Was thee faithful?
I felt compelled to write back, both with my personal responses and to ask if it would be acceptable to him to republish his letter on my blog. He has graciously agreed.
I recommend you read it more than once. (I had to print it out.) I have found that his words grow more compelling each time I read them. Especially the idea that spiritual hospitality begins with welcoming the Holy Spirit into our own hearts and lives.
To Friends in and around Berkeley
As I have sat in the quiet since Darcy and I were with you last weekend, I have repeatedly had the sense that I was not free of the work I had come for. Through fatigue or ineptness, I believe that I failed to convey some part of what I felt I should offer. For this reason, and with a strong sense of love for, and connection with you, I feel to write some few words as a conclusion to our time together, about ministry and the Seed's victory.
Our mission, our calling, is to offer hospitality to the active life of the living God, and so all ministry is given to help each other in this great task.We encounter this life in the place of stillness, when the many voices calling and commanding us from self, society, and culture can be set into the background, and for a while, to our surprise, lose their command over our attention. In reaching to the Lord's lovely spirit, we can learn to feel our unity with others, and with the creation, and our love for them; and there we can be confident of receiving guidance about how to join in God's work of healing and reconciliation, creation and thanksgiving.
The precious, little, sweet springing of that life is what we need to practice keeping our eye on, step by step; or feeling for its gentle stirring, its cool and refreshing presence, its sharp, clear truth-telling, which, as William Penn tells us, shows us our illness, and provides at the same time the remedy. Friends have loved to call this low, beautiful thing of potential and power the Seed. The very image of a little seed, stirring into opportunity, arouses in us the desire to nurture new growth, cultivate the ground, remove the over-burden that prevents growth towards the Light that is the source of life.
We know that the life Christ leads us towards is one of simplicity, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit, but we should help each other remember that these should not be the objects of our longing — we know too well how one or another virtue can itself become an idol, a substitute for what we truly are seeking, which is the lovely Spirit our companion and shepherd. So we must encourage each other to recall this simplest, basic yearning, and to sharpen our eyes and ears for the least evidence of its activity and direction — and we must school ourselves to relish and savor the sense of Presence, if only for a little moment, before translating the guidance, the insight, the release, into action or words.
In this way, by recalling over and over our first invitation, to "come and see," and remembering that this first impulse of longing and interest is always precious, and a treasure in itself, we will grow to see how many evidences of this life there are, in so many things around us. The act of hospitality to the Spirit will become a growing joy. Then, as we encounter in the light fresh insight about where we are not yet free, where our compulsions and fears, resentments, wounds, and appetites bind us, we will be more able to look at these sorrowful things with directness, and then turn from them towards the light, which will help us so to live that the bindings lose their power. It is the resolute turning towards the Light, keeping our hands on the plow, that releases us, however hard it is; and in the choosing to turn is the Cross. As we experience this process, we come to see how it is the preface to joy.
There is something majestic in the realization that, to the extent we and others come to honor that simple freeing power, it brings victory over the things in us that make for destructions large and small. The victory of that Seed's growth comes as it comes to overtop and shadow out the cruel, the angry, the hasty or fearful in us; and we are empowered to speak to that sweet, free, cool thing in others, activating it, perhaps, so that they can taste just a little of its delight again, and long to know it better. So we can come to the place John Woolman spoke of, where to turn ourselves and all we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the chief business of our lives.
And "Seed" also means "descendent from the same fore-parents." We have been promised that Christ is our elder brother, the first-born of many brethren (as Paul has it). It is in living with this Seed, minding the Light that reveals it and guides us as we offer it hospitality, that we come to touch, and are enabled to accept, our child-hood of God, and our kinship with Christ, who as Seed and Light is there at work in us, before we even know how to name the power that is searching and soothing us, calling and comforting.
We minister truly, we truly serve, when we wait to feel that life, and the love that we have come to feel for it, when we speak or act. Our ministry may take the form of telling what has been done for us by that power, or what others have experienced; or it may take the form of guidance or warning about the path of growth and inward hospitality — true ministry will take as many forms as the needs are, and as the messengers are. But let us help each other to practice whatever helps come to that place of Presence and companionship, to form and hold a clear and intimate sense of that precious Seed, the Life of God coming to birth and growth in ourselves and all. More than that, let us never be too proud, or knowing, or weary, to stop and give thanks for that simple, sweet Presence, the foundation and goal of our soul's life.
In Christian love your friend,
"He is no true minister of Jesus Christ, but [he] who is led forth by His Spirit; and such we rejoice to hear declaring the things of God. Otherwise, upon meeting, we sit silent in the tongue, yet having a heart full of praises, where we worship God in Spirit and truth, who makes our bodies temples for the same Spirit, not speaking by hearsay and human arts, but lay all that down. When earthy thoughts, earthy words and earthy works are all laid aside and the temple within us is ready, the light of Christ shining in it, and the Lord with a further manifestation of His love enters it by His eternal power, [there]upon we can truly say that the Lord's presence is amongst us, feeding His flock and making us feel the power of an endless life."William Britton, 1660, "Silent meetings a wonder to the world."
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