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
The Love of God | MercyMe
(Lyrics in the video.)
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.
If you would like to join us on Zoom at 10:00 a.m., please message our Facebook page to receive the link!
Other ways to gather with Friends:
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.
Friends United Meeting offers reflections on the spiritual journey at their Journal.
Wendell Berry | Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Please take a moment to quietly collect your thoughts and prepare your heart(s) for worship.
Covenant Presbyterian Church of Chicago | O Sing a Song of Bethlehem
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Caring in Community
Colin Saxton | Christ Has Come To Teach Us Himself
Charity Kemper Sandstrom | Quaker Queries for All Seasons
Isaiah 43:19 — See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Do I trust that God is working in my world to lead me through the most impossible of circumstances with life-renewing grace?
Praises and Concerns
Praise for the ways we are still gathering.
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 those who are grieving the loss of loved ones without being able to gather.
Pray for Friends who are struggling with bitterness, especially about politics.
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
Chester Friends Meeting
Wider Quaker Prayer Focus
Turkana Friends Mission
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.
Lord, as you met with Peter on the seashore, meet with us now. Replace our isolation with fellowship. Replace our shame with renewal. Where we are in ashes, renew us with your joy.
We rejoice in you, our Risen Christ, the Author of Life and the Defeater of Death, as you are present within each one of us and amid the life-giving connections that we share. You are ever new with us, never what we expect but always what we need.
Lord, as we look at the sorrow and injustice in our world, sicknesses of body and mind and soul, we pray for your wisdom and compassion to fill us. We pray for your healing presence to guide us. We pray for your kingdom to come, and for all of our image-bearers to be as loved and whole on earth as they are in your own heart.
Christ be in our minds as we think about difficult problems, and in our hearts as we grieve and rejoice together, and in our hands as we offer our gifts of time, and talent, and treasure. Bless us to your service, Living Christ. AMEN.
Offering and Offertory
Jon Watts | You Are Pulling Down The Pillars Of The World, George Fox
(Lyrics available at the link.)
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 21
Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”
The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.
Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”
They answered, “No.”
He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!”
When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it…
Ministry to Children | Miraculous Catch and Jesus Forgives Peter
Tim Lewis | Lord, You Have Come To The Seashore
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Sermon: Peter Comes Home
I have thought, for a while now, that you can’t make sense of Peter’s final story in the Gospel of John — where Jesus and the disciples are gathered for food and fellowship on the seashore — without looking backward to another story about a charcoal fire.
Let me take you back to the Thursday before Easter. It’s a cold night, which may or may not be why Peter feels chilled.
All the week’s high-strung emotions – anticipation, hope, wariness, laughter – have frozen into a solid mass of fear that sits heavy in Peter’s gut. The entrance into Jerusalem was filled with such optimism. All of that has deflated like a balloon meeting a pin, with Jesus’ arrest.
Peter should run, run all the way back to Galilee. He should hide in the nearest cubbyhole available. He should get on out of Dodge, out of Jerusalem, out of this looming danger. Because Peter has seen how this story can end.
This time, the soldiers took only Jesus, only the leader. Who knows how long that will last? Here, you should hear the sarcastic laugh of those who have seen this story play out before. No one, once identified as a threat to the Roman Empire, lasts for long. The soldiers garrisoned in Jerusalem would have no qualms about torturing and killing a few more Galilean Jews in order to make their point.
Does he even remember Jesus’ awful prediction, that he would betray his Rabbi three times?
Peter enters the courtyard. Almost immediately, the dreaded question comes from the first person he sees: the servant girl who tends the door. She said to Peter, you are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?
Peter denied it. What else could he do? “This man,” that means Jesus, and Jesus is facing the death penalty, and associating with Jesus is akin to a suicide pact.
Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself. Jesus was being questioned by the high priest, inside, and Peter was desperate for any information he could hear about his friend without revealing their connection.
