Ninth Month 21

You are to be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other if one of you has a complaint against another. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, put on love, the perfect bond. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, for it is because of this that you were called together in one body. Colossians: 3:12-16 (NJB)

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Paul urges the emerging communities of spiritually transformed individuals to become a revolutionary new kind of organization, one marked by a spirit of equality and mutual discipleship. As a body, this is the church – not the building and not the organization, but rather then a people of God.

*   *   *

Nor yet do we include him in the fleshly Temples of Men and Womens Hearts, so as to exclude him from being anywhere else; but as we know his Presence fills Heaven and Earth, so we believe, that notwithstanding his Appearance in our Hearts, he is continually at the Right-hand of God, at the Right-hand of the Majesty on high, ever living to make Intercession for us, and by his Spirit we feel the Signification thereof within us. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

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Ninth Month 20

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

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As the Logos, or Word, declared at the opening of the gospel of John, Christ is the agent of reconciliation of opposites, which brings peace. As Logos, Christ is also the Light, which can shine in the heart and mind of everyone.

Sit quietly, then, and feel this.

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To whom God would make known what is the Riches of the Glory of this Mystery among the Gentiles, Christ in you the Hope of Glory. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 19

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. – 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9   

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Remarkably, by today’s standards, the Apostle Paul was a layman. He continued to be employed as a tentmaker as he traveled in ministry. Many Protestant congregations today are led by pastors who also hold down full-time jobs during the week. Thus, “we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone.”

In doing so, he recognizes that we illustrate our faith in our daily interactions – and not just in the sermons we preach or the formal lessons we teach.

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However, we do not conclude Christ in ourselves only, but we say, a Measure of his Light, in order to shew the Way of Life, every Man is, or hath been enlightned with. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 18

I have been crucified with Christ, and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. The life that I am now living, subject to the limitation of human nature, I am living in faith … Galatians: 2:19-20 (NJB)

*   *   *

Paul repeatedly proclaims Christ Within, as Quakers later would. Christ, as the Light. The Inward Light pouring into the disciple and taking root.

As he faces “the limitation of human nature,” I suspect Paul finds his own humanity enriched and deepened. It’s a stream of Universal Love, after all, he calls faith.

*   *   *

This being the Tenor of the new Covenant, That all the Children of the Lord shall be taught of the Lord, and in Righteousness shall they be established. Which implies, that God will teach them so effectually by his free Spirit, that they shall not stand in need of any other Prophet. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 17

Therefore if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

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How can we possibly speak about our spiritual experiences? There are ultimately no words to adequately describe our epiphanies, no matter how much we want to guide others to similar encounters.

Yes, all things become new; at the end of the hour of worship, all around me has a new glow and softness. Curiously, I find it accompanied by a sense of timelessness and antiquity, too: this is what’s true forever.

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In our own time we’ve been blessed with a range of fresh translations of Scripture, each giving us some new way of describing this spiritual heritage. In this daybook, we’ve been sampling a range of their efforts. It can be both instructive and fun to compare versions, side by side.

Still, it helps to be aware of any biases the translators may hold; the New Jerusalem, while one of the most accurate translations, arises in a Roman Catholic focus. The Living Bible maintains an American Protestant holiness theology. I find the New English translation to be tin-earred, and both the Revised Standard and New Revised Standard to be unnecessarily dry. The New International, one of my favorites, unintentionally maintains some of the sexist mistranslation of the traditional English, a factor that has been addressed in the updated reworking.

Historically, Quakers were aware of the importance of translation; English Friend Anthony Purver’s translation of the Bible was published in the mid-1700s, in large part through the efforts of co-religionist John Fothergill. I wonder what happened to that version?

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In their Behalf I answer, They do own the Scriptures to be a Rule, and they direct unto him (to wit, Christ) who is the Object of our Faith, and Lord of Light and Life. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

 

Ninth Month 16

Now it was, when Pharaoh had sent the people free,
that God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines,
which indeed is nearer,
for God said to himself:
Lest the people regret it, when they see war,
and return to Egypt!
So God had the people swing about by way of the wilderness at the sea of reeds …
Exodus: 13:17-18 (Everett Fox translation)

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Looking back on my life, my journey has not gone the way I’d planned. There was, in fact, no way I could have anticipated the turns it’s taken or the places I’ve lived.

