threats and dangers, but can have the everlasting support of an all-forgiving and almighty Creator who will wipe away all tears from our eyes? That’s the paradox: the gospel is wonderful beyond words, and yet it asks so much of us that we’re not sure we can do it – nor even that we want to.

The natural reaction seems to be to reach for the science textbook or the newspaper and remind ourselves that there’s no general agreement that God exists. OK, we won’t go that far. But let’s spend our Sunday mornings at a house of worship where folks all hold the right values, but where we won’t be called sinners and told to repent. Here’s one: Anytown Monthly Meeting! We can go deep into silence together here, come out refreshed, and then collaborate together in doing good works: no creeds, no doctrines, no study of scripture unless we choose it.

The problem is that we bring our shadow with us wherever we go, so no sooner do we start to sink into that delicious silence than we’re distracted by our own frivolous inner chattering, or troubled over some bad thing we did, or worse, jarred out of the stillness by someone whose self-important babbling is spoiling our worship! Once again we’ve come to meeting hoping for a taste of paradise, and instead got a taste of the darkness that makes us gnash our teeth. Why can’t our meeting go deep in worship, why can’t we come away feeling that we’ve met God and been blessed, baptized, transformed by the encounter? What’s wrong?

The first thing I’d warn against is the thought that a failed meeting for worship is “no big deal; these things just happen.” What? If our elderly mother had promised to make a special trip to meet us at the airport and we didn’t find her there, wouldn’t we panic? How much more should we be concerned if our Heavenly Parent failed to show up for a rendezvous! And the second thing I’d warn against is blaming the failure on the spiritual condition of the others in the meeting. Jesus had something to say about finding the mote in our brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5). If the voice of ego is driving out the voice of God all around us in the meeting room, what is it that’s happening in our own heart? Third, it should go without saying that if we haven’t been practicing daily during the week, we have no business going on stage at Carnegie Hall on Sunday: finally, I notice, more Friends are starting to query one another about daily spiritual practices. This is a good thing.

But I haven’t yet been hearing Friends query one another about coming to meeting with unclean consciences. Perhaps the dirtiest thing we bring in the meeting house door with us is unforgiveness, grudges, eagerness to hear gossip that will allow us to despise our scapegoat all the more. We also, many of us, bring in a recent history of complicity with evil – the things we’ve done for our employers, and our employers’ clients, during the week; the things we’ve let our government do, in our name, without protesting them; the waste of the earth’s resources we’ve been party to; the profits our retirement funds have made from evil investments. In these things we may feel helpless, because we have rent to pay and children to raise and see no alternative to living as we do, but have we prayed to God for deliverance from these things, this devilish economy of importing pleasure and exporting pain? Have we asked God’s forgiveness for these things that we know are contrary to the common good? Then there are the lies we may have told – oh, perhaps not to our family members, but what about the ones on our income tax returns? Or the cruel things we may have said in jest?

The subject of lying leads directly to its twin, the secrets we keep. What is it that we would not like anyone to know about our inner life – anyone, ever? If there’s anything like that festering in there, then we’re one of the poor, mad self-damned who “love darkness rather than light, and avoid the light to avoid exposure” (John 3:19-20). This attitude puts us in bondage to the enemy of God, for God is the one who wants to liberate us from all such toxic separateness. Are we walking in the meeting house door with such an attitude? Then how can we worship God?

Finally, if we’re still wondering why we find our unprogrammed meetings so full of junk ministry, let’s ask ourselves what junk we’ve put into our own minds over the past week. Have we masturbated to the accompaniment of fantasies that would be sinful if acted out in reality? (By “sinful” I don’t mean just “forbidden in the Bible” but really sinful, in a way our own heart can recognize: adulterous, predatory, degrading.) Are we quite sure that we’re not secretly praying to be allowed to act them out in reality? Have we asked God to heal our sexuality so that we’re not torn by yearnings for what would not be good for us or others? If we feel enchanted by an erotic attraction, have we prayed for the spiritual good of the attractive one and so purged our preoccupation of some of its selfish element?

