… Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world … – John 17:22-26 (NIV)

*   *   *

All meaningful creativity I have observed has strong roots in tradition; in effect, creativity occurs at the edge of a rooted organism, where a branch reaches out toward the sky. Even epiphytes seek a grounding via other plants!

In Quaker tradition, Scripture has provided a grounding in which we could share expressions of our faith and practice with each other, and with our spiritual ancestors. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to understand early Quakers without a recognition of the many Biblical phrases and thoughts that lace their speech; one literary critic has even termed this blend of experience and scripture found in early Friends “incantatory language.” The writings of George Fox, Margaret Fell, Isaac and Mary Pennington, William Penn, and many others from this phases of Quakerism are saturated with biblical fragments, each forming and informing the movement. For modern minds scrutinizing these texts, the implications can be initially frightening; I have heard, for instance, of how normally mild-mannered Friends John Curtis and Lewis Benson argued loudly far into repeated nights that Fox couldn’t possibly have meant a phrase to mean something, until they eventually concluded that he did, indeed, mean exactly what he voiced; it was all part of a larger fabric.

Still, words can point us toward something deeper, richer, more sustaining, more demanding. Even prayer, as it turns to pleading and argument with the Holy One, builds on roots. Here, then, I would return to the opening chapter of John, where glory is presented as an aspect of the Light, and repeat this text, “to see my Light, the Light you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

*   *   *

Therefore I ask their Adversaries, Is it any Crime to be perfect? To which if they shall answer (as in effect they have said) This is to be accounted vile. To such my Reply is, I hope that the Lord will enable his People to become and be contented to be counted more vile: For to this Abraham was commanded by God under the Old Testament … (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)


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