Welcome to this Online Meeting for Worship. Below you will find songs, scripture or poems, and a short message to frame and guide your time in worship. Each week, by Friday I will be publishing a new worship outline. The scripture used generally (though not always) comes from the weekly Revised Common Lectionary, connecting the Friends tradition to other Christian traditions around the world. For some of you this worship space may be a place of sanctuary when you are away from in-person worshiping communities. For others, this worship space may help you prepare for your weekly Sunday or mid-week worship.
I suggest that you open each link in a separate window and play through the beginning of the songs to get over any ads, preparing for your worship time. (Though you may want to first check to see if ads play while the songs are embedded in the post. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t!) You may also want to have a candle and a journal nearby. Since this worship is designed in the manner of Programmed Quaker Worship, it includes a period of waiting worship. There are several communities around the world that host online unprogrammed Quaker worship, for which I have included links. These communities worship together at certain times each day and week, so you may want to plan your worship around theirs.
If you would like to set up a regular time to worship through this site or if you have specific prayer requests to be held by my home worshiping community, please contact me through this site. If you would like to leave a message on this page, perhaps a message that rises for you during your worship, please comment below. Messages are filtered to counter spam attempts and it may take me up to 24 hours to approve a comment. Thank you for joining me in this weekly online Quaker programmed worship. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Advent I: Expecting the Unexpected
Centering Silence: Take a few moments to center yourself. Perhaps light a candle, find a comfortable place to sit and put away any distractions. Take a few deep breaths as you center yourself for this time of worship. Feel your body relax as your breaths become deeper. Turn your attention to the presence of the Divine throughout your body and throughout your life. When you are ready let the following worship elements guide your worship.
Scripture: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:36-44, New International Version)
Scripture: "This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:1-5, New International Version)
Message: Expecting the Unexpected
As we enter this time of Advent there is much talk about expectation. Expecting the birth of a child, a child like Jesus, is often a time of excitement, fear and awe as the birth parent's body changes and the baby grows and the family prepares the space and their hearts for their new arrival. Yet, the scripture of this week from the Gospel of Matthew speaks of being prepared for the unexpected, describing the surprise of the people left behind when God flooded the world and suggesting that there will be a time when some are "taken" and others are "left" with the coming of the Son of Man: " For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left."
With the surprise of the outcome of our recent election, there are many of us wondering what to expect come January 20th. There are rumors of a new Muslim registry, fears of mass immigrant deportation, and speculation that the government will attempt to reverse legislation that has served to protect the rights of all sorts of groups of historically disadvantaged people. I am reminded of the quote by Martin Niemöller, in context of WWII: " First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
This quote has been expanded in the recent years as violence to the black community has been shown more fully over social media and the concerns for LGBTQ persons, immigrants and Muslims have come up in the news. Who will be "taken" and who will be "left" no longer only applies to the end of times, a time described by the Left Behind series or a time that Jewish people build their tombs on the hills (see opening photo of Jerusalem, each of those white rectangles is a Jewish tomb). Now, today, who will be "taken" and who will be "left" takes on a different meaning. In this time of great holy expectation, how do we respond to the scripture's plea to expected the unexpected? How do we prepare ourselves to stand up for what is right and just and stand against injustice, violence and intolerance?
One of my prayers at this time is resonant in the song lyrics "Open my eyes that I may see, glimpse of truth thou hast for me." I pray that in this time of uncertainty for this country, we are not blinded by our privilege and comfort, but that our eyes are open to what is happening and what we can do stand up for what is right and just.
Having our eyes open though isn't easy. The passage from Isaiah offers us the famous quote "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Words that I sung in various songs growing up at Quaker summer camp. Yet it was years after singing these songs around campfires that I learned what plowshares and pruning hooks looked like. What this passage speaks of is not only transforming weapons into agricultural instruments, instruments of peace, but also of the effort that it takes to do that work.
Many people are discovering just how hard that work is, as they travel home for the Thanksgiving holiday. On the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, hundreds of stories are being shared of families made up of both Hilary and Trump supporters trying to make the holiday work. Some of the stories are hopeful though many tell tales of arguments and even walkouts. Creating change sometimes means standing firm, sometimes means working with and sometimes means walking away. Yet regardless of what path we take our goals are the same "to live in peace and unafraid."
To be prepared for the unexpected, to be prepared to transform violence and oppression, takes hard, dedicated, intentional work. At this time of Advent, are we prepared? How are we preparing for the unexpected?
Silence-Waiting Worship: This is a time for you to turn your attention fully inward. The songs and passages and the offered message have prepared you to listen deeply to the Divine. Spend at least 20 minutes in silence listening for that still small voice of God. You may want to join an online waiting worship community. A few links for these can be found below.
When you have come to a place of closure in your waiting worship, continue on to bring your time of worship to a close.
Afterthoughts: Afterthoughts are thoughts that rose for you during waiting worship that didn’t completely form into a message. Perhaps you discerned that what was rising for you in waiting worship was a message for you alone, something not to be shared with others or perhaps you only received fragments of a message and it didn’t come together completely during the silence. Take a few minutes to journal these afterthoughts so that you can look back at them another time. Perhaps God is speaking to you through these partial messages and the fullness of their meaning will be revealed in time.
Joys and Concerns: It is traditional in Programmed Quaker Worship to have a time for the sharing of joys and concerns. Take a few moments to write down in your journal a few things from this week that you are thankful for and a few things that you are holding in prayer. Feel free to post these in the comments below as well (though remember that it may take up to 24 hours for them to be available to others to read) so that others can include your requests in their prayers and celebrate your joys alongside you.
Closing: Take another few moments of silence to close your worship time. Breath deeply and give thanks for your time in worship today. When you feel ready end in vocal prayer, either of your own creation or read out loud the following: “Holy One, Thank you for your presence during this time of worship. Open my eyes to the unexpected before me and prepare me to act upon the truth you revel. Empower me to make the changes I can make and instill in me the ethic of hard work required to beat the swords into plowshares. Amen.”