Then there’s the junk we fill our minds with by watching television and reading the newspaper. “But it’s the true news,” we may protest. “We have a duty to inform ourselves.” The unfortunate thing is that it’s the “true news” unsanctified by compassion, thrown at us by commercial media interests who know that what most excites our baser passions is what best sells newsprint and air time. Among “baser passions” must be included the desire to be thought the most knowledgeable among the present company, and the lust (if we read the financial pages) to be the investor with the best competitive advantage over others. The news reports are always full of villains: do we bring the villains before Christ in our prayers, asking Him to help us love them?

When we enter the meeting house on Sunday morning, we put the self-serving world and its transitory goods behind us in order to enter into the presence of the Holy. In other faith traditions, we might be expected to remove our shoes, prostrate ourselves, genuflect or make the sign of the cross in order to cross this threshold properly. We Quakers, however, traditionally do without such outward forms because we’re resolved to hold to the substance behind the form. But the time has come for us to ask ourselves: have we abandoned both form and substance together?

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18 Responses to “The Glorious Gospel and the Friends’ Meeting in the Shadow”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    I have to put more faith in the portrait of God that shows Him giving His best to “the Just and the Unjust” than in the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” so beloved of ‘Matthew’. [not that I haven’t done my share of that as needed!]

    I’m starting to read Jesus’ agricultural parables — which might all be applied to teachings, to human lives, or to the Kingdom itself — as Jesus’ answer to the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’ that so afflicts Adam & his kids. Acorns roll around, get underfoot; oak trees don’t. Babies poop their pants and freak when crossed; we grownups… Evils great and small look necessary to the immature; as far as we’ve grown out of that, only good makes sense. We can’t help being embedded in the crimes of our civilization but we can’t buy their lies anymore.

    The point of that ‘narrow gate’ is that people need to ripen; God will take care of that in God’s time but anything that keeps us hard and green, any longer than need be — is a sin, and a cause of suffering!

    Remember that ‘Prodigal Son’ and his impossible Father….

  2. Patricia Dallmann Says:

    The “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” Forrest, is part of an argument Jesus is making to persuade us that we shouldn’t hate an enemy, that in fact we should be perfect, even as our “Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

    I think that John’s essay is not about hatred of wrong-doers, but is written with the intent of moving us toward perfection, just as Jesus’s argument intended to do. To become perfect, we need to distinguish between what’s good and what isn’t, so that we can “refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isa. 7:15). Ultimately we want to be able to identify inwardly what is the gospel (the power of God), as opposed to our own thoughts.

    In our tradition, we initially were given commandments to begin refining our discrimination between good and evil. Brutality was the norm we were to leave behind. Then, later the ante was increased in Jesus’s admonitions: Mt. 5:17-48. More still needs to be done after that, as rules alone aren’t sufficient: we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness, if we’re ever going to be filled.

    People like Fox (and other prophets) already have good discrimination. Fox knew that singing psalms and taking tobacco wasn’t going to cut it. The Journal documents his misery until he receives the grace and truth that overcomes his temptation to despair.

    If we shy away from that human desperation that arises from being without God, and instead take solace in idols, we first need to do the remedial work of setting standards for ourselves (this is good and that isn’t) and keeping those standards (I’ll do the good and not the other). This will sharpen our discriminatory faculty, so that we can hear and participate in the grace and truth that comes to us, comes to all of us if we can hear it.

    I wish we had more like John who could communicate what’s lost when Friends fail to discriminate between one thing and another. We must start with simple morality, but we will be completed/perfected with eternal life!

    • treegestalt Says:

      I had no objections to our friend John’s efforts to make people more sensitive to unacknowledged shortcomings. My insight, badly expressed as it might be, is that God is present and active in all of it: from our childish misbehavior to the spiritual maturity we’re created to ripen into. Jesus said a lot along the lines of ~’If it’s stunting your growth, get rid of it!’ — and John’s post is very much addressed to that.

