Walking with the Bible

By Carl Magruder, Adria Gulizia, and Colin Saxton. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 474), 2022. 47 pages. $7.50/pamphlet or eBook.

In March 2020, Peter Blood and Adria Gulizia were scheduled to present a Bible weekend at Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Deerfield, Mass. It was canceled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in its place, a series of online Bible sessions was launched under the care of the Beacon Hill Friends House. This pamphlet contains transcripts of the first three presentations in that series (all nine videos are available through the Beacon Hill website) following an introduction by Peter Blood.

As a boy, Carl Magruder regularly attended a Quaker meeting that valued waiting worship but did not prize the Bible. His scriptural awakening came in his 40s when he attended seminary, although the school seemed more interested in deconstructing than in opening the Bible for its students. Applying early Friends’ insights to his Scripture reading revealed Jesus as “a sacred, fully enlightened incarnation of God-mind.” In his studies of the gospels, he also became aware of Jesus as a trickster, “there to pull the rug out from under our assumptions, our banal morality, our sense of our own ego importance as self-referential sources of truth and indelibility.” In his section, Magruder asks himself what the Spirit tells him when he reads Psalm 22, a lamentation, and then applies the same question to a more recent lament by the Lakota Holy Man Black Elk. Readers are invited to consider their own expressions of grief and see how these prepare them to act in the world.

Adria Gulizia grew up attending a Black Baptist church, but reports that, “in spite of the fact that I was exposed to the Bible regularly as a child, it didn’t start to really land with me until I re-encountered it as a Friend.” She learned to “invite the Spirit to speak to me through the Bible” and “to read with the heart.” In her essay, she relates how the ancient words of Jeremiah taught her to live in our contemporary Babylon: how to follow Christ in hostile territory. The prophet didn’t advocate that Jewish refugees study the methods of subversion or plot their own way to freedom but fully inhabit lives in a strange land and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jer. 29:7). They were admonished to pray for their oppressors and live in peace with them until their time of exile was fulfilled and God carried them out of it. The desire this idea put in Gulizia’s heart was to seek God “and to be full of a love that can only come from God” in our own age of internal exile.

Colin Saxton didn’t grow up Quaker either but was led by the Inward Light to be a Friends’ pastor, yearly meeting superintendent, and general secretary of Friends United Meeting. His path to biblical literacy was not smooth. It took hard work to feel an affinity with the Scriptures: to hear their voices and apply them to his life and in his work among Friends. The Scriptures are “meant not only to form an individual’s life; they’re meant to shape the life of a people.” He regularly reminds himself that “[t]he Bible is more surprising and disruptive sometimes than I want it to be.” Like Magruder and Gulizia, he senses lament entwined with hope in these times. Flowing from that awareness, his essay explores how Psalm 18 

speaks to a sense of enoughness, of freedom, of well-being and integrity . . . it doesn’t promise that everything’s going to be okay. It simply promises that in the midst of difficulty . . . God opens up this space of Light we are able to step into and gives us room to walk in, room to be faithful in.

He closes by inviting the reader to consider the query: “As you listen to the voice of Christ, to Spirit, to God, what else rises within as you consider the words from the Psalm?”

How does a Quaker read the Bible? The authors of this pamphlet provide three illuminating and illuminated examples.

Paul Buckley coedited The Quaker Bible Reader and numerous articles and books on Quaker history, faith, and practice. He worships with Clear Creek Meeting in Richmond, Ind., and travels in the ministry urging spiritual renewal among Friends. His most recent book is Primitive Quakerism Revived: Living as Friends in the Twenty-First Century.

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