Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cronkin' on Christ

I sat down last summer to read Sandra Cronk’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet #297  “Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community”. It took me at least six weeks of wrestling with one word before I gave up. That word? “Christ”. She first used Christ in the introduction: “Coming out of a great spiritual revival, transformed and guided by the Spirit of Christ...”. No problem with that. She even provided a definition on page 4: “...It led them to Christ, their Inward Teacher and Guide.” This did not help me when I became stuck on page 7.

“It is in this covenantal tradition that Christians have understood their relationship with Christ as a new covenant. George Fox proclaimed that Friends were entering into the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah. For Fox this covenant was the fulfillment of all that went before. In this new covenant God’s law was not to be written on tablets of stone:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts;...And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor..., for they shall all know me, …; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33-34, Revised Standard Version)

For early Friends the new covenant was Christ Jesus and their living relationship with Christ...”.

(imagine, if you will, a car...slowly...coming.  to.     a.        halt.  Only not a car. Me.)

Christ? Christ Jesus? What? What does that mean? I tried to continue reading the pamphlet but each time, I’d be drawn back to that paragraph, perplexed and frustrated. I was good with the idea of an historical Jesus, the deliverer of the Sermon on the Mount, the man who taught that we are to love God and love one another. The message Jesus taught is why I consider myself a Christian. Jesus as the teacher, guiding us to open our eyes and see we are with God right now. Jesus as a human who was more in touch with That of God than most people. But Jesus Christ? Jesus the Divine? Jesus Christ, which is often followed by our Lord and Savior? Uh...I’m sorry but I can’t go there. I can’t accept Virgin Birth, Resurrection,etc. In touch with God, yes, but not God incarnate. Sorry but it just didn’t speak to me and no matter how I looked at it, I wasn’t able to find meaning in it.

What could I do with the agitation I felt around that last sentence? After rereading it fifty-eleven times and confronting Mark about it repeatedly, I resentfully set the pamphlet down and walked away from it thinking “we’re just going to have to agree to disagree”.

But then something happened. I can’t tell you when exactly but my heart opened and what I came to understand and accept is that God is the universal and Christ is the personal. God is what unifies us and Christ is God communicating to each of us. Individual names for different aspects of the divine but still one God. I’ve had a blossoming around Christ since then. I embrace my understanding of God’s relationship with me as being through Christ. I would even say that I find peace, joy and delight in Christ in my life. I feel comfort and security in the concept of Christ: God is so big and ultimately unknowable as to be sometimes overwhelming (awe-some, fear-some) but Christ is intimate, knowing and encouraging, whether firmly directing or gently nurturing, with love.

I struggled with this for so long last summer that it became a thing for me. Mark would ask me what I was reading and I’d sullenly reply, “I’m still Cronking”. Once I “got it”, cronkin’ became a good thing. I was just accepting into the School of the Spirit Spiritual Nurturer class #9. Sandra Cronk was one of the founders of SotS so for the next two years I will be cronkin’ hard.


Robin M. said...

"I feel comfort and security in the concept of Christ: God is so big and ultimately unknowable as to be sometimes overwhelming (awe-some, fear-some) but Christ is intimate, knowing and encouraging, whether firmly directing or gently nurturing, with love." I was just having the same conversation with myself this week. The best language I could come up with was that it's hard to imagine God having arms to comfort me, but easier to picture Jesus Christ this way. Thanks for better language to express it in.

Anonymous said...

This one has cooked inside me too. Here's a quick survey of where I am with it, from my blog "Letters From The Street":

Ashley W said...

I'm excited that you'll be in the next School of the Spirit class! You are going to have a wonderful time.

Mary Linda (friendlymama) said...

Robin, yes! God is an aura of love and we are safe in the arms of Jesus.

I like how you describe it, Bruce, as being like Brahman/Atman--as I understand them, this is an excellent analogy. I used to have a lot of difficulty conceiving of God, I didn't like to anthropomorphize and had rejected the usual Trinity. It wasn't until I was able to approach from a Hindu perspective, aspects of the Divine, that it worked for me.

Ashley, I've been drawn to SotS since Penelope Wright was in it and told me about her experiences but it had not been the right time for me to pursue it until now. I am filled with joy and excitement to be guided this way!

