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.
Transfiguration: The Process of Becomming
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 when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
— 2 Kings 2:1-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
— Mark 9:2-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Transfiguration: The Process of Becoming
Every year when we come around to Transfiguration Sunday, which in the modern liturgical world falls the Sunday before Lent begins, the word transfiguration leads me to think about the spaces available (and lack thereof) in theology, in society, and in this world for the people who are trans and gender non-conforming.
As described in the text, the Transfiguration was when Jesus was transformed by God and joined by the prophets. Peter, James and John, who were with Jesus at the time, heard the voice of God claim Jesus as God’s son. To be transfigured, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary is to be changed “of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” It is derived from the Greek word μεταμορφόω (metamorphoō) which roughly translates to “I transform” and is the same word from which we get the words transformation and metamorphosis. In this story, Jesus’ appearance is altered—notable of course—but what is really going on here is that Peter, James and John get to see who Jesus really is. Jesus’ authentic self, his whole self, his divinity and his humanity is revealed to these apostles. The Transfiguration is a celebration of becoming fully who you are.
Before I dove fully into a trans/queer theology of the text for this week, I started out researching the history of the observance of the Transfiguration, which is much darker than the words transformation and metamorphosis suggest. Transfiguration Sunday was originally held on August 6th. While who, when, and why this feast was created are unclear, there is general consensus among scholars that by the 9th century observance of Transfiguration Sunday was part of the church calendar. It was celebrated on August 6th annually from the 9th century through the 20th century, and is still celebrated in August in some Christian traditions.
Transfiguration Sunday was moved some time after the end of World War II. On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. So what had annually been a celebration of transformation—of Jesus transfiguring into a being of white light, of Jesus becoming fully who was he was in front of his friends—became a day haunted by the white light of death, destruction, and annihilation.
Since then, Transfiguration has been observed the Sunday before the beginning of Lent. It is a celebration of light winning out over darkness, of clarity driving out doubt, and of Jesus claiming his place among the lineage of prophets. Also, its place in history reminds us that metaphors of light and dark, triumph and defeat, revelation and concealment can become quickly twisted.
So in reclaiming this celebration, I return to the text. While the story of Jesus transfiguring in front of Peter, James and John is one of our texts this week, the other is about Elijah and Elisha. This story is most likely included because it depicts Elijah’s transfiguration from human form to spiritual form. However, Elijah doesn’t come back. So this story, rather than a story of becoming fully who one is, is a story about fulfilling one’s life and dying into eternal life. Elijah “ascended in a whirlwind into heaven,” while Elisha remained on earth and in his grief tore off his clothes.
Taking a step back, the scripture describes the loyalty of Elisha to Elijah in exemplary storytelling form. Three times, Elisha is told that Elijah is being sent somewhere by God and will not live long. Three times Elisha refuses to leave his friend’s side. Three times Elisha demonstrates his loyalty to Elijah by coming with him. Elijah, recognizing Elisha’s loyalty, asks, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha replies, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”
While it’s not widely thought that Elijah and Elisha were more than just friends and traveling companions, I wonder if a queer theology take on this would find something else. Elisha is Elijah’s death companion; he is walking with Elijah as Elijah dies. And when asked what Elijah can do, Elisha asks to be faithful, to be full of God, to be Elijah’s successor, and to keep Elijah alive in his own heart. Elisha has seen Elijah again and again in the scriptures being used by God to be fully who God wants Elijah to be. Elisha desires this too. Elisha desires to be authentically God’s prophet.
So here we have it, two stories of people becoming not something else, but fully themselves, and two stories of friends witnessing this. Friends see the transfiguration of self and are changed by the examples set before them.
Thinking about the word transfiguration and the act of becoming fully yourself, I spent time this week watching Peterson Toscano’s Transfigurations: The Movie, a lecture and performance piece about transgressing gender in the Bible. In the film Peterson tells many stories and each offers an example of gender non-conforming characters. By and large, these stories are about people becoming fully themselves—but not with out suffering, grief, confusion, and at times the need to hide away again. We hear their stories as experiences of becoming and we hear their stories of God loving people fully as they are.
Whether during this time of worship, or sometime in the near future, I encourage you to watch Peterson’s film. Watch it in celebration of Transfiguration. Watch it in contemplation of what it means to experiencing becoming fully who you are. Watch it to remember that creating space for people as they are, who they are, and where they are, is God’s will and longing. Jesus didn’t reveal himself fully without witnesses. Elijiah had Elisha to help him transcend. We become fully who we are in the presence of those who love us. What space are you called to create, for yourself, for your friends, and for your community, to empower each other to be fully who God wants you to be?
Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson
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, we celebrate the Transfiguration by being fully who God wants us to be. Help me let my light shine forth, empowered by others whose lights shine brightly, let me join to flood the world with your light of truth, authenticity and peace. Transform me, O Lord, into that which I am. Be present in my life, walking with me into a future not yet my own. Amen.”