10 February 2010

When do you Worship?

"Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." Jesus says this to Thomas, after he has allowed him to touch his wounds. Doubting Thomas does not possess this essential element of faith. Do you?

In Helen Hole's 1962 Pendle Hill Pamphlet, "Prayer: The Cornerstone", Hole posits the position that a flourishing spiritual community depends on prayer as its foundation and nurture, the meeting's life blood.

Contrary to modern approaches, which often cite action (Faith without Works is dead), Ms Hole purports that prayer is the singular most important element of a faith community.

Early Christians did not exist in isolation. Always they were together as a loving worshipping community. Never was that community together that they were not in prayer. Through corporate prayer their faith grew vibrant and powerful, a source of creativity and strength. These people knew each other to the depth of their souls. Sharing the experience of knowing Jesus drew them to a level of love and trust that was clearly visible to those around them.

I have had the experience of knowing some Friends who had that level of knowing the inner Christ in such a way. I have known born-again Christians among all denominations who, in my estimation, have experienced that same knowing. There is a quality to their faith life that I do not always see among Friends. (I am not speaking of blind followers, eyes glazed over in total surrender.) I'm speaking of the people we meet who are clearly living life as Jesus would. Many of these people are the elders in our communities. They are most certainly the people who are happy where they are, at any moment, living life fully.

I'm conscious of the absence of prayer from many meetings for worship I attend, and of the strained, brief silences before committee and business meetings, that barely allow time for one to center, much less seek the will of God. I'm refreshed at Yearly sessions, when I enter the meeting room which is already prayerfully silent, and am encouraged to sink into that deep seeking from which my inner direction flows.

I love knowledge, and I seek it actively. I'm an avid reader, listener of NPR and PBS, and I seek out fellow life-long learners. I'm never at a loss to find these people in my Quaker community. I'm surprised however, how many of these people I observe to be uncomfortable with silence. I have watched as people sit uncomfortably with the silence before our Meeting for Worship for Business, impatient that we get on with it. I've watched committee meetings wind out of direction when not started in the silence of centered worship. I've listened to countless discussions about Quaker Process, all attending to the human part of the process, some without even acknowledging the Presence that guides us in all things.

I've had my own journey with this over the years. I've had to struggle to develop a life of daily spiritual reflection, and still I lose it at times when stress is high or illness looms. I lean back on my intellectual self, bolstered by ego-confidence into believing it has all the answers. At such times, it is only in desperation that I return to the silence.

And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Lately I've been thinking of early American Friends, and of the time before phones and email and blogs. Much of what we know of our Quaker ancestors comes from the letters found in attics, that Friends wrote to each other and to their families, apprising them of life in what was often a newly discovered wilderness. Through these reports, we came to understand how inextricably tied were their community, worship and prayer.

Seeking was not a separate task, separate from the activities of one's life, another task on the daunting list.

Friends worshipped when they came together for meals, with prayer and silence; they formed whole communities around the meetinghouse, as they settled in new areas; they worshipped as they worked together to build each other's homes, harvest fields, fell trees and celebrate life and death together. Their experience of worship was daily and ongoing. It is something many of us seek today, and many of us set aside in lieu of the 'business' of daily life. When do you worship?

When I read the blogs of others, I find that many are seeking this fullness of a life lived in worship and prayer. The mysticism that is inherent in Friends' religious experience is not one that requires cloistering or monasticism; instead our mysticism is found in the life lived in prayer and daily devotion, and in the sharing of that life in community with others.

Slowly I come to see that faith is not sought, it is lived. It is a paradox. One must believe to see the fruits of one's faith, yet one must act faithfully in order to come to belief.

Early Christians had the amazing experience of living in the time of Jesus' message and life. Even if they did not meet Jesus directly, they undoubtedly came in contact with people whose lives had been directly touched, and then they, seeing this, were touched themselves. Evangelism was not a sales pitch, it was a direct result of living one's faith and helping others see God through one's life.

Early Friends had the experience of seeing George Fox' and others' experience of knowing intimately the inner Christ, the Light, and they were touched by this significant yet simple outpouring of faith to seek that personal relationship themselves. Friends knew that only through living their faith could they show others the value of coming into direct relationship with God.

Nowadays, we civilized and educated Quakers have sometimes even been scornful towards those who are of too simple a faith, those who believe too readily and fall back on the Bible too easily. We sometimes feel foolish thinking of standing to pray in front of others. We are squeamish of telling others we have a leading, or taking an unpopular stand in Meeting, even when that inner voice is whispering fervently to us to do so.

Here is the gift of faith: that each of us is doing the very best that we can do to be the very best we can be. There is no wrong way, if one takes one's leadings to their faith community. In the loving community, we are praying and seeking and guiding and always turning to listen, seeking in the silence the ever-present Teacher.

