Life 103

Sunday, March 26, 2006

sunday reflection

Today in gathered worship something happened. The Spirit moved and we could feel it all the way up to the back row of the balcony. Someone coming into the sanctuary afterward felt it too and they hadn’t even been there for it. If I were a better writer I would describe it.

I just know that I felt something very deeply and didn’t mind it at all despite being tired and burned out on deep feelings earlier this week. Questions were going off like popcorn in my head: What if God does choose today to send the Holy Spirit to us in power? Would we notice? Would we squash it? Would we embrace it? Would we love it? Hate it? Run from it? Face into it? Accept it? Reject it? Join it?

I was writing more questions for myself and for God when my friend Jo said something profound. She said, “I pray for the courage to surrender.” Then we were invited to walk into the embrace of Jesus in God the Father. Images I ‘felt’ include: Turning into the arms-open-wide embrace of the holy eternal Trinity and surrendering to love.

I wish I could better describe what that was but there aren’t enough words, there isn’t enough time and, I don’t really know. How might this connect to my 4 year old prayer for the Holy Spirit to come - to NFC and to me?


  • It was an answer (in part) to your prayer from 4 years ago, to William Hobson's prayer 135 years ago, my prayer at 11:30 last night, and hundreds of other prayers from people we don't know over long years.

    And God isn't finished yet.

    And lives were changed.

    And I have hope.

    By Blogger Gregg Koskela, at 11:38 PM, March 26, 2006  

  • It is hard to explain, how we can feel the Spirit in worship.

    Yesterday, in my Meeting, a weighty Friend spoke, at some length for an unprogrammed meeting for worship, about the connections between an art exhibit and Jewish shabbat service that he went to, and an Episcopal woman who spoke there about her Quaker experiences, and his pondering of how he would explain his experience of Quakerism in the same setting, where talk of Jesus might have unintended responses but would be still unavoidable. I don't remember exactly what he said and it is less important now for what I really want to write.

    Anyway, while he was speaking, I was not particularly moved, the way I sometimes feel when listening to good ministry. I like the guy, I usually like his vocal ministry, but I thought he was going on and rambling a bit much, but I kept listening. And when he was done and he sat down, I had the sense of being gathered deeper into the Spirit, into a state of worship more real and profound than before.

    Another Friend and I discussed it afterwards, how sometimes you just feel the silence drop, how the room submarines, how the air gets sucked out of the room and the space is filled with another Presence, and how our words are so inadequate to try to describe the sensation. Do we perceive it with our five senses? Do we have another sense for perceiving the Holy Spirit? What/where is that sense organ?

    And further, how do we embrace and encourage these moments? How do we make ourselves better receivers for the grace of the Holy Spirit that I believe is available to us at all times? Why is it so rare? Are we not tuned up or tuned in usually? What makes us notice it when we do? How can we face it, run into it? What is it that keeps us from running into the arms of God? Good questions. Thank you.

    I wonder if you could explain more fully what you mean that you were invited to walk into the embrace of Jesus in God the Father? Was there a picture to walk up to? Was there a committee of surrogate huggers? Was it just a rhetorical invitation?

    By Blogger Robin M., at 11:57 AM, March 27, 2006  

  • Maybe there was something stirring across the country (the world?!) yesterday: During my own MfW experience, while there was no vocal ministry, a few of us (4 out of 9?) described a sense of being called to a very deep place of worship...

    I very much like Robin's question:

    Do we have another sense for perceiving the Holy Spirit?

    Liz, The Good Raised Up

    By Blogger Liz Opp, at 1:56 PM, March 27, 2006  

  • Me, I find squeaking benches to be a good sign of the Holy Spirit. I don't know if this test works in pastoral settings but in unprogrammed meetings I can listen for how people are sitting--still?, attentive?, squirming?--and get a sense of the condition of the meeting. Sometimes sounds travel around the meetinghouse--a cough in one corner is echoed a few benches away, then a few benches further, until it circles the room. Recognizing the condition doesn't make it a gathered meeting but it helps in keeping the congregation in prayer. It's always awesome when the bottom drops out the silence and the people gather in the presence.

    It's beautiful to hear the Spirit so palpable at NFC this weekend, what joy! I sometimes feel Jesus not as arms embraced but as arm extended in comfort round my shoulder. What if we expected the Holy Spirit every week and offered ourselves as lambs for that baptismal fire? I look forward to hearing if it continues and to see if you can find the time and words to share the experience more. Yahoo!
    In Friendship,
    Martin Kelley

    By Blogger Martin Kelley, at 5:49 PM, March 27, 2006  

  • Thanks all for your great insights. Gregg, your sense of history and of hope is really encouraging. My prayer for the Spirit to come started with fear and trembling 4 years ago and hasn't ever really ceased since. The questions here are mine and have been mine just about the whole time...

    Robin, it was Gregg who voiced the invitation to walk into the embrace and no I don't think it was rhetorical; his questions during worship rarely are. As for what it looked or felt like for me, that's what's so hard to describe. It was a sense of leaning into the age-old love relationship between Father and Son; of being included and accepted completely into it. With it came a familiar sense of belonging. Since I’ve been struggling with being tired and praying for strength (something Jo also spoke to), it seemed to require a letting go of my inner urge to grasp for more. This certainly isn’t a new experience for me but it has been a while since I’ve felt the “silence drop” as you say. I'm not very practiced at sharing these experiences with others.

    Liz, I think something is stirring around the country too. I like your phrase "a very deep place of worship."

    By Blogger kathy, at 6:14 PM, March 27, 2006  

  • Thanks for stopping by Martin. I didn't see your comment until after I posted - I was making dinner between sentences and hadn't refreshed the page for quite a while. Now that you've mentioned it I'm going to notice those squeaking benches and pay more attention to what's happening across the meeting. I would love to experience your unprogrammed meeting. Sometimes I long for longer periods of gathered stillness and we don't have much of an avenue for that here.

    By Blogger kathy, at 8:18 PM, March 27, 2006  

  • Side note to Martin:

    Hey, what if a side line to the FGC Gathering included an open meeting for worship, not just for people registered for the Gathering but for anyone who wanted to experience an extended period of open worship with a thousand Friends gathered in the Northwest?

    Just another possibility coming up a little too late, I suppose. But Kathy, would you come? We might have to do a little civil disobedience against the FGC organizers, a worshiping sit-in on the grass...

    By Blogger Robin M., at 9:17 PM, March 27, 2006  

  • Robin, coming to the FGC gathering sounds very interesting and a shame to pass up on but I can't commit without family deliberations. This year we're celebrating the big 20 and I need to save my vacation time and $ for something spectacularly kid free. If I can convince any of my Yalie traveling companions to jet up and back on the weekend with me I'd seriously consider it!

    By Blogger kathy, at 3:54 PM, March 28, 2006  

  • Hey Kathy,
    I'm sure the opening Gathering worship is open to all. That might be a theoretical statement this year since the campus will be beyond-packed, with twice as many people wanting to come than will fit. Honestly though, the big open worship is usually not particularly grounded and tends toward "popcorn ministry," which is to say vocal ministry from folks who've come to declare some message or another to "liberal Quakerism" (yawn). There is often some good side worship here or there so if the way opens for you to come drop an email and we'll try to find something for you! All this said, I wonder if the NFC experience you talk about isn't the same can of beans as an unprogrammed meeting when it is covered by the holy presence.... There's more than one way into that Spirit after all.
    Your Friend,

    By Blogger Martin Kelley, at 3:44 PM, March 29, 2006  

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