      It’s better if a child wants to become a grownup than if he’s clinging (for whatever reason) to childish ways. But becoming so — “Who by taking thought can add an inch to his stature?” In many of Jesus’ parables I see the point that the growth God wants takes place even where we don’t see that happening.

  3. Thy Friend John Says:

    I’m grateful to Patricia for seeing, and telling readers, that my point was never to scorn or shame brothers and sisters who seem to be on the broad way that leads to destruction — and neither does the God I worship, who calls everyone to repentance and a joyous and fulfilling salvation — but it’s true that I believe that many of us need a little jolting to get us out of complacency and denial, and a reminder that we’re called to perfection, which takes some effort on our part, at least the effort to say “Yes” to God.

    I’m also grateful to Forrest for reminding us that God is always working on preparing the way for us, ripening us, persuading us to get rid of the things that would stunt our growth. Even after it seems as though *we* had done the hard spiritual work of throwing away our cigarettes (or other worthless attachments), when we look back at that act with clear and wiser eyes, we give God the glory for it, not ourselves.

    But I’m left wondering whether I said, clearly and forcefully enough, that I think we and our spiritual fellowships are in danger. A Friends’ meeting that fills the hour with junk ministry from the ego, or merely soothes the Friends that came with comforting silence, is in my view serving as little more than an opium den of the masses. “Behold, the days come,” wrote Amos (8:11-12), “that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” How long shall we have bland Friends’ meetings that don’t challenge us before we Quakers start running to and fro? (*I* seem to be starting to run to and fro. But is that just me and my own neuroses?)

    And there’s another passage from Scripture that’s coming to me like a word of warning: “and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Rev. 16:10-11). I foresee the possibility of climate change, coupled with nuclear pollution, bad agribusiness practices and other man-made evils, making things increasingly hellish for people now on earth, if not their descendants also. How bad do things have to get before we world citizens start running to and fro in desperation to hear the words of the Lord? And what if, instead of running to and fro in search of divine guidance, we choose to blame the government, the corporations, the liberals, the right-wingers, the immigrants, the terrorists, or the God of heaven for our distress?

    I think we’re in real danger, because I don’t see many of us repenting of our deeds, or calling one another to repentance of our deeds. It seems culturally unfashionable. Dare we hope to change our culture?

    • treegestalt Says:

      Well, I don’t often quote Deepak Chopra [because when he gets sloppy, he gets really sloppy] but this bit re prayer seems apropos:

      “When you express yourself in a relationship, you want a response. Silence implies that the relationship is blocked; constant silence implies that it is over. So prayer is also a test to see if God is listening, if your relationship to spirit has any energy running through it.”

      So there can be a comfortable silence between friends, a cold silence of “I don’t want to hear it” — and might there be a ‘smug silence’ like I think you’re talking about? — where people take God for granted but have stopped asking because they’ve been assuming that everything is cool — or at worst can be fixed with a thoughtful letter to their congressperson…

  4. QuaCarol Says:

    Well . . . I just don’t know, John. I can’t get to the core of my unease with your post, but a couple of things have come to my mind.

    For one, I don’t enter into the meetinghouse to enter into the presence of the Holy. God doesn’t live in a house set apart from the world like Nora in Ibsen’s play. The meetinghouse gives me a convenient space in which to focus and sit still. That’s all. My commitment is to be with the Holy as consistently as possible through my day.

    For another, it seems to me that you speak of Worship as a kind of spiritual gym and juice bar where you go to work out, strengthen your spiritual muscles with some heavy weightlifting, and get nourished by a kale and apricot shake before going back out into the world. Fair enough. I can unite with you that part of worship is about receiving from God. But I miss, in the picture you’ve painted here, any sense of sitting down to worship with the desire to thank, adore, and praise the Holy.

    Finally, perfection? I see perfection as a result–not a goal. Perfection as a goal seems to me to be the desire of a prideful, ego-driven, spiritually ambitious self. Or, putting it a bit more empathetically perhaps, as the yearning of a soul seeking deliverance from the torments of shame.

