Arthur Berk is a member of Rockingham Monthly Meeting of Friends, and a frequent contributor to this site.
Hearing the Word
They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."
They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." As he spoke thus, many believed in him. John 8:25-30
As the apostle proclaimed, this Jesus is at the right hand of God enlightening all who may not only listen but, most importantly obey when the Lord speaks. Although he may not be with us physically, Jesus is always present to enunciate God's Truth Jesus is the word of the Lord who communicates His and our Father's commands.
He informed His first apostles, His disciples who had human contact with Him, that he needed to depart physically from His beloved. But Jesus declared much to His disciples astonishment that He would not only be present for them but for humankind. They, in turn needed to listen to His admonishments as we must do in this day and age, particularly in our meetings for worship.
To hear from our Lord, we must gather in His Spirit and receive His admonitions. Jesus will speak and we will feel His presence as followers of His Word heard Him in their own languages, first at Pentecost and then in early Friends gatherings as well as among Conservative Friends who were anticipating the potency of God's Word.
Early on in Friends History George Fox as well as other first generation Friends sought the word of God. Of course since they were cognizant of Christian history and well acquainted in scriptural truth, these Friends understood that Jesus needed to proclaim God's everlasting Truth inwardly, they waited for God's Word to reveal His Son's presence in them and among them. These Friends prepared themselves to listen to that small voice within to become Jesus' disciples.
As a result, God spoke to George Fox inwardly declaring that there is one, Christ Jesus that would and did speak to his condition. Then George Fox realized that his heart was filled with great joy. This seeker found the Lord and devoted his life gathering a people who were willing to abide in the word.
Our glorious word revealed to George Fox and later to Christian brethren that He is our prophet in our midst who preaches righteousness, our Shepherd who guides us in goodness, our priest who overcomes our sinful nature, and our King who rules with an iron hand. Of course Fox and His fellow believers were cognizant of other functions of the Word which speak to us. And may we be recipients of those functions and proclaim them when we feel gathered.
Because early Friends were faithful, they were cognizant that the word of the Lord needed to be proclaimed to all people, they traveled in the ministry to establish meetings in the Lord's power to proclaim His everlasting presence. That is why early Friends traveled to many distant lands to establish meetings where our loving God revealed His truths. In obeying Jesus, Friends waited on the Lord in silence to hear Him.
That is why in responding to Jesus, they refused to participate in violent conflicts even though they were imprisoned. These Friends because the Word spoke to them understood that Jesus proclaimed that they needed to love each other in the love that Christ exhibits the Word overcomes our resistance when we abide in the Lord's will.
If we hear the Word, we would understand that it is Jesus who marries us and expects his hearers to recognize the love He provides. In that love our Lord expects men and women to love one another in His holy presence. Marriage was an important aspect in God's rule and is in this day and age, if we wish to be faithful.
God does encourage us to abide in the Word. Small wonder we need to worship as a community of Friends willing to listen and obey. Our Lord has sent us to visit each other to encourage us to care for each other's spiritual and material welfare. That is why He queries us on our willingness to abide in God's word. To facilitate this important work, God has anointed elders to encourage us.
Wonderful ministers have and still do influence Christians to pray together. In our prayers, we feel the Lord's encouragement to recognize our shortcomings. Once that happens, the Lord enables us to be helpmates in His Kingdom.
Because we experience the presence of the Word, the Lord expects us to encourage individuals to enter the Kingdom and becomes servants of Christ. Small wonder we have the wonderful opportunity of visiting Friends no matter where they live for the purpose of encouraging them to meet in the Word's presence. It is joyful to hear that we are encouraging all God's children to wait on the Lord and recognize our need for the Lord's presence. May we joyfully welcome that presence in our midst.
Reflections on My Eighty-Fifth Birthday
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the apostle writes "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his son whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:1-3)
As a Friend on my 85th birthday, I am called to affirm that Jesus is our prophetic savior who anoints us in His love and power, to ascertain this divine love we must open ourself to His radiant light that overcomes our darkness, our reluctance to obey.
God has given His beloved Son the opportunity to communicate with humans. . .Yet we need to pray to Jesus for the everlasting love which enable us to receive Christ's benevolence.
But I need to recognize the times that Jesus is speaking to me as well as my fellow worshipers. That is why I do pray consistently for God's admonishments. Friends in listening to our heavenly Father, we need to be patient for our Lord to understand and relate to our concerns. Jesus does eliminate our doubts in His power. As a result more often than not when we become prayerful Jesus extends His knowledge to those who wait on Him.
