Chapter 23 » 23.08

Faith and action

‘Two sins have my people committed; they have forsaken me, a spring of living water, and they have hewn themselves cisterns, cracked cisterns that can hold no water’ (Jer 2:13). I know of no better description of the world we live in than that. We have forgotten that we need the life-giving water of the holy spirit if the material element of the world in which we live is not, sooner or later, to turn into dust and ashes; and we have developed social institutions which cannot hold or channel the life-giving water anyway…

As Christians we need to see ourselves as God’s plumbers, working on tanks and channels for the living water that can quicken the daily life of men, women and children… Jesus taught us about patterns of living that make for wholeness as we and our neighbours care for one another and build one another up. And all the patterns that Jesus showed us of cisterns and channels of caring and service challenge the patterns of Mammon that offer quicker and more showy results, but that end in the debris of a possessive society that allows the living water to run away into the sand. Good plumbers build to last; they don’t fall for fashions that rust and fade and crack.

Seventeenth-century Friends were good plumbers. In and out of season, in and out of jail, in and out of court, counting house and farmstead, our Quaker forebears challenged the conventions of the day – in politics, in commerce, in the law, in the established church, in social etiquette, in education, in attitudes to war, poverty and crime. In face of the sterile institutions of their day they found living answers about the ways in which men and women might go about their business of living together.

Roger Wilson, 1976

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