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.
Epiphany: A Light in the Darkness
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: Isaiah 60:1-6, New International Version
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
Reading: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles")
Message: A Light in the Darkness
Today, January 6th marks the celebration of Epiphany in many churches and it is the holiday where as the Christmas story tells us, the persons of the Magi or the three kings, reach Jesus and present him gifts. It is a story of God speaking through these strangers, speaking through gifts, speaking through the stars and speaking through dreams to revel to the world (not just to Mary and Joseph) that Jesus is the Messiah. We use the word epiphany in our common language to mean a sudden insight, a eureka moment, a light going on in your head, a revelation, just like the Magi had about Jesus’s role in the world.
In the Quaker tradition, we often talk about continuing revelation, God’s continual unfolding of truth. Our waiting worship and belief that the Divine can speak through the silence and revel to us truth, direction, and mystery, makes epiphany an everyday occurrence. In it’s ordinariness, I wonder if we lose some of the awe, the magnificence that is God speaking through us. In the Christmas story of stars, angels, dreams, signs, and strange visitors in the night, God’s work in the scriptures sometimes comes across more like a soap opera or a fairy tale than real life. Yet here we are in worship believing that God can and does speak through us. We are living that story.
But we don’t have the full story—it’s more like a TV series that we have to watch one episode at a time. For example the most recent season cliff-hanger was when Trump was elected… what will happen now? Will all the characters return next season? What am I going to watch while I am waiting for the season to return? But God never cancels the show, and the next season has already started for many of us, we just need to tune in to see what is being reveled. Some of us even have episodes to catch up on.
What’s fundamentally different of course between watching God’s revelations like a TV show and living God’s revelations in normal life, is that we are active, not passive, participants in this story. Mostly that’s a good thing, we can influence narratives, make change, support other voices, and be prophetic. But there is danger if we are not humble, for we don’t and won’t know the whole story—we don’t how it all ends. So if we believe that we do, if we believe we have the whole and only truth we can participate in oppression and continue narratives of violence and strife.
I’ve been saving newsletters and blog entries to read in preparation of these weekly worship services. In reading these pieces I came across this story. So it comes to you by way of Michael Lapsley of the Institute for Healing Memories by way of Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr:
"A wonderful children’s book, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, tells a story of how the world came to be so fragmented when it is meant to be whole and how we might put it back together again. I invite you to read this tale as a child might, with wonder and imagination.
One night, in a far-away land that “is somehow not so far away,” a truth falls from the stars. As it falls, it breaks into two pieces; one piece blazes off through the sky and the other falls straight to the ground. One day, a man stumbles upon the gravity-drawn truth and finds carved on it the words, “You are loved.” It makes him feel good, so he keeps it and shares it with the people in his tribe. The thing sparkles and makes the people who have it feel warm and happy. It becomes their most prized possession, and they call it “The Truth.” Those who have the truth grow afraid of those who don’t have it, who are different. And those who don’t have it covet it. Soon people are fighting wars over the small truth, trying to capture it for themselves.
A little girl who is troubled by the growing violence, greed, and destruction in her once-peaceful world goes on a journey—through the Mountains of Imagining, the River of Wondering Why, and the Forest of Finding Out—to speak with Old Turtle, the wise counselor. Old Turtle tells her that the Truth is broken and missing a piece, a piece that shot off in the night sky so long ago. Together they search for it and, when they find it, the little girl puts the jagged piece in her pocket and returns to her people. She tries to explain, but no one will listen or understand.
Finally, a raven flies the broken truth to the top of a tower, where the other piece has been ensconced for safety, and the rejoined pieces shine their full message: “You are loved / and so are they.” And the people begin to comprehend. And the earth begins to heal"
I love this story for so many reasons, one because it reminds us that we don’t have the whole truth even as God revels pieces of truth to us. This story also reminds us that we need each other to be whole—that our little individual lights need to shine brightly just as those around us need to shine brightly so that we all can find our way into the new dawn. It reminds us that one voice can change the story completely and it tells us that we need to listen to the quietest of the voices to hear God's truth even when the louder voices making it hard to hear.
Marianne Williamson writes ““Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” In this time of Epiphany, we celebrate light: The Light of the World manifest in Christ, the light of God’s continual revelation in our lives, the light of hope that burns through the ocean of darkness around us, and the light within that help us show each other that we are each powerful, important and loved.
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, revel to us your Light in this time of darkness. Help us blaze brightly and with radiance the truth you have for us. Shine before us, within is, and around us O Lord so that we may clearly see your desire for this world and open our ears O God, to hear the voices of you quietest prophets. Amen.”