Cliff Loesch welcomed Friends to Sunday morning worship at University Friends Meeting, just a few blocks away from the campus of Friends University. There were too many visitors gathered to introduce, from communities of Friends around the world, but Cliff did acknowledge two very important visitors: his parents, who were visiting from Texas for the occasion.
Worship in song was led by Janine Saxton, LaConna Loesch, and John Muhanji. Together, they led a trilingual version of Higher Ground, in English, Spanish, and Swahili. The Friends United Meeting Choir, directed by LaVonna, offered a moving rendition of Creation Will Be at Peace, a piece which is based on Isaiah 11:6-9. Pam Chambers, Head of the Wichita Friends School, lead Friends in a time of prayer, and Rosemary Zimmerman led a spirited Children’s Message based on the story of Moses and the burning bush.
Colin Saxton opened his prepared message by directing the attention of Friends to an orange sheet of paper in the bulletin which read GODISNOWHERE. He asked Friends to consider how we read those letters: does it say God is nowhere, or God is now here?
Colin explored the story of Moses and the bush, reflecting on Moses’ day of visitation. He reminded Friends that early Quakers wrote about the day of visitation, and explored how Moses can serve as a model for contemporary Friends to meet their own days of visitation: as individuals, but also as congregations and as Yearly Meetings. Moses chooses to move toward the burning bush, on his day of visitation, and found a significant reorientation of his life and found that God had been moving toward him the entire time.
Will we be similarly aware, when we are visited? Will we be humble enough to listen?
“These are the two things that I pray for the Religious Society of Friends: that we will rediscover our joy, and that we will be humbled before God.”
Colin pointed out, with humor and grace, that Quakers have a problem with pride. We’re known for our ability and willingness to listen to the spirit—it’s one of the gifts that we offer to the wider Christian fellowship—but we can become so proud of our discerning tradition that we, paradoxically, stop listening to the Holy Spirit and start listening more to the spiritual story that we tell about ourselves.
Moses had to approach the burning bush with humility, taking off his shoes, aware of his own frailty and his lack of understanding. Colin asked that when we are visited, individually and congregationally and in our larger fellowships, that we engage our own day of visitation with the same humility as Moses. After all, Moses moved toward the bush, but God had been moving toward Moses the entire time. Moses didn’t initiate the relationship; he just responded to the gift.
Colin challenged Friends to remember that salvation is offered to us in the here and now:
Salvation not just that I get to go to heaven one day, but that God is in this place and in this moment creating a vision of a world restored.
After a rich period of waiting worship, in which ministry was offered in word and in song, Cliff invited the congregation to join in singing Joy To The World. He noted that while we sing it at Christmas time, the hymn was not written for the Christmas season. Rather, it was written to proclaim in song a vision of the world restored.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.
Rob Bryan, new presiding clerk of FUM, offered the benediction. He prayed for the safety of all Friends traveling home, and for the next three years of worship and service within our beloved community.