My "paper" - Read up from the two posts below

All You need is love – Paul, the Beatle

Actually, You need some other stuff too – Paul, the Apostle

A reflection paper
For the Northwest Quaker Women’s Theological Conference
Summer 2006 – Peggy Senger Parsons

(references all from the Epistle to the Ephesians)

[It occurs to me that if the conference text is one phrase, not even on sentence, of a long letter, it probably behooves us to look at the context - the whole letter– here is my attempt - psp]

So there is Paul, sitting in a prison in Rome, (3.1) waiting to be sentenced by Nero, and the folks are worried. Natch – Nero is supremely nuts, and crazy evil, and whimmy as all get out, and mostly omnipotent. Paul has a guy name Tychicus take notes and deliver a set of letters to the churches. Ephesus was a church Paul personally founded – He spent three years there. They knew him, and cared. Paul whips off a personal letter for his friend Philemon, and deals with a problem at Colosse, and then sits down to a general letter to the folks at Ephesus with the understanding that it will be passed around to all the churches.

What do you say when you know there is a good chance that it will be your last word? You encourage them, tell them you love them, that YOU pray for THEM - Worried? Who Me? (1.15-17). Then if you are a teacher you review everything you said before (2).

Kids – really, don’t worry about me (3.13) the outcome of this whole project is not dependent on what happens to me. I did my part in getting you guys together – what a job that was! Nobody could have seen that coming – once bitter enemies and religious rivals and now a community of Peace!
Truly, you amaze me!

And you have made a whole new thing we are calling a ‘church’ – not another religious institution, another set of rules and rulers, rituals and sacrifices, but a community, a kingdom not of this world; that is built on freedom, and immediate access to God, and Confidence, and above all, Love! (3.12) There was a time when you didn’t know that such a conversation with God and such a community was possible, remember?

Now it is your every day life.
How cool is that?

So, not to put pressure on you, but it’s your deal now. And don’t freak out, but I am going to tell you the actual purpose of this thing. It is not to beat the Romans, or to have the “I told you so” to the Jews” these guys are not your problem. The point of a convergent church built on Love by previous enemies is to make a splash in the spiritual world – you have the power to impress people you don’t even know exist. (3.10)

There are whole dimensions to this universe that you don’t see; but you are working there, none the less.
I know, it’s weird, but it’s true!

So that is why you have to be founded on the Love of Christ –

He’s been there, and is there, and knows what is going on. Trust Him.

I am begging God to give you the strength to make your foundation Love and nothing else, and then to build on that straight up to the heavens. (3.14)

I want you to know this by experience, not rote belief. It is one thing to be taught that two plus two is four – it is another to find out that your beloved is carrying twins! That is experiential math! (3.17)

The result of this is unity!, believe me, your hearts will find that there is a million facets to the one truth (4.3-6).

This is a huge calling - Walk Worthy of it (4.1)
hmm there’s a book title in that I think).

Now here are the nuts and bolts:

You are not going to have time for anger or revenge (4.26)
You can’t dissipate or debauch too much (5)
You can’t afford apathy (4.19)

These things will make you completely ineffective.

You can’t afford to lay down you integrity (4.25,28)
It is your most important tool.

There will be no time for power struggles (5,6)

And, sorry to say it, but you better be armed to the teeth, (6.11) because this will not be accomplished without a fight.

But this is very important, the enemies are not human – don’t be confused by that – this is spiritual stuff!

And Last and MOST important PRAY – a lot – I mean it – like, all the time.
If you disconnect you are screwed.

No matter what happens to me. Keep the peace.

And you know they pulled it off for about 140 years. Then came Constantine, and they forgot all about these good instructions, and things went downhill fast – and have slid to this day.

But Fox and Fell and company tried to pull a rag tag bunch of misfits together to knock down the rotten house and rebuild on the foundation.
They had their day.
Then Friends forgot again.

The cool thing is that linear time doesn’t matter much, and quantity of spiritual disasters is not the measure.

Every time each one of us scrapes our life back down to the foundation of Love and builds according to this plan – we make an immortal immaterial temple for the living God.

And when we get together with people who we are not supposed to get along with and build this community, it gets noticed – maybe not so much in this dimension, but the Cosmos hushes to hear our subversive peace.

Keep it up!


Well done; I wish I could have heard you read it aloud.

One question, though: How much debauchery and dissipation can I get away with before it becomes "too much?"
Hi Paul, one of the ways in which these 'papers' at this 'theology conference' is a misnomer is that at a theology conference one would expect papers to be 'read'. These writings are sent out by email in advance for community building and info. They are not 'presented' at the conference. At the conference there is worship, worship sharing in small groups and a few speakers and workshops. A typical Quaker gathering in any ways except for the cross Quaker chasm aspect.

now to the important topic of debauchery and dissipation. My rule is 'go' until the spirit says 'stop'. I have been known to run the yellow.
This makes sense. The real debauchery and dissipation is found under the red light.
Friends talk a lot about the Light. Do we now have to start specifying the color. Let's hold each other in Peggy's yellow light and have some fun. :^)


PS: I love the post. There seems to be a lot of talk of the importance of Love on Quaker blogs lately.

I'm glad I met you and heard you speak at FGC's Gathering this summer. It helps me imagine the energy, earnestness, and enthusiasm with which you offer(ed) this paper.


Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up
I assume this is your paraphrase or distillation of Paul? If that is the case, this is wonderful. I think if more people understood Paul the way you presented him, even despite the controversies surrounding him, they'd see the pearls available there. Thanks!
I heard you open Pete a few years back, and your take on Paul is edifying.

Post a Comment

<< Home