Much of my life, I, living in the shadows of the judging God I was taught about, haver shrunk from my leadings, fearing doing the "wrong" thing. Here is the gift of faith: that in living in community, with an ear always turned to God, we may be supported, loved, uplifted, guided, eldered and nurtured.

This is the meaning in Isaac Penington's quote: "Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand."

This gift is freely given, yet we must be willing to receive. When do you worship?


  1. Linda--right on! I've had a couple of momentary glimpses of living my life as a prayer and that is my fervent but miserably distant goal. I long to make my every thought and word and action a reflection of God, an example of the love that shone through Christ.

    I read a book recently, "A People's History of Christianity" by Diana Butler Bass which is modeled after the Howard Zinn book. As I read through the stories of people living up to the Light given them (rather than as was dictated by the church), what struck me was that it all comes down to hospitality! It was person-to-person and direct and immediate. The people profiled were all able to reach out with love and generosity. Jesus didn't go around converting people, he went around telling stories, feeding and healing people. When we can reach out, with whatever gifts we each have, with love and compassion, we're living the prayer.

    Thanks for your post!
    Mary Linda

  2. The testimonies of George Fox are very needful, especially in this day and age with the multitudes of voices declaring "Lo, here is The Messiah, lo there".

    “Let There Be Light”

    “In The Beginning” Our Father said, “Let There Be Light, and There Was Light”

    “The Beginning of The Creation of GOD”.......

    LIGHT begot Light!

    And the revelation that The Messiah gave unto the apostle John bore witness to The Truth that The Messiah, was "The Beginning of the Creation of GOD(Our Father, Creator of ALL)”! (Rev 3:14)

    And The Messiah bore witness to His Brethren when He testified, “My GOD is your GOD and My Father(Creator) is your Father
    (Creator).” (Jn 20:17)

    The Messiah testified “I have sent My angel to you with this testimony for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star(Light)”! (Rev 22:16) ) "We have the more sure word of prophecy; and you do well to take heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and The Morning Star(Light)arises in your hearts."(2Pt 1:19) "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, HIS own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of HIM who called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light."(1Pt2:9) And the evening(darkness) and The Morning (Light) was the First Day).” (Gen 1:5)

    “The Beginning of The Creation of GOD”!

    It is very important to both know and experience The Messiah as He Is, Was and always Will Be, and also to know the "glory He had with Our Father" before He was born in "the likeness of sinful flesh". (John 17:5, Rom 8:3) For what The Messiah Was and Is, Is that which He will always Will Be. “The Only Begotten Son” of “Our Father”!

    First, let me simply state that I do not believe the "catholic” and “christian" theo’ry’logical doctrines concerning “The Only True GOD, Father ALL”. For they “image”ine a three-headed “god" they call their “trinity”, or they declare their “christ” to be their “god and father", or they believe that The Messiah was but an exalted messenger(angel) or prophet.

    John The Baptist testified, “And I saw, and bare record that The Messiah is the Son of GOD(Our Father).”(John 1:34) Peter testified, “You are The Messiah, The Son of The Living GOD(Father of ALL)”!(Matt 16:16) And the Ethiopian eunuch testified, “I believe that The Messiah is The Son of GOD(Our Father)”. (Acts 8:37) “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the Heavens, The Messiah, The Son of GOD(Our Father), let us hold fast our profession.” (Heb 4:14) “These things are written so that you might believe that The Messiah is The Son of GOD(Our Father)”. (John 20:31) The Messiah testified that He was “The Son of GOD”, and that His GOD was “The Only True GOD(Father of ALL)”.(John 10:36,17:3) And The Messiah also testified that He was the “Son of man” and “The Light of the world”. (Matt 26:64, John 8:12)

    It is needful to believe that The Messiah Was, Is and always Will Be "The Son of The Living GOD", and that there is but “One GOD, HE WHO is Father of ALL”. (Mat 16:16, Eph 4:6) The Messiah bore witness to His Brethren when He testified after being “raised from among the dead”, “My GOD is your GOD and My Father(Creator) is your Father(Creator)” (John 20:17)

    Is The Messiah’s GOD and Father your GOD and Father?

    Who are The Brethren of The Messiah?

    “Let There Be Light”

    Once again, It is very important to both know and experience The Messiah as He Was, Is and always Will Be. The Messiah simply testified in John 17:5 "And now O Father, glorify Me with YOUR own self with the glory that I had with YOU before the world began”.

    Prior to that testimony The Messiah had testified, “Yet a little while is The Light with you. Walk while you have The Light, lest darkness comes upon you: for he that walks in darkness does not know where he goes. While you have Light, believe in The Light, that you may be the children of Light.” (John 12:35-36)

  3. Continued @ ASimpleAndSpiritualLife.Blogspot.Com/2008/06/let-there-be-light.html