Second Month 18

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:3 (NIV)

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I see this passage challenging fundamentalism to the core. It demands we know the Holy Spirit of Christ. Without that experience, the words of the New Testament have no power.

This also means learning to discern the Holy Spirit from other spirits, which now challenges aspirants in another dimension. I’ve heard many people speak of the Spirit without any concept that Satan is a spirit, too. Indeed, many plunge blithely ahead, accepting all practices and messages equally, regardless of their ultimate value. Words to the contrary run into the admonition to “judge not,” as if being “judgmental” (rather than discerning) is the worst possible sin.

If we can present the case for turning to the Holy Spirit in a positive manner (without denouncing everything else as a “cult” – which would put too many in a defensive position), we can point out ways of discernment – of avoiding Satan’s confusion and deception, if you will.

One side topic, if we feel like tackling it, is discerning the difference, if any, between the Living Christ and the Holy Spirit.

*   *   *

Yea, this universal Principle, which I am describing, it is a Measure of the quickning Spirit, even of that Spirit which raised up Jesus from the Dead; by the Indwelling of which in us, we come to be renewed in the Spirit of our Minds, and to have our mortal Bodies quickned, so as to capacitate us to serve the Lord with our Spirits, and with our Bodies, which are his. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

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Second Month 17

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. – 1 Peter 4:10-11

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In prophetic ministry, there is no place for the messenger to reflect. There is no ruminating this heavenly message in one’s mind. The faithful servant does not falter. This message must be delivered; it is the expression of God. Trust the the Holy Spirit; let the words glow in the Light for those waiting to share them.

*   *   *

For Judgment (saith he) am I come into the World. That so after you have felt his righteous Judgments, for every unrighteous Thing, you may find him to be near, which justifieth your Souls; and that you may experience Christ’s Coming in yourselves, with Power and great Glory, to work Redemption in you, as well as that he hath purchased Redemption for you. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

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.

*   *   *

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 15

If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:30-33

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The act of sitting together quietly, “holding our peace,” is at the core of a traditional Quaker meeting for worship. The silent waiting itself can be comforting, but it also opens a space for those who are moved to prophesy – that is, give voice to the Holy Spirit – to speak, one by one. When we are faithful, the resulting messages can be miraculous.

Back when I was still a member of Ohio Yearly Meeting, I remember visiting one large meeting on the East Coast that had two successive worship sessions on Sunday mornings. Attending both, I found its early hour of worship was more deeply centered than its later one – more centered, I would find, than most in its yearly meeting.

At the rise of the hour, an older Friend greeted me and said, “I wonder how many messages in Quaker Meetings these days refer to Scripture?” To which I replied: “In my yearly meeting, almost all vocal ministry does.” And he smiled: “You know where I’m coming from. I appreciated your faithfulness this morning.”

Or as another related: Any nurture thee can extend through a spiritual Friend there may very well go further.

*   *   *

But here I must obviate an Objection, before I can proceed.Possibly some may ask me, Why then do those People that thou art now gone amongst, keep up their publick Meetings to preach, and to teach People the Way of Salvation? What need is there of their teaching, if every one hath a Teacher in them, able to instruct them in the Way to the Kingdom?

To which I answer, first, Though I did say as much, as that every one hath a Divine Teacher in them, yet I did not say, that every one knows this Teacher in them: For this hath been the Misery of many Ages of the World, People have gone out after the many Lo here’s and Lo there’s, to find Christ without them, in the mean Time neglecting his Appearance within them, even as was soretold by Christ himself, when he was on Earth in the Days of his Flesh: In the last Days, saith he, they shall say, Lo here is Christ, and Lo he is there; but go ye not out after them, nor follow them; behold I have told you before. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Second Month 14

Ye have compassed this mountain long enough. – Deuteronomy 2:3

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The use of “compass” as a verb is intriguing, especially since we are likely to think of it as an instrument of direction. What we have instead is the archaic “to go around; make a circuit of” sense of wandering. Even of avoiding an obstacle, rather than facing it head on.

It’s an apt image for modern American society, too, especially when it comes to faith, Scripture, or even many of the hard issues before us.

When it comes to the Bible, it even fits many of today’s Quakers, at least from my end of the spectrum. And so, almost nobody, including its organizers, had any inkling into the range of response they would share when they initiated a Friends Bible Conference held in Philadelphia’s historic Arch Street Meetinghouse in 1989. More than 260 mostly unprogrammed Friends participated, and the presentations have been published as Reclaiming a Resource (Kimo Press, Falls Church, Virginia, 1990), a book I recommend. Workshops explored “The Bible and Liberation Theology,” “Using the Written Bible To Hear the Bible Within,” covenant communities, care of the creation, “Divine Judgment and Near-Death Experience,” the book of Job as an allegory for coping with the AIDS crisis and other sufferings, “Who Is Sophia? And Why Is She Important?,” “The Gospel According to Women,” Jungian perspectives, working with children or music, story-telling, and more. Each workshop, in effect, examined another way of working with and studying Scripture. The collected papers share many of the intensely personal ways other Friends put the scriptures to work in their individual spiritual endeavors.

