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.
Rising Up and Casting Out
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.
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”
— Deuteronomy 18:15-20, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
— Mark 1:21-28, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Rising Up and Casting Out
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
— Maya Angelou
This week’s passage from Deuteronomy 18 begins, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.” Reading this in the wake of last weekend’s women’s marches led me to spend time with Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise. In a time of political and environmental darkness, we need the beacons of hope that shine forth ahead of us. Whether through song or scripture, poem or thank you speech, God has been and continues to rise up among us. It is the experience of the daily resurrection—the everyday rolling away of the stone and seeing that Jesus is not dead, hope is not dead, our future is not dead. No—for this death gave way to life and Jesus rose up.
Many Quakers share the belief that Jesus has risen and is walking with us in this world now. This power theology, called realized eschatology, suggests that Jesus is not unavailable to us; he not waiting for some point in the future when the world is at its most broken point; he is not waiting to save, transform, and lift up. No, realized eschatology is the belief that Jesus has risen and his power, teachings, and transformation is available to others. Jesus rises up among us, in us, around us, with us. That holy and transforming Spirit lives and breathes and grows now.
So as we sit with that still small voice inside of us, as we hold the beliefs that Jesus has risen and Christ is alive and is now, that that of God is in each of us, and that the living Christ dwells incarnate and can be found inside our hearts, I invite you to sit in that space of awareness of God’s presence and listen. Can you feel the living Christ inside of you? When you are in corporate worship can you sense the living Christ inside each and every person present? Alone, can you reach out and sense the living Christ in each of the people in your life? Focus on your attention to that presence, imagine it as a golden light, and sense it growing inside each person. God is limitless. God is both within and beyond. Feel the living Christ in you, feel it reach out and connect with the universe.
When you have held your awareness for the time needed for your practice and worship, bring yourself back. God will always be with you, you need only to pause and find that light within.
Perhaps, though, as you go searching for that living Christ incarnate, you may also find living inside you spirits of other kinds: racism, sexism, heterosexism, ablism, ageism, greed, hate, rage, apathy, despair. You may find these as subtle presences or raging forces that compel you to do things you know are wrong. Microaggressions, turning a blind eye, internalizations, and rationalizations may all come from the subtle presence of these evil spirits. We may not even know we are acting on them. We may be blind to their presence and effect. And yet there they are—along with the living Christ there is also the presence of great evil in each of us. And how we turn each day—either to Christ or to these spirits—directly impacts our life in the world. In the second scripture this week, Jesus casts out a demon. Jesus did not hesitate when he saw the demon, he heard its voice, recognized its voice—perhaps as something he had heard himself at some point in his life—and with power granted to him by God he cast that demon out.
These days exorcism and the casting out of demons is pretty controversial. Even the Catholic church reserves the power and authority of exorcism to one priest per diocese, if that. The casting out of the evil that we hold in ourselves is something that we might further explore. Evil spirits like racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, greed, hate, rage (different from anger), apathy, and despair (different from sadness or clinical depression) are parts of ourselves that we must actively chose to turn away from. By the grace of God, some of these spirits might be transformed. However, I wonder if in more cases than not, we must cast them out of our hearts ourselves and fill there empty spaces with compassion, contrition, and love in order for us to lean more deeply into the living Christ incarnate.
So as you settle back into waiting worship, I invite you to explore the landscape of your heart. What spirits grace the rooms of your inner world? Are there spirits whose time dwelling inside you has come to an end? How do you cast them out? How do you choose each and everyday to lean into the burning light of the living Christ? How do you rise up?
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, I open my heart to you. Help me cast out the demons of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, greed, hate, rage, apathy, and despair. Fill the space they occupy with compassion, with contrition, and with love. O Lord, enliven in me the power of your living Christ incarnate. Raise me up and turn my attention to those rising up with me. Amen.”