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.
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
— Psalm 47, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
— Luke 24:44-53, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Subversive Praise
It may come as no surprise to many of you reading this, but most of the messages that we are inundated with daily don’t want us to be happy. That’s right—the world doesn’t want us to be happy. Millions upon millions of dollars are invested daily on advertisements and product placements that depend on us being (among other things) unsatisfied, depressed, self-deprecating, angry, and lonely. Capitalism itself is a system built on the belief that we don’t have enough and that we aren’t enough. And while this is good for business, good for job creation and stability, and good for the way the world runs, it ultimately feeds on our experiences and feelings of scarcity. On top of that, social media helps us feel inadequate and the poisons in our environment (social and physical) leave us ill, alone, and hurting.
So then, what is counter-cultural, what is surprising and unexpected, what is subversive is this: be happy.
I’m not talking about the happy-go-lucky, eating a lollipop while ignoring the world happy. I’m talking about small to large experiences of joy. I’m talking about experiencing joy even while suffering, fighting, and balancing all that life has thrown us.
It’s the joy of seeing your child smile and laugh after being sick for a long time. It’s the joy of having a deep and meaningful conversation where you feel seen and heard. It’s joy that comes with that deep gut feeling that you are enough, you have enough, and for that moment at least, everything is okay.
The disciples felt that joy when Jesus ascended. They had been grieving deeply the loss of their leader and friend and then had been thrown about in confusion with his spiritual return. Their experiences of grief, both complicated and simple grief, were valid and essential to their being human. However, so is joy! Often we forget that experiencing joy, gratefulness, and hope are part of the human experience too.
In our time of great pain, anger, disillusionment, depression, and anxiety—and the list goes on—most of us at occasionally or often turn to ways to dull these feelings. It may be exercise, hobbies, or other distractions, but it may also be addictive tendencies and behaviors. But as Brené Brown and other researchers have found, you can’t dull selective emotions. So in the process of dulling your pain, anger, depression, disillusion, anxiety, etc., you also end up dully your ability to feel joy, gratefulness and hope.
Psalm 47 is another psalm of praise. Last week we looked at how praise, also known as gratefulness and celebration needs to be paired with answering Jesus’ commandment to love because they are cut from the same cloth. Having a practice of praise and of gratefulness gives us the solid spiritual foundation, the spiritual energy, the source, to actively love during times of suffering and also experience joy during times trial and tribulation.
It’s not that we should ignore the hard stuff—but if we don’t feel joy ever in our lives, we can’t fully engage with our other feelings and we can’t fully heal. It may be more socially acceptable to talk about all that is going wrong in our lives. It may be more appealing to be angry at the world and find fuel in that anger to be activists and change-makers. But remember that the joy experienced by activists—while singing together, marching together, planning together, and being in relationship together after non-violent action—is part of the experience of being an activist. To be whole is to feel joy and gratefulness. When we limit those emotions—when we give into a world that says its wrong to be happy, that it’s wrong to be grateful, that it’s wrong to be enough—then we succumb to a system that is bent on taking away our humanity.
So as you settle into your time of waiting worship, listen to the moments, the ways, and the opportunities to praise, to feel joy and gratefulness and hope. Where are the opportunities to be enough, to live in a way that is enough, to settle into that sense of gratefulness of who you are, what you have and what you doing and find the simple joys available to you?
Then later on, two things I suggest you explore. One is a children’s book by Byrd Byron titled I’m in Charge of Celebrations, which looks at ways to celebrate the everyday things and create a practice of gratefulness. You can listen Mara Glazer reading the book here. The other is a blog by my friend Liz, Frugalwoods, that looks at how we can economically simplify our lives and escape the trap of consumerism. So here is my encouragement to be subversive and recapture the practice of praise in your life. Be subversive by being joyful, by being grateful, by being hopeful and by being whole.
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 to be subversive and recapture the practice of praise in your life. Help me find joy and moments of gratefulness in my life. Help me find hope in the moments when hope seems impossible. Holy One, create in me the yearning to be whole, to feel the wholeness of humanity and the wholeness of your spirit within me. Amen.”