“I saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that, I also saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings.” ~ George Fox (1647)
When I was a Unitarian Universalist parishioner and then a pastor, my churches were closed for the summer. Now that I am a pastor in an ecumenical church that is open 24 seven, never mind in the summer, it is not quite so easy to slip away for a breath of fresh ocean air. Thankfully I am encouraged to leave the pulpit and the church office for a couple of weeks, a few times a year. And not only am I graced with vacation time, Dorrie and I have generous siblings who invite us to come away for a while and be quiet by the sea. Next year I will be on a much-anticipated sabbatical leave. I am grateful; to God, to the church, and to our families for these times and places of sabbath. They restore my soul.
They restore my soul in good times and in hard times too. My soul, like the souls of most people I know, is sorely in need of restoration. As George Fox, the English Quaker from days gone by said, he “saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death.” Fox lived in a time where Quakers and other people were persecuted mightily for their faith and actions. The ocean of darkness followed some of them across the literal ocean where they arrived in what is now the United States of America. Then and now, so many people try to escape one form of persecution or terror or deprivation or another and run to another place in the world. Sometimes the ocean of darkness and death follows them.
Fox does not leave us there. He lifts our eyes to “an infinite ocean of light and love.” That infinite ocean of light and love is not far away but is flowing right over the ocean of darkness and death. If that is not powerful enough, there is something more. A possibility. A hope. Another way entirely. “In that [ocean of light and love] I also saw the infinite love of God. And I had great openings.”
Today I am praying about the oceans that surround us; the literal oceans, and the deserts too, that people are crossing over to get to a better life. On July 4 of this year I got to witness a large group of those people becoming citizens of these United States. I know that many of them had been seeking safety and this new life for years. I know that an infinite number have not yet reached that shore and some are being sent back.
I am also thinking about the darkness of the soul that is creeping over many people I love – trying mightily to convince us that this is now the way of the world – this is it – this hatred and incivility – these lies and deceptions – this despair and discouragement.
George Fox had visions; not of grandeur, for the Society of Friends, at least as I understand, is closer to simplicity than grandeur. Fox was steeped in a vision of infinity. The immeasurable and mostly unknowable, powerful ocean of Divine love and light.
This is what I call upon today – something more. More love. More light. More hope. Openings, not closures. Openings through our suffering and our fears, through the indoctrination of our times, through our human condition, to the infinite.
We must speak our visions and stand by them. Even when our visions get clouded and we wonder if there is any hope at all. We are called to look back. Pay attention to now. Look to the future. The infinite ocean of light and love has always been here and there is no pushing it back. It calls us home.