Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How To Worship God

I've recognized God at work teaching me for some very long time; and yet I seem to keep needing the same lessons. This one is on the edge of my understanding, stretching me into areas that, like more typical modern Quakers, I've wanted to dismiss safely out-of-hand.

Why, when I discovered his writings, did Anthony Bloom, high in the Russian Orthodox clergy, remind me so thoroughly of early Friends? For one thing, he was clearly one who had encountered the living God, but beyond that, it was as though every word threatened to call up the witness of God against me. "If you look at the relationship in terms of mutual relationship, you will see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer, 'I am busy, I am sorry' or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, of our minds, of our conscience, of our life. So there is a situation in which we have no right to complain of the absence of God, because we are a great deal more absent than He ever is.

"The second very important thing is that a meeting face to face with God is always a moment of judgment for us... Thanks be to Him that He does not always present Himself to us when we wish to meet Him, because we might not be able to endure such a meeting. Remember the many passages in Scripture in which we are told how bad it is to find oneself face to face with God, because God is power, God is truth, God is purity."

Now as I understand Jesus, God's demands on us are not aligned to rigid human abstractions, but directed to making us human beings, humane beings as God himself is ultimately humane. God is not as judgmental as all that -- but we are; and it is this measure we fear will justly recoil on us, find us innately condemned by our failure to fulfill the obligations we can't help expecting of ourselves. What considerations might we be failing to consider, for reasons not necessarily above suspicion? What might come to light, if we were to truly face the Light?

Sitting in a Saturday 'worship-or-meditation' session with a small group of Friends & acquaintances, I remembered being in teacher training at a continuation school. My supervising teacher had taught math (also ceramics, occasionally sailing) on an individual basis as any particular student showed up (or didn't) and while I'd liked his approach, I didn't have his rapport with the kids. One kid in particular was giving me nothing but contempt, and my teacher's comment was: "You may not care whether or not he respects you, but you can't do a thing for him until he does."

I told the group about that as a Message, because it seems to explain why so many of the Friends I know have not been coming noticeably closer to God. At one time, people were too afraid of God to dare know Him; now they've become too contemptuous to learn better.

But I myself was still immured in a long dry period, feeling I was no longer being much help to anyone else, nor learning anything new myself. This was an obvious time to consider, had I become like that kid in my relation to God -- not with that same conscious disrespect, but still approaching God with a heedless attitude that rendered me unteachable?

Giving this Message, I was knowingly asking God to let me know. I knew it might take some fairly unpleasant sort of experience to straighten me out. I wasn't easy about accepting that, but it seemed like I'd need to take that chance.

The next day I had a moment of heedlessness, at a wrong (right?) time, and took a short flight with a bad landing from my bicycle. I barely made it to Meeting afterwards, needed a ride home, had to borrow a pair of crutches to stumble upstairs to the apartment. "I told you to ride carefully!" said my darling Anne. I would have plenty of time that evening, to think about why I had made that particular mistake, when I did, and what it was telling me...


Kevin-Douglas G. Olive said...

I spent several months with Russian Orthodox Christians and was amazed at the similarity between early Quaker spirituality and theirs. Unfortunately, their strong anti-gay views pushed me back out their doors, which I find unfortunate. The concept of coming into God's presence, adoring, glorifying him and being with him for his sake not just ours is something I have found to speak to me. It still does. I come to worship for God's sake, and trust that because of that, I will grow closer to him and be made whole/new/transformed. Worshiping God in spirit and in truth, to me, is less about form and function and more about intent.

forrest said...

Yeah, a woman friend was a signpainter until she died of an occupational ["idiopathic"] lung disease -- & did the gold leaf behind the altar in a local Greek Orthodox church. But when she wanted to show someone her work, oops, the space had been reconsecrated and was now 'no women allowed.' Some traditions are worth preserving; and eastern orthodox churches have kept these, but also some others...

I need [pretty soon] to work out how to say what I learned from this unpleasantness... to say what it was I'd needed my attention called-to. That was very close to what you were writing about. ( )

It had to do, that is, with the difficulty of following God's leadings when we start unwittedly ignoring them, that 'my will vs God's' question you were on...

Thanks for visiting; any chance of you helping me ponder at ?