06 August 2011

Love won't settle for tolerance

Philip Gulley spoke at the Carey Memorial Lecture here at BYM's annual sessions last night, and instead of the usual lively and intelligent lecture followed by an energetic question and answer period, we had a most unusual time: we were moved to a deep period of worship, in which a powerful presence punctuated by beautiful singing could be felt in the room.

For some of us it felt like a sign. We have been contemplating the evolution and transformation of the intervisitation committee, as on one end of the spectrum we feel the pinch of budget cuts and lack of committee members, and on the others a surge of new interest from other yearly meetings wanting to learn our model and new volunteers stepping forward during our sessions.

Philip challenged us, right from the theme of our own sessions:
Can we welcome the Divine? Can we welcome every person? Can we see the Light of God in each person? Are we talking about Love as God calls us to, or are we talking about that wishy washy half-way, not really doing it word: tolerance? Says Gulley: "No where in the gospels does it say to tolerate someone. Love says I will seek the best for you! It does not say I will put up with you!"


We cannot be afraid to hear these words, for even though we fear them, they are the words of unity. If we believe in a loving God, and if we believe in ongoing revelation, we need to be open to the idea that God is transforming our world, even today. We need to be listening! But more than just listening we need to be prepared to act on God's love and to recognize the gifts that God has given to us and to others, and to help our friends to bring those gifts to fruition in the world.

Philip Gulley uses the story from Acts 8 about the disciple Philip baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch to illustrate how the Holy Spirit may guide us to do things that we might think we "shouldn't" because the Law tells us not to. He urges us to look at the Spirit vs the Law much as the early Christians had to.

He also urges us to look at what God it is that we are worshipping: are we worshipping an anthropomorphic god that we have been carry through time that is based on the image of our forefathers in the Bible or our ancestors in our heritage? Or are we listening to the God who is still speaking, even today?

This is difficult and very frightening stuff to think about. It means we must search our own souls and the very depth of our beings. We must ask for clearness in our meetings, speak amongs ourselves, and say to each other: Are you sure? Are you sure that you are practicing the true Love of God and not just toleration? Are you absolutely sure that the love you practice is not just tolerance that hides underneath it a hatred or worse yet a hidden fear that you have been too frightened to look at because deep down inside you think surely God cannot help me with this?

We have got to learn to sit with each other in deep, deep worship and acknowledge our hurts and our fears and yes, our secrets. I have heard a few things this week that have really stuck with me:

Ask youself: Is this the work that God would have me do?
Ask it when you are tempted to take precious time to argue over pennies, or take to make a phone call that could be spent with your toddler, or argue in monthly meeting when you could be attending to an important issue, or to the budget.

Am I loving or tolerating my brother or sister?

Who is my brother or sister, if there is that of God in everyone?

Does my life reflect the work that God would have me do?

Am I doing all I can to help abolish the hurts and acknowledge the gifts of my brothers and sisters, to bring the love and light of the God of my understanding into this world?