The world is not my home

I gave ministry this week towards the end of worship. It had been a popcorn meeting, with insufficient space between political rants about the debt ceiling. But I was called to stand, to add one more voice to the mix before we rose.

I was thinking about home as meeting for worship began. Specifically, I was thinking about how I feel like an outsider in most places in my life. There are a couple of songs that reference the idea that home is something that comes after that rose up for me, one being a Sarah Jarosz cover of a Tom Waits tune, "Come on up to the house", which has the line: "The world is not my home, I'm just passing though". Another was Amazing Grace, with the stanza:
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
have I already come.
'Twas Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace shall lead me home.
It's not that uncommon to think about home as being elsewhere, and for me, that sense of home is located pretty firmly in the New Creation. When I was recounting my ministry last night to a friend who had missed Meeting on Sunday, but had heard that I had spoken and asked me about it, I needed to clarify what I meant by the New Creation. What I'm referencing here is a passage from Fox's journal:
Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new; and all the creation gave unto me another smell than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness; being renewed into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me; and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue.

Fox had this experience of the paradise of God, of being taken up into the Garden of Eden as it was before the fall. My sense of this is that this is the Kingdom of Heaven and that we can access the Kingdom, through Grace, here on Earth.

My message continued, that as I was sitting in the silence, I was thinking about how I find that those times when I have been permitted to glimpse this paradise, this sense of rightness and pureness are when I have been submissive and obedient to the will of God.

So I did the only thing I could think of. I asked God to give me something to do and almost immediately, it was made clear to me that a small task that was already on my to-do list was a Thing I Needed To Do. Knowing that I had a small, manageable, actionable Thing, as well as knowing that God was listening to me in my time of need made me feel incredible grateful for His Love, for His Presence in my life.

Elizabeth Bathurst


What can be forgiven.

I just re-read several old blog posts and was impressed. So, I am publishing something I wrote last July but never posted.

A good F/friend of mine asked me to join the Peace and Social Order committee in the area. The two big meetings in the area are combining forces and it seemed that it would be right to have me sit in as an attender of Old Town. It was interesting to be sitting in a room with people form both area meetings. We had a good discussion of what our purpose is and what we can try to accomplish. The query was, "with limited resources both financial and human, how much can we contribute to issues of social justice and peace."

I, of course, got chastised for bringing in my coffee. Apparently, there is a strict no liquids above ground rule. I had thought of this as I walked into the Meetinghouse, but decided a 9am meeting called for coffee. I know I should respect the cultural differences and mores within different Meetings. However, it is rules like this that visitors won't know. It is also one of those rules I am willing to break. We have liquids all over the Meetinghouse we meeting in, which, is considerable older. Other meetings I have attended do not have such a strict policy. How was I supposed to know? Perhaps, I should have erred on the side of polite discretion and not brought the coffee, but really, is that the worst offense that happens in most meetings--contra-band liquids in off-limits places? Not human ego? Not denying the use of Christ language for those that relate to the Spirit that way? Lack of understanding of Quaker process? Not petty disagreements? Not the passive aggressive way too many Quakers deal with just about everything? General unfriendliness? Resting on our laurels? The loss of younger Quakers and the indifference to it? Okay, BAD Quaker you dared to bring coffee to the Meetinghouse. Shame.

I know what I am about to write will sound very egotistical. However, God keeps whispering it to me. I need to prepare myself. One day, I will be a weighty Friend, an Elder. I will be that person with whom the Spirit of God fills; one who is clothed in Christ. I am far from that now. I am in the temptation and wresting with my day of visitation stage. Yet, things are revealed to me. I believe that I have had my baptism by fire and am completing my inward birth--to be born-again in Christ. It is through his grace that yields my faith, brings humility before the Lord and creation and brings about a reconciliation between me and God, that I may live by faith in his grace.

