I’ve got this notion. Well, it is more than a notion, it is a piece of my theology. It is that as a Meeting, as a worshipping community, Spokane Friends consists of those people Christ calls to come through those front doors. As a community of faith we have no choice in who those people are. There is no dress code, no philosophical or economic litmus tests to pass or fail. I think the technical language is ‘Whosoever will…’.
Front Door Friends:
Look around you. Maybe even think back over the past several Sundays recognizing that only a few of us haven’t found it necessary to be elsewhere on one or more of them. I want you to get a notion of who constitutes our community of faith. Spokane’s Fire Marshall has made it clear that we can’t put a chain on the back door to try and keep people in – individuals, couples, even whole families have always found it necessary from time to time to leave. And we grieve that loss as much as other kinds of losses in our lives.
I’ve got this notion, well, it is more than a notion, it is a piece of my theology that as a Meeting, as a worshipping community, Spokane Friends consists of those people Christ calls to come through those front doors. As a community of faith we have no choice in who those people are. There is no dress code, no philosophical or economic litmus tests to pass or fail. I think the technical language is ‘Whosoever will…’. Nor have we set up diversity as a goal—that would suggest that there is a set of affirmative action quotas we are expected to meet. Any sense of diversity is more a function of observation, like walking through a meadow to discover how many varieties of wild flowers are flourishing there.
And, this may be hard for you to accept—you are one of those Christ has called into this community of faithful people. And why would I say faithful people? Simply because, whether you’ve acknowledged it or not, you have responded to a call of Christ on your life. Your presence here confirms it.
Now, I want to be quick to say that this isn’t to say that those who are not here are not being faithful followers of Christ’s leading – they well may be led elsewhere. They need to be faithful to Christ’s call on their lives. It’s just human nature for us to conclude that someone’s departure iss a divine pruning rather than transplanting.
Imagine that you are about ready to drive up into the mountains and build a home. You’ve got to have some idea of what you intend to build, probably a set of plans. You’ve done a take off – looking over your plan to identify every thing you will need, from the largest beam down to the smallest nail and checked off everything on your list. You’ve considered what tools you’ll need and gathered together people with the skills needed, like an electrician, a plumber, brick layer, framing and finish carpenters. Then you’ve considered that given there is no fresh water available you’ll need to take adequate water and, oh yes, food to feed your self and your crew and somehow you’ve loaded it altogether in a vehicle that is able to handle the load and the terrain. Pretty massive undertaking, wouldn’t you agree!
Well, that’s my vision of who we are as this one small piece of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Everything needed Christ has well considered—even down to including you and me. You were created, not just in God’s image but with God’s intention for you in mind. You are a unique creation of God—not just a human cog in some divine wheel of the kingdom enterprise, easily replicated and replaceable. The gifts and talents with which you have been blessed—the experiences that have shaped your life, all of them—your anxieties and fears and your hopes and dreams- the whole package that makes you you didn’t just happen. God created each of us just like God created Abraham, Jonah, or the Apostle Paul or the most modest monk in the most remote monastery. And again, for some reason unknown to us you have responded to a call to be here.
If you get away before I have a chance to tell you, “Thank you for your response to Christ’s call on your life”. Whether you’ve really given it any thought or not, you know what it is like to respond to Christ’s call.
And that’s what I’d like us to look at today, this sense of being led that maybe is only seen through a rear view mirror. Someone remarked about hearing members of the Peace with Justice Committee speak in Meeting during the five Sunday’s of January on one of the topics identified as Quaker Spice. They said “I felt a closer connection with each one who spoke…it was a bonding experience for the community”. Of course, Andrea, Amber, Norm, Lois and Kitty would each have to speak for their own selves but it would be interesting to learn of their becoming open to Christ’s leading. They might have something to say about how scary it was to be open to this ministry.
It is said of William Dewsbury that he was one of the wisest and sweetest of the early Quakers. Because of conscience he spent a great part of his life in prison. He wrote this: “About the time when I was eight years of age…the word of the Lord came to me. ‘I created thee for my glory, an account thou must give to Me for all thy words and actions…. I ceased from my vain conversation…and began to read the Scriptures and books, and mourn and pray to a God I knew not where he was….They said he was above the skies, calling it Heaven, but I felt the hand of the Lord within me, executing justice upon the wicked in me….”
One of the Boston martyrs, Marmaduke Stephenson, shared this while he was waiting to be executed: “… as I walked after the plough, I was filled with the love and presence of the living God, which did ravish my heart when I felt it, for it did increase and abound in me like a living stream, so did the life and love of God run through me like a precious ointment giving a pleasant smell. And, as I stood a little still…the word of the Lord came to me … in the secret of my heart and conscience, ‘I have ordained thee a prophet unto the nations’….”
When a young blacksmith’s apprentice, Samuel Bownas tells that he had little taste for religion but frequently attended Meetings for Worship and for the greater part of the time slept. He said it kept him out of bad company. “…but one First day at meeting” he wrote: “a young woman named Anne Wilson was there and preached; she was very zealous and fixing my eye upon her, she with a great zeal pointed her finger at me uttering these words with much power, ‘Traditional Quaker; thou comest to meeting as thou went from it, and goes from it as thou comest to it but art no better for thy coming; what wilt thou do in the end? This was so pat to my then condition that like Saul I was smitten to the ground as it might be said, but turning my thoughts inward in secret, I cried, ‘Lord, what shall I do to help it?’ And a voice as it were spoke in my heart, saying ‘Look unto me, and I will help thee’
God selects the prophets and gives them a very specific call and a very specific message to share. When Isaiah experienced God’s call on his life as reported in Isaiah 6:8 he said: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Amos shares his calling: “But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.'” (Amos 7:15) Like most of the people God chooses to use, Amos did not chose to be God’s agent. He argued with God making a point of the fact he was not a professional prophet. He had his own responsibilities back in Judah. At great personal sacrifice he responded to God’s call and proclaimed God’s word to a hostile audience.
Are you scared? Dare you let God’s Spirit lead you? If so, don’t forget that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. God can use us, to His glory, even though we may be a weak reed, cut from flawed material. Despite our fears and deficiencies God deals with every fearful self-assessment and every self-serving attempt on our part to exempt ourselves. When Jeremiah wailed “I do not know” (Jeremiah 1:6), God responded by saying, “I am with you” (1:7). Do you think you are too inadequate to be faithful to serve God? Paul, in his powerlessness calls upon God for relief. In fact, in 2nd Corinthians 12 Paul writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me”. How did God take action? Listen to Paul when in the same chapter he reports God’s reaction to his request: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.
The words of Ephesians 4 are so fitting: Ephesians 4:1-7,11-16
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. …11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.