Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Reading from the Lectionary

This winter I have started the practice of each week reading the Bible selections from the common lectionary. (For those who are not familiar with it, the common lectionary sets forth the 3 year cycle of Bible passages to be read in Christian worship services each week – with extra days thrown in for major church holidays like Christmas and Ash Wednesday and so on. It can be found on line here.) Last week the readings included 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. This is a passage that is so commonly read at weddings that it is easy to overlook it's value in other areas of life. The following section caught my eye and has stayed with me in the context of the divisions among Friends. If particular the controversies within FUM and also the controversies over New England Yearly Meeting's relationship with FUM came to mind.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Cor 13:4-7

I know that my actions have not always met this standard, especially the parts about not being arrogant or insisting on my own way. I am sometimes irritable and resentful and often impatient. I want things to go the way that I think is best. Especially I want things to go in the way I think God thinks is best. Now I am boasting about my arrogance. How rude.

I hear echoes of Corinthians in James Naylor's deathbed confession:

There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. ... Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind.

If we are called to love our enemies, isn't this how we are called to act? If God is love, then this is the nature of God. Isn't this the way God works with us, wearying out all in us that is of a nature contrary to God? Faithfulness requires that we proceed in in the manner of love. If I am to be faithful it means I have to do more listening and less talking. It means I have to listen deeply and not just so that I can formulate the perfect response. I have to listen deeply enough and openly enough to listen into words what is on the heart of those I am listening to. I need to hold those words and treasure them because God speaks through the words of the heart.


Will T


Blogger kevin roberts said...

You know, one of the best ways to learn to listen is to specifically plan to say noting, and say so in advance so that you don't weird people out.

This is a valuable lesson to be learned from various monastic communities, where silence as a vow is long term and welcomed.

Not being able to respond verbally means that your normal part of the conversation is in suspension, and all your attention goes to the other party. It can be very enriching.

Just a random thought.

February 06, 2010 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Amen, Will. It is always good to be reminded of these words!

February 07, 2010 9:29 AM  
Blogger Will T said...

Thank you for your suggestions. Planning to say nothing is a challenge for me, especially if I know that I am going to hear something challenging. The fact that it appears so challenging indicates to me that it is a spiritual discipline that I need to consider seriously.

Will T

February 07, 2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Will. I have never before remarked on the similarities between those two familiar passages, Nayler's and that in 1 Corinthians. Seeing them side by side enriches both for me, and since Nayler's words are a keystone in what I hope my Quaker practice may one day become, I appreciate that.

You write, "Faithfulness requires that we proceed in in the manner of love...I have to listen deeply enough and openly enough to listen into words what is on the heart of those I am listening to."

I've been challenged, recently, to reexamine my peace testimony, and how I do or do not live it out in the world. I'm not a Friend who shows up at protest rallies with a sign, or is likely to be arrested outside the gates of an armory or a military recruiting center. I had thought, when I became a Friend, that I'd find myself doing such things, but at least so far, those have not been my leadings.

Instead, I find my peace testimony seems to be much more ordinary and small scale. It's my speech that has been most affected; it's verbal non-violence I seem to be exploring.

And the hardest part of that is the listening, when a passion for justice (all very well in its place) can make it hard for me to remember that I must begin in love... I must begin by asking myself, with sincerity, to discern what is "on the heart" of the Other.

(And as to Kevin's advice that I might learn to listen by planning on not speaking, it's wonderful advice! I am quite incapable of taking it, mind you... but whenever I resolve to do so, I do manage at least to cut my own speaking down to the point where others manage to get a word in edgewise. Progress, in other words!)

February 09, 2010 3:46 PM  
Blogger Faith said...

"Isn't this the way God works with us, wearying out all in us that is of a nature contrary to God?"

The part of the post the echoed for me was how our love for other's comes not out of our own strength, but as a result of God's enduring and patient love for us. I have experienced undeserved and unfettered love, and should now be a conduit for that love for others. But why is this often so hard for me? I suspect that it is because while I say that I believe that God loves me in that way, I still have doubts and can't truly comprehend it. And so, I am not kind or patient towards others. At the points in my life where I have found super-human love flowing through me to others, it is because I have been able to fully trust in God's goodness towards myself.

February 10, 2010 11:01 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Thanks Will for the beautiful post. I would agree with faith that this kind of love comes from God.

February 10, 2010 2:17 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I have walked a similar humbling path from time to time, Will.

And as Cat has said, thanks for lifting up Naylor's words alongside those of 1 Corinthians.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

February 13, 2010 7:31 PM  

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