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.
if you would like to receive an email each week with a link to the week's worship outline as well as updates on this ministry projects, please subscribe at the bottom of this post.
Thank you for joining me in this weekly online Quaker programmed worship. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
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.
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.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
—Isaiah 61:10-62:3, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
— Luke 2:22-40, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Contemplative Parenting
While the season of Advent is chock full of pregnancy allusions and references—spiritual pregnancy, spiritual birth, physical pregnancy, physical birth—the season of Christmas, which begins after the birth of Christ and lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (this year January 8th), is a time to talk about parenting. The Bible doesn’t give much information about Jesus’ upbringing. We know the story from this week about Jesus being presented at temple, for which he was most likely a newborn infant. We also know the story of Jesus going to temple when he’s older, conversing with the leadership and getting so hopelessly lost that his parents can’t find him (Luke 2:39-52). In the latter story Jesus is 12 years old. Besides those stories there isn’t much that we know of Jesus until he is thirty. Most of the stories in the Bible about Jesus take place in a period of three years.
So going back to Jesus’ birth, what was it like for Mary and Joseph to become parents and have this tiny divine human to take care of; to keep alive?
The passage this week from Isaiah has a part that says, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.” (Isaiah 62:1) Reading that made me think of a screaming newborn and sleep-deprived parents. This first week after Jesus’ birth must have been so hard. Not only was Mary recovering from the birth itself, they probably had to travel that week or at least find a better place to stay once they finished with the census. They had to find food, clean water, and material to diaper Jesus. They were definitely not sleeping at night and they were probably terrified. Terrified about being parents, about Mary’s healing, about Jesus making it through the beginning of life. Life expectancy post-birth wasn’t that long back then—infant mortality was pretty high. From what we know of the story, there wasn’t a midwife or medical professional present to check in on them. Mary had to figure out breast feeding on her own—and let me tell you, it’s hard! So I can only imagine how hard and overwhelming that first week was, not to mention holding the incarnation of God in your arms!
But of course Jesus did survive, so did Mary and Joseph, and when it was appropriate they brought him to temple to present him to their Jewish community.
So now let’s take this idea of parenting the divine and use it as a metaphor for our own lives. As Quakers, there is a deep belief that there is that of God in every person, which includes of course our children. In fact, I’ve found that being with children thins the veil between our human reality and God’s presence. Their innocence and their unfiltered experience of the world softens my heart and helps me see God’s work around me. And I’ve found that the practice of parenting can be prayerful and contemplative. Here are a few examples:
- Storytelling: Telling stories has been a practice of learning about and drawing close to God for centuries. With all of its various stories, the Bible itself teaches, inspires, and sets example for us on how to connect with God. I read a lot of books to my son and sometimes I make up stories. This past Christmas, my sister-in-law visited with her family and her three and a half year old daughter would open a book and tell me a story based on what she recognized in the pictures. Her stories were creative, sweet, funny, and ultimately led to connection. Reflection on that interaction with my niece in context of this worship makes me think about Mary and Joseph telling Jesus stories, and then Jesus using stories to teach and connect with others.
- Songs & Chants: Even our anti-ritual proclaiming Quaker traditions have their songs that help us connect with one another and reach deep inside ourselves and touch God. Like stories, songs and chants have been used for many many years to transmit culture and language. Most nights my husband or I rock our son to sleep and we sing, over and over again the same songs. I’ve tried to mix it up and sometimes I have, but mostly when I’m tired to the bone, the same set of songs come up that lull our little boy to sleep. In those moments of singing, I find that I am present to the connection between my son and I and I am also distant, tapping into some greater mystery as the words and the notes fall effortlessly out of my mouth.
- Body Prayer: Body prayer is the practice of praying through movement and awareness of one’s body. In some settings I’ve been in body prayer has been lifting my arms up in the air while singing a simple song, or making hand gestures with reverence. I often think of body prayer when I’m singing songs with my son. Head-shoulders-knees-and-toes can be silly, and while I’m doing the motions I can also tap into the smile and laughter of God. When I play patty-cake with or give a high-five to my son, those moments are moments of connection and that connection itself is divine.
- Arts & Spirituality: This is a growing field for spiritual practice as people like Sybil MacBeth develop ideas like Praying in Color and more and more people are seeing coloring as a meditative and spiritual activity. My son isn’t old enough to do much coloring, but there have been a few times when he has picked up colored pencil and we have scribbled together. When I find time to do my own art projects, those opportunities for creativity and repetition allow me to also have time to pray. I’m looking forward to a few years from now when my son will be much more into arts and crafts, and I’m looking forward to the prayerful opportunities that creativity will bring.
- Active Listening & Discernment: While most of the things I’ve listed so far have been activities that parents do with their children, active listening and discernment are amazing tools from our Quaker faith that we can bring to parenting. We can take the time to repeat back what our child says and taking that same kind of time to actively listen to our co-parents/partners. We can help our children make decisions by teaching them to listen deeply to themselves and listen deeply to God. We can model our discernment process and talk with our children about it. Active listening and discernment (at least for me!) fall more into the category of spiritual discipline—they are hard to practice on a daily faithful basis, yet they are essential to how I connect with others and how I connect with God.
So those of you reading this may not be parents or your children may have grown up and live out on their own. You may find that you connect with God when you are singing with your pet or engaging in the above activities from a childlike perspective. Or perhaps you have had a mentor who has loved you as you have learned these things. As you settle into waiting worship, I invite you to reflect on ways you have connected with God, ways you have learned how to connect with God, and ways that you have taught others to connect with God. This was Mary and Joseph’s every day before Jesus left home as a young adult. How might you connect with the child of Jesus and welcome him into your life today?
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, show me that by connecting with others I connect with you. Help me find patience, joy, and love to give to others and extend to myself. Help me find the Christ child inside of me as I play, parent, and love each and every day. Amen.”