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.
Lent: A Path of Resistance
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 Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
— Matthew 4:1-11, New International Version (NIV)
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
— Psalm 32, New International Version (NIV)
Message: A Path of Resistance
Over ten years ago, I received the news that my high school youth leader, Tom Fox, had been killed while on a delegation for Christian Peacemaker Teams. That same week a good friend of mine lost his father to a long-term illness and another close friend lost her brother to suicide. I was a junior in college and the entire world felt like it was crying. It was a heart pain, one without understanding, a pain that screamed the question, “Why?”
And then amidst the many people who offered their condolences and tried to be supportive, one classmate of mine simply placed a small package, a small gift, next to me while I was studying in the school’s lobby. Inside the package there were three grape hyacinth bulbs and a note that read, “When everything around you feels like it is dying, nurture something to life.”
I had never been a gardener up to that point. Even living on the college farm for a year, I had struggled remembering to water and weed our communal plants. I hated going out in the rain to check to see if the plants were being washed out and liked even less turning the compost. Yet in that moment, the opening of that package and the reading of that note, something shifted. I planted those bulbs and watered them attentively. I watched them grow over the rest of the semester, smelling their sweet scent and marveling over their beautiful colors. And then I watched that season of growth finish and I watched the plants die. Yet somehow those flowers, in their lifetime of growth and beauty, had changed me. My anger at God and at others had lessened. A passion had been planted for gardening and the many different gardens over the next course of my life became places of tears as well as places of healing. For now when I feel that the world around me is dying, it helps to nurture something into life.
The season of Lent is a time of acknowledging the work we need to do in ourselves and in the world. It is a time where we say out loud our faults and seek genuine repentance. It is a time of wrestling with the evil and injustice we find in our lives, in our own hearts and in our world. If sin is defined as broken relationships with God, with others and with ourselves, then Lent is a time of acknowledging those broken relationships and it’s a time to work on healing and mending.
This week, I started the worship outline with the Gospel text from Matthew which depicts the story of Jesus resisting the Devil’s temptations. Jesus is offered prestige, wealth, and power, and he turns them all down. He confronts the Devil with a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. It is a story of Jesus’ as well as humanity’s victory over the temptations of empire. Jesus’ message to us all is that it is possible to resist; it is possible to not only know what is right but also it is possible to do what is right.
Right now, it is easy to feel like the world around us is going to hell in a handbasket; it is easy to feel like the whole world is crying. And it’s easy to feel like we, individually and collectively, aren’t doing enough about it. But we know what is right and we know what is wrong and Jesus shows us that it is possible to choose and to act. Rolland Allen wrote in Preaching God's Transforming Justice, “If we want to follow Christ, we must do so radically by first saying no to all that the cross is not [prestige, wealth and power], and then saying yes to all that the cross is: justice, mercy, and compassion.”
So as we begin this Lenten season, let us begin the process of repentance, of righting relationships and seeking forgiveness by choosing justice, mercy and compassion, by choosing what the cross is—for our relationships with God, each other and ourselves. It is the first step, one of many on the path to come. Lent is 40 days for a reason (well, for many reasons actually): it is a season and a journey, not just a single action.
The second passage this week is Psalm 32, known as the Penitential Psalm, which poetically outlines that journey, the process of Lent: confession, forgiveness and transformation. Once we choose justice, mercy and compassion over prestige, wealth and power, we must recognize that we have not always made this choice. The psalm describes a journey that creates space for our guilt, our apathy and our mistakes, recognizing that these things have hurt ourselves as well as others.
For there is recognition here that our transgressions, our sins, our broken relationships, eat away at our body and soul: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away.” That we carry a sense of heaviness around with us when we have unresolved conflicts and guilt: “Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped.” And then when we mend those relationships, when we admit our mistakes and heal our transgressions, we experience both forgiveness and transformation—that is righteousness, that is resistance, for in being forgiven and forgiving others we overcome evil and we overcome sin.
Therefore, resistance is both avoiding evil, choosing the path of justice, mercy and compassion, as well as participating in forgiveness. Thus is the journey of Lent that leads to Jesus’ resurrection. The path of resistance is that creative work that builds and develops relationships with God, with each other and with ourselves when sin and evil wants to tear those relationships apart. Let us begin this journey of resistance together, let us together begin this season of Lent.
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, help us choose what the cross is: justice, mercy and compassion. In these days of evil, help us nurture something to life. Walk with with us on this journey of Lent. Walk with us on this path of resistance. Lord have mercy. Amen."