Thou hast shown thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment. – Psalm 60:3
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So often in pastoral church services, long before I knew anything of Quakers, I sensed that real worship could not begin until we got out of the building and back home where we could open our hearts to God and really read Scripture for insight – unfortunately, the private practice was pretty foreign to us as mainline Protestants (Evangelical United Brethren, now part of the United Methodist denomination).
In that regard, I consider some of the Asian practices to lead much closer to that “still small voice” of God than many who preach Christ but cannot sit silently and be fed in His presence – or even feel the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t come back to Christianity until I’d been led through agnosticism and atheism, then yoga and its strain of Hinduism (which is, I can attest, too vast for Western minds to comprehend – and any religion taken out of its cultural context runs great dangers), a touch of Zen Buddhism, and finally to Friends – which I originally came to for its “group meditation” aspect.
I find that many of the Fundamentalists who denounce Asian lines as “cults” are, in their own practice, further from the power of Christ Risen and closer to the real dangers of “cultism,” which arises from the dependence upon a single human teacher – this is especially the case in the independent congregations where the pastor has no accountability to elders or to overseers (1st Timothy 3 and 5); the temptations in such situations are too great and have led many astray.
Oh, my, I’ve tasted much in this journey and been so often astonished!
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The outward Supper cannot be the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, which the Apostle speaks of. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)
… And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 6:16
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From a Christian perspective, Hebrew Bible verses are often answered and given a new dimension of understanding through a corresponding New Testament passage. Many scholars have seen the opening of the Gospel of John as a parallel to the opening of Genesis.
Here, the concept of the Temple itself is transformed – as is the understanding of being a people of the Living God. Remarkably, they are no longer walking after God, but God is now also walking in them – that is, in us!
The Quaker teaching of an Inward Light now expands.
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But to do it meerly by Imitation or Tradition, as most do, is not to offer a Sacrifice to God in Righteousness. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined 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 and 6:16
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In Genesis, we are given night, and then day – rather than the other way around, as we might expect. The light comes into the darkness, rather than being extinguished by it.
The long and timeless night is broken at last, and finally receives balance. If there are, as traditional symbolism often relates, feminine aspects to the night, they are now balanced by a masculine counterpart. Neither stands alone. Indeed, in the ensuing rounds of creation, God adds layer upon layer of counterpart, until we as humans no longer stand alone, but are balanced by our fellow animal creatures and by our Creator, as well.
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If any break outward Bread, and drink outward Wine with a sincere Intention, as believing it their Duty, that they may the more be put in Remembrance of the Body and Blood of Christ, by the Remembrancer, the Spirit of Truth, which is appointed by the Father to lead the Saints into all Truth, they judge them not, but rather hope that such will come further out of the Shadow to the Substance. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried off into the midst of the sea. – Psalm 46:1-2
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How remarkable that this psalmist could look through all of physical reality as something fleeting and transitory and find instead something even more basic to the universe!
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And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God should come? he answered them, and said, the Kingdom of God cometh not with Observation, neither shall they say, Lo here, or Lo there, for behold the Kingdom of God is within you. And that there this Wine was drunk by the Disciples … (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:26
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I hear an old Quaker, Samuel Emlen, rejoining: “Hate the Enemy. Hate the Enemy within them. Love them so much the Enemy will disappear. [Place] the love of Christ in them.”
Oh, to be surrounded by such Friends!
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And that he did not mean, they should stay for this Wine, till they came to Heaven, (as some understand by the Word Kingdom) … Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here that shall not taste of Death till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)