“Faith, Understanding and God’s Availability,” by Brown Lethem

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, April 19, 2020

Good Morning Friends,      

In Brooklyn Meeting where I attended for many years, we had a young man who quite often fell asleep in meeting for worship. which was one thing, but being stout, he also snored rather heavily.  As you can imagine, Friends felt some consternation.   

Those worshiping near him questioned, should we wake him with a gentle poke in the ribs, or should we incorporate the snores into our worship as we did the more gentle noises of the children, the coughs and the ticking of the clock.    Since his Faith brought him regularly to worship and into his profound experience of silence, perhaps our faith, that God might speak to him in dreams, would happen, as it often did with the prophets of the Old Testament.

Today in the visual world and with the mute button, we are not faced with that dilemma!

As in my previous messages I am most comfortable speaking out of my personal journey. It was George Fox who cautioned, Speak from experience.  I have spoken in meeting when moved, but briefly, I have never preached. My way in life, has been as artist, carpenter, art teacher… so what I have to say, is simply, personal testimony. And, if I ramble, forgive me. I hope it will come together.

These past weeks have been solitary.  After the first week of this enforced retreat, this Query came to me: God and Nature in Her silent knowing, have plunged us into the mystery of life … and death. Can we decipher it?   Is it leading us towards desired goals of ending wars, healing our environment and right sharing of the world’s resources?  And how might I be a part of that consciousness change? Wow! some query.

Faith must come before understanding.  This piece of meditational wisdom has gotten my attention more than once, most recently, I believe in Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.  The quote immediately rang a bell for me since at age 30 I had experienced a revelatory vision that put to rest the question of God’s presence in my life. That brief epiphany, an experience of pure faith, based on grace, and, in time of desperate need, was indelible.  At that moment GOD was the only reality.                       

That awareness stayed within me, as a lodestone but in seed form.  My active life of work and marriage … and kids took precedence.

 Despite my Christian upbringing, my resistance to the miraculous aspects of the New Testament Gospel persisted.  My university education and low-keyed protestant experience prepared me for the Prophet of Love, not the God incarnate. My intellect and understanding kept getting in the way of the extension of my Faith, however it did bring me to Quakers.

When I became a Friend, I embraced the mystery of God’s presence in all persons.  Something I had intuited often… Also, I embraced the truth of ongoing revelation. In both my life and in the world at large.

Larry Floyd was an older Quaker in Brooklyn Monthly Meeting who hired me to do some carpentry work on his house in the mid 80’s.  On a break one day we talked about our faith and my lack of understanding of the mysteries surrounding Christ.   At one point he said casually, you might think about the Christ Within.  Despite my long struggle after that with the misuse of Christ or Christianity in fundamentalist religion, he had planted a slow growing seed.  I have grown to accept that idea. It refused to abandon me. If as I believed as a Quaker, “There was that of God in every person, that could mean that in each of us there is a transubstantiated seed of Christ, That “still small voice,” “The Christ Within,” a beautiful and inspiring metaphor.

The human body and mind, in all its complexity is truly a miracle.  Craig made that point so well last week! The birth of my three children remains a miraculous experience.

AND … Though questions remain, the seed expands, as my own limitations become clear.  New levels of transformation surface.  We are a work in process.  The seed becomes a bridge.  Along that life bridge the seed of Christ’s essential role in my acceptance of God’s will emerges.  I believe God awaits our acceptance and resolution of the material world with the Spiritual world of God.  That process illuminating and incorporating our lives into the body of God must proceed in stages. The first stage available to human understanding is opening to the seed, The Christ Within.                     

Is this not the beautiful message of Jesus in the New Testament?

                        The journey of the seed,

                                    The seed within the Light of On-Going Revelation        

                         journeys to Union with God,

                                    Through The Christ WithIn. 

When I joined Durham Meeting, Sukie gave me a large print copy of the New Testament. I see that as symbolic of a new acceptance of love and opening to community, embodied in this Meeting.