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.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Subversive Love
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: Amos 5:18-24, New International Version
Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Scripture: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:27-36, New International Version)
Message: Subversive Love
It is serendipitous that our national celebration of the work and life of Martin Luther King Jr. comes each four or eight years near the presidential inauguration. This was highlighted eight years ago when Barack Obama became our first Black president and that year’s MLK celebrations felt like a dream fulfilled. MLK Day seemed to start a week long parade of festivities that year, as thousands upon thousands of people flooded to Washington D.C. for the freezing January day to see Barack Obama take the presidency. The air seemed to ring out with the motto "Yes We Can!/ Si Se Puede!" and people felt empowered by that moment in our country's history.
Today, this weekend’s celebration feels distinctly different. This past year has been marked with the increase of awareness of violence against Black America; fear from and for LGTBQ, muslim and immigrant communities as acts and threats of violence seem unending; fake news and confusing truths by and about politicians; and most recently action taken against the Affordable Care Act. The air seems to ring out doom and gloom eerily reflected by the 70 degree weather in Boston, reminding us that climate change is at our doorstep.
Each week in addition to prayer and worship, I read a variety of things to prepare to write these messages for worship. It is a practice of entering into that space where I can hear God's voice through the words of others as well as through the silence. I read newsletters that come into my inbox, emails, Facebook posts, and the list goes on. I also use a book edited by one of my seminary professors, titled Preaching Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year A, edited by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Ronald J. Allen and Dale P. Peters. When I opened the book for this week's passages, I discovered that they put together a chapter with scripture specifically for MLK Day. It is from this set of scriptures that I took the two included in this worship.
You may be familiar with the end of the passage from Amos, which is famously quoted by Martin Luther King, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24) but I encourage you to go back and read the rest of that passage again. It is a hard passage, one full of doom. It speaks of the darkness, the lament, and the injustice that those who long for the Day of the Lord will experience. It speaks with a tone resonant of the feelings from my communities around this election--there is little celebration.
Dale Andrews writes in Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: “It is hard sometimes to see hope and divine promise while standing in the shoes of prophets. The promise fades from our vision when we face dismissal or charges of insatiable anger, never mind physical threat or harm. The prophetic call feels like dispensing judgment without recourse. Mainstream America repeatedly wondered with resentment just how much reform would be enough for King and Black America! We must also wonder how to sustain a prophetic call or a prophetic community? Does the justice of Amos have a thriving, unending source? Does the righteousness of Amos bellow from life to give life?…No, the prophet seems to speak only from impending doom!…Expulsion and exile are his threats. Even our nation could not bear to see a prophet called to speak from the frustrated wrath of God’s love to give life…the nation would choose to see only doom! The nation would hear only gloom!”
So what do we do with this heaviness? With doom and gloom set before us how do we struggle to keep that hope and that prophetic vision alive?
Wait a minute, you might be saying, what hope? What prophetic vision? This passage is all about destruction and injustice and how bad things are going to be. This passage speaks strangely about how bad it is right now! Where is the hope there? Where is there hope now? Where is the prophetic vision? It is these questions that take us to the second scripture for today's worship, the scripture from Luke that speaks so strongly about loving your enemies.
Jesus's message to love our enemies is not an easy one. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in a book I read many years ago (and now can't quite locate) that Jesus didn't say we must like our enemies but Jesus did say we must love them. The act of loving is that, an act, not a thought; it is a subversive act that interrupts systems that expect violence to be met with violence. It is hard work that Jesus calls us to do and yet it is rewarding and transformational. Jesus experienced this and so did MLK.-- the power of loving someone who does not want to be loved, who does not expect to be loved.
Loving like this is emotionally, spiritually and physically difficult. It is the love of a family that stands up to a child suffering from addiction and says we love you so much we can't enable you anymore. It is a love of a parent who learns and uses a take-down hold to protect an autistic child from hurting herself and others. It is the love of a friend who takes away another friend's keys when he tries to drive drunk. It is a love that instead of two arms reaching out, has only one, for the other is saying stop, you are hurting me; please let me help you find another way.
This love was subversive and prophetic in Jesus's time-- turning the other cheek, giving the coat of your back, walking the extra mile, all were things that said "Stop" to the powers at be; they were actions that said I will love you into change. We see this love and prophecy in the movements of our day, the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the Women's March next weekend-- communities of people that are saying "Stop! You are hurting us, you are hurting our communities, you are hurting our world. Please let us help you find another way." Martin Luther King believed in this love. He believed that this love would help us all overcome the vast challenges before us and would help us transform our now into something amazing. So as we look out into this next week, the week between MLK Day and the Presidential Inauguration, let us engage in this hard, subversive act of love, this love that is staying "Stop, you are hurting us, please let me help you find another way."
I was talking to my husband about this worship service, about what is happening in our world, and about a various number of other things, and Ben mentioned that he had just heard a story about Jesus and MLK while listening to This American Life on the subway. With this story, I leave you to contemplate Christ's call for you and for your community and for your country at this time in history. MLK is one example of someone who lived Jesus's message to actively Love your Enemies--even so much that it got him killed--though what does loving your enemies look like for you today? What are the dangers? What is the call? How do we overcome all that is before us to bring about change and transformation? Feel free to listen to the actual story, though I've summarized it here.
This American Life #605, Kid Logic 2016, at minute 11:27, tells a story of a father and a daughter when the daughter asked for the first time what Christmas was all about. Her father explained that Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Jesus and together with his fascinated daughter, he bought a kid’s bible and they read each night together. Mostly they read about Jesus’s birth and teachings and often the daughter would ask what this phrase meant or what that phrase meant, and was intensely curious by the phrase “Do unto others as others would do unto you.”
One day the father and daughter were driving past a church where there was a crucifix out front and the daughter asked “whose that?” Her father thought—oh wow, I guess I didn’t tell that part of the story. He responded to his daughter, “Well thats Jesus. the authorities of his time didn’t like what he was saying. They thought his message was too troublesome so he was going to have to die. So they put him on the cross and they killed him.”
About a month later after that Christmas, after the father and daughter had gone through the whole story of what Christmas meant, the daughter’s preschool had Martin Luther King Jr Day off. The father took the day off work to take care of his daughter and decided to take her out to lunch. While they were eating, his daughter saw a newspaper with a drawing of MLK and asked “Whose that?” Her father responded, “Well that’s Martin Luther King, he’s the reason you have off of school today. Today is his birthday and today is when we celebrate his life.” “Why?” She asked. “Well,” her father continued. “He was a preacher,” “For Jesus?” she asked! Her father laughed and said, “Well yes, he was, but there was another thing he was famous for, he had a message.” “What was his message?” his daughter asked. “He said, you should treat everyone the same no matter what they look like.” She thought about that for a minute and then replied “Well, that’s what Jesus said.” Her father smiled and nodded and thought-- yeah, its similar to Do Unto Others, I hadn't thought of that before. His daughter thought for a moment longer and the looked up at her father and said “Did they kill him too?”
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: “O Holy One, help us respond to Jesus’ call to Love our Enemies, particularly during this time when it feels like there are enemies all around us. Help us love actively, lift up our voices and those of the silenced, help us say to our enemies, Stop! You are are hurting us, let me help you find another way. Amen.”