The Saints Among Us
This week’s worship outline is in a different format than usual. This past week in the United States we celebrated Halloween on October 31st and many traditions celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ days on the first days of November. These are times to remember and to honor those who have died over the past year or years. Some Christian traditions separate the observance of honoring recognized saints from the remember and honoring of ordinary people. Other traditions and cultures combine the two celebrations. For this week’s worship time, I invite you into a time of remembering those who have gone before us, into a time of gratitude for the presence and lessons that have been passed down to us, and into a time of listening to the threads of God’s presence in the lives of others and in our own precious lives.
This being a different format than usual, I invite you to find a few candles, a quiet place for your worship time, and a few photographs or pictures of people who have been meaningful for you. These people may have died or these people may be living, but what is important is that they are people that have touched your life deeply. When you have gathered these things, begin your worship time in the usual way.
Centering Silence: Take a few moments to center yourself. Perhaps light one of the candles, 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: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
— Matthew 5:1-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Time of Guided Meditation and Waiting Worship
Settle again into that deep worshipful silence. Feel your breath in and out of your body. Bring your awareness to the now. What sounds do you hear? What smells do you smell? What tactile feelings do you feel? Take a moment to just be present.
Now let your mind wander as your think about your past. You could start with your childhood or your most recent past. Think about the people who have made a difference in your life. As you remember them, imagine they are filled with light as they walk in and out of your memories.
When someone comes to mind, re-member them—that is, bring them briefly into the present, by saying their name aloud and perhaps lighting a candle. Hold your memories of that person out to God and breathe with gratitude. Recite aloud or in your mind: “I breathe in their wisdom, I breathe out gratitude.” Repeat this a few times and then settle into that space of expansive gratitude.
Hold that space for a while, and then move on to another person from your life. Perhaps someone comes to mind who you’ve had a hard time with. Perhaps the wisdom that they have taught you has come from experiences of injustice, violence, or anger. Offer those memories also up to God. Perhaps you can find the words to a different breath prayer, maybe it’s: “I breathe in what was, I breathe out what will be” or “I breathe in ________, I breathe out _________.” Some schools of thought encourage using the breath as a tool for transformation—for example: “I breathe in hatred, I breath out forgiveness.” Other schools of thought warn against breathing in more negative things, using the breath to expel and release, for example: “I breathe in peace, I breathe out rage.” Do what feels best for you. The words will come.
When you have lifted up the people whose memories come to mind, settle into your time of waiting worship. Let the Spirit show you how God has been like a current through your life, flowing in through other people and flowing through you out to others. Widen your lens and notice the vast interconnectivity of our lives. Listen to the movement of the Spirit as you sink deeply into that worship-filled space.
When your time has come to a close, gently bring yourself out of your silence. Open your eyes and once again notice where you are now. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel? Take a few moments and do a body scan. How does your body feel right now? From the tips of your toes to the top of your head? When you are finished, offer up a prayer of thanksgiving, for your present, for your past and for God. Gently blow out your candles and proceed to afterthoughts.
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, we re-member our loved ones by invoking our memories of their place in our lives. Lord, we are truly thankful for these soul and spirits that have taught us such wisdom and at times guided our feet upon our path. Spirit of Life, may we listen deeply to your current in our lives and become aware of our own ripples throughout the lives of those with whom we are interconnected. Have mercy on our mistakes, Lord, and help us celebrate your revelation as it comes to us and as it goes out from us. All these things we pray. Amen.”