    • treegestalt Says:

      That metaphor of “presence of” God has always been a logical derailment for me also; I think it needs to be translated mentally to “recognition that God is present.” Which is certainly desireable and essential outside of Meeting, as you and I and no doubt John strive to remember — to remain ‘awake’ as I think Jesus was saying when he reproached his disciples for ‘falling asleep’ at Gethsemane.

      Meeting can provide a weekly reminder of that. Once we realize that God is present, we implicitly give permission: that anything can happen here.

      Concepts of what that ‘anything’ should look like may unduly limit what we’re allowing; God doesn’t need to be on a leash, woof woof! Ooops, I mean ‘Meow?’

      What Jesus meant by “perfection” was to let God’s benevolence pass through us to all sorts folks, even them dirty ‘Unjust’!

  5. Patricia Dallmann Says:

    John, I was re-reading the first couple chapters of Fox’s Journal (really the first Quaker readings I’ve done in the past half year, which has been devoted to the Philokalia) and I ran across a couple of sentences that reminded me of the theme of your essay here.

    Fox is talking about the ministry he’s been given to perform: “…by this divine power and spirit of God…I was to bring people off from all their own ways to Christ…and from their churches, which men had made and gathered, to the Church in God, the general assembly written in heaven, which Christ is the head of.”

    This same work is what I saw you doing in your essay. I’ve frequently seen disagreement with this aim, because today’s Friends look for a worship and a community that meets their own needs, rather than the Church Fox worked for, which was the body that hears together, obeys together, and suffers together in keeping with Christ their head. His theology is so misunderstood, and there seems to be little attempt to even learn about it, let alone present a view consonant with early Friends. I appreciate your voice.

    Forrest, letting “God’s benevolence pass through us to all sorts of folks” is something I agree with you on completely–even when those with whom I don’t agree make themselves objectionable in their disagreement – especially those!

    Carol, your point about perfection and shame is a psychological tie that I’ve seen more than once, often in those who’ve suffered great shame in their childhood. However, this longing for spiritual completion/perfection isn’t to avoid anything untoward, at least for some. One simply knows eternal life – and with joy seeks it!

    • QuaCarol Says:

      Ah, but I think you’ve only taken part of my point, Patricia. To want perfection–to have perfection as a goal–seems to me ego-driven and prideful. Such pride and ego-drivenness often rises as a defense against shame.

      To come to perfection as a result of obedience, faithfulness, surrender, devotion, healing, and knowing eternal life is quite another matter.

      That perfection I don’t deny! I caution against wanting perfection.

  6. Patricia Dallmann Says:

    I don’t agree, Carol. Reading the Philokalia as I have been for a while, I’ve discovered some teaching about the soul and its powers that supports my position, as does my experience. In those Greek writings, I learned that the soul’s passible aspects are two: the desiring and incensive powers. (This is in keeping with Plato and adopted by the early Church Fathers.) The desiring power in our fallen state is directed in destructive ways, but when “used positively in accordance with nature and as created by God” is “to intensify desire for God.” (Note the word “desire.”)

    Early Friends didn’t go into the Greek philosophy so you don’t find this kind of explanation in their writings. However, Fox and others of the time did seek and find perfection. Fox speaks of his thirst for righteousness (perfection): “And I found that there were two thirsts in me, the one after the creatures, to have gotten help and strength there, and the other after the Lord the creator and his Son Jesus Christ.” (This “thirst” of Fox is another word for “desire,” and “righteousness” indicates “perfection.”) “And blessed are all they indeed that do hunger and thirst after righteousness; they shall be satisified with it. I have found it so, praised by the Lord who filleth with it, and satisfieth the desires of the hungry soul.” (“Hungry” is another indication that he desires righteousness/perfection.) Of course, Fox’s language is taken from the beatitude: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Note it says “blessed are they” not “prideful are they….”)

