Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
In Meeting this morning I sat in a different spot so I would be near someone, anyone. I realized what missed greatly about the old Meeting Houses in Pennsylvania were the benches. It seems people were less inclined to sit alone on a bench, but with chairs as seating there's no choice. Were there more people attending early Meeting, I'm sure the sense of isolation would be different. Were there only one Meeting per First Day, nearness to one's neighbors would erase a feeling of isolation, it seems. Even so, some people--myself included--want to be apart from others sometimes or all the time. Sometimes sitting next to another inhibits (or one thinks it does) the Spirit from acting in one's self, or inhibits one's ability to access the Spirit within. The Spirit, though, is never inhibited.
I sat in Meeting and prayed. I prayed the Lord would be over all and His spirit would be experienced by all. I wanted so much for the experience this First Day to equal that of last First Day, when the Spirit was felt by all. Last First Day one spoke, eventually acknowledging the Divine for his joy; towards the end of worship, another spoke, reflecting on hearing of the Divine, and was filled with joy. I praised the Lord and was filled with joy, for I had prayed for that very thing that morning. But when the presence of the Holy Spirit seemed to elude me this time and the same person who first spoke the week before remained silent, and no one else spoke, I became restless. I prayed again.
Alas, I decided to wait upon the Lord as I did at home, never minding the others, though not to get on my knees, which probably would have caused consternation. I have been amazed, though, at the change in me when I bowed to my Lord. James, the acknowledged brother of Jesus Christ, in his epistle says "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." Js 4:10. That's exactly it. He lifted me up.
There is so much I want to say to the Meeting. So much that is important for them to hear. Since I felt constrained to say anything this First Day, wanting to get the message right; wanting to see instant fruits (unrealistically, but wanting nonetheless) wanting to engage them, not alienate them; wanting perfection -- The Lord once said to me, You don't know what that perfection looks like -- I worked at being in the Spirit, another conscious overreach. But what was I to do? Mouth a recently heard Christian song while keeping time noiselessly with my foot? Yup. (We are one in Spirit, we are one in the Lord.)
Then my mind went through a trail of memoriable events, ideas, thoughts until I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write down this question: if they're not hearing the Gospel, what are they hearing? And then this: how does one preach the Gospel to those who are hostile to it? Next: how does one love those who are hostile to one? Lastly: how does one love those who are hostile to what one says?
But to me, the most stunning question is the first. And that question needs our immediate attention. For if they aren't hearing the Gospel from us, you have to imagine what they are hearing and know it ain't nothing about Jesus Christ, redemption, and salvation. It is our Christian duty, particularly for Quaker Christians, whose message, Christ is come to teach His people himself, offers them an experience in the reality of the living God.
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