Quakers like to party. And when I say “party,” I mean sitting in silence for long periods of time. When it comes to this kind of partying, there are few groups who are bigger carousers than Conservative Friends. This weekend in Barnesville, Ohio, we spent most of our time seated together on the long, time-tested wooden benches of the ancient Stillwater Meeting House. We quietly waited together, to see what God had to say.
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6
Believe it or not, this often actually works. It seems that Jesus really meant it when he said that he would always be with us, present in our midst through the Holy Spirit that he sends. In our experience as Friends, when we gather together in his name, Jesus shows up. And let me tell you, crazy things happen when Jesus is in the house.
This weekend was one of those precious times of awareness not only of Jesus’ sweet presence, but also of his continued teaching among us. The comfort and joy of the Holy Spirit laid a foundation for transformation, and over the course of the weekend it became clear to many of us that God had a particular lesson to teach us.
First, the Spirit reminded us that Christ is in us. We together are the temple of the living God. We bear within our bodies the presence and power of the Spirit. What an amazing gift this is!
But blessings come with responsibility. Christ does not live within us simply to make us feel good. The Holy Spirit has not been poured out on us to boost our self-esteem, or even to make us nicer people. God’s presence inside us is not just God’s breath; it is also a refining fire.
Throughout the weekend, it felt clear that God was pushing us to examine the implications of our amazing calling in Christ Jesus. It felt like the Spirit was demanding of us: If Christ is in you, what are you going to do about it? What are the concrete, practical implications of the indwelling presence of God? Of course, we wanted to dodge this very uncomfortable question. Change is hard, and there is nothing that will shake up our daily routine more quickly than really living into the transformative power of Christ’s presence. But God would not stop pressing the question: Do I really live in Christ’s life and power? How does my life demonstrate it?
Many of us are carrying this query back home with us. God is shining light in our hearts, revealing all the ways that our lives are timid, lukewarm, comfortable imitations of true discipleship. But Christ is within us, and so there is hope! With divine assistance, we are called to lives of breath-taking faithfulness. As we turn to face the beauty of his inward presence, our outward lives begin to reflect God’s truth and mercy, patient endurance and steadfast love.
What is your experience of Christ’s presence within? How has it changed the way that you live? Are there ways in which you sense God calling you in challenging directions? How have you experienced the Refiner’s Fire?