The following is based upon vocal ministry given in a Philadelphia meeting on 11/5/17.
There is a story about Jesus that takes place after he’d been ministering for a while. He was at home, visiting with his brothers shortly before a festival was to occur in Jerusalem. His brothers were planning to go to the festival, but Jesus was not planning to go with them. The brothers spoke to Jesus, perhaps to chastise him for not going, or perhaps to mock him. They said to Jesus, if you have a message for the people, why don’t you go to the festival and give it? No one who wants to be known acts in secret. Show yourself to the world. Jesus responds by saying: “My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready”(Jn. 7:6).
What Jesus is saying here is that he must wait for guidance before he acts; he doesn’t act on his own power and volition, as do his brothers, but he waits until he’s been given understanding from God for what he is to do, and when he is to do it. It is a new way to be, to regulate one’s life. And this is the content of Jesus’s ministry: there’s something new.
When I come to meeting, I arrive early and, a little while later, listen as people begin to enter the meeting room and settle in. I like to hear all the sounds: the coughing, the sniffling, the shuffling of feet. These are cozy human sounds; there’s a warmth in hearing them, like sitting in front of a fire. And then there are the messages: people’s opinions and ideas. People have always had opinions and ideas. They, too, are human, a natural part of us. Some may be good ideas and some not; some may be productive and others destructive; some dutiful and others careless; some creative and others unimaginative, but whatever their qualities, they are all ideas. They come with our being human, along with all the other capacities that have been given to us by our Creator.
When Jesus spoke about his time being “not yet come, but his brothers’ time being always ready,” he was making a distinction between the new nature and power he’d been given by God–an inspired, divine nature–and the old human nature in which we are confined to knowing and receiving only human ideas and opinions.
To inform of, to manifest, and to witness to this new way of being–partaking of the divine nature–was the purpose of Jesus’s ministry; it is the new way given by God.
Thanks Pat, I appreciated what you said here.
Thanks, Allistair. As time passes, more and more Quakers are noticing and admitting that their meetings lack depth and life. Some have written about needing a new idea to restore Quakerism, something more pertinent to present-day needs. The world operates by shuttling one novelty after another before us in order to entice, captivate, and engage. But the faith of early Quakers is on an entirely different plane, the divine nature supplanting all human propensities. How long will Quakers pursue an unfit projection to nowhere? How long will Quakers reject the core wisdom of our faith, as it was known and taught by gospel ministers, and is ever ready to be found within. It's an old problem, with an older, eternal solution.
I am always struck by the relevance of the latter part of Isaiah 54 and the early portion of 55. Isaiah 54 speaks of "all your sons will be taught by the Lord" and this we have seen in the early Quakers. Chapter 55 then gets to our day:
The early Quakers became sons of God in that they received the spirit of Christ (Jn.1:12), which cast out all other spirits, as Christ's spirit is more powerful than any other spirit. I think of the spirit of Cain who became murderous toward his brother when his gift was not accepted, as his brother's gift was, or Korah who accused and rebelled. It is all too common for us to capitulate to these other spirits and behave in ways similar to these figures in the O.T., but the Lord is denied in doing so and the wrong spirit received. The Lord whose spirit is more powerful can overcome all lesser powers, and we also, through His love alone. It is this knowledge that we, as gospel ministers, are to exemplify and teach.
Man makes it very complicated, but it is really very simple. God will come and dwell in us, in the New Covenant Temple, and make us sons of God, only if we allow Him to cleanse it first. We cannot have 'bits of Him'. It is all or nothing - He will not share His dwelling with lesser gods.
If we believe that we cannot stop sinning or in other words, have areas where we are not in His holy will, then we will not and will not be clean, but if we accept the need of the cleansing and the need for the fire to fall, and put all of our trust in Christ as absolute Lord and Saviour, and see ourselves for what we are - weak and needy, we are ready to accept what the early Quakers had and what is missing today - the full baptism.