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.
Pentecost: Gifts of the Spirit
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: So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
— Numbers 11:24-30, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
— 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Gifts of the Spirit
When I learned about Pentecost as a teenager, I thought it was the most Quaker of liturgical celebrations. In the story described in chapter two of the book of Acts, folks are all together in one place when the Holy Spirit descends upon them. Each person begins speaking of God’s truth and glory in their own language and everyone understands the different languages. It is a story celebrating the Spirit that dwells in each of us and it is a story that challenges us to listen to that Spirit beyond the words and cultures that divide us.
Reading the scriptures for this liturgical year though, the story of Acts 2 wasn’t in the set. Instead, other stories in the scripture are shared, stories that describe the Spirit coming into people and manifesting as gifts. In fact, the Bible is full of these kinds of stories. However, the scriptures for Pentecost this year are stories about unity, about everyone having gifts and about celebrating the indwelling of the Spirit in us all.
In the Religious Society of Friends there exists the belief of the ministry of all believers. We believe that each person has gifts of the Spirit, that each person is a minister, and that each person has the responsibility to steward those gifts in their own lives. We are also deeply conflicted about whether recognizing those gifts in each other is a good idea.
Our suspicion about recognizing gifts comes from our religious history where recognition has meant power and power has led to abuse. Those members who became recorded ministers—that ism members who gifts of the Spirit were recorded and recognized by their meeting—at times misused their recognition, using that consequential power to hurt others. The legacy of this abuse and the pain that it caused is often used as a reason today to not record or recognize gifts.
Another reason that is often used to not record or recognize gifts is the thought that if everyone is a minister and if everyone has gifts, why recognize any of them? With this thought often comes the feeling of scarcity. If we recognize some people’s gifts, then we can’t recognize other people’s gifts because there is only so much room in the meeting for gifts! It sounds perhaps silly put that way. Another way of thinking about it is that people who don’t feel seen or heard by the meeting sometimes feel that it is a matter of justice and equality to stand in the way of other’s gifts being recognized. While there may be some feelings of jealousy here, there is also a deeper issue of seeing and hearing all of our members, even those people who are harder to like and harder listen to.
The story of Numbers 11:24-30, about Moses and the elders experiencing the Spirit and prophesizing, gives all of us involved something to ponder. First the Spirit does give gifts to some in a more public way than others—though as we know from 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, the Spirit imbues all with gifts, they just look different. Second, if we get jealous of some gifts over others, then we give power and authority to some gifts over others and that causes unjust systems of authority. But if we don’t recognize any gifts, we are turning a blind eye to the work of the Spirit among us and being unfaithful to the roles and responsibilities that those gifts require.
1 Corinthians speaks of many kinds of gifts. “To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, NIV) Indeed, our modern interpretation of these gifts would result in an even longer list. The message here is that there are different kinds of gifts and they are all of the same Spirit.
And with these different kinds of gifts, there are not ones that are better than others or ones that should be recognized more than others. They are all equal. Each should be recognized, supported, and stewarded by the individual and the community because our commission by God is to tend to, cultivate, and nurture the presence of the Holy Spirit among us. And so here’s the next link: gifts of the Spirit are nouns and our ministries are verbs, as the way we use our gifts in the world. We are not given gifts to waste them, we are given gifts to use them. And as we are one body, one body with many parts, we are called to support each other. We are called to lift up each other’s gifts, and to help each other be faithful stewards to our individual gifts of the Spirit and faithful ministers.
All that being said, I’ve had this daydream for a while now of a meeting responding to the legacy of pain and mistrust regarding recording ministry by recording each and every member of its community. By recording everyone, individually with their unique gifts, this meeting would be affirming that we are all ministers, each with the precious task to nurture and steward our gifts. This mass recording of gifts could help people be seen, feel valued, and feel heard. It would help a community come together like the body of Christ. It could be an opportunity to create ministry support circles, an opportunity for the celebration of new and changing gifts, and an opportunity to deeply know each other. It could bust open the cycle of pain, isolation, and grief that recording ministers has caused and it could reclaim our religious heritage of us all being ministers in this 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. 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 discern the gifts of the Spirit that you have given me. Move me to support other people and their gifts. Open me to accept the support from my community to tend, nurture and steward my gifts in my life. Join me with the ministers that are my community and lift us up as one body in Christ. Amen.”