Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
I've read that line many times and heard it often on a cassette recording I had from Portland, Maine Monthly Meeting. Intellectually I understood its import, but not its essence, as was shown to me this day in worship. I think the disclosure started in yesterday's Meeting for Worship, wherein there was a lot of self-worship but no God or Christ worship. I must include myself in this instance, not as a self-worshipper but rather as a self-centered one.
An earlier read from George Fox was the impetus for contemplation during worship. InThe Journal of George Fox, edited by John L. Nickalls, p. 294, Fox recounts an episode in Wales. A large group of people were gathering for a meeting but Fox stepped away from the gathering "for I had a great travail upon me for the salvation of the people." A man who was loving to Friends came to tell George the crowd was very large (and perhaps restless). Fox sent him up to the meeting, following him shortly. "And so I passed up to the meeting and stood a-top of a chair about three hours and sometimes leaned my hand of a man's head, and stood a pretty while before I began to speak . . . And at last I felt the power of the Lord went over them all and the Lord's everlasting life and truth shined over all."
He stood a-top a chair for three hours! That he did that so captured my mind I couldn't stop thinking about it. Why, I asked myself. What was in his standing that I needed to learn of? As I contemplated my question I thought of our call to glorify God in all that we do. George Fox was a man of God. How long he had to stand a-top a chair was secondary to glorifying God. His charge was for the people to come into the power, the life, and truth of the Lord. Physical discomfort wouldn't stop him from doing that. Furthermore, he knew the Lord would hold him up for as long as necessary.
In our times we wouldn't tolerate standing for three hours. We wouldn't see the necessity of doing so. If people can't get it in a specified time frame that's their problem, not ours. We're too important to waste our time on people who obviously don't want to understand what we're peddling. And truthfully, the people gathered to hear wouldn't tolerate a lengthy program either, because anything being said is often of little or no substance. As I thought these things I thought too that I had a charge to glorify God whenever I spoke in Meeting. That charge was heavy on me until people started speaking in Meeting, a grievous, sorrowful time.
Then this morning in worship yesterday's First Day worship revisited me. Maybe it was the self-worship of that Meeting that triggered my thoughts, for I thought of my own self-indulgence in worship. The Lord let me see that my worship was quite often not God-centered but self-centered. I wasn't seeing myself as God's servant, rather I was treating God as my servant. How so? I didn't wait upon the Lord. No, I waited for the Lord to give to me. When I was excited for worship it was for what opening the Lord might have for me; what teaching He might have for me; what joy He might bring me that day, etc. I wasn't waiting to hear him to learn his will that I might glorify him. My worship was all about me--a twist on President Kennedy's admonition: Ask not what you can do for God; ask what God can do for you.
What an opening! The Lord also let me see that worship can't be confined in a time frame; that too is self-serving. Neither is worship subject to sleepiness: too little sleep, don't worship. The Lord didn't put that burden on me; I put it on myself. Maybe it's that "wanting to do more" creeping in.
Realizing all these things brought me to my knees. I recalled Isaac Penington's words,"become little, very little." It's one thing to know what he means; it's another to come to it.
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