Johan said...

I love Sandra Cronk! Her book Dark Night Journey is a treasure.

Friendly Mama said...

I look forward to the rest of the Cronk cannon down the road, Johan!

Eric H-L said...

An amazing coincidence (or is it?)
I started reading Sandra Cronk Gospel Order the week before I read your post. I am loving it and finding it very searching.
Eric H-L

Friendly Mama said...

Great to hear from you! How have you been? To go full-Friend on you: How has the Spirit fared with thee?
Mary Linda

Jeremy Mott said...

Here's good evidence that the concept of the Trinity or "triune" God can be
very helpful to us humans. God, the
mysterious and ill-defined one, first introduces Himself by name to Moses (and all humankind) when He appears in the form of the burning bush that is never completely consumed. (Confer the beginning of the Book of Exodus---one of the finest stories in the Bible.) God's name,too holy to be written or spoken ordinarily, is said to be the initials YHWH, meaning I AM WHO I AM. Completely impersonal.
Yet there is more that should be

Jeremy Mott said...

Of course, Jesus Christ is a very personal way of looking at God, for Jesus was an ordinary human as well as a living God. Jesus may he found as a teacher in the Bible----what a great teacher He is----and He also may, if we Let Him in, live within us and thus save us from our sins.
And then there's the Holy Spirit, neither personal nor impersonal (or so I think); but still another mysterious perspective on God. Maybe the phrase Holy Spirit refers to the way that sometimes good things seem to happen in God's time, and sometimes not, for a spirit is wind that can blow freely. No one can force the Holy
Spirit, that's for sure. God is not
our property; we are His.
Jeremy Mott

god's ttimjezpped hppd tom

Friendly Mama said...

Thank you Friend, for sharing the way you understand Christ, Holy Spirit and God. I appreciate learning how others perceive these.
Mary Linda

Jeremy Mott said...

You're welcome, Mary Linda. I'm a real old-timer (age 66) by the standards of the Quaker blogosphere.
This explains why I refer to God as He rather than the more accurate label He/She or Holy One----I was taught in the old sexist language, so I still use it. There's really nothing unusual about my explanation of the Trinity---it's the standard one, I think, used by all sorts of Christians. What is unusual, among Friends as compared to other Christians, is the emphasis on the Christ Within, the Inward Light, who can shine within us right now. Even more unusual is the Quaker doctrine, confirmed by experience, that the Inward Light is to be found in everyone, not just in Christians (or certain right-thinking Christians).
This is all the basics of Quakerism, as far as I'm concerned.
This is what I learned in my first Sunday School classes in Ridgewood meeting in the early Fifties and the late Forties. I can still remember reading the gospels, usually Matthew or Luke, as if it were yesterday. We didn't think in those days that the Christian faith was essentially different from basic Quakerism. It's hard for me to understand what's come over us (Quakers) now!
My wife Judy and I knew Sandra Cronk slightly when we all lived in Chicago in the Seventies. I would like to dedicate this conversation to her memory, as well as to the memory of Dean Yingling, my first Sunday School teacher.
Peace, Jeremy Mott

Eric H-L said...

Mary Linda,
I am not surprised anymore when you cut right to the chase. I am continuing to grow hangin' out with the Quakers in Indiana. I still am oscillating between Theism and Scepticism. I want to worship a personal God, and sometimes that feels very authentic, other times I doubt everything! I find myself drawn to the most theistic and Christocentric people in my monthly and yearly meetings, (fewer then Hen's teeth, alas)yet I love the safety to say: "right now at this instant, I can't believe." Other news from Lake Wobegon: My neighbor Ross Farris died in an untimely bicycle accident. I think he was only in his sixties and in exemplary health. Shortly before the accident he and Sherry had sold the farm and so our family can't go to LaPorte anymore for holiday.


Anonymous said...


I am liking the phrase 'God is the universal and Christ is the personal'. My eyes are drawn more continually to the word covenant in the passage you quoted than anything else. It would take too much space here to elaborate my thoughts on new covenants and continuing revelation and inward Christ here, so let's talk about it sometime.

David Myers