I, for one, like the views from the mountain. There are many trails to top. At that point, there’s no longer a hollow center in the wandering but a unified look at the landscape. Everything begins fitting together. Sometimes, when you seem to be running around in circles, remember to look up. You may see a new pathway open.

*   *   *

‘Tis the Grace of God, ’tis the Light of Jesus, ’tis a Manifestation of the Spirit, ’tis the Glad tidings of Salvation, ’tis the Word of Reconciliation, ’tis the Law written in the Heart, ’tis the Word of Faith, ’tis the Seed of the Kingdom, ’tis that Stone which hath been rejected by many a foolish Builder, but now it is become the Head of Sion’s Corner. These are all significant Expressions of that excellent Principle, which I have undertaken to treat on. But if any shall say They are Expressions of so different a Nature, that they know not how to reconcile them, and make them one together.

To such I answer, they might as well confess, they cannot understand how the Lamb of God can be the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, nor how the Shepherd of Israel can be the Bishop of his Peoples Souls; there seeming as much Difference in these latter, as in any of the former; yet do they all speak of one Thing, altho’ it be exprest by divers Names: For it will admit of a manifold Description; tho’, as I said before, ’tis still but one Thing, if rightly understood in its true Notions. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Second Month 13

… If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from every sin. – 1 John 1:5 -7 (NIV)

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When we think of darkness, what associations come to mind? For some reason, the first thing that springs to my mind is night in a jungle, with snakes and spiders and who knows what else crawling around. And so, my list of associations would include:

  • Ignorance.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Secrecy.
  • Lies.
  • Confusion.
  • Sleep – and rest.
  • Contraction, or contractedness.
  • Death.

And so, with light, we would have corresponding associations:

  • Knowledge.
  • Consciousness.
  • Openness.
  • Truthfulness.
  • Order.
  • Action and activity.
  • Expansion and exploration.
  • Life.

Thus, to say “Let there be light” also says “Let there be life!”

Notice that God does not eliminate darkness! Rather, some of the darkness is transformed, enriched, overcome – but not obliterated. In other words, there is a place for darkness in our spiritual life, and in our emotions as well, especially as we let the Light penetrate into those places. We are given more room to grow, toward God and each other. Again, the plot thickens.

*   *   *

It comes from God, through Christ, as saith the Apostle, God, that commanded the Light to shine out of Darkness, hath shined in our Hearts, to give the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ. ‘Tis God’s Gift unto us, and therefore well may we return Thanks unto him for his unspeakable Gifts: God is the Author of it, who is Light, and in him is no Darkness at all; for he covereth himself with Light, as with a Garment, and dwelleth in that Light which is inaccessible, which no mortal Eye can approach unto, he is the Father of Lights; and therefore hath he given a Measure of his own Divine Light to all Mankind, to reveal himself unto them, that so they may know substantially what he is, and not worship him as the unknown God. (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.

*   *   *

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 11

The people which sat in darkness saw great light … From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 4:17      

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It’s all too easy to overlook the first sentence and leap ahead to the action. But the people not only sat waiting (as in Quaker worship) but also were in darkness (as in nighttime or oppression) rather than daylight or ease. Light, of course, appears more brilliant and helpful to those in darkness.

It’s not too much of a leap, either, to equate this Light with Logos and the Holy Spirit and then to see it radiating from Jesus as he preached.

And then the message itself: Turn around! Change your course! Do you now see?

*   *   *

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 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.

*   *   *

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 9

Now the man Moshe is exceedingly humble,
more than any (other) human who is on the face of the earth.
And YHWH said suddenly to Moshe, to Aharon and to Miryam:
Go out, the three of you, to the Tent of Appointment!
The three of them went out.
And YHWH descended in a column of cloud
and stood at the entrance to the Tent;
and he called out: Aharon and Miryam!
and the two of them went out.
He said:
Pray hear my words …
Numbers 3:3-6 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

Like poetry, Bible reading requires a close reading of a text. Yet when we scrape away all of the barnacles that have been attached to the original – traditional readings, glosses, cultural projections from later periods to earlier ones – it can be as revealing as when the varnish was first removed from masterwork paintings or of later historically accurate restorations of the paint: after decades or even centuries of assuming that old paintings were intended to look smoky, controversy erupted over what often struck even contemporary eyes as gaudy, raucous, and unexpected. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I treasure the range of translations of these ancient texts that are now available to us.

In fact, one of the advantages of the Everett Fox translation of the first five books of the Bible is his decision to keep its rough edges and direct simplicity. Using alternative spellings of the individuals, too, removes much of the seemingly familiarity. Now it is all new and active.

Here, three prophetic siblings – Moses, Aaron, and Miriam – are being held accountable to God. And for two of them, the verdict will be harsh.

So where do we stand, in our own faithfulness?

*   *   *

Wherefore hear ye, and give ear, be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken; give Glory to the Lord, before he cause Darkness, and before your Feet stumble upon the dark Mountains; and while ye look for Light, he turn it into the Shadow of Death, and make it gross Darkness, according to the Advice of the Prophet Jeremiah. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)