Worship strengthens the good in us
Philip Young is enjoying the return to real-life worship, and shares some thoughts based on a sermon he preached Saint John’s in Felixstowe on July 19.
Isn’t it great to be going back into our churches and to see people face to face? It is frustrating, perhaps, that we cannot yet give each other a hug or even a handshake, let alone share a cup of coffee and a biscuit together. Meeting each other by computer links has been better than nothing and we have seen lots of innovation, but nothing can quite compare to meeting together again.
So, why do we go to church? Hopefully, the answer is, ‘to worship God’. Does our worship together make a difference? Do you leave your church service in a better state than when you arrived?
In order to answer this question, I want to quote from a little red Quaker booklet called “Advice & Queries” here is Advice number 9:
“In worship we enter with reverence into communion with God and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Come to meeting for worship with heart and mind prepared. Yield yourself and all your outward concerns to God’s guidance so that you may find the evil weakening in you and the good raised up.”
If you leave your church service knowing that the evil in you has been weakened and the good has been raised up then something transformative has happened.
In the parable of the wheat and the tares from Saint Matthew’s Gospel chapter 13 verses 24 to 30 and 36 to 43 we are reminded that good and evil are both within us. The wheat and the weeds grow together.
It is the human condition that we are all a mixture of good and bad. This puts us on an equal footing with one another. It means we are all in need of help. We all need to weaken the evil in us and raise up the good. It would be great to recognise this equality between us. We are all in the same boat, all in need of rescue, therefore let us all help one another.
What is most unhelpful is to think that we are the good ones and those others, over there, are the bad ones. “Do not judge others” says Jesus. He is very emphatic on this. When he is presented with a woman who has committed adultery and the crowd want to stone her, he says, ‘he who is without sin let him cast the first stone’. None of us can point our finger in judgement at another without having three fingers pointing back at us.
So instead let us remind one another that love and forgiveness are primary to our Christian faith. Without love and forgiveness, we are all condemned. With love and forgiveness, all of us are saved. Saved by the grace and love of God.
Recently my Quaker friends in Norwich reminded me of a quote from a Quaker called Isaac Pennington who wrote this in 1667:
“Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another; and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another, but praying for one another; and helping one another up with a tender hand”.
As we come again to worship together in our churches let us find the evil weakening in us and the good raised up. This is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit.
May God bless us all, and may we be a blessing to others.
The photo above is by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.com
Philip is an Anglican, Quaker, and a member of the Third Order of Franciscans, and now lives in Felixstowe. Until July 2014 he was the Diocesan Environmental Officer for the Norwich Diocese. In June 2017 he stood as an Independent Candidate for the General Election in the Suffolk Coastal Constituency. He is now Associate Priest at St. John and St. Edmund in Felixstowe and a freelance writer on spiritual and political matters. He is available to run Quiet Days, give talks, presentations or to preach and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Philip is developing a new website www.revolutionoflovenow.com.
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