Meeting began at 11 a.m. today, and the first message came at 11:08. By the time the ten or twelve messages were over I was feeling quite alone, and even slightly sick, wishing I had a second community to pray with to prepare me for worship with this community, this big unruly family of Friends I love that I’ve been worshiping with for twenty-five years. I couldn’t leave them unless God reassigned me – they’re my tribe. But I’d looked for food, and gotten sawdust and sand. I longed to hear something said among them that I wasn’t hearing, and the Holy Spirit was not opening my mouth to say it myself.
Late in the afternoon, after business meeting, after I’d parted from everyone, I seemed to feel the Lord urging me to write down what it was that I’d wanted to hear, so I spent most of my subway ride home writing a first draft of what became… this:
“The reign of God is at hand! And Jesus Christ, who brought us this wonderful news, repeated it again and again, sealed it with His blood and witnessed to its truth by rising from the dead, has assured us that He is with us always, even to the end of the world; so that if the reign of God was at hand when He opened the eyes of the blind, fed the five thousand, and forgave harlots and publicans their sins, then so is the reign of God at hand today! Brothers and sisters, do you know what this means, this reign of God?
“It means that the reign of self is over! No more domination of the weak by the strong, the poor by the rich, no more ‘survival of the fittest’ where each has to fight to get his own way and some get trampled, because God loves everyone and can be trusted to provide what’s best for each! That means that Love rules, and not fear, in the kingdom we inhabit – where, as God’s beloved children, no longer competing with one another for scarce goods, we ourselves reign with God! What though there still be sword, hunger, plague and iron bars endangering the body in this world of suffering – God gives love, trust, courage, and guidance enough to sustain the soul through anything this world can inflict! Which is to say that God gives us new eyes to see with, eyes that can see the ocean of light covering the ocean of darkness.
“How may we know that the reign of God is at hand? By this: that as we ourselves forgive trespasses, we can feel the dirtiness, the shame, the guilt of our own past trespasses fall away, and the wellsprings of our own sin cease to flow. And by this: that just as Jesus gave his disciples in ancient Galilee the authority to heal the sick, rebuke evil with power, and call the troubled to a thorough and effective repentance, so He gives us that authority today also, if only we will own our discipleship and devote ourselves to it! Oh, my brothers and sisters! This is that new heart of flesh with the law graven on it that the Hebrew prophets promised us! This is what it means to be born again as a new creature in Christ! And it delights our Heavenly Parent to give this to us, if we will only open up our souls to accept it! Hallelujah! Brothers, sisters, open up your souls!”