I am more and more convinced that in our age of individuality we are forgetting the importance of corporal worship. Worship as a corporate living faith, a communion with the Spirit and will those present in the living body of Christ. I know that this may sound incongruent with what I started writing about, however, it is how we live our lives. Until, we can forgive the small and look beyond certain things we cannot heal ourselves or our Quaker communities. If I was where I had been two years ago, the chastising by a Friend about coffee at the Meetinghouse would have made me leave and not seek out Friends for another several months/years. As things stand now, I do go to Meeting on a regular basis. I feel that despite this small transgression it doesn't make me less of a Friend or less welcome in the larger community of Quakers. I know I should respect the culture of a Meeting, but at the same time, it is important to remember the small transgressions can be forgiven…


Well, the world hasn't ended, but it's gonna

Today is the day that some folks were predicting that the Rapture would happen. I think it was supposed to have happened a couple of hours ago, and, well, I'm still here.

Jesus, when talking about the second coming in the book of Matthew said that we will not be able to predict the timing, but that we would know from the wars (check), earthquakes (check), famines (check). The end times will be filled with distress "unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-- and never to be equaled again." From that point of view, I don't think we're there.

But Fox did. When he was talking about how Christ has come to teach His people Himself? He's talking about the Second Coming. That's right, party people, George Fox was a millenialist. Just like Franklin Graham and Jack Van Impe.

There's a lot of Bible stuff to unpack when it comes to the Day of the Lord, or Judgement Day. There's Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and the book of Revelation and all sorts of stuff scattered about the rest of the new testament. When it comes right down to it, I really don't know a whole lot about it. I don't know if the Kingdom of Heaven is on Earth, or in our hearts, or what. And to me, it doesn't really matter. I don't need to be a theologian or have a really strong command of the Bible to know that God is Loving and Just. I don't need to be able to tell if the Battle of Armageddon and the Apocolypse are the same thing or not. I know what that still small voice sounds like and I know that I need to be faithful to it and there's really very little else I need.

All that being said, however, if you're reading this and the Rapture HAS happened, would you check on my cats please? I'm too cheap to sign up with eternal-earthbound-pets.com or aftertherapturepetcare.com. Malcolm might be able to fend for himself, but Nigel gets lost in the stairwell sometimes, so I don't have high hopes for him.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Rapture: The Kingdom of God

Instead of posting this on the 21st as Elizabeth Bathhurst and I had planned it is a day late. I was busy getting ready for my party (dressing as the Whore of Babylon and being drunk). But I hope you will enjoy it anyway despite the fact I am a Class A Sinner.

I first heard about Family Radio’s May 21st predictions for Judgment day at a bar. I had not yet seen the billboards, bus signs, or internet buzz. A week later at the same bar I was talking with some friends when it was decided that I should have a “Rapture Party” and Housewarming. When I sent out the invite I invited people to dress as something out of the book of Revelations. My friends complained, “You aren’t going to make me read the Bible are you?” “What are you going as?”

I have been collecting information on the May 21st doomsday. I find it all very amusing. From pet care sites, (animals not having souls and all, which if you have met my cats I am pretty sure that is a lie), to wondering what it is to believe something so fervently. After reading more about what those who believe today is doomsday believe will happen, I have decided that there are some things I need to consider:

1. If the Pacific Rim is where it is starting, I need to check the news about 2 am EST—just to be sure.

2. What would the next few months until Sept 21st be like—do I have to go to work?

3. Should I start my party early so we can watch the good people getting raptured and thus know which houses to visit—one of the advantages of living on the edge of a prosperous neighborhood.

The realization that these are my main concerns about the rapture led me to believe that maybe I should not go to my party as “the Beast” but rather the “Whore of Babylon” which is probably a better fit anyway. This is not to say that I truly consider myself a horrible person, just that I am too skeptical to be one of the believers that gets to go to heaven. While I have come to terms with being convinced in Quaker terms, I have a real problem with believing that Jesus Christ is my personal savior. It is between God and I, no one can save me but me through my belief in God.

Like early Friends I believe the Second Coming is now. All we need to do is work towards building the Kingdom of God here on Earth, why wait for just desserts when we can build something amazing here and now? Why worry about heaven or hell, intellectual worries, when we can be building something beautiful and amazing right now with the life we have been given?

