September 3, 2023 – Future So Bright – by Lia Scholl

Future So Bright – a message by Lia Scholl – 09-03-2023

I had a conversation with a Guilford County school board member a few weeks ago at a rally in Winston Salem. As we lamented the state of politics in Winston, and in North Carolina, we reminded ourselves of an idea from so many of my favorite activists, that the problem with the future is that we cannot create what we cannot imagine.

It’s like, you can’t get to a wonderful future if you cannot imagine what that future looks like.

There are forces which keep us from doing that imagination work. One of those is a lack of time. We are so busy in our day-to-day lives that we don’t have the time to be creative. And some of it is worry. If you’re worrying about the future, it’s hard to imagine what a better future might look like. Honestly, worry seems to be the opposite of creativity.

And I don’t know about you, but if I cannot imagine a world that’s better, it’s hard to have hope.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

I want to tell you about my friend Cass Dale. Cass and I have been friends for about 15 years. We’re the kind of friends that chat with each other on facebook —sometimes about important things, sometimes about just run-of-the-mill life stuff. We’ve hung out a few times in person, and I know a lot of his people.

Cass is a futurist. His says his job is to forecast and contextualize the present to equip us to make a better, kinder future… In another place, he says he “advises the US government on religious conflict.” Just so you know, that’s an understatement. He is a specialist in religious extremism, and if you’ve heard anything about religious terrorism over the last years, he’s probably been one of the investigators.

Cass is also very attuned to church. His father was a Baptist pastor and seminary professor of some note, and Cass himself consults with churches about the future. Cass writes a Substack called Think Future.

And nearly 15 years ago Cass wrote a small ebook called The Knight and the Gardener. In it, he explains how the future depends on our internal worldview, and how there are two major worldviews that are thriving in the world today. Knights and Gardeners.

Knights see the world as a battle between good and evil, or maybe between reason and ignorance. Cass writes, “Knights believe the primary calling of good people is to undertake crusades—moral, spiritual, and political—to protect the innocent and defeat the forces of evil.” To a knight, you’re either an ally or an enemy, and life is a zero sum game.

Gardeners, on the other hand, see the world as, you guessed it, as a great garden. In Cass’ words,  they “believe the primary calling of good people is to cultivate the Garden through planting, good planning, the pursuit of transformative discovery, invention and innovation, and artistic revelation.” He continues:

For religious Gardeners, God is the creative force whose greatest attributes are imagination and creativity. Gardeners view themselves as imbued with the divine creative spark and charged with growing the Garden beyond its current borders. Christian Gardeners, for example, spread the Gospel to restore broken people so they can rejoin the ongoing creation process, and to awaken others to their meaningful role in tending the Garden.

And just so you know, it seems like Knights and Gardeners are opposites, but really, like all binaries, we all live somewhere on the spectrum.

This is where I want to talk some about the future—and how our theology, and that Knight or Gardener worldview, will shape our future, here at First Friends Meeting, in Greensboro.

Cass, quoting a Biblical scholar named Harvey Cox,  says there are three types of visions for the future upheld in the Bible.

  • There’s the Hebrew prophetic view that presents the future as open and undetermined. While God has benevolent intention for us and for our futures God hasn’t predetermined their outcomes. And since God created us in God’s image — the Creator made creators — our job is to co-create the future with God. (This is the view in most of the Old Testament and by Jesus most of the time throughout the Gospels.)
  • There’s the Greek teleological view that asserts that God has the future all preplanned and our job is to adhere to the plan… but not to make plans of our own. (This is sometimes the view presented by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament and only once or twice by Jesus in the Gospels.)
  • And there’s the Persian apocalyptic view that asserts that the end of the world is coming soon, it’s a blazing end, and our job is either to pack our bags to shuffle off this mortal coil or to hunker down to outlast it. (This is the view in Daniel and others written in that same time and place, in Revelation, and once or twice by Jesus in the Gospels.)

Our scripture today reflects some of these different ideas about the future.

