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Building Bridges: Four Stories from the Bible

By Elizabeth O’Sullivan. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (number 458), 2019. 30 pages. $7/pamphlet or eBook.

In Building Bridges: Four Stories from the Bible, Elizabeth O’Sullivan highlights biblical stories that have particular relevance today. She focuses on stories about overcoming barriers, either between people or between people and God. Walking cheerfully over the earth answering that of God in everyone, as George Fox called Friends to do, requires boundary crossing and bridge building. O’Sullivan has selected four stories from the Bible (Moses leading the people to the Promised Land, Isaiah being called as a prophet, Jonah ministering to the people of Nineveh, and the woman with an issue of blood seeking healing from Jesus) to illustrate that those of us crossing boundaries today are doing important work, and we are in good spiritual company as we do it.

O’Sullivan, recognizing that the Bible has been used to justify some of humanity’s worst behaviors, stresses that God is the “Champion of Peace, who has no darkness at all” and uses these four stories to offer examples of God as love. She sees in the story of Moses the message that “There is still hope. There is still a chance.” She shares her perspective that, after being called as a prophet, “Isaiah lived the rest of his life serving as a source of all love,” and invites her readers to consider what experiences of their own can spark the fires of their lives. She lifts up how Jonah turned to God to transform hopelessness into usefulness as a vessel for love and mercy. O’Sullivan sees in the story of the woman with the issue of blood that we all deserve to believe in ourselves. She invites us to allow these stories to light up our own journeys.

The first discussion question at the end of the pamphlet begins: “What role do Bible stories play in your spiritual life?” Although my Quaker meetings have never focused on biblical stories, I developed an appreciation for their messages during my years working at a Catholic school. This pamphlet reminded me of the power that biblical stories hold. O’Sullivan writes: “I want to offer a key that opens the Bible to me and allows it to speak powerfully into my life. The key is love.” This pamphlet has the potential to catalyze reflection and inspiration for its readers as they discover love and light through the Bible.

Lauren Brownlee is a member of Bethesda (Md.) Meeting, and, having recently moved to Durham, N.C., an attender at Durham Meeting.

Posted in: March 2020 Book Reviews, Quaker Book Reviews, Unnamed Quaker Creeds

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