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
There Is a Balm in Gilead | arr. William Dawson
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.
The Bible is the story of two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In the first, Adam took a fall. In the second, Jesus took a stand. In the first, God sought Adam. In the second, Jesus sought God. In Eden, Adam hid from God. In Gethsemane, Jesus emerged from the tomb. In Eden, Satan led Adam to a tree that led to his death. From Gethsemane, Jesus went to a tree that led to our life. -Max Lucado
Please take a moment to quietly collect your thoughts and prepare your heart(s) for worship.
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind | The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration, #427
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Caring in Community
Minute for Mission
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.
Praise for the God-given wisdom and tenacity of scientists.
Praise for the unexpected blessing 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.
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.
Almighty God, you put the universe in motion, started the galaxies spinning, set the stars on fire. You’re so much more powerful than we can even comprehend. And in Christ Jesus, you experienced life just as we live it, with the same kinds of joys, and the same kinds of sorrows.
You remind us to be sensitive to one another, to rejoice with Friends who rejoice and to weep with Friends who weep. You remind us, too, that you want to hear our honest prayers; not the prayers we think we should offer, but the actual desires of our hearts.
And so we come, weeping and rejoicing, together. Living Light, draw us to you. We’re brokenhearted about the state of our world, and deeply grateful for the creative ways people find of shining your light.
Where we have sinned, forgive us. Where we are lacking, make us whole. Where we are worn down, build us up. Root us and ground us, always, in your love.
We seek your healing for the sick and suffering, your encouragement and strength for the weary, and your companionship for the lonely. And as we pray for your kingdom to come more fully, may our own hearts come more in line with your kingdom. What we begin with our prayers, Lord God, may we continue with our lives: as healers, as encouragers and strengtheners, and as Friends.
We consecrate to you our time, and our talent, and our treasure, and ask you to use them to widen the circle of light and love. We pray this in the name of Christ our Comforter, AMEN.
Offering and Offertory
What A Friend We Have In Jesus | Yohan Kim
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.
Go To Dark Gethsemane | TheNCrew
Hearing the Scriptures
Scripture Reading: Mark 14:32-42
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.
And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.”
And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.
He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst
I want a different kind of Jesus, but I need the one this story offers.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received about leading memorial services was rooted in this story. It went something like this:
You can use any Bible passage as a funeral text, but the story that you need to be remembering is Jesus in Gethsemane. People are afraid that their grief and fear are evidence of faithlessness… that if they were better Christians, they wouldn’t be so shaken by loss. They can’t imagine that their Savior would have desperately prayed for a cup of suffering to be taken from him, and they certainly can’t believe that his prayer would have been met by God’s silence.
If you leave people with the sense that Jesus disapproves of their grief or their fear, or that Jesus wasn’t himself grieved and afraid, then you haven’t preached the Gospel. You haven’t shown them Jesus.
I want a Jesus with more of a “can-do” spirit than that. I want a Jesus who is part perky cheerleader, part confident project manager. I want a Jesus who looks at a problem and says, every time, it’s not a big deal. I know how to fix this.
And I want that Jesus, I’m pretty sure, because that’s who I want to be.
Who do you think Jesus should have been, here in the Gospel situation that most nearly parallels the story of the Sword of Damocles? Do you think he should have been kinder to his disciples, tired and confused as they were, and put his own feelings aside to take care of them? Or should he just have been less foolhardy to begin with, and stuck to his preaching gig back home in Galilee? Or should he just have explained things more clearly, rather than using all those mushy parables, so that people would understand?
Or maybe Jesus was wrong about this whole peacemaking scheme, and a better realist would have known that for the protection of the weak, the strong have to meet violence with violence.
Here are two claims that I would make about Jesus: Jesus shows us what God looks like, and Jesus shows us how to be human.
We’re all created in the image of God, and the story of Jesus shows us what living like the children of God looks like. So, if you secretly suspect that Jesus did the wrong thing, in this story, let that be your teacher. Ask yourself what that suspicion says about who you are, and what you need to be saved from.
In this deep dive into the events of Holy Week that we’ve been on, we’ve been looking at the story through the lens of resistance. What are we being called to resist, as disciples of Jesus, and how are we being called to resist it, and why?
Jesus shows us how to resist, and his disciples – quite often – show us what our mistaken attempts at resistance look like. In this story, both of those narrative threads are about experiencing the depth of human despair.
Our translation says that Jesus was distressed and agitated, and that he described himself as deeply grieved. That’s kind of clinical language, and it distances us from the raw emotion. Jesus says he’s upset enough to die, which makes it a little more real.
It also, frankly, means that whatever Jesus is about isn’t the Gospel of the Stiff Upper Lip. That’s another of my favorite misconstruals of salvation, in which I pretend that if I’m not currently aware of an emotion, or I’m not currently expressing it, then it isn’t real. It’s like some massive game that I’m trying not to lose.