Jonah envisions a God who changes God’s mind, so the future is not set in stone. The Romans text shows us a different view—a God who foreknows and predestines, and we shouldn’t be making plans. And the Revelation passage gives us a vision that essentially says that THIS world doesn’t matter—all that matters is the afterworld.

And Jesus? Well, he admonishes us to stay in this moment.

As Cassandra reminded us last week, “The past is history, the future is mystery, and today is a gift from God, which is why we call it the present.”

But I don’t think that means that we shouldn’t work for the future. But we should recognize that worrying about the future isn’t the work… creating the future is the work. And it can only be done in this moment.

By the way, Cass says that the future belongs to gardeners.

But this… this is what really got me thinking about all of this.

Cass says this:

The end of the world is usually just the end of a worldview… or the end of a spiritual approach, theology, church model, or family model. The people who are most scared are often the folks who can’t imagine goodness surviving the death of what they’re attached to. Just because they can’t imagine a good future doesn’t mean that a good future can’t be imagined. It’s hubris to conclude that God’s imagination is as equally limited as yours. Their worry is just a map of where their imagination ran out.

So, as the activists say, “Imagine the future you want to live into.”

And when you get scared, remember that the end of the world is usually just the end of a worldview… or the end of a spiritual approach, theology, church model, or family model.

Goodness will survive the death of your worldview, of your spiritual approach, of your theology, your church model, and your family model.

Stick with it—and in good Quaker fashion, remember that God’s imagination isn’t limited like yours is.

Listen for God… and for the new thing that God is doing!

July 2, 2023 – Awaken Our Hearts to Love – by Lia Scholl

Lesson from the Psalms                                                               Psalm 85

O Beloved, how gracious You are to your people;

You restore their souls time and time again.

You forgive their distractions when they wander far from You;

You give them new life.

Yes, You bless them and raise up new hope;

You awaken their hearts to love.

Restore us again, O Spirit of Truth;

burn us with the refining Fire of Love!

We cannot live separated from You;

cast out the demons of fear, doubt, and illusion.

Revive us again, we pray; may your people rejoice in You!

Have compassion on your people, O Holy One,

and grant us your forgiveness.

Listen, O people, in the silent Chapel of your heart; and

the Beloved will speak of peace to you,

to the hidden saints, to all who turn their hearts to Love.

Surely new life is at hand for those who reverence Love;

O, that harmony might dwell among the nations.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;

righteousness and peace will embrace one another.

Wisdom will spring up from the ground

and truth will look down from the sky.

Yes, the Eternal Giver will grant what is good,

and the lands will yield abundantly.

Mercy and compassion are Love’s way;

You will guide our footsteps upon the path of peace

as we recognize with open hearts that You are our peace.

June 25, 2023 – That Kind of Friend – Lia Scholl


Lesson from the Psalms                                      a selection from Psalm 77

I cry aloud to You, O Friend,

to the Eternal Listener, that I might be heard.

In the day of trouble I seek the Beloved;

in the night my hand is stretched out in prayer;

my soul yearns to be comforted.


I think of the Beloved, and I moan;

I meditate, and my spirit is weak.

You trouble me and I cannot find peace;

I am so fearful, I cannot sleep;

I am so filled with fantasies I cannot speak out.

How well I remember years past,

when You were a companion close by.

I commune with my heart all through the night;

I meditate, my spirit seeking its Friend:

“Will You abandon me forever, and

leave me comfortless in my distress?

Where is your steadfast Love that made my soul to sing?

Are your promises empty, that I feel so alone?

I call to mind the closeness of my Friend;

yes, I remember the joy of the Beloved’s presence.

I contemplate in the Silence,

recalling how You led me along the Way;

For your Way, O Beloved, is holy.

There is no other like You!

You are the One who will bring us to wholeness,

You manifest your Love to all who call upon You;

With You the peoples are redeemed,

the nations brought to peace.

June 11, 2023 – “Consuming Fire” – by Lia Scholl

Lesson from the Psalms                                                         Psalm 50:1-15

The Beloved, through the energy of Love, brought forth the world.

From the rising to the setting sun,

Love radiates out to all the nations perfect in harmony.

