Third Month 31

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)

Third Month 30

…  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)

Third Month 29

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)

Third Month 28

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)

Third Month 27

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)

Third Month 26

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. – Psalm 51:10-12

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Notice the mention of Holy Spirit, here in the Hebrew Bible, years before its appearances in the New Testament. The experience is direct, empowering, renewing and restorative, sustaining.

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For in the very next Verse, saith Christ, I will not drink of this Fruit of the Vine, until that Day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 25

…  The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, … the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. –  John 1:4-14 (NIV)

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We have, too, a new concept of the Word – this time capitalized. This Word is not simply something God said. The traditional Quaker comprehension of this concept is extraordinary. This Word of God is not the Bible or Holy Scripture, as many falsely teach. As verse 9 explains, “The Word was the real light … he was coming into the world.” This Word is Christ, living among us as Jesus!

Once again, a divine concept is put into motion, this time to dwell among us, as a living example.

In the original Greek text, the word for this Word is Logos: that is, a symbol, an image, the truth, or even a mark – and this concept is ultimately untranslatable. In modern American society, a logo is a recognizable trademark, like the Coca-Cola script or bottle. Now extend that to the concept of the divine, and you get a taste of how Jesus can begin to represent for us the unspeakable power of God.

But Logos is also a complex body of ancient Greek philosophy, one that includes the agency or principle of creation itself, the plan of Creation, the reconciliation of opposites, the healing force of the universe. Perhaps a clearer rendering of Logos would be “knowledge” or even “knowing” – “In a beginning was knowledge.” This time, the Knowledge and Knowing bring us closer to knowing our creator in many new and tender ways, and of being known ourselves.

In the writer John’s understanding of creation, God is not alone! Rather, there is a Spirit of knowing, a Spirit of rightness, even a Spirit of Truth dwelling with God from the very beginning. God is comforted by order, intelligence, and unity.

We are presented it all.

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And indeed I do believe, that herein is the Communion of Saints, namely, in eating of the Flesh and drinking of the Blood of Jesus Christ; not carnally, … but spiritually, wherein consists the true Brotherhood and Fellowship of that Church which is in God, as with one another, so with the Father and the Son, by the Holy Spirit, at the spiritual Table of the Lord. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 24

The Word became flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory.
John: 1:14 (NJB)

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This Word [Logos] indeed became flesh and dwelled among us. What Quakers understand also is that it dwells among us still, speaking to us in the silence and in our hearts.

According to this text, through Christ all things came into being. God conceived the Word, which was Christ, and the Light was separated from darkness. This Word, or Logos, extends a divine order that ranges throughout the universe, from the particles of the atom to the spiraling galaxies themselves. For us to yield to this, the power of Christ, is indeed good, no matter what our outward circumstances.

God spoke, and things happened. God speaks, and things happen. Through Christ, the order also reverses: we may speak to God and things will happen. And so, we, too, can say, “Let there be light!”

Fundamentalists who insist that the upper-case “Word of God” is the Bible, rather than Christ, not only misread the text itself but inevitably fall into a system that puts interpreters (preachers) between the Source and the fellowship of believers; quickly the Holy Spirit is pushed from their circle, and males dominate the organization. Those who espouse a doctrine that insists the Bible is “inerrant” are unfaithful to the text: nowhere does the Bible make such a claim for itself!

Instead, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, NRSV).

So the Word is much more than words. Much, much more.

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And therefore saith the Apostle, I speak as to wise Men, judge ye what I say; the Cup of Blessing which we bless, is it not the Communion of the Body of Christ, &c. for we being many, are one Bread, and one Body, for we all are Partakers of that one Bread. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 23

…  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God … – John 1:4-14 (NIV)

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In Genesis, light complemented the darkness; this gospel Light, however, stands to be accepted or rejected by individuals.

God does not force us to receive this Logos or Word, but instead invites us to welcome it and the new relationships it opens.

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Indeed the whole Chapter [John 6] speaks of Christ’s being the true Bread wherewith the Saints are nourished; and that he would come again after his Departure. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Third Month 22

… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him … – John 1:4-14 (NIV)

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We have a new interplay of light and dark. In some ways, Jesus becomes the illuminated object that allows us to see what this Light does.

“No one has ever seen God. It is … the only Son … who has made (God) known,” as the NRSV renders this passage.

Too often, we see but we don’t see. Understand?

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So that granting it to be a Practice enjoined, it was to last but its Day and Time, that was till Christ, who is the Bread of God that cometh down from Heaven (which Bread is his Flesh, that he gave for the Life of the World) should come according to his own Intention. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)