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 IV: Signs and Dreams
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: "Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste." (Isaiah 7:10-16, New International Version)
Scripture: "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." (Matthew 1:18-25, New International Version)
Message: Signs and Dreams
When I was in high school, I kept a journal of my dreams. The journal only ended up having a few entries in it, but I remember one of the dreams vividly because of the practice. It was an image of a group of people walking up the windy path of the side of a mountain. A city lay in the valley, but everyone was walking up to the top of the mountains and every single person was carrying a candle. All over the mountains around the city, there were streams of light from other people walking and carrying candles. Everyone was also singing—though I couldn’t make out the words, it felt like the mountains were humming.
I’ve been fascinated by dreams for a long time, interested enough to sit down in book stores and flip through books that explained the symbols found in dreams. In seminary I read Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and Mircea Eliade, learning about the religious imagination, symbolism and the human psyche. The movie Inception was fascinating as it explored the layers and depths of our minds.
Dreams have been something that I have wondered about, wondering if they contain signs by God, wondering if we are missing some passing of information along a temporal link. Growing up with two science teacher parents, dreams and dreamwork didn’t measure up to the scientific method and any study of dreams was highly suspect; yet here was still evidence of my feeling drawn to the mysterious, the unexplainable, the unprovable.
This same upbringing though made me value doubt and the questioning of faith. While I didn’t grow up in a culture that told me not to question God, there was also a sense that it was silly to ask for signs and silly to “test” God. Yet in this passage of the book of Isaiah (7:10-16) the Lord is telling Ahaz to ask for a sign, the Lord is prompting the prophets to seek proof of God’s will through the signs around them.
So in seminary, I started praying for signs. I asked God to pause me throughout my day and draw my attention to something beautiful. Whether this be the light shinning on a leaf, a flower that had dropped, a stranger crossing my path, or an opportunity to be kind, I prayed to notice. I found that this prayer worked; and that by pausing throughout my day to notice beauty in various forms, I was more grateful, more in the moment, and happier. Seeing God in the everyday, helped me trust in God more in the extraordinary.
What signs and dreams in your life orient you to the divine source? Are you being bold enough to ask for signs? Are you open enough to receive them even in the most mysterious ways? What signs are around us that are telling us what is to come?
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, I pray that you pause me throughout my day to show me signs of your presence. Guide me to gratefulness, humility, and kindness and show me these things in others. In this time of Advent, I pray to be amazed by your beauty in the everyday and I pray to be open to your presence in the extraordinary. Help me be faithful to your mystery. Amen.”