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, if you would like to receive an email each week with a link to the week's worship outline, please subscribe at the bottom of this post. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Where Two or Three are Gathered
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: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
— Matthew 18:15-20, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Scripture: Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
— Romans 13:8-10, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Where Two or Three are Gathered
It has been another week where the events that keep on coming and coming feel like the end times. People all over the continent are evacuating their homes and their lands because of fires, floods, and storms. Wildfires rage across the western coast of North America and smoke can been seen for hundreds of miles. Hurricane Harvey left Houston underwater and Hurricane Irene threatens the Caribbean and the southeastern part of the United Sates. While we wait, watching the news in every public place that has a TV for updates about wind speeds and storm paths, the U.S. government is in the process of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This means that thousands upon thousands of families are not only at risk of losing their homes and their lives from the weather, but are also facing the possible deportation of even their youngest of children. Lord have mercy!
And this is all happening on the heels of white supremacy rallies across the country, the Nashville Statement bashing the LGBTQ community, and more and more strained relations between the U.S. and North Korea. God, if there is ever a time to show up, we could use you about now!
Reading the scriptures from this week, I am reminded that God is already here. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” Jesus says to the disciples. It’s a well-trodden Quaker theological belief that it only takes two or three people listening together for God in order to hear God in the space between.
“They gather together in the Son’s name (in his living name, oh, wait to understand that!). And there the Son is in the midst of them, and his life and Spirit intercedes in them.” — Isaac Penington (The works of the long-mournful and sorely-distressed Isaac Penington, 1761, p. 672)
Looking into the Quaker history, the living out of Jesus’ teachings among our common tradition, I found the story about Friends not being legally aloud to gather in groups of more than four:
“[The Second Conventicle Act (1670) forbade meetings of more than five persons.] Then the mayor very lovingly said, ‘...Seeing Christ hath promised that where two or three are met in his name, he will be in the midst of them [Mat 18:20], ... why will not you be content to partake both of Christ’s promise of two or three and the King’s indulgence to four?’ Unto which I answered that Christ’s promise was not to discourage many from meeting together in his name, but to encourage the few, that the fewest might not forbear to meet, because of their fewness.” — George Fox (The Journal of George Fox, edited by John L. Nickalls, 1952, p. 564.)
And as such we are not limiting the number of people who can gather by proclaiming that God is already here, but—rather in this time of troubles and turmoil—we remember that even among the few, Christ is present and walking among us.
Where is God?
- God is here.
- God is with us.
- God is with the people.
- God is with the people who gather.
- God is with the people in Houston waiting for a plane to take them to a new home.
- God is with the people bailing out their houses.
- God is with the people who have lost everything
- God is with the people who are lost.
- God is with the people evacuating their homes because of fire or flood or storm.
- God is with the people watching the smoke and the rain from a distance.
- God is with the people praying that everything will be ok.
- God is with the people knowing that everything is gone.
- God is with the people crying.
- God is with the people screaming.
- God is with the people lamenting and lashing out at God.
- God is with the people who are exhausted and too tired to cry.
- God is with the people who don’t know what to say.
- God is with the people who huddle together in the silence.
- God is with the people who don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
- God is with the people who fear for their children.
- God is with the people who fear for their future.
- God is with the people who fear for their loved ones.
- God is with the people who love despite their fear.
- God is with the people who reach out and help each other.
- God is with the people rescuing neighbors, animals, and strangers.
- God is with the people handing out food and water and blankets.
- God is with the people singing.
- God is with the people praying.
- God is with the people.
- God is with us.
- God is here.
“God is love, & he that dwells in God dwells in love, & love is the fulfilling of the law, & love thinketh no evil nor doeth no evil, but overcometh evil with good.” — Margaret Fell (Undaunted Zeal: The Letters of Margaret Fell, by Elsa F. Glines, 2003, p. 296)
While we can’t change the weather, we are not paralyzed in front of the TV watching the news, waiting to see what happens next like a blockbuster movie thriller. We have work to do to protect the thousands of children who are in danger of deportation due to the repeal of DACA. We have work to do protecting our schools, our communities, and our families from hate, from fear, and from injustice. Our daily prayer is lived out by how we embody Christ’s living presence and how we engage completely in gospel order. It is not by ignoring or running away from conflict and disagreement that we change this world, rather it is by engaging with authenticity and compassion. Jesus teaches us that when we are in conflict with one another, me must first try to work it out ourselves. Then if that doesn’t work, we take along companions who can help mediate. If that still doesn’t work, then the institutions that we trust are invited to step in.
People are doing this daily—even individuals without much power standing up to institutions with lots of power. How are you living into Jesus’ teachings of gospel order with you family? With your neighbor? With your religious community? With your town? With your government? How is God inviting you into authentic engagement?
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, have mercy on those who are suffering so much from fire, flood, and storm. Have mercy on the littlest of us who are at risk of deportation and detachment from family. God, you are here, we can feel you, remind us with your simple presence that together, in groups of as small as two or three and as large as we can imagine that your presence brings about hope, love, and transformation. Guide us towards gospel order among ourselves, with our families, with our communities, and with our country. Amen.”