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.
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.
A miktam of David.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
— Psalm 16, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
— John 20:19-31, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Practicing Resurrection
Currently, Ben, Gideon and I are splitting our time between Somerville, MA, and Strafford, VT. We just bought a house in Vermont and are slowly moving up there as we also slowly shift our lives from busy city lives to slower country lives. Down in Somerville, MA, the past week has been warm and balmy. The trees went from budding to leafing almost overnight and there are flowers everywhere. There is a real sense of spring that gets into all of your senses.
Up in Vermont, however, spring is coming along more slowly. Last night in Vermont I was lulled to sleep by the sounds of spring rains. The air is foggy here and the rain continues to fall. It is mud season with muddy roads and mud everywhere, a brown grayness of a waking place, a place that isn’t much of a morning person.
In my prayer time this morning, I found myself smiling at the analogy of these two places (Somerville and Vermont) and the people that the scriptures have been describing. It’s as if Mary Magdalene came to the disciples and said, “Spring is here!” and they looked out their Vermont window and said, “We don’t believe you.” And then when spring came to Vermont, their friend Thomas, who was in Canada gave them a call. The disciples said, “Spring came!” but Thomas didn’t believe them. “I have to see it for myself.”
In addition to doubt, the disciples and Thomas were also coming from a place of fear. They feared that they would be killed, like their friend Jesus. They feared that their community had not been strong enough to withstand the blow of Jesus’ death. They did not believe that there was something amazing in store for them, just a little down the road.
It’s kinda like when it snows at the beginning of April and you think that spring will never come. But we have the advantage of experiencing spring time each year, as we have the advantage of knowing that Christ rises on Sunday morning. How much more might we fear if all of that was unknown.
The unknown can be scary. It can be the waiting around for the other shoe to drop or it can be the limit on our imagination because of fear of pain, rejection, or death. But the unknown can also be rich and beautiful. C.S. Lewis writes, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” In The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” We know that there is a mystical engagement with the unknown that is powerful, transformational, and good.
In Psalm 16, the writer speaks of God as a refuge. Historically, during the time of Jesus, when someone was accused of a crime, they could go to a city of refuge to await their trial. A city of refuge was a physical place where people could not harm you while you awaited judgement. John 20:19-31 speaks of the disciples hiding behind locked doors “for fear to he Jewish leaders.” The disciples had created their place of refuge while they waited out the ramification of Jesus’ death.
In this place of refuge, the disciples felt safe but Jesus showed them that their sense of safety was an illusion. Only in God can they find true refuge, only with the confidence that the Risen Christ walks among them all, that the Inward Teacher has come to teach his people himself, can the disciples—any and all disciples—confidently stand up to injustice, oppression, and violence. This is the engagement in that unknown that is powerful, transformational, and good. This is the refuge that gives us the strength to overcome the unknown of fear, pain, rejection, and death.
But Thomas still needs additional reassurance that we are talking about the God unknown rather than the fear-pain-death unknown. We also don’t know where he was or what he was doing when the disciples experienced Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. All we know is that when he heard of their experience, he just didn’t believe them. Perhaps it was akin to a friend coming late to a party and saying, “Wow, you all must be drunk. I’ll believe you when I see it for myself.”
And yet in spite of this additional disbelief, Jesus still appears again and there is something humanizing about these stories of disbelief and revelation.
This past Wednesday at a contemplative worship service I attended, they read the poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” by Wendell Berry. The poem ends with the instruction, “Practice resurrection,” which stood sharply out to me during the worship.
What does it mean to practice resurrection? Historically, Friends did not celebrate the various liturgical holidays because they believed that every day was holy. I’ve often thought about this as I’ve explored different religious traditions and experimented with different spiritual practices. Several times I wondered what it would be like to observe Maundy Thursday every Thursday, Good Friday every Friday, and Easter Sunday every Sunday? Or what would it be like to wake up every morning and embrace the Risen Christ?
I think for me the practice of observing every day as holy, is an experience of practicing resurrection. Like Thomas and the disciples, there are many days that I just don’t believe. I need some tangible sign or proof that Christ is part of my life. I don’t believe other people’s testimonies or experiences. I sometimes even think people are just plain crazy.
Yet there are other days that the indescribable, indisputable experience of the invisible essential is alive in my heart. Like practicing an instrument, we make mistakes and more mistakes and even more mistakes, but with practice we get better at playing over time. I hope and pray that by practicing resurrection we draw closer to Christ’s hope for us, getting better at the peace of Christ each morning we rise.
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 in vocal prayer, either of your own creation or read out loud the following: “O Holy One, help me practice resurrection each day as I rise in the morning and as I go throughout my day. Draw my heart towards your mysterious unknown of transformational power so that I may overcome the fear of pain, rejection, and death. Empower me to walk confidently out into the world with you as my refuge. Remind me, O Lord, that you walk with me into this world. Amen.”