Hymn– Jesus Loves Me
As of July 5, Ada Chapel has reopened for in-person worship on Sunday mornings. Here is what you need to know about resuming meeting for 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.
Rose, as she is recovering from surgery. Violeta and Ross. 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. People of color in this country. 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. Children, teachers, and all of those going back to school. Those who are grieving. Those who are feeling anxious about the spikes in COVID 19 infections.
Hymn– Sometimes By Step
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Revised Queries #2: How do we participate in tempering and strengthening the leadings of individuals?
I Corinthians 2:6-13: Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Something that I really like about Al-Anon—the twelve-step program for relatives and friends of alcoholics—is that in Al-Anon, we do not tell other people what to do when it comes to specific problems that they might be having with their alcoholic loved one. Folks can offer encouragement. If someone else in the group has ever faced a similar issue in the past, then they are free to share what decision they ended up making, or how they went about solving the problem. Presenting a set of questions to the person with the problem—kind of like the queries that we read from Faith and Practice—to help spark some deep thinking is always appreciated. But that is the extent to which advice-giving or suggestions are supposed to go. One of Al-Anon’s basic operating principles is this idea that we have to give people the dignity to make their own decisions. All people are different, so its never helpful to purport the solution that worked for you as “one size fits all”, or as the only answer to all of life’s problems. At its core, what the Al-Anon group exists for is direction and support. The decision that a person comes to is ultimately between them and God. Its up to them to make the right choice—the choice that God is putting out before them and calling them to. The group simply serves as a discerning body to help them to get there.
Paul talks about discernment as a spiritual gift in I Corinthians 12. He calls it “discernment of spirits”. That phrasing might sound a little strange, and it might bring to mind a scary movie or one of those ghost hunter shows—but really, what Paul is talking about here is the presence of sin in the world. As we all know, we aren’t in Eden anymore. So, sin—and all of the brokenness that it causes—is an unfortunate part of our every day lives. We all have to deal with selfishness, and with pride—with contempt, and with our various idols. Sometimes, we do a really great job at keeping those things in check. We can hear God’s directions loud and clear, and we follow them accordingly. Other times, not so much. Those character flaws and those bits of brokenness within us just start screaming so loud that we can’t hear the GPS anymore. When we find ourselves in situations like this—that’s the gift of discernment of spirits’ time to shine. This might look like that one friend who just always seems to be able to see through to your true motives, like a mentor, like a pastor, or like a support group. Whatever or whoever it might be—having that extra help and guidance has the potential to make a big difference in our lives.
If you have the gift of discernment of spirits, then you have probably been told that you are a perceptive or observational person. You notice things about people that others don’t—like body language or patterns in their speech. You are a good listener, and you are naturally empathetic. It is not hard for you to put yourself in other people’s shoes. People with the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits are caring, friendly, and good communicators. They are also intentional about being attuned to the Holy Spirit. To help others to discern if they are following God’s Will or their own—a person with this gift has to be grounded in God. They have to know who God is and what He wants for this world. And besides reading scripture—how we come to understand God and to know Him is by experiencing Him ourselves. We pray, we listen, we wait, we become still and acutely conscious of what is happening within us—we practice allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us and to transform us. Those who have the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits might be naturally more receptive to connection with the Holy Spirit than others are, but keeping the connection alive still requires discipline and practice on their part.
For those of you who might be unsure about whether or not you have this spiritual gift, what strikes me as a good test is to ask yourself about what kind of a role love plays in it all. Do you genuinely care about others and about the problems that they might be facing? Or, do you just like feeling like you are part of the in-crowd? Do you take the time to listen to folks and to really see them before responding to them? Do you take the time to listen to what the Holy Spirit might have to say about it before responding? Or are you quick to put your two cents in? Are you humble enough to know that no person can possibly know all of the answers, and that your way isn’t the only way? At the risk of spoiling the conclusion of this sermon series, I’ll tell you that at their root, all of the spiritual gifts are about love. Every single one of them. But the gift of discernment of spirits is especially rooted in love, because love is the line that separates truly guiding others, and in thinking that you alone know what is best for everyone around you. Check your motives.
If you don’t have this spiritual gift, its always good to keep in mind that just because you might have people in your life who can help you to discern big life decisions, it doesn’t mean that you get to coast through hard things. You don’t get to just keep passing go and collecting $200 each time. Discernment is a process that involves you, too. That Al-Anon principle that everybody is entitled to the dignity to make their own decisions is applicable to following Jesus, too. Gifted and wise people can encourage you and support you. They can present queries. They can pray with you and for you. But they can’t make decisions for you. And they should never try to. As a person created in the image of God, you have a Jesus to follow and an image to bear, and neither of those things were designed to be done passively. Guidance is a good and beautiful thing. The givers of guidance benefit from it as much as the receivers do. But, you still have to live your own life. You can’t pursue a Christ-like life through other people.
Regardless of where you are on this spectrum concerning the gift of discernment of spirits, a recommendation that I would like to make to everybody is that you find someone with this gift that cares about you, and who you can depend on. Even if you have the gift of discernment of spirits—find someone who can help you when you might need it. Later on in I Corinthians 12—after Paul identifies the different charismatic spiritual gifts—he uses the metaphor of a human body to describe followers of Jesus, with all of their different gifts. He says: The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” We’re all in this together, Friends. Maybe that sounds corny, but oh well. We all need each one another. Sometimes, some of us will be weak, while others of us will be strong. And then the roles might flip for a little while. Ministering to one another with our various spiritual gifts is one of the most beautiful and holy ways that we can be one body. Look for that sibling in Christ who has the gift of discernment of spirits, because I can guarantee that someday, you’ll need them. My grandpa says that the only thing in life that is guaranteed is death and taxes, but I would amend that to include making difficult decisions as well. Life is hard, and sin makes it harder. But we can help one another through it.
And to throw in a shameless Quaker faith and practice plug real quick, if you don’t know a person who has this gift who you have a relationship with and who you trust, don’t forget about clearness committees. Clearness committees are a Quaker invention and a helpful discernment tool—kind of similar to a support group. Historically, clearness committees are used when couples want to get married within their meeting, or when a person is interested in becoming recorded as a minister, but they can be called for any reason. A person can request a clearness committee for something as minor as trying to decide if they should buy a goldfish, or for something as major as getting divorced or moving away. Once requested, a group of Friends who are willing to serve on the committee will meet with you and offer the guidance and support that you need as you discern. We don’t just call ourselves Friends for fun—we really mean it, and we won’t leave other Friends hanging.
This week, may the Holy Spirit be thickly present among us as we discern whether or not we have the gift of discernment of spirits. May we lean on one another and work interdependently as one body, remembering that we all need each other. But may we also exercise our responsibilities to make good and right choices for ourselves as hard choices come up. Be well, Friends, and may God give us clarity as we continue to explore the spiritual gifts.
Hymn– What a Friend We Have in Jesus
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