    You write of coming to perfection through obedience, devotion, faithfulness etc. I agree with that. However, I think you need to look a little more closely at your motive: Do you obey for obedience’s sake? Do devotion out of duty? Or is it that you long for (desire)God? Because recognizing the great need and desire for God is my motivation for following Jesus’s commandments, including the one that says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

    I understand your argument from a psychological perspective, but this is beyond that. Pride would absolutely prevent any participation in the divine. The appetitive aspect of the soul and thus the soul itself is fouled and corrupted with any vice, especially pride.

  7. Thy Friend John Says:

    For those who don’t know, Carol is one of my closest friends, and I’ve relied on her wise and intuitive counsel for almost two decades, so that when she speaks of “unease with my post” I listen. When she succeeds in naming the source of her unease, I expect to become that much wiser. But here’s what’s come to me in response to her two comments:

    1. What I’ve done by recalling Jesus’ warnings about the straitness of the gate is, basically, to call Friends to repentance. Not everyone, perhaps, but all who sense that they may have been spiritually lazy, or unforgiving, or selfish, or complacent about enjoying unfair privileges, or too heavily invested in the world’s morally corrupt institutions (or in challenging them with purely secular weapons), or too uncompassionate toward the suffering; particularly those Friends who may be finding their current prayer and worship experiences unsatisfying:

    If that call to repentance comes from God, then it should be heard, even if the messenger is flawed by shame, pride, narcissism, ego-driven perfectionism, and a tendency to look for motes in his brothers’ eyes. To the extent that the messenger is flawed by those things, he wishes to be healed of them and so asks for your prayers. But let the message be judged on its own merits. Do you hear the voice of God in it?

    2. If none of my readers hear the voice of God in it, then (a) perhaps I misled you, and I must ask your forgiveness, and God’s. But (b) the other possibility is that there’s God’s truth in it that you’re not hearing.

    If (b) there’s God’s truth in it that you’re not hearing. it could be because (b.1) I ran when I was not sent (to borrow a figure of speech from Jeremiah 23:21), and God hadn’t yet opened people’s hearts to hear the message. If so, then may God rebuke and correct me for that misdiscernment of my call; and/or (b.2) I was not a fit messenger anyway, but like a thief preaching honesty or a lecher preaching chastity, whose words could carry no power to convince because they were hypocritical. If this is the case, may God open my eyes to those flaws, heal me of them, and keep me from public ministry until I’m made into a fit messenger. However:

    3. If there is God’s truth in this call to repentance, and the problem is in either the timing or the character of the messenger, than I pray that God bring it forward again, at a more seasonable time, and by a fitter messenger. Surely you can all join me in such a prayer.

    • QuaCarol Says:

      Thank you for introducing me, John. Also, of course, I’m John’s sister blogger on “Among Friends,” although it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything of my own.

      John, I’ve been circling around my unease and I’m thinking it may be my editorial instincts that are unsettled. There’s some way in which the first two paragraphs of your post–which I like very much–don’t lead into the paragraphs that follow.

      I find your characterization of the paradox of the Gospel very interesting. As an editor, I’d ask you to sit with that paradox longer and write a different third paragraph.

      In a way, by moving to a flippant (and highly entertaining) characterization of Anytown Monthly Meeting, you’ve slid away yourself from the paradoxical crux you’ve described. Am I making myself clear? Do you see what I mean?

      Another editorial note I’d offer is to query your use of ‘we,’ ‘our,’ and ‘us.’ As a reader I find it off-putting, distancing. I feel something disingenuous about it in my gut. Do you really mean ‘we’? Because it feels to me like you’re pointing your accusing finger at those others–at those people whose junk ministry is driving you mad.

      I’m sure there are people who have been brought to Jesus by an accusatory pointing finger. I can only speak from my own experience. When Jesus came to sit with me, he held out his open hands and waited quietly until I put my hands in his and we sat there together in silence.

  8. treegestalt Says:

    Hey, I hope there’s nobody here who doesn’t find God behind the message of your post. Or see some need to for us individually and collectively to ‘repent’ ( == ‘change your outlook, “cut off” those ways of seeing and doing that render us smug & wicked, turn around & move more lightward.’) Where you say ~ If I’m seeing hidden failures, these must be at work in me too! — I also think you should consider: Where I’m uneasy with our current state, I’m not as alone as I imagine.

