Maurice A. Creasey
Source: Report of the Fourth World Conference of Friends. Birmingham, England: Friends World
Committee for Consultation, 1968. This is copyrighted material and is reprinted with the
permission of Friends World Committee for Consultation.
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
It is our faith that all men have the capacity to recognise and respond to this Presence. This I
believe to be at any rate part of what we mean when we speak of "that of God in every man." But
men differ, according to the living, creative symbols through which they recognise and make
respond to that Presence, and I must affirm with, I am sure, the vast majority of you, that for me
and for you that symbol is Jesus, I cannot know or respond that that Presence in any way that
deeply reaches me or my fellow men apart from what I have learnt of the Presence through him.
But having said all that, we are immediately conscious of being confronted by two enormous,
terrifying question marks. Can we, on our map, find any place at all for this Presence in view of
the stupendous, unimaginable complexity and impersonality of the universe as we are beginning to
know it? In face of this, can we even still speak of Presence? The other is raised by the crushing
burden of the world's suffering, suffering such that we dare no longer pray, "Lay on us the burden
of the world's suffering."
But let us not too hastily assume that Presence, and worship as the only possible response to it,
are ruled out by these two questions. Is there not another side to this? To many people today,
perhaps very largely through the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, it has been given to see that the
human race occupies within this vast unimaginable complexity of the universe a point which is
crucial. The whole future of this unfolding creative process waits upon our discernment and
co-operation. We do not have to be religious in any convention sense to know that we either live
together or die together. And therefore, surely for us, worship becomes the most practical and
relevant activity of our lives for it is the moment when we are drawn together into the vision of
the glorious purpose of God to reconcile all things to himself.
Again, is it not true that it is precisely the intolerable burden of the world's suffering that is driving
us all to a belated recognition that we are in simple truth "members one of another," so that "if
one suffers all suffer"? In doing this, it is also driving us all to learn, not as mere theological
doctrine but as the basic truth of life, the lesson of the Cross, the lesson that it is only by voluntary
identification with others in their lostness that healing can be wrought.
Is it not, then, clear that the important question are not "Do we worship in this manner or in
that?" but rather "Do we know what it is to worship at all? Are there moments when we
deliberately come together to seek to be open, to be tendered, to be strengthened, healed,
It is our faith, surely, that, even yet, God has the whole world in his hands. We have pierced those
hands. And, God forgive us, we still pierce them. But it is no less our faith that those hands will
never go their hold.
Now all I have been trying to say is said fare more memorably in words which I now want to rad
from two well known Biblical passages. The first is from Psalm 139, verses 1-12, 23-24. This is
what Presences means. The second passage is from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verses
18-19, 22-23, 26-28, 38-39. (N.E.B.)
O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandeth my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but/i> lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast best me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light around me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in men, and lead me in the way everlasting.
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For I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the splendour as yet unrevealed, which is in store for us. For the created universe waits with eager expectation for God's sons to be revealed.
Up to the present, we know, the whole created universe groans in all its parts as if in the pangs of childbirth. Not only so, but even we, to whom the Spirit is given as first fruits of the harvest to come, are groaning inwardly while we wait for God to make us his sons and set our whole body free.
In the same way the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us. And God who searches our inmost being know what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God's own people in God's own way. And in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love god and are called according to his purpose.
For I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or in depths - nothing in all creation that can separate us form the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.