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.
Water is Life
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: The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
— Exodus 17:1-7, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
— John 4:5-42, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Water is Life
The scripture this week is all about water. From Exodus we read about the Hebrews wandering in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt. They are thirsty and some of them doubt God’s promise of a new land and a new life. Their doubts arise when their immediate needs of food and water are not met. Moses never experienced slavery in Egypt nor experienced the hardships of famine and thirst. Yet he is their leader and many people have doubts in Moses’ ability to lead them through the desert and the wilderness. While Moses rebukes the Hebrew’s unfaithfulness, he also acknowledges that their need, their need for water, is a real need. For the Hebrew people will die in the desert without it. Perhaps too, Moses realizes that he also is thirsty, and his own life as well as the lives of his people depends on the water.
So Moses goes before God and requests a miracle. God instructs Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water begins to flow. It is an answer to the prayer and needs of the people. It is God responding, responding to the Hebrews that their lives matter. And thus this is story of need. It is a story of conflict and argument, and it is a story of resolution. It is story of engagement, engagement of the people with their leaders, engagement with power, and engagement with life.
In the gospel text, we read another story about water. Here too, the setting is in the desert. Samaria is located between Jerusalem and Jericho, on the main road. It is a place with extensive irrigation and need for water conservation. Trips to the well, like the woman is making in these story, would have been a daily event, simply for the survival of her community. This story about water, takes place at noon, a hot and sunny time of day. It is a time when most people would not have been going for a water run. It is a time when outcasts would have been allowed to draw water for their families.
And so it was even more unusual that Jesus—a Jew, who had quite a bit more social power than Samaritans in general, and an outcast Samaritan woman in particular—would have spoken to the woman at all. Here was the “least of these”—someone who was ignored and invisible to even her own community. A woman perhaps without a family in a culture where family was central.
Samaritans differ from Jews. They share some textual and cultural tradition but they reject most of the religious structure of Judaism. Samaritans were and are a minority who believe in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures, plus the book of Joshua. They believe that Moses was the only prophet. Like Jews, they wait for the Messiah. Samaritans do not see Jerusalem with the type of importance that the holy city holds for Jews, Muslims and Christians rather they view Mount Gerizim as their holy place. There are around 700 Samaritans worldwide today.
Samaritans have priests instead of rabbis, and the priesthood is hereditary. Each family has their priest, supervised by a high priest. The oldest male member of each family fills the role of priest and focuses his time on religious matters while the rest of the family economically and socially supports him. A woman living without a husband and without a family would have been very unusual and looked down upon by her community.
So here the story is set, with Jesus speaking to a Samaritan, a social outcast, and a woman (for in Ancient Orthodox Judaism, men would never speak to a woman without her family present). Jesus defies political and social expectations as he has a conversation with this unnamed woman. And what do they talk about? They talk about the very heart of everything: God and water.
Reading this scripture and reading about the Living Water, the needs of the woman spiritually, socially and physically, as well as the way that Jesus stands up against the social and political norms of his time, I almost immediately thought of the resistance at Standing Rock and its motto “Water is Life.” As you can hear in the musical selections for this week, there is much attention given to God and water. With 70% of our bodies made up of water and a percentage only God knows of our bodies filled with the Holy Spirit, the simile of Spirit as water, as living water, is very much alive in our contemporary world.
At the end of February, only a few weeks ago, the camps at Standing Rock were forcibly shut down and cleared. Almost eleven months of non-violent resistance was carried out on that land, by people from all over the world, led by the native people of the region and members of tribes from across North America. All those who participated in the Standing Rock resistance challenged the political and social powers in order to protect the health, future, and existence of people and the planet. In each person who stood up against the building of the pipeline, there stood Jesus. In each person who has experienced social, political and economic injustice there stood the Samaritan woman. An in each person who joined the Standing Rock resistance there was a well to the source: to the source of Living Water, the spiritual incarnation in each and every person; to the source of power to protect the physical land and its waters; and to the source of Life, each life individually, humanity, and the world.
So as you enter into silent worship, who are the characters in these two stories in your life today? Who are the Hebrews asking for the very needs that will keep them alive? Who are leaders who are rebuking unfaithfulness yet also listening to the people’s needs? Who is like Jesus, standing against the social and political norms? Who are like the Samaritan woman, those facing grave injustices yet still alive with longing for liberation, passion for justice, and thirsty for the possibility of a new world? Who are you in the story? Who are you not and who do you long to be? As you center into the waiting silence, feel the water in your veins moving through your body. Feel the Living Water of the Spirit flowing from your source through our live and to the world.
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, flow in and through me like the water in my veins. Fill me with your passion for justice and your strength to join the resistance. Bring my awareness to my thirst for your vision for a new world. Let the Living Waters flow in and through this hurting world, transforming and forming us into something new. Amen."