Sunday, 2 January 2011

As the Spirit moves us

On a good day, we may be fortunate enough to be moved by the Spirit. Not 'lucky' enough, or 'good' enough. It's not luck, not a lottery, just that we are in the right place in our hearts and minds, and for once, we listen. We can't earn it. It's not a case of, 'I'll sit here as good as gold. I've done all the right things, so come and get me, God, so I can know that I'm right and all the others are wrong.' It's a case of, 'On a good day, God, I can hear you. Tell me what you want me to do.'


Ray K said...

Hi Paul, this post (and some of your recent comments made in the Meeting for reflection) have brought the following passage by Paul Tillich. I don't pretend that I understand his theological works, but this comes from a sermon and I just love it!

"Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the Saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. To believe that something is, is almost contrary to the meaning of grace. Furthermore, grace does not mean simply that we are making progress in our moral self-control, in our fight against special faults, and in our relationships to men and to society. Moral progress may be a fruit of grace; but it is not grace itself, and it can even prevent us from receiving grace. For there is too often a graceless acceptance of Christian doctrines and a graceless battle against the structures of evil in our personalities. Such a graceless relation to God may lead us by necessity either to arrogance or to despair. It would be better to refuse God and the Christ and the Bible than to accept them without grace. For if we accept without grace, we do so in the state of separation, and can only succeed in deepening the separation. We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: "You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!" If that happens to us, we experience grace After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance."

Laura Kerr said...

Thankyou Ray - and Paul. I have myself pondered the place of 'grace' in Quaker thought.. its a word we dont come across much in Quaker discourse. I will need to read this rather more carefully to even begin to make much sense of it. But something about 'grace' draws me.

Paul Hunt said...

Ray, I think you're right. I was thinking this post was about ministry. You spotted that it is about grace. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Maybe not "grace", but a couple of good old-fashioned Quaker words for this are "openings" and "opportunities".

crawlingfromthewreckage said...

I like 'openings' and 'opportunities'. These terms seem to describe the experience one has of being enclosed with spirit in the deepest part of one's being and living as it were in a matrix or ocean - I like 'ocean' as a simile, with other entities and even with all
that are alive now, that have passed on or who are to come. The immediate term that comes to mind is Paul's celebrated "For in Him we live and move and have our being". As to the dimension of grace, I think this is slightly different. While I can benefit much from deliberate and sustained spiritual practice such as prayer and meditation and reading and religious effort if you will, there is yet a dimension or an opening that comes unexpectedly and is simply there, often for me in the early mornings, though also at other times, which can only be described as a kind of pouring out of grace, when the heart overflows
with reassurance and often through which a period of difficulty or trial is brought to an end.
Is there a direct link between spiritual practice, prayer, mediation, waiting upon the silence? I think there is. As my friend Krishnamurti used to say,go and sit down let's get some energy moving. The most amazing thing about sustained spiritual practice is that its results are entirely predictable. The energy or the annointing or however you want to describe it is unfailingly there.