The Beloved has come and will not keep silence; for

Divine Love is a consuming Fire,

calling forth heaven and earth to the judgment of all peoples:

“Gather around, my loyal friends,

all who by repentance and recompense follow the Inner Way.”

The universe forever proclaims justice,

And, the Beloved’s Indwelling Presence

guides those who hear with their heart’s ear.


Listen, all people, and I shall speak;

I will bear witness against you, O nations:

As Divine Presence, Eternal Flame of Love,

Shall I not find fault with what you call holy,

these offerings of greed and war that are before Me always?

Your lies and deceitful ways,

your greed for power and wealth are spawned by darkness.

Have you forgotten that we are to be One in Love and Truth,

that all of life is Sacred Gift?

I know every creature, every plant, every mineral;

I know you—your every need and your fears;

The Earth and all that is in it

belongs to the Whole, to be tended by all in co-operation with Love.


May 21, 2023 – Navigating Ambiguity: Follow the Course/Create Your Own Path – by Lia Scholl

Lesson from the Epistles                       Romans 8:5-15 (The Inclusive Bible)

Those who live according to the flesh have their mind set on the things of the flesh; those who live by the Spirit, on things of the Spirit.

The mind of the flesh is death, but that of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind of the flesh stands in opposition to God; it is not subject to God’s law—indeed, it cannot be, since those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit lives because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the One who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through the Spirit dwelling in you.

Therefore, we are under an obligation, my sisters and brothers [and siblings]—but not to the flesh or to live according to the flesh. If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if you live by the Spirit, you will put to death the evil deeds of the body and you will live.

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. For the Spirit that God has given you does not enslave you and trap you in fear, instead, through the Spirit God has adopted you as children, and by that Spirit we cry out, “Abba!”

May 14, 2023 – Navigating Ambiguity: Speed Up/Slow Down – by Lia Scholl

Lesson from the Epistles: Romans 3:38-30; 5:1-11 (The Inclusive Bible)

We maintain that one is justified by faith—apart from keeping the Law. Does God belong to the Jews alone? Isn’t God also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles too. And because there is only one God, it is the same God who will justify Jew and Gentile through the same faith. Now since we have been made right in God’s sight by our faith, we are at peace with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us to the grace in which we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to the day on which we will become all that God has intended. But not only that—we even rejoice in our afflictions! We know that affliction produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and character, hope. And such a hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

At the appointed time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us godless people. It is not easy to die even for a good person—though of course for someone really worthy, there might be someone prepared to die—but the proof of God’s love is that Christ died for us even while we were sinners.

Now that we have been justified by Christ’s blood, it is all the more certain that we will be saved by Christ from God’s wrath. For if we were reconciled to God by Christ’s death while we were God’s enemies, how much more certain that we who have been reconciled will be saved by Christ’s life! Not only that, we go so far as to make God our boast through our Savior Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

April 16, 2023 – Managing Resurrection Expectations – Sara Beth Terrell

      Managing Resurrection Expectations

Lessons from the Gospels: Matthew 13:33 (NRSV)

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

March 26, 2023 – Keep the Rest – Lia Scholl

Lesson from the Gospels                   Matthew 26:6-13 (The Inclusive Bible)

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the house of Simon, who had leprosy, a woman approached Jesus with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment. She poured it on his head while he reclined at the table. The disciples, witnessing this, were indignant. “What a waste!” they said. “This could have been sold at a high price, and the money given to needier people.”

Jesus, aware of their concern, said, “Why do you upset the woman? She has done me a good deed. You’ll always have poor people with you, but you won’t always have me. When she poured the oil on my body, she was preparing me for burial. The truth is, wherever the Good News is proclaimed in the world, she will be remembered for what she has done for me.”

March 19, 2023 – Up Where We Belong – Lia Scholl

Lesson from the Gospels                                                  Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they gathered together, and one of them, an expert on  the Law, attempted to trick Jesus with this questions: “Teacher, which commandment of the Law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered:

“‘You must love the Most High God

with all your heart,

with all your soul and

with all your mind.’

That is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law is based—and the Prophets as well.”