04 November 2007

What are we doing here together in worship?

This morning in worship, Meeting seemed awfully wiggly. I tried to reach down into the Well where we gather, but my Friends mostly didn't seem to have made it that deep. Or, perhaps, they were in a part of the Well that I wasn't able to get to. Whether it was them or me or a combination, that old gathered Meeting thing wasn't happening.

I thought about Brooklyn Quaker and the Manhattan Meeting's joy in the energy that flowed through their Meeting. This morning, we didn't seem to have that upwelling of joy. We weren't having ministry either, so I thanked God for that blessing and tried again to go deeper.

"What are we doing here anyway?" I thought, "Are we really waiting on God? Are we striving to listen for our marching instructions? Or are we sitting here, sifting through the problems in our lives, trying to find the solutions to our own small problems? Do we have the self-discipline we need to do this?"

"What you are doing," said a familiar deep rumble, "is waiting on ME. And you will LISTEN when I speak and SPEAK when I tell you to."

"Oh no," I thought, "I'm not sure I have it in me to speak in Meeting this morning."

"You will SPEAK when I tell you to."

"Okay. Am I to speak now? What am I to say?"

"You will SPEAK when I tell you to."

Obviously, I was meant to listen. So I did.

I was led on one of those magical mystery spirit tours. I saw places where people had gathered in the spirit, and how the spirit had moved them and moved through them. They built things and they struggled and they lived with the fire in their bellies and then the spirit moved on. I saw the spiritual communities of my own life, how the spirit had been alive in each of them and how the spirit had led me to move on. I saw a great dance of spirit, moving people and moving through people and moving on. Always moving on.

I saw how difficult it is to let the spirit move through you, how hard it is to stay open to the spirit and give your life into its hands. I saw my Meeting, hearts half-open and half-closed, not quite willing to make the gift outright of themselves to the spirit. I saw myself, holding onto my separateness, my pride, my ego, my principles, only half willing to step into the holy flame.

Just when I thought I would have to speak, a Friend rose. He talked about the early Friends and how the Light had come up in them and burned away their veils. He prayed to the Holy Spirit that it would shine in our Meeting and burn away our veils. He was praying for what my soul had been longing for all during worship. My heart joined his prayers, and I felt the whole Meeting sink, together, into the Well.

And there we were. Perhaps we were still half-hearted, wounded and halting, half-blind and half-deaf. Perhaps we were still wrapped up in our little lives and our small concerns, but there we were, deep in communion with the spirit, open for that precious moment.

Other Friends spoke, calling for us to be brave and to answer the call of spirit.

I used to pray every week to be made into a strong vessel for the work I was called to do. That prayer was answered. Maybe it's time to up the ante, to pray for courage to tackle big things.


Mark Wutka said...

Thanks for posting this, Heather, it is really great! One particular sentence really spoke to me:
My heart joined his prayers, and I felt the whole Meeting sink, together, into the Well.

Ministry delivered from the Spirit does that, it draws the meeting together. In John 10 in the bible, there are a couple of allusions to the sheep knowing the voice of the shepherd and following him. That doesn't mean that everyone talks the way Jesus did, but that deep down we recognize the spirit inspiring the words. I imagine that if I heard my mom speaking German, I'd know it was her, not from the words but from her voice.

Thank you again for sharing this, and especially for sharing your part in it, which I think touches on things most of us have thought/experienced.

With love,

Micah Bales said...

This post speaks very much to my condition and the condition of Friends I worship with. Thank you for it.

Micah Bales

Peter Bishop said...

Wonderful job catching in words what the ebb and flow of Quaker worship feels like.

Honey said...

beautifully written, I can only echo the other comments. Thank you.