Oregon Caves: https://www.nps.gov/orca/index.htm
Caroline Stephen, Quaker Strongholds,Philadelphia, 1890.
Journal of George Fox, http://remembered-gate.net/sing-and-rejoice-early-quaker-bible-reading-for-feb-22/
“Sing and rejoice [Zech 2:10], ye children of the day and of the light [1 Th 5:5]; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt [Exo 10:21f]. And truth doth flourish as the rose [Isa 35:1], and the lilies do grow among the thorns [Song 2:2], and the plants atop of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.
And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the seed Christ is over all, and doth reign. And so be of good faith and valiant for the truth [Jer 9:3]: for the truth can live in the jails. And fear not the loss of the fleece, for it will grow again; and follow the lamb, if it be under the beast's horns, or under the beast's heels; for the lamb shall have the victory [Rev 17:14] over them all.
And so all live in the seed Christ [Gal 3:16], your way [John 14:6], that never fell [1 Pet 2:22]; and you do see over all the ways of Adam's and Eve's sons and daughters in the fall. And in the seed Christ, your way, you have life and peace; and there you do see over all the ways of Adam in the fall, in which there is no peace. So in the seed Christ stand and dwell, in whom you have life and peace; the life that was with the Father before the world began.” George Fox, Epistle
We have a choice – children of the day or children of the night. Children of darkness or children of light. God calls us, and our faith tradition as Christ followers, and as members of the Religious Society of Friends - to the Day and to the Light.
The natural call on each one of our lives is to darkness, or so it seems. “Nestled deep inside the Siskiyou Mountains, the caves formed as rainwater from the ancient forest above dissolved the surrounding marble and created a special marble cave system.” This is how the National Park System describes the Oregon Caves – one of the highlights of tourism in Southern Oregon. If you’ve ever toured these deep and cool caverns, you know just how dark darkness can be. Especially when they turn off all the electric lights that have been placed along the pathways. You cannot see anything – not a thing. The darkness is thick – just as George Fox described it… “this thick night of darkness that may be felt”. When one goes ‘spelunking’ or exploring a cave, you can be certain you will find darkness.
Are you willing to go spelunking with me, friends? Are you brave enough, in the darkness of this world, to be a spelunker? The world needs spelunkers, who bring light into very dark places.
The Oregon Caves and the darkness they hold were formed in a natural, organic way as water, over many years of time, dissolved stone. There are many who feel that humankind is naturally set in darkness – that humanity, created in companionship with God, was thrown out of that garden of Light and Life into the darkness and void of relationship with the Light.
No, they weren’t. We weren’t. I don’t believe that. I believe that humankind was created in light. In love. In God’s intention for a loving, meaningful companionship with his creation. The story of Adam’s fall has an important piece that is difficult to deal with, and many have tried to explain it. I can’t explain it all. What I will say is that humankind chose darkness.
Eden was God’s garden. Creation was God’s home. Humankind were God’s companions at home with God. Were they tempted? Were they curious? Were they dissatisfied? God had given them everything, everything they would ever need. They wanted what they could not have – what only God held for Godself. Knowledge. Not understanding or the love of learning or knowing more… but specifically the knowing of good and evil. The most good and the most evil. They bit on that one… and humankind has seen the heights and depths of goodness and evil ever since… or have we? Not only good and evil was opened to humankind, but the Lord God said, “…Now, man might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…” Someone, with the knowledge of good and evil who could live forever. Not God. Not good.
Genesis 3:23 “Therefore the Lord God sent man forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”
I personally don’t believe that we were thrown into darkness, naturally set in darkness, abandoned in darkness. A careful reading of Genesis 3 shows us something remarkable…
Two verses before God sends humanity out of the garden, once he has spoken with his creation and knows that they have chosen their own way – God does something incredible… God bends down and stitches clothing for them… Of course God is angry and disappointed with his beloved companions, but he doesn’t send them away without providing for them – without compassion for them. God does not send humanity out of the garden without caring for their survival. And you don’t put a bright, flaming sword at the entrance if you don’t want people to find their way back to the Garden!
George Fox: “Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new; and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me; and it was shewed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue. And I was at a stand in my mind whether I should practice physic for the good of mankind, seeing the nature and virtues of the creatures were so opened to me by the Lord. But I was immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam's in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus that should never fall. ...Great things did the Lord lead me into, and wonderful depths were opened unto me beyond what can by words be declared; but as people come into subjection to the Spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not, cannot, will not, overcome it.” I believe, Quakers believe, that God in Christ, the Light of the World, is stronger than any darkness. It is our choice to seek the Light, and to live in that Light. The easiest place to find the light is in the dark. It’s most obvious there. The smallest light is SO BRIGHT in the darkness of a cave! So if you’re dealing with darkness in your own life – look for God in the darkness. Instead of concentrating on the darkness, look for the Light of God and what God is doing in that darkness.
Caroline Stephen wrote in her book “Quaker Strongholds” : … the Early Friends were accustomed to ask whether they did not sometimes feel something within them that showed them their sins; and to assure them that this same power, which made manifest, and therefore was truly light, would also, if yielded to, lead them out of sin. This assurance, that the light which revealed was also the power which would heal sin was George Fox’s gospel. The power itself was described by him in many ways. Christ within, the hope of glory; the light, life, Spirit, and grace of Christ; the seed, the new birth, the power of God unto salvation, and many other such expressions… To “turn people to the light within,” to “direct them to Christ, their free Teacher,” was his daily business.”
Early Quakers used the light to search the darkness all the time – starting with themselves. They welcomed the revealing Light, Life and Grace of Christ in their own souls to instruct them, and to lead them out of darkness, even as they worked to lead the world in the same way. And so, my companions in spelunking, I ask you to join me – not by strapping on a head lamp, but by opening your hearts and souls to the force of Christ’s Light Within, illuminating and cleansing the darkness in our own lives, as we work to remind our dark world of this same cleansing, healing light.