Sue Hampton writes about Light, love and God
I thought about what’s changed for me since I became a Quaker at Easter this year, after around sixty years in more conventional churches, most Methodist. I could say what’s changed in me, but perhaps that change made me a Quaker. It’s deeply and fundamentally personal, because that’s what Quakerism is. There’s no creed, no dogma, no word of God handed down in one holy book to be taken literally.
I attend a small Meeting. We gather for worship twice a month, so on Easter Sunday I was at home. How did I feel, on a day I’ve always marked with emotion? I suppose: aware. I read a blog post by a Quaker about this very difference, and connected with it.
My husband and I talked about it, and the Passion story, which for me as a writer is the most perfect narrative of all: full of intense drama, with characters that represent flawed humanity, and with Jesus, who represents God, or the ideal, an enlightened being centuries ahead of his time. Even if the story were proved a fiction, I would remain a follower of Jesus, of his way. I believe in ‘love to the loveless shown’, as it says in the hymn ‘My song is love unknown’, which I’ve always considered the saddest hymn of all. Long before socialism Jesus spoke of equality; long before feminism he upheld the rights of women. So advanced was his thinking about war that we still, as a species, haven’t caught up with the idea of peace as a better solution. His compassion was endless and he forgave. His example and his teaching have inspired me all my life.
As a child I cried at the Easter story. Bunnies, chocolate eggs and daffodils couldn’t distract me from the tragic horror of the cross. As a teenager I was devout and evangelical in my own shy way, but phrases like ‘washed in the blood of the lamb’ never made sense to me. I recoiled from them. As I looked around, at Vietnam and Biafra and the nuclear threat, I wondered whether Jesus died in vain. I wept over Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell and prayed fervently for help to be a better person. In more recent years I sat in church on Good Friday and wept different tears of grief, knowing as I listened to the familiar, achingly beautiful words that I was really crying for the father I’d lost.
Now what I long for is the light. You could call that the resurrection after the crucifixion, but what if death is the end? So, I think of the light as the stars in a dark sky, the love that makes bereavement so painful, the blue sky when the rain stops, the shoots of green after frost, a rainbow – the consolation and hope mingled with sadness. The light is peace in a world of killing. The light shows us the best we can be. It warms and stills and embraces. But it’s not some feel-good therapy at a price. It’s the one truth, the essence of goodness, as seen in Jesus and felt in the midst of busy living. That’s what, as Quakers, we hope will enlighten us in the silence as we commit to living ‘as love requires’. Words can’t define the truth; we can only hope to experience its power.
If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that love really is stronger than death, or hate, or fear. Only love makes any sense. God is love; Love is God. That’s all I know. And if there’s one truth the Easter story shows us, that’s it.
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