Dear Friends, we offer this self-directed worship outline as a resource for individual, family, or small group use. It is modeled on our regular order of worship, but please adapt it freely to suit your needs and circumstances. We hope this will be a blessing to you.
Gathering in Worship
“Les Barricades Mystérieuses” | Couperin
Announcements, Introductions, and Birthdays
We welcome all to this virtual gathering for worship, hosted by Wilmington Friends Meeting. As you know, our regularly scheduled corporate meeting for worship has been cancelled, in light of the need to slow the spread of COVID-19 by refraining from gathering together in person. However, no virus is powerful enough to stop us from being gathered by the bond of love! Whoever you are, and wherever you’re from, we’re glad that you’re joining us. Please participate as you feel led by the Spirit.
Other ways to gather with Friends:
Several years ago, many Friends enrolled in a free online course called Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers. This course is available again, beginning April 27th.
Emily Provance is hosting Quaker Family Devotionals on Zoom. Click here for more information and to sign up.
Barclay Press is offering daily contemplative devotionals on their website.
The Quaker Religious Education Collaborative has started a new Facebook group: Valiant Together: RE Support During COVID-19. Join to connect with religious educators and share ideas!
Powell House, a Quaker retreat center in New York, has a series of virtual workshops planned. Check them out here.
Though we have known hardship and pain,
though life has not always turned out as we had hoped,
we will stand here and say:
God’s steadfast love endures for ever!
Though life becomes more complex,
the deepest questions remain unanswered,
and the mystery of faith deepens, we will say:
God’s steadfast love endures for ever!
And though the pain of the world
often seems more than we can bear or address,
we will stand firm in our faith and say:
God’s steadfast love endures for ever!
~ written by Ann Siddall, and posted on the website of the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre.
Please take a moment to quietly collect your thoughts and prepare your heart(s) for worship.
O God, Our Help In Ages Past
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Caring in Community
Minute for Mission
Don’t forget: Sugartree Ministries needs our help! They’re collecting canned goods and other non-perishable foods. You can drop your donations off at Buckley Bros.
Praises and Concerns
Praise for the daffodils, and check out the lovely ones Tammy McKay planted around the base of our church sign.
Praise for finding new rhythms and new life.
Praise for the God-given wisdom and tenacity of scientists.
Praise for the unexpected blessing of time with family.
Pray for Friends facing the unexpected challenges of time with family.
Pray for strength and wisdom for healthcare workers around the world.
Pray that those who help sustain us will find ways to feel renewed.
Pray that Friends will continue to find creative and effectual ways of gathering by card, phone, email, and through online options.
Pray for our political leaders – locally, nationally, and on a global scale – that they would prioritize the peace and health of all people. We pray especially for Governor Mike DeWine, for Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, and for Dr. Amy Acton.
Pray for our seniors, both the senior citizens and the seniors in high school and college, for whom this is a particularly isolating experience.
Congregational Prayer Focus
Sabina Friends Meeting
Wider Quaker Prayer Focus
Friends United Meeting
Personal praises and concerns can be found in our congregational email. If you would like to submit a praise or a concern, email it to julie dot rudd at wilmingtonfriendsohio dot org. All submissions will, by default, be made anonymous if shared online.
Living Christ, you are the author of our faith, and could we make the oceans ink and the skies parchment, there still wouldn’t be capacity enough to write about your love. You love tickles the edges of unfurling leaves, and encourages each daffodil and each dandelion, and fertilizes the growing spaces in our hearts.
Where we are wilting, water us. Where we are ragged, mend us. Where we have failed, bring your compassion and your pruning shears, and make us new. Loving Creator, build us up in your image.
Lord, we are grateful for so many things: for the food in our pantries, for the toilet paper in our bathrooms, for all the reminders of love in our homes. We take a moment, now, to offer you our gratitude… … … thank you for these blessings.
You tell us to ask, and it shall be given unto us. We don’t pretend to understand the mystery of prayer, but we bring you our honest requests. We pray for the health of those we love, and our own health, and the health of all people. We pray that those who govern us will exercise wisdom and compassion. And as we pray for your kingdom of healing to come more fully, may we commit to continue with our lives what we’ve begun in our prayers, living wisely and compassionately and protecting the health of all.
Lord, give us the insight to see your power at work in the world, and the courage to join our hearts to the work. We consecrate to you our time, and our talent, and our treasure, and ask you to use them to make your love known. We pray this in the name of Christ our King, AMEN.
Offering and Offertory
Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss | Simple Gifts
If you wish to financially support the work of Wilmington Friends Meeting, please mail your donation to us at 66 N Mulberry St, Wilmington, OH 45177, use this link to donate online, or download the EasyTithe app and find us there. Or, as a way of embodying generosity, please make a donation to the religious organization or charity of your choice. Thank you for supporting holy work in the world through your hands and prayers and financial gifts.
Jeff and Sheri Easter | The Unexpected Cross
Hearing the Scriptures
Scripture Reading: Mark 15:16-26
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One Family, by George Shannon
Sermon: Bearing Witness
I wonder about Alexander and Rufus.
One of the fascinating things, about chapters 14 and 15 in Mark, is how we’re given all these vignettes of people responding to Jesus on his journey toward Golgotha. We had the anonymous woman with the alabaster jar of expensive perfume, who offered her gift as a anointing for Jesus, followed right after by Judas’ betrayal.
Peter insists that he will not fall away, and then nods off to sleep while Jesus is praying in the garden, and then later refuses to admit that he even knew his rabbi. There’s Pilate, condemning a man that he knew to be innocent, and Barabbas escaping on a technicality while Jesus goes to die in his place.
Then there’s the centurion figuring out Jesus’ real identity, and the women refusing to run away, and Joseph of Arimathea making room for Jesus’ body in his own tomb.
And there’s Simon of Cyrene, one of my favorite minor characters in the story, being commanded by occupying soldiers to carry another man’s cross.
Each one of these little images shows us one way that we might react to the cross of Christ:
We might offer our own devotion like the woman with the alabaster jar, no matter the cost, or we might start looking for more profitable options as Judas did.
We might be certain we would never turn away from the Gospel, just like Peter was, and then lose our nerve. Or we might be unwilling to make a public stand until all seems to be lost, like Joseph of Arimathea asking Pilate to let him care for Jesus’ body.
And Pilate and Barabbas are two images of complicity: Pilate had power and didn’t use it to save, and Barabbas left knowing that another man was suffering for his sins.
It’s like a Buzzfeed quiz: answer these 37 questions in order to find out which minor participant in the crucifixion of Christ had the same patronus as you. Are you more of an anonymous woman, or more of a Barabbas? You know you’re bored enough to do it.
And then there’s Simon, probably in town for the Passover celebration, pressed into service. Simon, the patron saint of everyone who has ever muttered to themselves, how is this suddenly my problem?
I mean, it’s not like Simon was the one who gave the temple a public cleansing. Simon wasn’t spewing apocalyptic rhetoric. Simon didn’t act up and get himself arrested. He’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he ends up carrying a cross.
Maybe you and Simon have similar patronuses, eh?
I have wondered about Simon before. He’s from North Africa — that’s where Cyrene is — which is why we assume that he’s one of the many people crowding into Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. That, you remember, is a yearly holiday that commemorates God’s rescue of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.
It’s a high holy day, right in the place where it’s meant to be celebrated. If the Roman Catholic tradition has resonance for you, imagine being in Rome on Easter. Or, imagine climbing Pendle Hill as George Fox did, when he saw his great vision of a people being gathered, and doing it on Pentecost Sunday.
That’s the kind of experience that Simon of Cyrene was in Jerusalem for, when he got impressed to serve in a new salvation drama.
Was Simon resentful? Was he resigned? Did he stop to weep over the procession of death, or was he just trying to get on with his day?
We don’t know, although I enjoy wondering about it. We get a little bit of a clue, though, from Alexander and Rufus.
Alexander and Rufus are Simon’s boys. They don’t seem very relevant to the story, until you notice that it’s odd that they’re mentioned at all. We don’t hear about the children of any of the other characters in the crucifixion drama.
But the rest of the characters, they aren’t on holiday. Simon is there taking his boys on the pilgrimage of a lifetime, to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. So, his boys are there watching, when he’s commanded to take up a cross.
The fact that Alexander and Rufus are named suggests to many scholars that these were people who were known within the early Christian community. You don’t name-drop people that the audience won’t know, right? You’d name-drop Alexander and Rufus because people in your audience will respond with, “Oh, Rufus Simonson, I met him while on a business trip to Philippi.”
Mark thinks that his audience will know Alexander and Rufus by name, as the sons who were there when their father carried Jesus’ cross. That adds a layer of reality to a story from way back when. Alexander and Rufus were there. For Mark’s audience, this was a contemporary story. It included characters that they knew.
So, I’ve been wondering what all of this looked like, to Alexander and Rufus. Were they scared for their dad’s safety? Had they seen crucifixions before? What did they understand of the Passover story… and could they have known that they were watching the slaughter of an innocent lamb?
The thing that I find disconcerting about this story — and, therefore, the thing that I need to sit with — is how the story shows me a vulnerable God. Whatever else Alexander and Rufus would have understood, they would have at least seen that.
Roman soldiers didn’t impress people to carry a condemned person’s cross because they were feeling generous. Crucifixion was as much about shame as about death, and carrying the instrument of your own torture was part of that shame. A ringer would only be recruited if the condemned person was physically unable to carry the cross.
Unable. That’s not a word that I associate with Jesus. Jesus healed the paralytic man. He walked on water. He fed thousands from scraps.
Unable? Not my Jesus.
And yet, if we say that Jesus was God incarnate in human flesh, God experiencing and sanctifying the heart of being human, then it necessarily includes being unable.
Sometimes, Friends, we just can’t. It’s just part of being human.
So as we think about the incarnation, imagine this: the Creator of the universe, the Ancient of Days, became one who couldn’t.
That’s radically vulnerable. I know that when I can’t, I like to try to hide it. I have my moments of can’t-ness in private. And then, I put on my resting cheery face and head back into the world, looking like I’ve got it together.
Jesus, on the other hand, has his I can’t do this moment in the middle of the street, in a city crowded with holiday traffic. He just couldn’t carry the cross, so the Roman soldiers impressed Simon of Cyrene to carry it instead.
That’s the Jesus that Alexander and Rufus saw. Not the powerful Jesus who turned a little boy’s lunch into a buffet for thousands. Not the insightful Jesus, teaching through aphorism and parable. Not even the Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as a peaceful king.
Alexander and Rufus saw the Jesus who couldn’t. And, years later, when Mark was writing all of this town, they were known within the Christian community, enough to be worth name-dropping.
They saw Jesus unable to carry his own cross, and they hung around with the community that claimed that broken man as their Messiah, as their savior.
Mark tells us, in the first verse of his Gospel, who Jesus is: This is where the good news starts — the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son.
That was the claim that the early church made, that Jesus’ death was actually his victory, and through that reversal the whole world was being turned upside down.
You can hear this claim for yourself, in the Scripture passage that I read. This story of Jesus’ vulnerability, of his need for help from someone like Simon, is bracketed by two paragraphs describing Jesus as the King of the Jews.
Before Simon’s appearance, we have the courtyard scene. The Roman soldiers dressed Jesus in royal purple and put a crown of thorns on his head. They mockingly saluted him, and beat him, and bowed before him, and spat at him.
They were making fun of the claim that Jesus was King, sure, but also making fun of the idea that a King would come to rescue the residents of this Roman colony. How could a resistance movement located in this little backwater ever hope to be successful? The soldiers treated Jesus as if he was ludicrous because the very idea of a King of the Jews was ludicrous to them.
And after Simon carries the cross, we have another image of kingship. Jesus is raised up on that cross to die, for all to see, with an inscription detailing the charge against him: the king of the Jews.
This is what the true king looks like. Not the one with the power of Caesar, but the one with the vulnerability of Jesus. Alexander and Rufus saw a condemned man who couldn’t carry his own cross, and in that man, they saw their king. A generation later, they were still with the community of people being transformed by the Jesus story.
Real power is always about vulnerability. We have to resist the cultural narratives that tell us otherwise.
I’m thinking about Alexander and Rufus, this time through the Holy Week story, because I’m wondering what the kids in our communities are seeing that salvation looks like. Are they seeing us counting the cost, or are they seeing us offering the gift?
Are they seeing us say we’ll be faithful, and then running away, or are they seeing us take a chance when it seems like all is lost? Are they seeing us acting to save ourselves, or choosing to help one another?
Are they seeing us trying to be invulnerable, or are they seeing us needing help to carry our crosses?
As we move into waiting worship, I invite you to consider each of the minor character in the crucifixion story. You can even read Mark 14-15 right here. Ask yourselves, Friends: if you had been there, what part would you have played?
And in this present time, how are you called to bear witness to the upside-down story of salvation?
Peguro Sisters | Were You There
Sharing in Silence
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence:
During waiting worship, we listen together for God’s voice. As a virtual participant in this service, this may mean a time of waiting worship with those gathered in your family or small group. It could also be an individual experience. These breath prayers may be helpful to you, as you wait for God’s presence. If you want an online experience, you can join the Ben Lomond Quaker Center Online Meeting.
Blessing and Sending
Close of Waiting Worship
Thank you, Friends, for blessing us with your mindful and loving presence here. As we move toward the end of our time of worship, join us again in song.
It Is Well With My Soul
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Thank you for sharing this virtual space with us! We are physically separated, but nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, so our hearts are always together. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with us now and always. AMEN.
Kats-Chernin | Butterflying