Welcome to this Online Meeting for Worship. Below you will find songs, scripture readings, poems, and a short message to frame and guide your time in worship. The scripture used generally (though not always) comes from the weekly Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), connecting the Friends tradition to other Christian traditions around the world. This year we are in Liturgical Year B (2017-2018).
I suggest that you open each link in a separate window and play through the beginning of the songs to get past 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! Ad blocking software is helpful in this case.) You may also want to have a candle and a journal nearby.
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. 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. We do not have a "live" worship time and place yet, though discernment is underway to designate one.
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.
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Thank you for joining me in this weekly online Quaker programmed worship. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Waking Up and Answering
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.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
—1 Samuel 3:1-20, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
— John 1:43-51, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Waking Up and Answering
As I read the story of God calling Samuel, I imagine my son Gideon in Samuel’s situation. Gideon often wakes up at night and needs to be soothed. As he gets older, I can imagine him waking up due to a bad dream or a scary noise. I can imagine the pitter-patter of his little feet into our room saying, “Here I am!” or “Mama? Papa?” I can also imagine Ben and I drowsily grumbling, “Go back to sleep!” This image puts Eli’s response a bit more in context for me. “I did not call, lie down again,” Eli says to Samuel. Eli most likely was asleep and his charge Samuel was just a little boy. It took Samuel a few attempts at waking Eli up for Eli to actually figure out what was going on. The third time Samuel comes to Eli—that magic number three—Eli is awake enough to realize the Lord is calling Samuel, so Eli tells Samuel to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
How often in our lives are we Eli? Asleep to injustice, to prejudice, and to violence? How many times do we need a Samuel to come to us, to wake us from our sleepiness, in order to figure out what is going on? What does it take to wake you to the ills of the world? What does it take to wake you to the prophecies that may not put you in good favor? What does it take to wake you to the work of God in the world?
This past week the world watched as the Golden Globe awards were given out. The last several years the focus of the Oscars and the Golden Globes has been on race and racism. Before that, it was on LGBTQ rights and same sex marriage. This year, in the wake of the #MeToo campaign and the revealing to all sexual assaults and other atrocities by public figures, the focus of many of the messages was sexism, sexual violence, and the intersection of sexism and racism.
It’s not that oppression of the LGBTQ community, of Blacks and people of color, and of women has been a progression. No, these things have been happening all together, all at once, intertwined and separate, creating intersections as well as unique experiences. For whatever reason, though, the public has been able to focus on one of them at a time. What will it take for us to wake up to it all? Will we be able to hear the dark prophecy from Samuel? Will we be able to hand our futures over to the new prophets? Or will we need another wake up call?
The other scripture from this week is about Nathaniel’s prejudice against Jesus. Nathaniel doesn’t believe that “anything good [could] come out of Nazareth,” which isn’t far off from what many of us may think of certain neighborhoods, certain high schools, or certain ways of life. Jesus replies to Nathaniel’s prejudice and suspicion by lauding him: “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” That could have been a tease or a jab as well, like saying, “Nothing gets past you Nathaniel!” But many scholars actually attribute Jesus’ response to Nathaniel as an act of identification. “An Israelite in whom there is no deceit” could mean that Nathaniel was known as someone full of God whose spiritual gift was honesty and perception. Jesus goes on to say that he saw Nathaniel under the fig tree, which was a place where Rabbis went to teach and collaborate. The fig tree was also seen as a symbol of messianic peace. Jesus knowing that Nathaniel had been there may have meant that Jesus could tap into the same kind of supernatural perception for which Nathaniel was known. Jesus continues with Nathaniel, saying, “You will see greater things than these.” Suggesting that the insights, supernatural perceptions, wisdom, and so on, that Nathaniel has been privy to in the past was only a drop in the bucket of what Jesus could open Nathaniel’s eyes to. Maybe it was like Jesus proving to Nathaniel that he was the real deal, and then encouraging him to go deeper and further spiritually with Jesus as his guide.
It’s a peculiar story—there isn’t much context to it and there isn’t much concrete analysis about it. We can speculate about the actual interaction, but what is the central message? Jesus broke through Nathaniel’s initial prejudice against him not by shaming or blaming him, not even by being angry. Instead, Jesus joined Nathaniel as a peer first, demonstrating that he had been where Nathaniel had been and done what Nathaniel had done. Then, once Jesus saw that Nathaniel understood that Jesus was not who Nathaniel had expected him to be, once Jesus had lifted Nathaniel up to the same rung on the metaphorical latter they were climbing, Jesus then encouraged Nathaniel to keep climbing, to keep growing, to keep learning how to be a disciple to God. This reminds me of the story in the news this week of comedian Sarah Silverman replying to a sexist twitter comment. She replied with compassion. She replied by joining the commenter in his pain. She replied by believing that this person was more than his prejudice. And the result was beautiful. Silverman made a connection with someone who wanted to bring her down, and she and the commenter participated in transformation and in uplifting humanity.
Both this week's scriptural stories encourage us to strive for something more. Samuel did not just listen to God, he spoke for God. He was encouraged to have voice in that divine relationship, to participate in that divine interaction. Nathaniel was not left in his prejudicial state, nor was he allowed to stay the way he was in relationship with God. Nathaniel was encouraged to grow, to experience, and to participate in a relationship with Jesus, and with God. Often as Quakers we sit and listen to God in our worship. We wait for God to speak—and then we wait some more. However, waiting worship is only part of our call into relationship with God, and speaking out of worship is only another part. God prompts us to respond to the divine call, to leadings, and to nudges. When we wake up to God’s call, we have a responsibility to answer. When God meets us on the road, sees us, and reveals to us that divine presence, we have the responsibility to follow. This life of faith is not stationary, nor is it predictable. To live faithfully is to actively engage with God’s call; to live faithfully is to wake up, to answer, and to respond to the message, “Follow me.”
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 by praying out loud, either a prayer of your own creation or the following: “O Holy One, when you call, I will answer. When you meet me where I am, I will walk with you. Lord, help me know you in these times, move with you in your work in the world, and be awaken to what you have in store for me. Amen.”