On each of the three mornings of Yearly Meeting, we meet for an hour just before breakfast, in a small room next to the cafeteria. This time allows us to start our day in reflection on scripture and God's working among us. Each morning's study considers an aspect of the Yearly Meeting theme, using the words of the Bible and early Friends as a way of opening our hearts and minds to God's Word for us today.
Friday 14 June 2002 - Testimony, Testifying, Witness, Witnessing
The Greek word martureo means to witness or testify; it has a legal connotation, and implies that one is testifying of things that one has personally seen or experienced. Its English derivative "martyr" reminds us of early Friends' experience that authentic testimony often leads to suffering and persecution for the person witnessing..
We can connect the biblical metaphor of "the way of the Lord" with the walk we are to walk; to "let our lives testify" means to be living in the reality of God's presence and all that implies.
"On the Firstday I went to the steeplehouse, and after the priest had done, I spoke to him and the people what the Lord commanded me; and they were in a great rage, hurried me out, threw me down, and haled me before the magistrates. A long examination they made of me, and much work I had with them. They threatened my life, if ever I came there again; and that they would leave me to the mercy of the people. Nevertheless I declared truth amongst them, and directed them to the light of Christ in them testifying unto them, "that God was come to teach his people himself, whether they would hear or forbear". After a while they put us out (for some Friends were with me) among the rude multitude, and they stoned us down the streets." (George Fox, 1652)
Bible readings: Psalm 119
- John 1 - 1 John 1
Handout from the actual session
Saturday 15 June 2002 - The rubber and the road: the daily cross of Christ
"But the light within, which doth convince thee, will show thee, when the mind goeth forth; and show thee the daily cross, which is to crucify that carnal mind; for the carnal mind minds carnal things; and the cross is to the will of man, for it shall never enter." (George Fox letter XIX, 1652)
"In looking at the world around, we may be apt to think that the day is very far off when the Lord's Kingdom shall be established in peace: but to those who, through the regenerating power of Christ, have become subjects of the Prince of Peace, that day has commenced already; and whatever storms may rage without, they will experience peace within." (John Yeardley, 19th century Friend)
"It is the nature of true faith to beget a holy fear of offending God, a deep reverence for his precepts, and a most tender regard to the inward testimony of his Spirit. By his Spirit, God's children in all ages have been safely led to glory. For, as they that truly believe receive Christ in the soul, so it is true that those who receive him thus, receive power to become the sons of God. That is, they receive an inward force and ability to do whatever he requires, i.e., strength to mortify their lusts, control their affections, resist evil influences, deny themselves and overcome the world in its most enticing appearances. This is the life of the blessed Cross of Christ and it is what thou, O man, must take up if thou intendest to be the disciple of Jesus. Nor canst thou be said to receive Christ, or to believe in him, while thou rejectest his cross. For, as receiving of Christ is the means appointed of God to salvation, so bearing the daily cross after him, is the only true testimony of receiving him. Therefore it is enjoined by him as the great token of discipleship, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me' (Matt. 16:24)." (William Penn, No Cross No Crown)
Bible readings: Luke 9:18-27
- Matthew 16:21-28 - Isaiah
Handout from the actual session
Sunday 16 June 2002 - Two Friends Testimonies: Peace and Equality
The Bible's overall "take" on equality seems to be that all people are equal before God, and equally "unequal" compared to God. Outward social convention is not the important thing. We have no business treating our sisters and brothers as "less than," and if we do, we should expect to suffer the consequences from the One who is greater than any of us or all of us. This seems to apply to any dimension along which humans develop a sense of superiority to one another, whether ethnicity, religion, gender, social class, etc. So many of the gospel stories revolve around the humanly-privileged party being shown less worthy than the humanly-disadvantaged.
Those who are "in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" are those who can fully experience true equality. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made [us] free from the law of sin and death." (Rom 8:1-2) The "body of Christ" (Rom 12) is a beautiful picture of this synergistic coexistence in one organic whole, in which no human is "better than" another. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. For there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye all are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:27-28). "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond (doulos) or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor 12:13).
One of the most pervasive forms of outward human inequality in biblical times was slavery, or servanthood (neither the Hebrew ebed nor the Greek doulos distinguishes between the two). "The disciple is not above his master, nor the doulos above his lord" (Matt 10:24). But Jesus told his disciples, "Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your doulos, even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt 10:27-28). An important aspect of the gospel is that we are to assume the role of doulos to one another, and all become douloi of God. Paul says, "Art thou called being a doulos? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a doulos, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's doulos." (1 Cor 7:21-22).
Hebrew: shalom - from a root meaning to complete or make whole.
Greek: eirene - personal well-being, the absence of violent conflict, a fruit of the Spirit
Both words are used to denote a situation in which there is no war or other
violence, and no enemy present. More broadly they connote well-being and prosperity.
Peace is closely related to messianic or apocalyptic hopes - a future time of
peace in contrast to current strife. In keeping with early Friends' "realized
eschatology," they often write as if the "kingdom of God" is
already manifest. Peace prevails when people "walk in the way of the Lord."
It is a function or fruit of righteousness: being in right relationship with
God and one another.
Friends today like to quote an excerpt from a letter of early Friends to King Charles II of England:
"We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world. The Spirit of Christ by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move us unto it; and we certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us unto all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world ... Therefore we cannot learn war any more."
You can read the entire document at http://www.quaker.org/peaceweb/pdecla07.html. Its purpose seems mostly defensive, assuring the reader that Friends pose no threat of violence because they use no "outward weapons" and they are interested in the "kingdom of Christ" rather than the "kingdoms of this world." Friends' weapons are "spiritual not carnal," their way is the way of the Lord not the way of the world.
Bible readings: Ephesians 6:10-17 - Galatians 5:16-26 - Psalm 37
Handout from the actual session
Additional handout: Peace Testimony soundbites
Additional handout: Testimony of Equality