I honestly thought to myself, this week, that it was kind of nice to have to stay home because it meant that all my feelings could happen in my living room, with only my dog as a witness. That’s how committed I am to the Gospel of the Stiff Upper Lip… a statewide shelter-in-place order is preferable to having messy public emotions at Kroger.
Jesus, on the other hand, takes his disciples off on a prayer retreat, is overcome with distress, tells the truth about how the pain in his soul is taking him to the point of death, and then leaves his friends in order to fall on the ground and pray in desperation.
Have you prayed like that, this week, that the cup we’re facing would pass? Jesus doesn’t give any hint of shame about it. He prays,
Abba, Father, all things are possible for you! Take this cup away from me! But – not what I want, but what you want.
When I read this story, I generally focus on the last piece: Jesus’ willingness to choose his Father’s will over his own. What’s standing out for me now, though, is the direct request in the middle: Take this cup away from me!
I laid out this series before I had heard of Covid-19, I think, but I can’t imagine a more relevant passage. The world is ending, and danger is coming, and Jesus is awake to his own pain. He’s feeling every bit of it, which is more than I do most days whether there’s a global crisis or not… and he’s handing it all over to God.
Jesus is awake to his own pain, paying attention to it and offering it in prayer. His disciples, on the other hand, are dozing off.
It’s late, and they’ve just had a big meal, so let’s not be too judgy. It’s not like they could have stopped at Starbucks on their way to Gethsemane.
But, also, one way that we respond to pain is by tuning out. It’s a useful talent, in some circumstances. If you have to walk on a sprained ankle, for instance, it’s good to have a brain that focuses on something other than ow ow ow. It lets you continue to function.
And if you really can’t function, your brain will let you pass out. You can’t accomplish anything, like that, but at least you aren’t feeling it.
The disciples are doing a version of that. We all have our ways of avoiding the experience of pain, don’t we? You can do it by consuming a constant stream of Netflix, or by getting cathartically angry at the news, or by making binders full of plans, or by just getting rip-roaring drunk.
You can sleepwalk through your whole life, or at least the overwhelmingly difficult parts.
Or, you can resist that urge.
Here’s a longish quote from a commentary, one that I think is worth absorbing. William C. Placher writes,
Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?” The juxtaposition of the names (they are right next to each other in the Greek too) calls our attention to the fact that Jesus does not use the name he has given this disciple, “Peter.” On one interpretation, this is because “Peter” is his name as disciple, and as one who has fallen asleep and is soon to deny Jesus, he no longer deserves that name. I am less persuaded of this analysis because I follow the minority view that in Mark “Peter” originally evoked the rocky ground on which the seeds grow but briefly rather than the church’s solid foundation. It is not a high compliment one could cease to deserve. Moreover, this is the only time in Mark Jesus directly addresses anyone by name. I thus read it as a desperately human gesture. No more nicknames or titles. The night is dark, and Jesus is facing death. He reaches out to a friend, calling him by name.
He reaches out to a friend, calling him by name.
We get our name, as Friends, from John 15. There, Jesus calls his disciples friends. We extrapolate this, and I think rightly so, to mean that we should be Friends to all as Jesus was, but the original meaning was friends of Jesus.
In order to really be Jesus’ friend, though, Peter (and company) needed to be awake.
There’s a hard balance, here. God knows I rail often enough about our unwillingness to take Sabbath seriously, to really rest, and I rail about it because I fail about it too. So, I don’t want to imply that we should be awake all of the time; that’s neither feasible nor healthy.
But it’s not like the disciples made a habit of dropping off to sleep, in the Gospels. It’s just this one moment, this night when Jesus was in agony, frightened and grieving and something well beyond sad, that they couldn’t or wouldn’t stay awake.
Three times, Jesus asked his inner circle of disciples to pray for him, in his anguish. And, three times, their eyes were heavy and they couldn’t stay awake.
How do we resist falling asleep, when the night is long and the grief is strong?
I think the answer, there, is intimately tied to the naked awakeness of Jesus’ prayers. The Jesus I want knows all the answers and isn’t worried about a thing, but the Jesus I need is the one who is grieving and afraid and flinging himself on the ground to pray for deliverance.
The Jesus I need – and the Jesus I think you need – is the one who has prayed in the vulnerable way we need to be praying. The Jesus who shows us who God is is the one who wants to avoid pain but is willing to take it on, who is overcome with grief and yet not deterred from his mission.
And the disciples this Jesus needs are the ones who are awake and present to the pain of the situation.
Here are my queries for you, whether you are settling into waiting worship or resuming your scroll through Facebook:
What does this story about Jesus teach you about being human?
How are you resisting the temptation to fall asleep?
How is this moment calling you to pray, and to be a Friend?
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.
In The Garden | The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration, #425
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Once again, we had a hymn with a missing verse. This time, it’s missing because our hymnal omits it. Here’s the middle verse in John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind:
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love!
interpreted by love!
Thank you for sharing this Sabbath rest with us. We hope that you find your life, this week, being interpreted by love. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and always. AMEN.
Blest Be The Tie That Binds | Kaleb Brasee