Thus, in the context of believers of the May 21st doomsday, righteous Believers, and most Christians, I guess I am just the Whore of Babylon with my cynical views, personal interpretations of Christianity, and cup of abominations and fornication. But really, I am a reluctant and radical Christian.


Causes, Leadings and Membership

This week, for the Somerville Worship Group that I organize, I'm planning to make the folks who show up talk about their concerns and leadings. We as Friends tend to have causes and I want to make folks examine the language we use surrounding our causes.

For instance, I'm doing the Project Bread Walk for Hunger this weekend. It's a twenty mile walk supporting organizations that are fighting hunger in Massachusetts. I've raised a little over $500. This is something that I feel strongly enough to do, but I wouldn't consider it a leading. My urge to help the poor, in this instance, comes from me. I feel like this is something that I can do to support a good cause and so I'm doing it. It's not interfering with the things that God is asking me to do.

Being involved in my local Meeting, is however, something that God expects of me. Sometimes, like with the Somerville Worship Group, I feel perfectly at ease with. I was asked to cocordinate the group and while I worried a little about the amount of time it might take, I felt that familiar sense of rightness as I agreed. It has been a experience, so far, that is feeding me.

It's good that the Worship Group is feeding me, because some of the other things that I've taken on with the larger Meeting are challenging to me. I'm less sullen about being involved in the Meeting at this point, but I still feel as though being present in all the ways that I am present with this Meeting, (in worship, in committee meetings, etc) is difficult.

You see, my involvement with Friends Meeting at Cambridge is an obligation. Not in the sense that I feel that my spiritual life needs the grounding of regular attendance at Meeting for Worship, although I do. My obligation to THIS particular meeting, one that skews much farther to the liberal side of Friends that I am comfortable with, comes from a clear and distinct leading to minister to and be present with this community.

I've been feeling some niggling about where I hold membership and I feel really uncomfortable about it. I want to retain my memebership in my home Meeting, mostly because of its Conservative affiliation. I feel somewhat convicted that my hesitence to transfer my membership is coming from a place of pride in my Conservative roots. But the truth is, I still feel like an outsider at FMC. I may be doing something at the Meetinghouse about twice a week right now, but I still don't feel like a part of that community. I'm not sure exactly what would. But I know that if this niggling feeling about my membership presists, I'll move forward with the transfer, regardless of my pride and my feeling of disconnection, because what He wants is so much more important than what I want.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Earthquakes and Sparrows

As my Facebook wall lights up with updates about the earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunamis across the Pacific, I feel called to prayer. I am praying for the friends of friends who have not been heard from yet. I am praying for the people of Japan and for all the people who have been affected by natural disasters large and small in recent months.

I'm thinking about the Quaker discussion group I'm going to lead this evening and what sort of Bible readings I'm going to bring to them. As I reread those sections in the gospels where Jesus is talking about how God looks after the birds and how we're worth more than birds. I'm looking at different passages and translations and my mind is captivated with the sort of duality of the message: we are not to worry about feeding, clothing, and housing ourselves, because it is the state of our souls that is important, yet we are to be concerned with feeding, clothing and housing the poor.

I am against war, torture and the death penalty. I believe that each life is precious and irreplaceable. I'm not totally convinced that there is an afterlife and I'm pretty sure if there is that there isn't an eternal firey pit of hell to be avoided. All that being said, I think that our lives are but a brief moment in the life of God and that the treasures of heaven and the Kingdom of God are so much more valuable than your life on earth, or mine.

Fortunately, I believe that there are many ways to get right with God and access the Kingdom and that those paths are designed and lit by a Guide that is too holy for any human mind to fully comphrehend. I am comforted by the idea that God loves us, loves the true, important parts of us, ie, our souls, and while our bodies and buildings may perish, our souls are held in his hands like the sparrows Christ spoke of to the disiples when he walked among us in a fragile body like ours.

Elizabeth Bathurst