What unifies this zig-zag route has been the growth in my spiritual experience each step has led to, each one accompanied by a new degree of freedom and service.

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Thereby signifying to them, where Help is to be had, who were seeking Salvation from the Hills and from the Mountains, yet laboured but in vain; but in Returning and in Rest, they have found themselves saved, according to the Word of the Lord by the Prophet. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 15

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.
When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.
You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 23:4-9 (NRSV)

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As Moses attempts to shape a just society for his people, even oxen and donkeys have a standing. Even when they belong to an enemy.

Remarkably, his thought leaps from the beasts of burden to the affliction of the poor, the innocent, and the righteous. And then Moses cuts through the issue of bribery, declaring it to be subversion – something that sabotages both the people and righteousness.

As Moses attempts to shape a just society for his people, the resident alien also has standing, a reminder of the identity of the Jewish people and the necessity of honoring all who would work with them.

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But would the Inhabitants of this Island bow to the Sceptre of the Son of God in their Hearts, they should not need to be afraid of any tripple Leagues or conclave Consultations to do them Hurt; for yet would God arise, and break such Associations, and take such wicked Wits in their own Craftiness, so that their Hands should not find their Enterprizes; so should England become the Renown of Kingdoms, and a Mart of Nations, maugre the Strength of hellish Combinations. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 14

I will stand on my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Habakkuk 2:2 (NRSV)

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Habakkuk is a frustrated prophet. Who can blame him? Everywhere he looks, the unrighteous seem to be prospering, while his own faithful people are oppressed.

He has reason to lament and wail. We, too, have many reasons to do likewise.

At last, he is given a vision. In God’s wrath, when the Holy One made the nations tremble, even the “sun and moon stood still in the heavens” (3:11, NIV).

There is justice and rejoicing to come, for those who remain devoted and unswerving.

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Therefore wait on the Lord, be of good Courage, and he shall strengthen your Hearts, wait I say, on the Lord, as said Holy David, so shall One chase a Thousand, and Two put Ten Thousand to flight. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 13

So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God. – Matthew 5:23-24 (Contemporary English Version)

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That hazard of appearing “holier than thou,” or as a Goody-Two-Shoes, as my younger one sneers, draws repeated warnings in Scripture. In fact, religiosity is a common criticism throughout. So much of the message returns to our daily actions and interactions with others.

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And when your Idols are utterly destroyed, then shall you be joined to the Lord in a perpetual Covenant that shall never be broken. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Ninth Month 12

For the grace of God … teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly possessions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age –Titus 2:11-12 (NJV).

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If we, as a gathered people, are to have a witness in today’s world, we need to resolve these two poles. We know that God has a holistic alternative to the way most people live, and we’ve seen glimmers of it.

Living upright lives is difficult enough, but as we pursue it, there’s the pitfall of a “holier than thou” attitude others will quickly detect, maybe even before we do.

The temptation of presuming to own the Truth is avoided through humility, acknowledging our individual weaknesses and shortcomings. Then, too, when we speak out of a concern for the other person, addressing “that of God, that Seed of Christ, that Inward Witness” potential within that individual, we open a caring stream that is quite different from a tone of judgment or condemnation. Thus, we can uphold a concern for the higher good, without being washed away in a flood of indecision.

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Wherefore I now write unto you, little Children, in the spiritual Stature, being myself one of that Number, by way of Exhortation, to cast away your Idols, and keep yourselves from them; say unto them, Get ye hence to the Moles and to the Bats, Isa. ii. 20. Friends, you know what I mean by them; turn in, and I am sure the Light will let you see them, and the sooner you part with them, the sooner will you find Forgiveness with the Lord, for the Idolatry which he hath beheld in them. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)