Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
There is no in-person worship today, because Hannah is sick. You can read her sermon here, or hear it on WALH radio during the Quaker Hour at 10 am or 3 pm.
For next Sunday and beyond, here is what you need to know about returning to in-person worship.
1.) Friends should not feel pressured to return to meeting if they are not comfortable doing so. Worship will continue to be posted every week on the Ada Chapel blog for Friends who wish to continue worshiping at home.
2.) If you are not feeling well on any given Sunday morning, please stay home. We want to protect those among us who are high-risk.
3.) Masks will not be required, but if you have been wearing one regularly, wearing it to worship is encouraged.
4.) There will be hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes set up throughout the meetinghouse so that Friends can sanitize their hands, and so that we can wipe down common surfaces, such as hand rails, pews, and hymnals.
5.) Friends must spread out in the pews. Sitting in family units is fine, but leave some space between your family and the next family.
6.) Friends must be respectful of other Friends’ space. Congregating after worship, hugging, shaking hands, close talking, etc. is discouraged.
Wilmington Yearly Meeting has decided not to hold this summer’s yearly meeting sessions in person, but to hold them via Zoom. Yearly meeting sessions are July 23-26, 2020. Here are screen shots of the schedule and registration form. If you want more information, call Katie Ubry-Terrell at 937-382-2491 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our country. All those who are in harm’s way. All of those who are sick, or who have loved ones who are sick. Healthcare workers, first responders, and all those who continue to potentially expose themselves to infection. Our neighborhood and our community. The family and friends of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our leaders in all levels of government. People in the recovery community. Parents, children, the elderly, and others who are isolated. Everyone who is feeling discouraged. All of those who have lost jobs, or who are struggling financially during this time. The young people of WYM who won’t get to go to camp this summer. Those who are grieving. Those who are feeling anxious about the spikes in COVID 19 infections.
Hymn– I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Revised Queries #4: Are we sensitive to the needs and abilities of all family members, and do we encourage interests and activities appropriate for their ages and needs?
I Thessalonians 5:12-22: But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets,but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
The best teacher that I ever had in school was my third and fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Aaronson. She was a good teacher for many reasons. She was super creative, and always seemed to find ways to make the most boring subjects interesting. She was also really good at finding multiple ways to explain things. So, if a student didn’t understand a lesson, Mrs. Aaronson always had an alternate way to teach it in her back pocket. And she would reteach that lesson—in a variety of ways, if needed—until it made sense to that particular student, no matter how long it took. Mrs. Aaronson was very committed to educating her students and to giving them all of the knowledge and tools that they would need in order to succeed in middle school, and on into high school and college. She was not one to give up on anyone, no matter what a student’s past grades or behavior had been like.
But what I think was my favorite thing about Mrs. Aaronson was that she was really good at encouraging her students to do their best, and she was invested in helping them to achieve their goals. Throughout the school year, Mrs. Aaronson would take the time to get to know each child individually. She sought to build a relationship with every single student, and to identify their interests and their talents. And then, once she had discovered a student’s interests or talents, Mrs. Aaronson would run with that. She would make it a priority to empower each student, and to offer opportunities to the class so that they could put their interests and talents to use. For example, if a student was a good artist, she would encourage them to enter one of their drawings into a local youth art contest. If a student was really interested in science, she would ask them to be her lab partner when doing a science demonstration in front of the class. If a student was good at writing stories, she would challenge them to submit their stories to local writing contests for children. Or, if a student was a gifted reader, and the book that the class was currently reading was not challenging to them, she would find something different for that student to read that pushed them academically. Mrs. Aaronson engaged in this style of student empowerment outside of her own classroom as well—encouraging students to try out for the school play, to join the basketball team, or to get involved in programs for kids at the county parks department. And of course, Mrs. Aaronson also knew when constructive criticism could be helpful for a student’s growth, and she always presented it in a way that was thoughtful and loving. As a child, I couldn’t label exactly what it was about Mrs. Aaronson that made her so special and so good at her job. I knew that she somehow made me and others feel good about ourselves without turning us into entitled jerks, but I didn’t have a good word for what that quality that she possessed was. As an adult, I realize that Mrs. Aaronson had—and I’m sure still has—the spiritual gift of exhortation.
Exhortation is specifically labeled as a spiritual gift in Romans 12:8. Here, Paul more or less tells people who have this particular spiritual gift to use it with gusto. If you are a person who is gifted with exhortation, Paul says, then go out and exhort! And Paul puts his money where his mouth is on this particular command through his own letters to the various churches that he founded. At the tail end of his letters to the Thessalonians, the Philippians, and the Galatians, Paul includes beautiful closing paragraphs where he offers encouragement, advice, and loving criticism to the people to whom he is writing. Paul, like my third and fifth grade teacher, seems to have possessed the gift of exhortation and he definitely wasn’t shy about using it in his role as a minister, teacher, and leader. In fact, this gift seems to have only made him better at his job. Because Paul was interested in empowering the churches that he founded and in encouraging the people within these churches to grow and blossom, these churches were able to flourish and to continue spreading the Gospel long after Paul was gone. Had Paul been more worried about legacy or authority, these churches would not have been properly equipped to be churches.