Of course there have been times in my life that I felt impatient as well as obdurate in my relationship with God. I wanted the Lord to respond instantly to my needs. In other words, I expected God to respond instantly. Fortunately I learned that I needed to wait for the love that only our Lord provides. Then I was able to submit to His righteousness and realize that my reticence was contrary to Jesus' everlasting love.
To welcome that all embracing caring, I look forward to waiting on the Lord with my fellow believers to be able to feel God's love in the company of my Christian brethren. In that way, I am a member of the gathered community that aspires to receive God's communion in our souls.
No wonder we are often encouraged to minister to other humans to welcome God's love in their souls. God loves His people and desires that live peacefully with their fellow beings. In Jesus' power we learn inwardly to love one another to such an extent that we are able to "turn the other cheek".
Our gracious Lord, in addition, has in Jesus' light sent us the scriptures of Truth that provide guidance. Let us remember though that the same Lord who loves us has sent the Biblical writings to individuals with whom He has communicated. They were enlightened with Christ's wisdom as well as understanding. I am, thus, thankful to the Lord for the Truths revealed by the Biblical writers. Yes, they were enlightened by the Lord in the manner He reveals Truth to us.
Early Friends, because they were willing to hear as well as obey the Lord, expressed great love for our creator. George Fox heard the true voice proclaiming "that there is one, Christ Jesus who spoke to his condition." That same voice, our beloved Lord, is speaking to us in our time. We need to hear.
Friends, let us wait on the Lord together to celebrate His presence.
Responding to Matthew 25:31-46
It is imperative to know that Jesus is our Savior and functions within us. We should realize Jesus speaks to us. What Jesus is proclaiming is that His presence is within us if and when we become obedient.
Small wonder when Jesus is saying when thee is feeding a hungry individual, thee is providing food for our Savior. Those providers were instructed by the Lord because they heard Jesus speaking in their souls. That is why we need to wait on God for direction and inspiration by our obedience, we are being faithful.
Likewise, when we can provide housing for the homeless, that is if we are listening, and following God's directions. Our Lord loves all of us to such an extent that He strives to communicate His desires to all people, including those of us who resist His entreaties. As the Gospel writer John proclaims "the true light that is coming into the world." In that light we learn that when we are able to secure shelter for a needy person, we are sheltering our Lord.
In this parable, Jesus further exhorts His followers on the need to visit those incarcerated, which ministry Friends, during our early history, were actively engaged. Let us remember that early Friends, such as George Fox as well as William Penn were imprisoned for merely preaching the gospel. God motivated Quakers who were not incarcerated to visit their brethren.
When we participate in the ministry to the imprisoned, we are not just visiting individuals, we are expressing love to the Lord.
Jesus is reminding us that He is present in those who suffer deprivation. Therefore when we extend help to those suffering, we are extending our love to the Lord. We are not merely ministering to other humans but we are embracing God's Kingdom. We will be in Jesus' life.
But in extending this help, we need to pray to the Lord to discern if we are following Him. Then we would be empowered to perform His tasks. Let us live in the Lord.
Aspects of Meeting for Worship
Fortunately our God is a God of peace, caring, prophecy as well as kindness. Small wonder Jesus does not limit these qualities to a limited amount of people. Rather our Lord shares these visions with all people, provided that they are willing to listen in addition to obeying the Lord wherever He ministers.
Often, however, many of us enter worship with our individual concerns that do not speak to the concerns of our Creator. Thus God needs to silence our humanistic individual goals, silencing us by encouraging us to wait for Christ's directions. Sometimes the Lord requires us to wait on Him for much of the worship period to eliminate our personal agenda.
Often we can become so anxious to communicate the Lord's ministry that we proclaim a message that God did not send. We may feel that we are sincere on these occasions and even shout in great joy. But the Lord has the same ministry for all who are waiting on Him for keen instruction as well as everlasting love.
To be in unity with Christ, Conservative Friends wait in worship striving to feel the qualities that Jesus possesses and transfers to His hearers. Then and only then do we understand that we are in the Lord's power. We are thus able to communicate Christ's love to all who are willing to listen.
Sometimes God may not anoint us to render ministry that is enthralling. And when that happens those who may be anxious to minister in the Lord should keep in the power of obedience and remain vocally silent for they are ministering in the Lord's domain. They are inwardly demonstrating divine love.
But when we hear God's concerns, after worship we can share Jesus' love, all aspects of that love, with other members of our community. Because God communicated with our Christian Friends inwardly and outwardly, they will discern our concerns. They as well as we were able to hear because we were in true obedience.
Let us pray so we are able to listen to the Lord and follow His direction in His everlasting love.