Fifth Month 31

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. – Matthew 16:27

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Without the pestilence of giants, there are no giant-killers.

So choose sides! Get busy!

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In this we account ourselves happy, yea, we secretly rejoice that he hath accounted us worthy to suffer Shame for his Name, himself having said to our Comfort, Blessed are ye when Men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their Company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your Names as evil, for the Son of Man’s Sake; rejoice ye in that Day (saith he) and leap for Joy, for behold your Reward is great in Heaven; for in like Manner did their Fathers to the Prophets. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Fifth Month 30

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. – Matthew 7:16-20

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Actions speak louder than words.

Indeed, when an acquaintance described Judaism as a living agnosticism, I was not surprised: there is a broad trunk of agnosticism, even atheism, running through the Bible, including the New Testament, demolishing icons, asking how we can know what is true and how we can determine what isn’t, testing, probing, challenging. One branch encourages a healthy seeking after the Truth; the other limb, however, embodies mockery and contempt, and makes no effort to pursue social justice. Instead of providing comfortable answers, this trunk of scripture raises questions – like a Zen master relentlessly pushing the aspirant beyond the safety of orthodoxy into the belly of the fish itself.

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Actions also speak more truly than words.

As I look back on the extended turmoil I encountered in dealing with a woman I loved deeply, I see how much my own reactions were built on the words she promised, even as I blinded myself to so much of her elusive conduct. They never dovetailed. Only when I admitted the behavior, wholly, into my awareness was I freed to move on.

I, who live so much in the realm of language!

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For tho’ the Lord hath given his Spirit, yea, his Son, to be a Leader and a Commander to the People, yet many there are who do not follow his Guidance, saying in their Hearts …  We will not have this Man to reign over us. Now is there not Need that some should seek to convince such of the Evil of their Ways, and the Error of their Doings, (who instead of walking in the straight and narrow Way of Righteousness, which leads to everlasting Life, are going on in the broad Way of Sin and Wickedness, which leads down to the Chambers of Death) that so they may be persuaded to leave off the Weapons of their Rebellion, wherewith they fight against God, and wound their own Souls; and submit themselves unto his Ambassador of Peace, the Spirit of his Son in their Consciences, that true Balm of Gilead, with which they may be healed. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Fifth Month 29

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

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There are those who profess faith and those who possess faith – one has the words; the other, the anointing and power.

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For the Lord is that Spirit. Wherefore he bids them Examine themselves whether they be in the Faith; prove your ownselves, saith he, know you not your ownselves, how that Christ is in you, except you be Reprobates. And hereby know we that we are not in a reprobate State, because we witness the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Fifth Month 28

Forsake me not; until I have shown thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come. – Psalm 71:18

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What is it in the human experience that makes us so deeply desire to hand over to the next generation the spiritual ecstasy and wisdom we have encountered?

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Yet there can also be great resistance or anxiety. I remember noting in one case, how whether by intention or coincidence, the organization now had another deeply committed Christian as its new executive. As she wrote back to me: “I do need and appreciate your prayers and caring. Yes, there are challenges and divisions and disunity. But I see commonality, too – in the depth of the caring that so many people have … and in the struggle to find a way to feel closer to God. It’s a sick society, but a strong Power draws us continually. I certainly feel it, and that is central to my life.”

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And thus, He that believeth (in the Cross of Christ, which is the Power of God unto Salvation) hath a Witness in himself, the Spirit itself beareth them Witness that they are the Children of God. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Fifth Month 27

YHWH said to Kayin:
Why are you so upset? Why has your face fallen?
Is it not thus:
If you intend good, bear it aloft,
but if you do not intend good,
at the entrance is sin, a crouching demon,
toward you his lust

but you can rule over him.

Genesis 4:6-7 (Everett Fox translation)

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Here, for the first time, the Bible mentions sin. Obviously, there is already some understanding. (How often that’s the case in history, where the concept finally entered into writing often has already been long discussed.) Again, we have the Holy One speaking directly with a human, as apparently was the case in the early days of the chronology. While the Holy One asks Cain about his appearance, the words that follow indicate an acute perception of Cain’s psyche and interior struggle.

Pointedly, the Holy One sees this as a moral choice. We can choose to act out of our lower nature or to raise ourselves to rule over it, from our higher nature.

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This advice from Ohio Yearly Meeting’s Book of Discipline shows how far-reaching that “lust” can be: “Avoid and discourage any kind of betting or gambling, as well as commercial speculation of a gambling character. Remember how widespread are the temptations to grow rich at the expense of others, and how apparently harmless indulgence leads often by degrees to ruin and crime.”

In short, many of traditional religious concerns have recognized the importance of minding the details in maintaining the essential witness.

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O! let us take heed that we do not vex and quench the Spirit of Christ within us, that so we be not of those complained of by Nehemiah, to whom the Lord gave his good Spirit, but they rebelled against it. And what then? So he became their Enemy, and fought against them. These were such of whom Job speaks, saying, They are of those that rebel against the Light. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)