If you can relate to Paul, to my description of Mrs. Aaronson, or to anyone else in your life who is encouraging in the way that they seek to empower others, then you might possess this gift as well. If you find that people are drawn to you, because you often make them feel encouraged or inspired, or because you give good, sound advice—that’s a good clue that you might have this gift. If you are skilled at delivering hard truths in a loving way—because let’s be honest, that’s a really tough thing to do, and not many people are good at it—then that’s an additional piece of the puzzle to consider. If you find joy in helping people—specifically in helping them to grow and to be the best they can be, if you are a practical thinker who is skilled at problem solving, or if you often find yourself deeply caring and becoming invested in the well-being and success of the people who you are close to, then I’m going to tell you to do like Paul says and run with it—because it sounds like exhortation might very well be one of your spiritual gifts. Pray, listen to God’s voice, and be open-minded about where your gift might be best used. Maybe someone you work with would really benefit from your gift of exhortation. Perhaps your gift is needed here at Ada Chapel. We’ve experienced a pandemic, economic worry, a swift change in how we do almost everything, and political turmoil all in the span of four months. If you have spiritual encouragement or hope to offer, someone here might need to hear it. Maybe its within your family unit, in your friend circle, in a club that you are in, or in your neighborhood where your gift could do some good. What areas of your life are the ones that are most important to you? Where do you most often encounter people who are in need of empowerment or encouragement? In what spaces do you most often find yourself asked to give advice or inspiration? Where, specifically, do you feel God calling your heart to? Considering those questions might give you a starting point on where and with whom you are called to use your gift of exhortation.
Something that might help you—if you are unsure about whether or not you have the spiritual gift of exhortation—is to check your motives. Exhortation should always come from a place of love, and the person doing the exhorting should have a solid relationship with the person who they are offering exhortation to. In other words, exhortation is not trying to change a person because something about them really bugs you. It is not giving your opinion or speaking your mind to people who you don’t know very well. It is not saying hurtful things to somebody, and then trying to play the love card to excuse your behavior. It isn’t quoting positive motivational phrases, or even scripture at people. For exhortation to be effective, it must be personalized, and the person on the receiving end has to know that you see them and care about them. Exhortation is not controlling other people. For example, trying to convince your sister to dump her boyfriend that she is happy with—just because you think it would be good for her to date someone else—is not exhortation. Sending unsolicited job postings to your friend—because you think it would really help him if he found a different job—is not exhortation. For exhortation to truly be exhortation, the end goal should be empowerment, love, and dignity. The emphasis should always be on the other person, and on their growth, well-being, and success, not on you and on what you might have done to help that person. If you find yourself exhorting, but not from a place of love, and not because you value another person’s person-hood, then exhortation is probably not one of your spiritual gifts.
Perhaps you already know that exhortation is not a spiritual gift that you have. Maybe your particular spiritual gifts lie elsewhere. That’s perfectly fine. God gives us all different abilities for a reason. No spiritual gift is better than other spiritual gift. But that doesn’t mean that there is a moratorium on encouragement and inspiration, or even on constructive criticism. If a friend needs a boost, and comes to you for it, then give them a hug and tell them that you believe in them. If your spouse has been having a hard time lately and needs to hear something positive, tell them how great you think they are. If your child, or a child in your family starts showing lots of interest in a particular subject, ask them questions about it, or buy them something that will help them to practice their interest or to learn more. If your coworker makes a mistake, tell them about it—with love—so that they have time to correct it before the mistake causes a problem. Teach someone how to do something that they don’t know how to do, like cooking a certain meal, or changing a tire. Learning new skills, even simple ones, can really make somebody feel empowered. If your neighbor comes to you with a problem and wants to know your thoughts on how to solve it, offer them up some advice. If you know someone who is gifted at exhortation—try giving them some encouragement! Even people who encourage others need encouragement sometimes. Tell them how much you appreciate their love and all that they do. Encouragement and empowerment can always bring a smile to someone’s face, and do some good, even if you are clumsy at giving it or clearly uncomfortable with it. Or, there’s always the option to direct the person in need to another person who you know who has this particular gift. Doing so is not passing the buck—its a blessing.
Friends, I hope that this week will be another week of fruitful discernment and exploration for you. If exhortation is one of your spiritual gifts, may you find some guidance as to what this gift means for you and how God is calling you to use it. If exhortation is not one of your spiritual gifts, may you find someone who will encourage and empower you—because we all need someone like that in our lives—and may you continue to seek out your particular spiritual gift and to grow in it. Be well, Friends.
Hymn– My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving every day. Amen