Welcome to this Online Meeting for Worship. Below you will find songs, scripture readings, poems, and a short message to frame and guide your time in worship. The scripture used generally (though not always) comes from the weekly Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), connecting the Friends tradition to other Christian traditions around the world. This year we are in Liturgical Year B (2017-2018).
I suggest that you open each link in a separate window and play through the beginning of the songs to get past 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! Ad blocking software is helpful in this case.) You may also want to have a candle and a journal nearby.
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. 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. We do not have a "live" worship time and place yet, though discernment is underway to designate one.
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.
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Thank you for joining me in this weekly online Quaker programmed worship. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Voices in the Wilderness
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.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
Because their shame was double,
and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
— Isaiah 61, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
— John 1:6-8, 19-28, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Voices in the Wilderness
When I was young I had a dream where thousands of people were hiking along paths that lined a canyon at dusk carrying candles. There was a hum in the air as everyone sang together. It was one of the few dreams I wrote down as a high school student, and one whose reverence continues to come to mind from time to time. Lights in the darkness, song uniting thousands, a procession of people, spreading God’s light to the world.
This week, the scripture invokes the image of light coming through darkness as well as the sound of a voice coming through silence. These are calls to be awake to that which is emerging, attentive to God’s call, and aware of internal and external landscapes through which we walk.
The scripture from Isaiah 61 is full of justice language; this is the light coming through the darkness. This is the call to “bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:2-3). The scripture from this week comes after Isaiah 60, which explicitly identifies God’s justice as outlined in Isaiah 61 as the God’s reveling light to the world.
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
— Isaiah 60:1-3 (NRSV)
It is a building of metaphor, justice as light to a world covered in darkness. It is a metaphor that speaks to the events of our current time. In a darkness where we feel lost, hopeless, angry, and frustrated; in a darkness where conflict is provoked, economy is stolen, lives are marginalized, and humanity is trivialized, we search of the light, we search for the hope of justice and the hope of change.
First century Christians also searched for this hope of justice and this hope of change. Jesus reclaims the Hebrew Scripture passages of Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (NRSV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”—perhaps we might say the Inner Light, or the leading that moves us to speak. This is our call out of this darkness. This is our call, this holiday season—this is our call to justice.
The passage from John begins, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” Here we read that John the Baptist is equating Jesus to the Light of God, the Justice of God.
Then the passage continues as John the Baptist explains that he himself is not Jesus, he himself is not the Light of God, no, John the Baptist is the voice in the wilderness, the voice out of the silence, out of our lost ways, that shares the good news that Jesus is coming, that light is coming, that justice is coming.
Monica Colman writes in Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B:
The selected scriptures focus on John the Baptist’s explanation of his ministry. Using the metaphor of light, John the Baptist explains that his role is to point to God. His care to articulate the difference between himself as the messenger and Jesus as the source of life and the message is instructive for contemporary prophets who understand their justice work to be inspired by God. This passage reminds them that they are not the point in and of themselves; their work, like that of John, is to point to the work of God. (Allen, Andrews, & Wilhelm, 2011, p. 24-5)
It is a two-fold message for us. First we must be attentive to the voices crying out in our wilderness. Are we listening to those proclaiming the coming change? The coming light? The coming justice? And for those of us who may be proclaiming, let us remember that we are the messenger, not—as Colman writes—“the source of life.” Let us not be confused in our prophetic witness that we put ourselves up higher than God. To speak boldly, prophetically, and filled with hope to those who are desperately seeking light in this time of darkness—while still managing to be humble—is a challenge.
So as you enter your time of waiting worship, I invite you to turn your attention to the light that you see coming out of the darkness. Where are the voices speaking from the wilderness, preparing the way for the light to dawn? Are you one of those voices? How are you spreading the word of God’s light, God’s justice to those around you? How are you listening to other voices? How are you seeking God’s light?
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, as we approach the darkest time of the year, help us see your divine Light through all the many kinds of darknesses around us. Let us hear those proclaiming the coming of your justice and empower us to speak as one of those voices as you lead us to this new dawn. The ocean of darkness may feel all consuming, but without fail, you will bring us through to the ocean of light. In humble thanks, amen.”