26 March 2008

The Fruits of Radical Faith?

Over the past few months, worship has been filled more and more with calls to radical faith. I hear these calls weekly in my heart, and quite often on the lips of other Friends.

Personally, I keep getting the message to be a lily of the field. I am not to worry about the outcome of what I am asked to do, just to do it and trust God to handle the rest. This is a huge challenge for me, and I definitely need the weekly reminders to relax and trust in God. He's got my back, okay? It's fine for me to do my little bit, let go, and leave things in God's hands. Really. C'mon, Heather, LET GO ALREADY!

For the Meeting, I am hearing that we need to do the same thing: let go and trust in whatever God's got planned for the Meeting. Maybe we don't need to make sure that every i is crossed and t is dotted before we move forward. Maybe God wants us to cross the ts and dot the is instead. Maybe we should just GET OUT OF THE WAY and let Spirit MOVE.

Well, when God shouts at me repeatedly, I hear. That doesn't always make it easy for me to obey, but at least I'm clear about what is expected of me.

The leading I'm finding it hardest to follow right now is personal. Moreover, it's something I want to do, something that delights me. This has made me question repeatedly whether it can really be a leading, and why I am being led to do it. The answer I keep receiving is that I don't need to understand, that I should just relax, enjoy it, and leave the driving up to God.

This is almost impossible. I can follow leadings to do things that are difficult and unpleasant more easily than I can follow a leading to relax and enjoy myself.

It is my Father's good, good pleasure
To give me the kingdom as I live and breathe.

That song keeps recurring to me. God has given me so many gifts in this life: friends, family, trees, healing, learning, natural beauty, bodily comforts, safety, protection, and much, much else. Why is it so hard to accept that I might be led to do something that is easy and pleasant to do?

Much that has been asked of me this last year has not been easy and pleasant, but has been difficult and has stretched me.

I heard a Friend's laugh yesterday in the distance and went up to tell her how much it delighted me.

"Oh, I know, I have a terrible laugh," she said.

"I love your laugh."

She laughed again, "Maybe I should just accept the compliment instead of arguing with it?"

Maybe I should just accept God's gifts instead of arguing with them.

17 March 2008

Awesome and Sufficient

We held a worship-sharing to respond to queries for our State of the Meeting report to the quarter.

Our Meeting has faced big challenges this last year. It's been a time of pain and struggle, of divisions and hard feelings worked out with difficulty, of low energy and the letting go of things our Meeting has always done. We're in the process of a radical restructuring in the spirit of the Jubilee Year, and we lack the comfort of familiar forms for our ongoing work in the Spirit.

I expected our State of the Meeting worship to strike a somber note. I was extremely surprised to hear one Friend after another rise and speak of the coming of spring after a fallow period. Friends spoke of difficulties and challenges in many areas, and then they spoke of new seeds germinating. There was a great sense of hope, of energy building beneath the surface, of a time of growth and renewal after our fallow time.

Friends came to speak of the awesome strength, courage, and faith our Meeting has shown in taking on the Jubilee Year challenge set forth by Pacific Yearly Meeting. We have indeed been examining our structure in the light of the Jubilee Year, turning away from other responsibilities to focus on the shaping of our Meeting. We have allowed our fields to go fallow, and sustained ourselves with that which sprang from the Spirit of its own accord.

One Friend rose to say that the power of the Spirit of Love is awesome and sufficient to bring us into unity.

Then it struck me with great force: our forms and structures might be worn and outmoded, lacking in energy and support, but the Spirit is moving strongly among us and we are honoring it. We are willing, as a corporate body, to offer our Meeting to Spirit to use for its purposes. We are waiting for guidance and willing to follow that Spirit whereever it might lead. The Spirit of Love is awesome and sufficient to lead us, and we as a Meeting have the faith to relinquish control of the Meeting and go whither it leads.

No wonder we've had pain, having to let go of forms that no longer serve us. No wonder there is such great energy for our discussions of the issues we face. No wonder there is such great support for radical change in our Meeting. We are joined in Spirit, and we share a deep faith in our Quaker process.

And no wonder, too, that we have such pain at letting go of beloved forms. Our Meeting is dying and being reborn in a new form, and we all grieve the old forms that we so loved.

How often this last year I've heard the words "We should do this, we ought to do that, we're not doing the other as well as we might." That's all true, but it seems to me that there's a tension between perfectly fulfilling the functions of human structure and following Spirit. We say that we are primitive Christianity revived, but we also take comfort in our outward forms and having things done in the manner of Friends.

How scary it is to think about stepping outside of the forms and living unsheltered in the wilderness of Spirit! How scary and yet exhilirating to be living on the edge of spiritual dynamicism, to feel the ground shift beneath our feet.

Our feet stumble and find the new path with difficulty. We let go of old forms grudgingly, like a well-mannered dog leaving behind a juicy bone to go on a walk with our mistress. We look at the mess and confusion and feel a stab of guilt and regret.
Then we go to worship and the Spirit pours into us: "You are my children, with whom I am well pleased. You are the beloved community living my ministry. You are living in the grace and beauty of my love."

I feel intense gratitude this morning for the movement of Spirit in my life, in my Meeting, in the world. What a blessing to be part of this beloved community in transformation, to share in the suffering and strife as well as in the joy and beauty.