Sunday, February 10, 2013

Community in the Spirit...

We know the power of God’s Spirit at work in the lives of people within the community of our meetings. These people may have been drawn into the community by a sudden convincement, a long period of seeking, or have grown up within it from childhood. We also know that we are engaged in a life-long growth into faith, and experience a continuing irruption of grace into our lives which demands and sustains a commitment to a life of discipleship. We recognise this power at work in people of all ages, races and creeds: a transforming power which can issue in lives of joy, humility and service.

The concrete expression of the Holy Spirit is a strange thing, and perhaps lies at the root of all that is meant by the word incarnation. Traditionally the word is used of Christ, who “came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” (Nicene Creed) But God’s Spirit indwells us too (Luke 11.13; John 16.12ff) and works through us (Mark 13.11; Galatians 5.22-25); and it is the Spirit who fills us in worship, and changes us.
 
In just the short time I’ve been attending my local Quaker Meeting, the sense of stepping into a community has been palpable. I’ve encountered all kinds of Christian community over the years, of different sizes and degrees of intentionality; yet Quaker community, as I’ve begun to experience it, is something different again.

In the Meeting, under the spiritual leading that arises out of shared silence, the Spirit can weave that fabric called community in an extraordinarily concrete and palpable way.

George Gorman wrote:
One of the unexpected things I have learnt in my life as a Quaker is that religion is basically about relationships between people. This was an unexpected discovery, because I had been brought up to believe that religion was essentially about our relationship with God.

If we are sensitive, we find that everything that happens to us, good or bad, can help us to build a vision of the meaning of life. We can be helped to be sensitive by reading the Bible and being open to experience of nature, music, books, painting, sport or whatever our particular interest may be. It is in and through all things that we hear God speaking to us. But I do not think I am alone in my certainty that it's in my relationships with people that the deepest religious truths are most vividly disclosed.
 
But Quaker community is known most clearly and distinctively in silence, and it is out of that silence that all its works of peace and justice flow. The French Quaker Pierre Lacout wrote:
In silence which is active, the Inner Light begins to glow – a tiny spark. For the flame to be kindled and to grow, subtle argument and the clamour of our emotions must be stilled. It is by an attention full of love that we enable the Inner Light to blaze and illuminate our dwelling and to make of our whole being a source from which this Light may shine out.

Words must be purified in a redemptive silence if they are to bear the message of peace. The right to speak is a call to the duty of listening. Speech has no meaning unless there are attentive minds and silent hearts. Silence is the welcoming acceptance of the other. The word born of silence must be received in silence.

It’s into that silence that I’m increasingly drawn, sinking into it as into a long-lost home. I keep asking myself why it's taken so long...

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