“Way Opens When …. We Remember We Are the Water,”  by Mey Hasbrook

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 19, 2023

I’d like to begin with an invitation to open our hearts, to invite in Spirit who is always with us; and The Ancestors:  the ancestors who brought us this Quaker Meeting, the ancestors who we carry here through our flesh, and the ancestors we have chosen on our spiritual paths. May they add their Light to our time together.

                                                            ~ ~ ~

……Friends, I’m excited to share today’s message.  My prayer is that we embrace an invitation to listen to Spirit from within, moment-to-moment, so that we may be – that is, embody – Love Incarnate.  And by becoming Love Incarnate, that we hear the Waterways sustaining all life in this world, so that we may learn to listen to the Water of our own bodies sustaining us constantly.  From a new folk song to be shared later, this message is titled, “Way opens when… we remember we are the water.”

……Preparing today’s message, I held with care the Quaker saying “When Way Opens”.  I’ve often heard its use to conjure a thing that happens beyond us, like a divine intervention that parts the Red Sea; or a limiting use to mean an exception, like a once-in-a-generation passing of a comet.  Yet Way Opening is not by nature an external nor rare event. 

……Way Opening is Love, Love Incarnate – loving as we breathe and have being.  Way Opening is the Life-Giving Power of Spirit who lives within us and moves through us, a movement of the Waterways by which Rivers and Oceans continuously join together.  The ongoing motion of Love requires open-ended learning rather than a routine or a fixed route.   Quakers call this “continuous revelation”, and it looks like this:  being curious, asking questions, pausing, and accompanying one another. 

……In preparing today’s message, I’ve heard the former “When Way Opens” anew as “Way Opens When . . .”

  • Way Opens When… we love God entirely.  Early Friend Isaac Pennington calls this “giving over” everything and “giving over” continuously.
  • Way Opens When…  we love ourselves and, in extension, one another – because to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must first learn to love ourselves.
  • Way Opens When … God is Our Vision, as in our opening hymn – God being the Living Path of Love, the Jesus Way.  We need to see anew– that is, to learn to think anew – as boundless as oceans and as continuous as the rivers flowing into the oceans.

The Life-Giving Power of Spirit is constricted or expanded by how we think about ourselves, and how we relate to others and our universe.  This teaching – or rather Learning – of Way Opening is to honor being and thereby relationships.  Because Spirit lives and moves within and between us – breathing beings made of water. 

……At the same time, this learning teaches on equal footing how harm is caused when we sacrifice our being and relationships in a trade for “things and thoughts”.  Some names for Harm are Power-Over, Empire, and Oppression including Everyday Racism in which we all are immersed.  In this learning, “things and thoughts” are the stuff that make up our physical and social structures – venerated institutions, private property, and white privilege.  The leading for today’s message is not to define all of these names, but rather to call us back to the Jesus Way: Way Opening as being Love Incarnate.

                                                            ~  ~  ~

Listening for the movement of Spirit as Living Love and the movement of Water as that of Life –  both in continuous flow – let’s wade into this message from the Morecambe Bay, the largest estuary of Northwest England and largest mudflats of the UK.  Four rivers flow into the Irish Sea here.  The mixing of brackish waters nourishes abundant biodiversity.  I first walked the shoreline at low-tide with a few companions. We were taking a workshop at Swarthmoor Hall, a 16th-century building famed for use by Early Quakers especially Margaret Fell and George Fox. 

……The program was called Experiment with the Light, a Quaker spiritual practice.  The practice unfolds over a series of prompts to encourage sensory impressions especially visualization.  Our leaders clearly explained the process, framing our gathering within the setting of First Friends due to location.  The leaders’ plan was for the group to practice in the Great Hall, and then for us to create individual block prints in the modern building inspired by our experiences.

……The first night that we gathered in the Great Hall, I had a strong allergic reaction to the space.  The idea to open windows did not remedy my condition, which is no surprise; centuries of allergens in ancient walls are not easily “aired out”.  So, best-laid plans required re-vision.  The new plan brought practice sessions in the open outdoors, weather permitting; and, otherwise, encircling within the modern building including early evening.  Yet the later night worship sharing would still be held in the Great Hall.

