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.
Make My Burden Light
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.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the river to the ends of the earth.
As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
— Zechariah 9:9-12, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:25-30, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Make My Burden Light
Lectio Divina is a contemplative practice of reading scripture and noticing what stands out to you. A traditionally Benedictine practice, Lectio Divina invites the reader into a living relationship with the scripture. This living relationship reminds me of the Quaker belief in continuing revelation: God is continually reveling to us truth and light through our experiences of scripture, our experiences of worship, and our experiences of each other. Lectio Divina invites the reader to read through the passages several times and there are many versions of the practice. One such version includes these steps:
- Read through the scriptural passage once with out any particular focus, reading it slowly and meditatively so that the words and the phrases sink into you.
- Read through the scriptural passage again and notice what phrases or specific words shimmer for you. Spend a few moments in silence ruminating on those phrases or words, saying them repetitively aloud or simply holding them in silence, noticing what message God has for you in those phrases or words.
- Settle into silence, holding space for God to speak to you beyond the words and for you to hold in prayer what has arisen for you.
- Read through the scriptural passage a third time, reading it slowly and meditatively again, listening to how the scripture speaks to your daily life and listening for the transformation that the words call you into.
As I spent time with the scriptural passages included this week in this worship, Matthew 11:28-30 kept coming up and sticking with me again and again. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I found myself drifting into silence as I went upon my days this week, simply holding that particular passage in my heart.
Part of my pause has been that the phrase “my burden is light” has come up recently in my research for a chapter that I co-wrote for a book for the National Council of Churches. The pertinent part of the chapter reads: “One interpretation of this passage from Matthew that Friends have found inspiration with, is to read the word ‘light’ as that revealing light of God that brings attention to injustices and transforms oppression into liberation. As Friends have moved in their work away from traditional prison visitation models, they have been inspired by the challenges by other groups to look at the systemic causes of mass incarceration and the injustices therein.” (“Lord, Make My Troubles Light: A Historical and Spiritual Reflection on Quaker Work in Prisons" by Philip Caroom, Rachel Guaraldi, and Ann Riggs in Thinking Theologically about Mass Incarceration: Biblical Foundations and Justice Imperatives. Kireopoulos, Budde and Lundberg, editors. Paulist Press, forthcoming 2017.)
What does it mean for Jesus to say that his yoke is easy and his burden is light? For me, reading the word light to mean a revealing light—a noun rather than an adjective—invites us to taken on the burden of revealing injustices and transforming oppression. It is just that though, the work is a burden, it’s hard and weary work. And much of what brings us to that work of justice and righteousness is also hard and weary.
There is a lot of weary and burdened people in my life right now. Friends, family, and community members who are shouldering huge burdens, are yoked with devastating illnesses, and are simply downright weary.
The word weary makes me think of the poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which reads at its end:
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.
Jesus promises to give rest to those who are weary and burdened. He promises that he is gentle and humble in heart. And in this contemporary reading of the scripture, Jesus promises rest for the souls who pursue justice and righteousness. When we engage in working to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, our hearts sigh in relief and in the rightness of our actions.
My prayer though is that we can rest into the sigh. That with a deep exhale, the weariness of your body can release, and travel with your breath into the strength and gentle nurture of the earth. And as you are filled with light, as you are filled with the thirst for justice and for righteousness, as you are filled with passion and compassion to do God’s work in the world, the burdens that you carry and all that is heavy in your life may be transformed into a new creation.
That new creation might be helping someone out that has been struggling with a similar burden. It may be advocating for the rights of others, walking in protest to climate change, subversively praying for the souls of those who are engaging in oppression, or simply being kind when it isn’t expected. That new creation might be getting angry and letting that anger fuel you with the righteous energy that burns away immobility. Or that new creation may be releasing anger and finding solace in gratitude, love, and unexpected moments of joy. That new creation may be way opening, clarity, light revealing newness in your life. Perhaps a new role, a new leading, or a new calling; perhaps an old role, an old leading, or an old calling refreshed by God’s affirmation and love.
And perhaps that new creation is simply rest and sabbath. Gifting the weary pilgrim with a day of rest, forgiveness, acceptance of grace, or just a piece of chocolate. So as you enter into waiting worship, I invite you into a Lectio Divina using this passage as your focus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
May the living God converse with you in your time with these words, with these phrases, and with that which is beyond this passage.
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, make my burden's Light. Illuminate my heart and instill in me passion for your work. Help me find rest for my weary soul, healing for the pains of my burden, and new creation to walk fiercely in the Light of your presence. Make my burden's Light O Lord, so that by that Light I may see the path before me and help other's along the way. Amen.”