Third Month 12

…  And by him we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. … – Romans 8:9-18 (NIV)

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Two of the standard dictionary definitions of “testimony” reveal the scope of Quaker action: “evidence in support of a fact or assertion: proof” and “a public declaration.”

For Friends, both definitions apply. Testimony – and its synonym, witness – are the way we live, not the words we utter. Through them, we respond to a sensed concern – “something of interest or importance,” “earnest regard,” and even “anxiety; worry” as definitions that can be blended to create an awareness of what is intended. A Dictionary of Friends Terms (Friends United Press, no date) defines concern as “Urgent matter which a person feels the Lord calling him or her to do, i.e. John Woolman’s concern to visit the Indians,” and testimonies as “Application of Friends’ beliefs to situations and problems of society, i.e. peace, simplicity, regular attendance at meetings.”

Here, too, we can see Christ’s glory.

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Not by Works of Righteousness, which we have done, saith the Apostle, but according to his Mercy he saved us, by the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

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Second Month 16

Take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost – Mark 13:11

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How often are we unfaithful to that quickening of the Holy Spirit out of fear of offending someone or of having incorrect wording? Friends, do not hesitate! Our halting, insecure human nature may stifle someone’s salvation! Do not speak without God’s proper guide, yet do not be unfaithful to the call.

Prophetic living includes the vision of our own damnation if we do not heed that voice. Retreat from the evil world to the safety of this precious Comforter. Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension atone for our shortcomings. He sends us an eternal Guide so that we may hear His voice and obey His commands. With the Pentecostal gift, we have victory over death and sin. Acknowledge this gift. When we heed God’s voice, a life free from sin on this side of the grave and in the glorious eternity to follow is ours.

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And the Tendency of their Ministry is to direct People to the Teaching of Christ, the one Prophet, promised to Israel, which Promise the Apostle repeateth, saying, And it shall come to pass, that every Soul that will not hear this Prophet, shall be destroyed from amongst the People. Thus do they commend themselves to every Man’s Conscience in the Sight of God, by turning them to the Light of Jesus, the Power of God manifest within, which, as ’tis yielded to and obeyed, maketh free from Sin, which still is that one Thing that I am writing concerning, viz. A Principle of Divine Light and Life in Christ Jesus, according to the Apostle’s Record. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

 

Second Month 12

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all … . – 1 John 1:5 -7 (NIV)

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Much of the New Testament builds on the metaphor of Light that opens the Hebrew Bible. As one Friend fondly points out, a more accurate translation of Genesis 1:1-5, a parallel to this passage, would read, “In a beginning.” We have to start somewhere, and this is the point at which the author of Genesis launches the narrative, which is picked up and repeated again and again, with variations.

Indeed, the more you reflect on this passage, the more likely you are to face a host of unanswered questions that surface. For starters, just who is this God? Or more accurately, What? What is this darkness? Did this God create the original darkness, too, or was there something before even they existed? If so, why isn’t that mentioned? Or is this original darkness something perhaps even preceding God?

I suppose if you’ve ever read this passage to young children, you’ve been baffled by questions like these, because we fall back on safe formulas to provide a comfortable evasion. These are the questions of looking into the Milky Way on a crystalline night in the deep countryside. Nevertheless, the questions continue: Why, then, does Genesis begin with the creation of heaven and earth, which promptly slides into the “formless void”? Why is the light “good”? Does this mean that the darkness is “not good”?

But now the Light opens in new directions, into the very conduct of our lives, which can be as vast and mysterious as the cosmos itself.

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And this Way of Restoration was by Christ, the Light, the Seed, the Saviour, for he, of whom God said unto the Serpent, I will put Enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy Seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy Head, and thou shalt bruise his Heel: He it was who was to be the Saviour of the World. So that now, considering the Sons and Daughters of Adam, as they are found in the Fall and Degeneration, having all sinned and come short of the Glory of God; herein, I say, hath his universal Love and free Grace appeared, to wit, in giving of his Son to be a Saviour unto them, as saith the Apostle John, In this was manifest the Love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the World, that we might live through him. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Second Month 10

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me,
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
… to comfort all who mourn;
… to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
Isaiah 61:1-3a

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Here is another telling of Jubilee, a radical concept of economic and social justice first delivered in Leviticus 25. For Isaiah, the promise goes beyond a redistribution of wealth and labor. The prophet sees comfort and gladness in the renewed equality as well.

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And thus now, to have the Will sanctified, and brought into the pure Obedience of him that sanctifieth it, (which is an Effect of the free Grace of God) here comes the true Freedom of Will to be known, even to be made free from Sin, being delivered from the Bondage of Corruption, into the glorious Liberty of the Children of God, which agrees to that of the Apostle. And here, as the Truth maketh free, Man comes to be free indeed, and to receive Ability to attend upon the Lord without Distraction; and to do his Will on Earth as it is done in Heaven, according to that Prayer which our blessed Saviour taught his Disciples. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Second Month 8

… He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. – John 11:43

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Even the dead hear the voice of Jesus.

Which greatly increases the chance for those who are still breathing. Right?

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For they do believe the Resurrection of the Just and of the Unjust, the one to Salvation, the other to Condemnation, according to the Judgment of the great Day, and then shall every seed have its own Body, as saith the Scriptures. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Second Month 2

Hope that is seen is no hope at all – Romans 8:24

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Imagine living two hundred years ago and trying to tell other people about radio waves – that there are these invisible energies flying through the air and, while you cannot see them or feel them, with a special kind of box and an electrical outlet, you can use these waves to have little people entertain you. Just look through the window! Our comprehension of God’s light and love can seem just as irrational, and even insane, to much of the world today.

This light is “good” because it opens us outward, gives us distances, spaces, destinations, goals, connections – warmth, nurture, relationships, understandings. How different this is from hearing the blood-curdling cry of a lone coyote in the night! The light allows us to know things, and to do things. In light, we walk, run, or even swim; in darkness, by contrast, we can merely crawl.

Yet, paradoxically, we do not see light itself – only what it illuminates. So, too, is hope – something invisible but present. In fact, so much of our religious understanding demands that we go beyond what we can see or touch or even taste or hear – dimensions we can yet experience, if we become attentive and attuned.

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This can be but a Sign, to put us in Remembrance thereof; and therefore, though it was commanded to, and practised by the Church of Corinth, yet that doth not perpetuate its Continuance: For so was washing one another’s Feet, abstaining from Things strangled and Blood, anointing the Sick with Oil, laid upon the Saints of old, which ye yourselves judge not needful to be practised now. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)