Twice more, around that fire, Peter was asked if he was a disciple. Twice more, he denied it. Then, as you well know, the rooster crowed. Morning had come, and just as Jesus had predicted, Peter had denied him three times through that fear-filled night. He runs away from the fire in shame.
This story hits me hard because Peter so clearly made the wrong choice. He literally denied knowing who Jesus was – and in a story where Jesus is the main protagonist, it doesn’t get much worse than that.
And yet. And yet, if I’m honest, I think I would have done the same. I think I would have stood at the threshold of danger, wanting to know and wanting not to be known. This story hits me hard because it’s so clearly wrong, and because it’s so clearly me.
Later, at the end of that awful weekend, Peter and the other disciple rush into the tomb. They see the graveclothes folded neatly, don’t see the body anywhere. They see Jesus a few times, but there isn’t a clear commission like we find in the other Gospels.
So, those of them who had been fishermen, pre-Jesus, get back in their boat and spend the night on the Sea of Galilee. They fished all night, and they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
No, they hadn’t caught anything, not for the whole night. This stranger Jesus on the shore told them to throw their net over the right side, and they did, and the net was suddenly so full of fish that they couldn’t even get it in the boat. That’s when it dawned on them that the guy on the shore was the Risen Christ.
And when they got to the shore, they saw that Jesus had built another charcoal fire.
Fish were fried. Fish were eaten. Bread was broken and shared. The warmth of the fire was enjoyed.
But ask yourself, for a moment, what this would have been like for Peter. It’s one thing to be weak in a moment of fear. You might not be proud of the choice, but if you do manage to save your own skin, you can at least take comfort in that.
Here at what we can loosely call the Brunch Date At The End Of The Universe, though, that choice must look really different. Peter betrayed his friend, who he also thought was the Messiah, because he thought his friend was going to die, and he didn’t want to die with him. But now his friend is sitting on the lakeshore eating fish, and what does that mean for Peter?
There was this wall between them. Jesus was back, and Peter was invited to the brunch, but that doesn’t really fix the wall between them.
This is where Peter has got to be expecting a consequence for his failure. Jesus, though- Jesus understands that what Peter needs is a blessing.
Three times, Jesus lets Peter affirm his commitment. Three times, and with each affirmation, a denial is washed away. Jesus doesn’t give Peter a slap on the hand, or brand him with D for disappointment. Jesus chooses instead, at that second fire, to finish bringing Peter home.
This story leaves me with lots of questions for myself. Chief among them, I suppose, is the question of which fire I’m sitting at. Am I playing the game of blame and shame, or am I practicing resurrection? And when someone wrongs me, which fire do I invite them to?
But also, back at the beginning of the Gospel of John, we read that the Word of Creation, the word who was with God and who was God, was definitively revealed in the person of Jesus.
Definitively, which means: the Word of Creation can be seen in swirling galaxies and in the glories of the intricate workings of a single cell, and the Word can be heard in Beethoven and Sappho and Shakespeare and Kendrick Lamar, and the Word is in every protest against injustice and every anthem raised and every small act of love that will never make the news.
But if you want to see the Word summed up: look to Jesus. The Word is definitively revealed in the life and work of Jesus, which means that all of the other ways in which we see the light are wrapped up in this one human life. Jesus is the answer with the exclamation point, to the question of who God is.
What we see here, in Jesus, is a God who provides a way forward for Peter, even when he has done his absolute worst. This Jesus finds Peter where he is, makes himself known, and brings Peter home.
Peter, as you well know, is the stand-in for all of us: brashly faithful, struggling to understand, trying so hard and getting it wrong. Peter stands in all his never-abandoned glory, never enough, and yet never alone.
And to Peter, here on the seashore, after the betrayal and after the resurrection and after the reconciliation, Jesus says the same thing that he said to the disciples at the beginning of the story: follow Me.
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.
Rethie van Niekerk | Will You Come And Follow Me
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Thank you for sharing this virtual space with us!
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.
Virtual Choir | You’ll Never Walk Alone
(Lyrics in the video.)