……In this “story-ing” of what unfolded – this version of the story – the leaders’ shift of plan sounds reasonable, a “rational compromise”.  What’s missing in this story about “outcome” is how its shape came into being.  Late the first night after my allergic reaction, the leaders spoke with workshop participants in the Great Hall without me taking part.  I sat in an adjacent room hearing muffled voices through very thick doors.  The morning after, one of the leaders spoke with me for us to finalize a new plan.  Our gathering as a whole never discussed together what was unfolding.  Does that sound familiar, Friends?

……Gratefully, a few participants took interest in me beyond our formal program.  I learned from one person how she and a few others said aloud during that decisive talk with leaders how I ought to be included in the process.  A few felt that nothing of the program ought to held in the Great Hall if I would be excluded.  My low-tide walk along near the grassy side of the Bay’s mudflats was with these few companions. What a difference a few companions make!
                                                            ~  ~  ~

Friends, my leading to give today’s message arose months ago, originally to honor the Water on World Water Day, which is March 22nd.   The United Nations focus for 2023  is “about accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis,” continuing, “And because water affects us all, we need everyone to take action.”  This theme resonates my experiences in recent months, listening to the Waterways within this body right here.  Because there is a need for clean-up and urgent care throughout our wider world and right here with one another.

……In my journey to become Love Incarnate and to focus on loving neighbors, I’ve bumped into a lot of “things and thoughts” including our Beloved Community – right here and regionally.  I’ve witnessed harm done to others and experienced it done to myself:  harm as Power-Over, Empire, and Oppression of Everyday Racism – which for some is beyond recognition like swimming in a fishbowl, and which for me as a mixed-race person is daily painful in this wider world and hurts even more in Beloved Community.

……What God calls me to now is to love myself as I would love my neighbor, and to remind us that we should not confuse Love Incarnate with methods or monuments.  Friends, the Jesus Way is not our Meeting Houses, Handbooks, business agendas, nor current practices of Gospel Order.  The Life-Giving Power of Spirit arrives through our bodies and through our relationships, not our “thoughts and things.”  Power-Over is never a reasonable option, and Everyday Racism is never not a part of what we are dealing with in our relationships.
                                                            ~  ~  ~

As we ready for expectant waiting worship, Friends, I invite us to flow with the Waterways within us and across this Blue Ball – our Earth and only home.  Let us hear what God asks of us, moment to moment.  We will hear a folk song titled “Strangers” by Nickel Creek; that’s what’s inspired today’s title.  I invite a full-bodied listening that opens us up to the Life-Giving Power of Spirit through the music, through the instruments and voices.  What do you hear arise?  How do you and we become Love Incarnate?  How do we all come together to become Love Incarnate?  And in this Loving, how do we name harm and repair our relationships? 

……Don’t worry about following all of the lyrics.  The invitations is to enter in and hold the query, listening to our bodies.  If you need to get up and sway, go for it!  The lyrics I’m reading out are from the outro, which again has inspired today’s message title:

As we drone on
(As we drone on
Past the break of dawn)
Hit rock bottom
(Of that dry well)
And get to shoveling
(Fellow stranger)
We’re our own water
(And we’ve been too long)
Too long coming
To be gone

~ ~ ~ …… ~ ~
Afterword for publication.
Gratitude to Friends who accompanied me in preparing and giving this message, Andrew Grant (Mt. Toby MM) and Melissa Foster (Framingham MM); as well as “steadying” Friends from Three Rivers Worship Group.  Deep listening to three “wells” abundantly watered this message:

  • The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, as Jesus focused on how to be a neighbor;
  • Plenary            “Repairing Harmfully Designed Foundations” by Eppchez Yes (Green Street MM, Philadelphia YM) <https://youtu.be/qaCNvGLyDVg>;
  • and “Strangers” by the trio Nickel Creek <https://youtu.be/qjBbnwDJHOg>.
Please follow and like us:
Pin Share