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.
Walking the Path of Resurrection
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: Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
— Luke 24:13-35, New International Version (NIV)
Poem: “The Journey”
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Message: Walking the Path of Resurrection
This week’s main scripture tells the story of two of Jesus’ disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The story is formative to the Christian experience in part because if its ordinariness: it is simply a story of meeting and of presence; the disciples are not given any special powers or instructions. The story goes that the disciples meet a stranger and are so consumed by their grief that they do not recognize Jesus. While blinded by that intense grief, they still invite the stranger to walk with them and eventually to share a meal with them. It is a story about welcoming the stranger, the presence of Jesus among us in those whom we meet, but it is also a story about grief and our need to feel heard and cared for as we process loss and are transformed by our experiences.
Grief is a complicated and intimate journey that is different for each person. Scientists, sociologists, and theologians have attempted many times to map the grieving process. They have hoped to find some kind of predictability in the experience of grief to help counsel and help those who are grieving. Most famously, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 published her book On Death and Dying, which outlined five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Since Kübler-Ross’ book was published there has been extensive critique of her stages and studies have shown that though these stages are common, most people neither experience them all nor in the order laid out in the book.
In fact, grief is more commonly described as a cyclic experience, where—as we process our loss—we cycle through feelings again and again, sometimes with lesser intensity at each pass. And then, when we think that we are no longer grieving, something will often trigger our grief and we will again revisit our feelings. Grieving rarely has a predictable end and often is a process we are in for most of our lives.
While the experience of grief is complex and different for each person, there are some things that are supportive to those experiencing grief. This week’s scripture, the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus remarkably offers three examples of things we can do to support ourselves and each other when experiencing grief.
Storytelling: When people are ready, creating space for the story of the loss can be helpful and supportive to those who are grieving. This isn’t a space to ask for the elevator speech or edited version of what happened, but rather a space to listen deeply to the story, to the feelings and to the experience of the person grieving. It is a time to pause and listen without rushing, without constraint, but rather with presence and care. Sometimes people need to be heard right after a loss happens as they are verbally processing their disbelief. Other times people need time before they are ready to share the story of their loss and they often need a space to share their story where they won’t feel judged and where someone won’t try to fix their feelings.
Jesus takes this pastoral care a bit farther, and with him being Jesus perhaps he had the skills and the pastoral authority to do so. Jesus embarked on what is sometimes considered “narrative therapy,” which is a form of talk therapy. Intertwined with the fields of Narrative Theology and the narrative approach to trauma healing, narrative therapy is a process where the story of a person’s experience is looked at as a story, with protagonists, antagonist, plot, climax, resolution, and all the other parts of a literary story. The story then is reframed, sometimes with additional context, like Jesus did with the content of the teachings of Moses and the Prophets, and other times the story is reframed by shifting emphasis or character role. It’s a beautiful process that takes skill, experience and grace. Botched attempts at narrative therapy can feel dismissive and unsupportive and even hurtful to those who are sharing their stories of loss. So I’ll just say be careful with trying to attempt what Jesus did with the disciples unless you are interested in studying and training more in that skill.
Hospitality: Hospitality is the second way the story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus teaches us how we can support those who are grieving. So often when someone dies or when a loss happens, community jumps in at first with meals and visits, and other forms of support. Then though, over time, this support fades and the person or persons experiencing loss feel more and more isolated. Grief is a long and intricate process; it is a journey that does not often have a neat timetable or end. Our own fears of saying the wrong thing or being too much of a burden either as the grieving person or upon the grieving person can keep us away from much needed fellowship and company. What is striking about the Gospel story, is that what was needed by the disciples was that they got to take care of someone else. This is akin to the grieving person inviting someone over and that invitation being accepted. So often, caring of others helps up process our own grief and helps us care for ourselves. It may feel counterintuitive to let someone needing support, support us, but by allowing ourselves to be cared for can be a beautiful opportunity for someone else to love and feel loved.
Ritual/Breaking Bread: In the story, the disciples invite the stranger in to share a meal and break bread. It is in the action of breaking bread that the identity of the stranger-Jesus is revealed. In my work with persons who are grieving, simple ritual acts—like celebrating a deceased family member’s birthday, saying a prayer or lighting a candle, creating a collage, visiting a loved one’s family home, or planting a flowering bush in memory of someone who had died—these ritual acts create opportunity for connection: connection between those who are living, connection across time, and connection with the Divine. There is something almost magical about intentionally creating space for loss, grief, remembrance, healing, and so on. God is made present when we pause and honor all that is and was. And when we pause we remember that God has been present throughout all.
This week I included the poem “The Journey” by Mary Oliver as the second reading. This poem describes the bold and courageous act that is healing during a time of intense grief. There is language of process, of feeling “the old tug,” “little by little” and of leaving “their voices behind.” Of hearing “a new voice which you slowly recognize as your own.” This process of slow recognition reminds me of the disciples experience with Jesus on the road. That the disciples slowly recognized that Jesus was with them and would continue to be with them as they “strode deeper and deeper into the world.” The process of healing and the experience of grief are about walking the path of resurrection. It is an experience of meeting Jesus on the road of our lives, with all of our grief and our celebration, and slowly recognizing God’s presence along our journey.
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, help me pause and see you in the journey that is my life, in the grief, in the loss, in the celebration, and in the revelation. Lord, use me and work through me to create space for others to feel your presence in their lives. Let that of God in me meet that of God in others. Amen.”"