Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, November 3, 2019
I came across a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that I want to read. It is from his Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.
Go to the Limits of Your Longing God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing . Embody me. flare up like a flame and make big shadows I can move in. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose me. Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand. (Book of Hours, I 59)
Doug’s words last week on getting past the “ME land” experience in waiting worship were telling.
My experiences of Quakerism since joining in 1971 have given me an understanding of corporate worship that is thrilling, when it happens and keeps me coming back for that deeper sense of community. The combined energy of an aggregate of Friends in deep expectant silence can produce what Friends call, there gathered meeting.
It’s a powerful experience of worship the requires few words, but produces the mindfulness of being in the now.
Finding that still, small voice of God within each of us requires an emptying out of the worldly noise and the personal ego as Doug reminds us. Bringing that level of immersion in Silence and Communion is a goal. I don’t often achieve this, but I know it is attainable.
I want that experience of the gathered meeting because it releases love and validates my belief in Prayer as expectant waiting. It opens in me a clearness, an opening to love that I yearn for. To the extent that prayer channels and focuses my experience of love it is self serving. But is that not what God wants for us?
In my art work when I am deeply involved in process I experience a similar opening and being in the now. clearness that I associate with being in touch with loss of self and ego. An energy that makes me keep coming back for that experience of the Spirit that is a renewal.
There is a popular refrain that goes “Only the good die young.” Some of us sinners have to live to a ripe old age to even approach that experience of devotion to god that St.Theresa of Avila and Thomas Kelly speak of.
Especially those who have “gone to the limits of your longing’ and have loved the world of experience.
We need to reach out for that hand.