    What we call ‘self deception’ can’t be someone deliberately deciding, “I’ll feel better if I lie to myself, so here goes!” As with addictive psychology, there needs to be a long period of rat-learning: “When my mind wanders toward this part of the maze I get anxious, so I don’t go there.”

    I continue to think this sort of observation needs to be more tempered with the other side of Jesus — not sentimentality but the metaphors of growing and of God’s parental stance. That is, the observation that growth happens secretly for some time before anyone finds little shoots coming out of the ground. And that God’s attitude to God’s children has much in common with ours. We don’t want The Perfect Child, but this child in particular whom we know and love — but we also want him/her to see what’s right and do that, because life will be a whole lot easier for himself & all of us as that increasingly happens.

  9. Thy Friend John Says:

    Thank you all, Patricia, Forrest, and Carol, for the past batch of comments! Carol, I think you’re right about the blog posting’s needing reworking, and the shift in tone from solemn (2nd para.) to flippant (3rd para.) is a little jarring, and then the use of “we” in a way that suggests that I’m really saying “you fools and sinners” but pasting a patronizing smile over it by using the first person plural — that’s something i’d want to avoid altogether. I really, really do want to reach Friends’ hearts with this message, and I’m one of the ones that needs to be reached with it, too. I suppose I’ve been influenced by reading William Law’s _A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life_, which goes after people’s rationalizations for laxity in a tone that’s sometimes severe. Forrest, thank you for reminding me that God is our Parent: parents need to be tender. The object is to get the child to see what’s right and do the right thing for its own sake.

    Hopefully this piece of writing will reincarnate as something with a more consistent tone. I want it to be the best it can be.

  10. Patricia Dallmann Says:

    People need to see themselves as they are in order to move into something higher. And so, the resistance is there. With courage and just a flat out regard for truth, the perfection will be found. I find it’s more productive to focus on what lies ahead then on the infinitely depressing human propensity for evil. Perhaps I’ve offended the liberal sensibility.

  11. Thy Friend John Says:

    This evening I saw my adventurous 20 year-old daughter Molly off on a plane to New Orleans, where she’s going to seek her fortune in a place she’s never been before. I’m happy and hopeful for her. But this event closes a chapter in my life as it opens one in hers: I’ve now raised my children. Half a year ago I was also able to say, “I’ve finished working for a living.” I now ask myself what’s left for me to do here; the answer seems to be “finish dying to sin, and live for Christ.” This should also be the best thing I can do for my beloved wife Elizabeth, my grown children, and my friends. I’d like them to remember me as one who prayed for help, received it gratefully, and miraculously walked free from his own infinitely depressing propensity for evil. Yes, it *is* infinitely depressing, Patricia! How wonderful to have a Savior, and to have hope!

    At the airport, while I waited for Molly, I started rewriting this blog posting, describing the goodness of God much more glowingly. After I’d gotten home, I opened an old notebook and found where I’d copied some words of Bonhoeffer’s that seemed apt to describe my meeting’s stuckness and my own stuckness: “The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers… they do not have fellowship as sinners. …We dare not be sinners…. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we _are_ sinners. But it is the grace of the gospel…that it confronts us with the truth and says, You are a sinner…; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you…. Be glad!”

    Finding this encourages me to go on improving this piece of writing. Thank you again, Carol, for querying my tone! Meanwhile, — Patricia, please don’t worry about offending the liberal sensibility. I don’t know whether you mean me, or Carol, or Forrest, or someone else. But it shouldn’t matter. This has been a discussion among truth-lovers, and all of us who struggled to express well the truth we were given should, I think, feel Jesus’ gratitude and bask in it, and in one another’s love. May the Lord help us all to do that! Amen.

  12. Patricia Dallmann Says:

    A human being, and only a human being, will refuse to accept evil. To fail to do that would be less than our creator intended and gave us the will to be.

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