The vocal ministry I’d like to hear at meeting

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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!”

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4 Responses to “The vocal ministry I’d like to hear at meeting”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    but you didn’t get the words of the message until later. The words you get — at the time — are what the people around you are ready to benefit from. The lack of words wasn’t lack of God’s power, just our lack of ‘power-over’ to make a seed come up one day sooner than God has prepared that to happen.

  2. Thy Friend John Says:

    Thank you, Forrest. Good point.

    I also have to remember that the Angel of the Meeting stands in the presence of God; God knows what’s going on there; the Meeting isn’t always acting out its resistances; when it can listen, someone will be raised up to speak.

  3. vombutch Says:

    Indeed, it’s difficult to feel God’s reign when the circus is in town! Or, as my Meeting message offered: It’s one thing to attend occasionally to a benign heart condition; quite another to the heart-transplant that Worship entails.

  4. Thy Friend John Says:

    Thank you, Vombutch! Fortunately, the Friends with heart-transplants remember what it was like before the transplant. I think we face a curious challenge, in explaining our present condition to those who haven’t experienced the transplant yet, of not sounding holier-than-thou or like we’re some different kind of people, not making the transplant-process sound scary, and not shaming them for the messages they give from their condition. Often I just hurry away from the circus after meeting, as soon as I can, to be alone and try to get centered again.

    As it turned out last First Day, we had a business meeting, after Social Hour, in which the Clerk read aloud an advice from our book of discipline that began: “Friends are advised to observe our Christian testimony for a faithful ministry of the gospel under the influence of the Holy Spirit.” This led me to stand in the silence and query whether we make God’s voice unwelcome by filling the hour with messages from self, so that we come away knowing quite a bit about what other Friends feel, but nothing new about what God feels.

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