Quaker Quotations

John Greenleaf Whittier: The Eternal Goodness

The other evening I was fortunate enough to join some of our local unprogrammed Quaker friends in a meeting for worship. I needed and really appreciated the worship in silence. It is nice to be a Quaker pastor, who can show up and worship in a space where I do not have to be the pastor, nor do I have to listen to others try to be the pastor, or pay attention to all the “programmed” elements that make up for worship. It other words, sometimes it’s just really nice to sit and be. The a friend stood up and recited some of this poem by Quaker poet John Greenlead Whitter. It is called Eternal Goodness and the lines bolded were what she shared. It’s still ringing within me.

O friends! with whom my feet have trod
The quiet aisles of prayer,
Glad witness to your zeal for God
And love of man I bear.

I trace your lines of argument;
Your logic linked and strong
I weigh as one who dreads dissent,
And fears a doubt as wrong.

But still my human hands are weak
To hold your iron creeds;
Against the words ye bid me speak
My heart within me pleads.

Who fathoms the Eternal Thought?
Who talks of scheme and plan?
The Lord is God! He needeth not
The poor device of man.

Featured Sermons The Biblical

Being Drawn Out: Rebel Midwives, Empires and Little Hebrew Babies (Exodus 1-2)

Here is my message from August 21, 2011 (slides can be found here).

_a birth story

How many of you have given birth or been present at a birth before?

[I told Story about L’s birth and the power (for me) of her “being drawn out” of the womb]

This morning we’re going to talk about an ancient birth story, a birth story not just about Moses but of the entire people of Israel. Exodus is a birth story about a lost and oppressed group of people called the “Hebrews” who are then rescued by YHWY, drawn out like a newborn child, and made into an alternative society.

One thing I learned this week while reading is that “Hebrew” actually meant back, in the pre-Exodus days. Back then it “referred to group of marginal people who have no social standing, own no land, and who endlessly disrupt ordered society.” (Brueg. 694). Today we might think of Gypsies, or illegal immigrants.

And in keeping with a birth story about people like the hebrews our heroes in the story this morning are unlikely heroes:

N. Gordon Cosby — “Without the breaking of the empire’s law by the midwives and by Moses’ parents [and the king’s daughter], what is perhaps the greatest deliverance in history would not have occurred. Thus begins one of the great chapters of [our Christian] tradition.”

And then this opening Exodus story closes not with the birth of the baby, but the adoption of a Hebrew baby by the king’s daughter. This is symbolized by her naming the little one, Moses, or Mosheh, whose names in ancient Hebrew means, as the text says here “to be drawn out of the water.” But Mosheh is an Egyptian word, unsurprisingly since the Pharaoh’s daughter was Egyptian, that means “is born.”

So being made a son of the Egyptian princess, this little Hebrew named moses is now the ______fill in the blank________? Moses the drawn out one is now a prince!

Sermons The Biblical

The Res. Community (Pt. 5): The Things We Carry

This is the final message I gave a few months back on the resurrection community from John 21.
This week we finish our series on the Resurrection Community by turning the last part of John 21 and the dialogue between Jesus and Peter:

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:15–23 NRSV)


  • What strikes you about the dialogue between Peter and Jesus?
  • Do you see connections between this dialogue and the rest of the Gospel of John?
  • What do you think it means to be the resurrection community based on this text?
Featured Sermons The Biblical The Political

Uniformity, Religio & Solidarity (Psalm 133)

This is the message I gave during our meeting for worship on Sunday August 13, 2011. 

_religion and Norway

On July 22, 2011, a 32-year-old man drove his car into the city centre of his hometown, Oslo Norway, near a number of government buildings. He was not out to file for a marriage license, or pay his bills, he was out to detonated a massive car bomb that ended up leaving eight people dead with many more injured in the explosion. He then took another car out to the island of [ooh-toya] Utoya where a youth camp meeting was being held by a group sponsored by Norway’s Labour Party which is represented by their current Prime Minister (similar to more liberal democratic party in the US). More than 600 of Norway’s youth meet on Utoya ever summer to learn about social democracy. We all know what happened next. Anders Behring Breivik arrived on the island in a police officers uniform and killed 68 people in cold blood. (Wiki) By all accounts this was a terrible massacre and each description of what happened is equally heart-wrentching and baffling. How could someone do something like this? Murder so many people so senselessly?

Blog Entries The Biblical

Reading the Bible for Transformation

George Fox once wrote:

I saw also how people read the Scriptures
without a right sense of them, and without
duly applying them to their own state. ( QuakerPsalms p. 13)

This past week I was at a group called GodPub and in conversation we started talking about the bible, what it is, and how we should approach it. I realized that there is a split between what we might think of as ‘uniformity’ and ‘solidarity’ readings of the bible. Consider that many groups use the bible as a means to justify their acts. If it is a tool for justification we often already have our pre-existing ideas in mind and then go to the bible to find how it fits with what we need it to fit.

But this is, at least in my opinion, an absolutely terrible way to read the bible. Our approach to the bible needs to be completely different. It needs to be not in searching for justification for prior ideas mind, but rather as a means of transformation of ourselves as Fox hints at above. Those stories in the bible that invite transformation (and not all the stories will do this all the time for everyone) will actually challenge those very things that we might otherwise try use the bible to justify. The bible is to be read  in a way that actually invites us to be changed, to see the world and humanity in a new light, to draw us closer to the Holy One and to humanity. It should help us to become better people. In a word it is a book meant for transformation.

Blog Entries

State of the Church: Camas Friends Church

I just posted our 2011 “State of the Church Report” on our meeting’s blog. You can read it here: