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
David Wesley | In Christ Alone
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.
Does it not therefore, remain to be our business, to wait for the light when a little of it appears; to believe in it, and that the fullness of the day will come, though we do not now see it; remembering that “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” – Friend Sarah Tuke Grubb, from 1787
Please take a moment to quietly collect your thoughts and prepare your heart(s) for worship.
O, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Caring in Community
Minute for Mission
American Friends Service Committee, which has been working since 1917 to promote peace and justice, is seeking volunteers and nominations for its Board of Directors, Corporation, Regional Executive Committees, and Advisory Committees and Task Groups. If you’d be willing to serve, or if you know of someone who would be willing, click here to see how the nomination process works. AFSC can cover travel-related costs for attending meetings.
Did you know that AFSC and the British Friends Service Council were the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947? Read about it here.
Praises and Concerns
Praise for the continuing joy of spiritual fellowship.
Praise for the lengthening days.
Praise for the ways sacrificial love is being shown.
Praise for finding new rhythms and new life.
Praise for the God-given wisdom and tenacity of scientists.
Praise for the hope that lies within us.
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
Xenia Friends Meeting
Wider Quaker Prayer Focus
North American Mission Board
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.
Glory to God, and praise and love be ever given, by all the faithful here on earth and all those we know through the communion of saints. You are the light that enraptures our hearts. We see your glory in each tree cloaked in new leaves, in each animal that frolics in the lengthening hours of sun, and in each person who chooses the path of love.
Let the righteousness and the kindness of your kingdom come, Lord. May your spirit rule in our hearts, in our families, in our communities, and in our world. Let your will be done, and make us doers of your will, so that earth will look more like heaven.
Lord, we lift before you our own needs. Give us the bread that we need for today, to sustain us, whether that’s food or companionship or comfort or room to breathe. Give us what we need to feel human.
And make us hungry for righteousness, and teach us how to seek it out. We want daily bread for all. We pray that you will bring an end to shortages of food and justice and housing and medical supplies. Make us instruments of your righteous care for all people.
If we’re instruments, then we haven’t always been in tune. Forgive us, Lord, for our off-pitch playing. Bring us into tune. Heal us, and let us sing in harmony.
May God’s strength be our pilot. May the power of God uphold us, and may the wisdom of God be our guide. Christ is risen, and our joy has no end.
In your mercy, hear our prayers, O Lord. Sanctify our lifted hearts and our offered gifts to you. AMEN
Offering and Offertory
West Coast Choir | Because He Lives
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.
Hearing the Scriptures
Scripture Reading: John 20:19-29
From Bible Gateway:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
When God first started making the world, it didn’t have trees and birds and dandelions. There was just deep darkness, the biggest kind of empty that you can imagine. Emptier than an empty bucket, or bathtub, or swimming pool. Emptier than a crater or even the Grand Canyon.
You know how empty a package of Oreos looks, when you’ve eaten the last one? The world was just like that. There weren’t even crumbs.
There was still God, though! God was moving like the wind, and then God started to call things into being: day and night, sky and sea, sun and moon and stars. All of it was good, maybe even better than a full package of Oreos. God made goldfish and gold finches, and giraffes and gazelles, and geckos and ginkgo trees.
The greatest thing God made, though, was people. People are created in God’s image, which means that we are made to be little pictures of what God is like: inventors, and carers, and givers, and protectors.
God made the people come alive by breathing into them. That’s a funny thing for us to think about, right now, since we’re being so careful not to breathe on people. God’s breath does the opposite of making us sick, though. God’s breath is the breath of life.
Try sitting very quietly, right now, and breathing slowly. Breathe in… breathe out. Can you picture God molding clay into people and then breathing into it? Can you think of your own breath as a gift from God?
Every breath can remind you that God made you and loves us. Try it for yourself:
Breathe in, and when you do, think silently to yourself: I am loved. Use your breathing out to quietly say I choose love.
Can you try that a few times? Breathe in while thinking I am loved. Breathe out while saying I choose love.
If my breath is God’s breath, what kinds of words should I use it to say? Are those the words that I am choosing today?
Bible Project | Nepesh
Older children (and adults) may appreciate this short Bible Project video about the Hebrew word nepesh, which is typically translated as soul but means so much more than that. The English word usually refers to a non-material essence of a human that survives after death, but nephesh means something different. It is referring to humans as living, breathing, physical beings, or just to life itself. Prepare to be surprised at the biblical meaning of this fascinating word.
Nickel Creek | Doubting Thomas
Sermon: Doubting, Seeking, Following
This is a fascinating time, Friends, to have an anxiety disorder.
I had a doctor’s appointment on Friday, and it included the same panel of questions that I always hear. They’re questions like, “Do you feel like your world is unmanageable or chaotic,” and “How’s your appetite?” and “Are you sleeping well?” and “Have you experienced difficulty concentrating?”
I’ve been through these and similar questions enough times that I’ve come to approach them as I do our queries. All good queries can have a diagnostic edge. They lift out illnesses in our hearts, ways in which we aren’t fully living in truth and love. Doug Gwyn has a good description here:
(transcript available on YouTube)
It’s been good for me to regularly have to answer questions about my anxiety levels. I live in this tension between experiencing anxiety as a medical problem and being called toward non-anxious living as part of discipleship, and these questions make me evaluate how I’m growing and whether the supports that I’ve built into my life are working.
This time around, though, the conversation was surreal. For starters, it was over the phone, so I was pacing around the backyard doling out chicken treats and looking for new bird nests. I don’t usually have to ask my doctor to speak up so that I can hear him over the hens.
But the questions, themselves… seriously, what percentage of the globe hasn’t felt overwhelmed by anxiety at some point in the last month? Aren’t we all in agreement that the world feels unmanageable and chaotic? Is anyone sleeping particularly well?
How’s my appetite? Well, I’ve eaten more Oreos in the past several weeks than I probably did in the prior decade. I don’t normally have that much of a sweet tooth, but I started eating Oreos while watching DeWine’s 2pm pressers — I know it’s Wine with DeWine, but I can’t drink wine at 2pm and expect to be good for anything afterward — and now I find that it’s become a ritual. Even thinking about updates on the unemployment system or PPE production makes me want my little glass of milk and my trusty stack of cookies.
Do my muscles feel tense? Yes. Am I feeling restless? Yes. Am I fatigued? Yes. Is any of this diagnostically relevant? Who knows? At one point, the questions gave me a fit of the giggles, which the doctor was (thankfully) very professional about. At another point, the doctor started giggling too.
What a weird time. I think we’re all in agreement about that.
I took a few days off, this week, to celebrate my birthday. We were supposed to be visiting family in Oregon and Washington, so Craig had time off as well. Let me set the stage for you: he’s doing something useful in the kitchen, like making bread or washing dishes, and I’m just standing there talking to him… and letting Charlie in, and letting Charlie out, and letting Charlie in, and letting Charlie out.
Cats are famous, of course, for not being able to make up their minds. This seemed to be something bigger, though. We watched her until it became evident that what she really wanted was for the outside to be different. It was raining, and she wanted to be outside in the sun.
So, Charlie was going in and out, in and out, because she was dissatisfied with both options. She didn’t want to be inside, and she didn’t want to be out in the rain. She just wanted to be living in a different world. She was agitated, maybe even anxious, definitely restless and tense. And on that day, Charlie was all of us.
One of the questions about anxiety that I’ve come to appreciate most asks if feelings of anxiety are preventing me from pursuing interests or experiencing pleasure. I love that way of framing it because the more obvious option — Are you feeling anxious? — is kind of a useless question. There’s always something to feel anxious about, if you’re a person of approximately average intelligence who pays attention to your family and keeps an eye on the news.
But is anxiety preventing me from seeing the good in the world? Is it keeping me from joy? Not really. We have rabbits in our yard, and cardinals and house finches nesting, and I’m thoroughly enjoying them. The blanket I’m working on is awesome, and I’m keeping in touch with friends and family, and I think my work matters, and we ate three batches of fresh homemade cheese this week. Life is pretty good. Anxiety isn’t stealing that from me.
I hope your anxiety isn’t stealing your joy, either, whether yours is an ongoing condition or a product of your circumstances. I’m thinking about our anxiety this week — and talking more about my own than I usually do — because in some churches, the Sunday after Easter is celebrated as Holy Humor Sunday. Humor is one of the best antidotes to anxiety that I’ve found.
Another fun fact: in the Revised Common Lectionary, used by many churches, the story of Doubting Thomas is always the Gospel reading on the Sunday after Easter. The story is set about a week after Easter, so that makes sense, although I don’t know why it’s used every year.
It’s the combination of those two celebrations that I find fascinating, though: Doubting Thomas, and Holy Humor. Humor is such a gift, in times like the one we’re living in, when it feels like the world as we knew it is ending. The story here about Thomas is about both real fear and deep joy. It’s about an anxious and distrusting reaction to the hope of resurrection, but it’s also a deeply funny story.
Thomas was also facing the end of the world as he knew it, you know. His rabbi, who he thought was the Messiah, was brutally murdered by the occupying military forces. All of his hope had been stripped away. His own life was possibly forfeit if he was known to have associated with Jesus.
So maybe this is a better year for understanding Thomas than most. Generally, we celebrate Easter with a special brunch, and displays of flowers, and special music, but Thomas didn’t get any of that. The story that we take for granted, that up from the grave he arose, isn’t a story that Thomas knows. He didn’t get to hear the Hallelujah Chorus. or celebrate with egg casserole and cinnamon buns, or quietly contemplate the happy mystery.
Thomas’ story, in the passage we have today, just starts with fear and isolation. Fear, because the crucifixion of their rabbi is scary enough, but these ghost stories that have been circulating are a whole new level of terrifying. Isolation, because all the other disciples were gathered together — behind a locked door, because they were afraid — and then Jesus appeared among them.
Thomas wasn’t there. He didn’t get to gather with his friends, with his spiritual community. Thomas was out on his own.
How many of us feel that way, right now? We didn’t get to gather, to sing together about resurrection and share together in joy. We heard the stories, but we weren’t there for it. It feels different.
The story is about that grief, but it’s also about joy.
Listen. On the evening of the first Easter Sunday. the disciples had locked themselves in a house because they were afraid. Jesus came right through their locked door (and there’s a whole sermon for you) and he offered them peace and clear reasons to believe that he really had been resurrected from the dead.
Then, Jesus breathed on the disciples, which was the creative breath of the Word of God kickstarting a new creation. He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But Thomas wasn’t there. He missed all of that. So, he said exactly what you or I might say: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
He wanted to see for himself, just like everyone else had. The other disciples had met the Risen Christ, and were filled with joy, but Thomas was still living in Good Friday. There are three — Faith, Hope, and Love — but Love had been executed and Hope was dead, and Faith on her own isn’t far ahead of folly.
So, Thomas asks for something that must have sounded absurd to him: proof. If he was going to believe that this resurrection story was something other than a mass hallucination, he was going to need to see the evidence.
Here’s what I think is so funny about this story: on the surface, Thomas is being judged for wanting to see the proof. But, on a deeper level, Thomas is there as a stand-in for all of us who didn’t get to witness the historical resurrection first-hand, and yet somehow become first-hand witnesses of the living light of Christ.
Thomas didn’t get to see the events of the day of resurrection for himself. Unless you, dear reader, are 2000 years old, that makes Thomas just like us. We also didn’t get to duck our heads into the tomb and see the burial clothes left behind. We didn’t hear angels telling us what to do next. We weren’t there when Jesus offered the gathered disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And yet… as we participate in Christian worship, gathering as we can with other faithful people, those experiences become part of our own faith stories. We have our own Upper Room experiences. We wish for a thousand tongues to sing, so that we could better join the choir of angels singing our Redeemer’s praises. We receive the Holy Spirit.
And, like Thomas, we come to understand for ourselves that resurrection isn’t just a fairy tale or a ghost story. It’s the most real thing about the world.
Listen to this treasure of a story:
A week after these resurrection stories started circulating, Thomas joined the other followers of Jesus behind locked doors. Just as the first witnesses had described, locked doors were no barrier for Jesus. He came and stood among them, and the message Thomas heard was the same as what the first witnesses had reported: Peace be with you. Thomas got to experience the reality of resurrection for himself, and he responded by acknowledging Jesus as his Lord and his God.
Then Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
That’s not Jesus judging Thomas for wanting proof. When Jesus says that those who believe without seeing are blessed, it’s not a snide comment about Thomas. It’s a blessing for every one of us Thomases, as we’re muddling our way toward resurrection.
We can’t time-travel back to watch Jesus walk out of the tomb, but we can know the peace and the proof that Thomas found.
Thomas is known throughout the Christian world as Doubting Thomas. I think this is wildly unfair, and I’d like you to consider this theological proposal: let’s start calling him Faithful Thomas. It’s his faith that’s at the core of the story, once he realizes that Love has risen and Hope is alive.
Or, here’s another proposal: maybe we should call him Seeking Thomas. He exhibits the two traits that I think of as essential, in a seeker; he wants to experience truth for himself, and he recognizes truth when he finds it.
Here’s my favorite option, though: let’s just call him Thomas. He’s a disciple, like you and like me. He’s living in a terrifying world, in which the way of Jesus is the way of the cross, and the cross isn’t a gilded wall hanging or a charm on a necklace… it’s an instrument of torture and humiliation and death. He’s afraid, with good reason. He knew that Jesus was a good teacher, or why else would he have been following him through his ministry, but this resurrection business was too much to accept second-hand.
Resurrection does sound like a joke, like something that no reasonable person would fall for. And it is a joke, in a sense, but it’s a joke played on our whole normal way of viewing the world. We think that power controls, so Jesus gives up control. We think that violence saves, so Jesus dies a violent death. We think that the grave is the end, so Jesus is laid in the grave.
And then, the great reveal: Love is alive. Hope is confirmed. Faith is the reasonable response.
According to both ancient church history and the stories of contemporary communities, Thomas shared the story of Jesus all the way to India. Maybe on Holy Humor Sunday, we can laugh at the idea that one who showed such faithfulness would be known to Christian History as Doubting Thomas.
Thomas wanted the experience that the first witnesses of the resurrection had, and he received it. You can recieve it too, as you turn your heart toward worship. Quiet your heart and listen for the holy echo of laughter, ringing down through the ages, That’s the triumph song. That’s the sound of despair overcome.
If you hear just a giggle, keep listening. Sunrise starts with just a few beams, but it tells us that the light of day is coming. That’s the promise of Thomas’ story: we may feel like we are personally in the dark, but the community of Christ holds the story of resurrection. As we gravitate toward that story, we become the disciples of Jesus.
We become, in other words, those who get the joke. It seemed like death won, on Good Friday, but Easter turns the world on its head. Christ is risen indeed. We proclaim, with Thomas, that Christ — and none other — is our Lord and our God.
Holy Humor Cartoon
Sharing in 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.
The Day of Resurrection
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Thank you for sharing this virtual space with us! All week long, may the Spirit of Christ teach you new ways of living into resurrection. May you be honest about your doubts, earnest in your seeking, and joyful in your finding. And 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.
The Piano Guys | Nearer, My God, To Thee