Yesterday in Bible Study we looked again at Romans 8: 19-25, a portion of which is the theme for the FWCC World Plenary in Peru: Living the Transformation: Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. This time we focused on the phrase “eager longing.” The accompanying queries helped us examine what we most deeply long for, as individuals and as a faith community.
My musing this morning is about how we experience longing. Is it physical? Intellectual? Spiritual? Where in our bodies do we feel it? Many of us have experienced physical longing—when our bodies have a need that cries out. Is there a comparable spiritual longing? I have often wondered what our Quaker forebears experienced when they quaked during worship. What powerful force shook them so? Today when we sit quietly in our circles or hollow squares with our eyes closed, hands resting on our laps, if someone jumped up and shook, or rolled on the ground, someone from Ministry and Counsel would quietly escort them out of the room. Are we supposed to experience spiritual longings quietly?
Sometimes I feel that deep longing in wild Alaskan spaces: Walking on the Root Glacier, kayaking in Prince William Sound, hiking above Panorama Pass in Denali National Park. My soul cries out. I feel a sense of oneness with creation. Is this what Creation, or God, or whatever we choose to call it, is “waiting for with eager longing?”
Included in the study materials from FWCC was an excerpt from Spirit Rising , where a young man from Kenya writes about the reformation in Quaker churches that now allows for singing and clapping. He says that the previous restrictions on “musical instruments and hands clapping in praising the name of God. . . resulted in a reluctance to participate fully in activities.” When we attended a Quaker church in Kenya four years ago, we experienced joy and life in that form of worship that was both physical and spiritual.
Our form of worship is not necessarily silent. I prefer the term “waiting worship,” as it expresses that sense of expectation, of longing. Do we enter our worship spaces with eager longing? Do we expect to experience God’s presence together? Are our hearts and minds prepared for what might come?