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, if you would like to receive an email each week with a link to the week's worship outline, please subscribe at the bottom of this post. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Stopped at the Threshold
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: Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
— Deuteronomy 34, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Scripture: You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Stopped at the Threshold
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying that
the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
That is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and
there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
— “A Step Along the Way” by Ken Untener
(also mystically attributed to Óscar Romero)
The picture at the top of this worship service is a picture from the top of Mt. Moab looking out over Jordan. This is where the scriptures tell us Moses brought the Israelites and where Moses died. To come so close to the promised land but to not enter feels unjust. Moses had atoned for the sins of his early days and he had been a faithful prophet of God’s will for decades. Still, he brings the people to the edge, and he himself goes no further.
How often is this the case when we work for justice! We live in a time where we are used to instant gratification; we are used to seeing the results of our work immediately. And yet, the work that is to be done for peace, for justice, and to live into the kingdom of God is work that is done in God’s time, kairos. The Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos is where we get the word ‘chronological,’ meaning people’s time or sequential time. Kairos means God’s time, which is mysterious, vast, and mostly impossible for us humans to comprehend. The work of peace, the work of justice, and the work to live into the kingdom of God is done tiny step by tiny step. It is work whose vast trajectory we have a hard time understanding. God sees the totality of the timelines for this work: the complexities, the intricateness, and the intersectionalities. When we expect to understand the entirety of this work, when we expect to see the fruit of the work that we personally have completed, we are disappointed. For the work of peace, the work of justice, and the work of living into the Kingdom of God is not about us. It is not about our gratification, our beatification, or our sanctification. It is work that is done for God, for others, and for—as Ken Untener writes—“a future not our own.”
Quaker culture offers us a saying: “Getting ahead of one’s guide.” This saying suggests that sometimes we are impatient for what we see is the result of our work. “Getting ahead of one’s guide” means that we want God’s timeline to fit into ours, we want chronos when kairos is happening. We jump ahead of what God has planned and by so doing we often get ourselves into trouble. It is humbling to check our impatience and wait upon the Lord. We want things to happen when we want them to happen, not when God wants them to happen!
It is also humbling when we have worked hard for something and someone else comes along and reaps the rewards. There is often a sense of injustice in this. Moses brought the Israelites to the Promised Land, but Joshua was the one who led them in. Moses did the hard work of convincing and converting the people to God’s plan, but Joshua got to celebrate with them in Jordan. However, we know this isn’t completely true, since Joshua had to do a lot of hard work leading the people into the Promised Land and settling them there! From the perspective of Moses, it could seem unfair. How short our sight is looking forward, and how long our sight is looking backwards. Or as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Paul is writing about something similar: the future generation is addressing the past. “We mean no disrespect,” Paul’s words echo, we just have new truth to share with you. “We understand that you have suffered, that we have suffered, and that this new truth is hard for you to hear,” Paul’s words continue, “But we need you to join us in this new change.” It is hard and humbling when the younger generation approaches with something new, and so often in our present culture newness means throwing out the old, disrespecting the old, and forgetting the old. Paul’s message to the Thessalonians challenges those assumptions. “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) This message deeply conveys of love and familiar engagement. Paul is saying, “We take you with us into the future, that future which was not your own, but ours together.”
So as you settle into your waiting worship, I invite you to think about your work in this world: your callings, your leadings, and your holy commissions. Are you patient in your discernment of God’s timing? Are you humble with your work, your time, and your need for validation? When or if others come to join you in the work, to carry it onwards, are you generous with your welcome and are your open to new ideas? When you come to others who have been doing the work for a long time, are you kind, respectful, and humble with what newness you have to offer? Are you ready to stop at the threshold and hand your work over to others called to the work? Are you ready to thank others who are stopped at the threshold as you carry the work forward?
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. Breathe deeply and give thanks for your time in worship today. When you feel ready, end by praying out loud, either a prayer of your own creation or the following: “O Holy One, grant us grace and humble action towards those who join us in your work. When we are stopped at the threshold, stopped before the promised land, help us to humbly and gracefully encourage the next generation forward. When it is our time to bring the next future forward, remind us to thank and to respect those who have brought the work this far. As Isaac Newton said, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Humble us into thanksgiving for those giants, and the future that they have prepared for us. Amen.”