Dear Friends, we offer this service 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
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 in any or all of this, as you feel led by the Spirit.
A few announcements for the congregation to be aware of:
We are hoping to compile a YouTube playlist of congregation members reading children’s books, to offer to kids in the meeting while we aren’t able to physically gather. If you’d be interested in being part of that project, let Julie know. You’d only need to have a smartphone or a computer with a camera enabled.
If you have a pack of Uno cards at home, and would be interested in playing a multi-household game through Zoom, Julie can host that. Gameplay between households happens mostly though verbally letting others in the game know which cards have been drawn, so this can work for both livestreaming and simply calling in.
Looking for communal spiritual experiences for kids? Emily Provance is hosting family devotionals online. Click here and scroll down to Family Devotionals for more information.
Stop The New Nuclear Arms Race, an international conference on working globally to abolish nuclear weapons, is being held in Maryville, Tennessee, May 22nd – 25th. Check the website of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance for more information.
“It’s a deep human instinct – I believe a God-given one – that we mark significant moments with significant meals. Sharing a meal, especially a festive one, binds together a family, a group of friends, a collection of colleagues. Such meals say more than we could ever put into words about who we are, how we feel about one another, and the hopes and joys that we share together. The meal not only feeds our bodies; that seems in some ways the least significant part of it. It says something; and it does something, actually changing us so that, after it, part of who we actually are is ‘the people who shared that meal together, with all that it meant’. – NT Wright
Please take a moment to quietly collect your thoughts and prepare your heart(s) for worship.
Here I Am, Lord | Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal, #260
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Caring in Community
Minute for Mission
If you’d like to have discussion questions about the Samburu Friends Mission, please let us know.
Praises and Concerns
Praise for the warming temperatures and the blooming flowers.
Praise for the God-given wisdom and tenacity of scientists
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.
Congregational Prayer Focus
Martinsville Friends Meeting
Wider Quaker Prayer Focus
Friends Theological College
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.
Guide of our Hearts, we come to you seeking comfort and seeking clarity. We want so many things that it’s impossible to articulate them all. The danger is real, Lord God, and you understood this long before we came to grips with it, but we come seeking salvation… salvation from the deep despair of sickness, salvation from the anxiety that so easily drives us, salvation from disease itself, salvation from the fear of death and even from death itself.
Not all of this is even possible, in this life, but the Psalmist prayed that you would grant the desires of his heart, and we pray with the same vulnerable spirit. We tell you what we want, not because you promise to fulfill all our wishes, but because your Light brings into the light all that we are. In prayer, there is no hiding, and no shame.
Loving Creator, we’re stretched thin between the deep despair of sickness and the prickling lights of hope all around us. There is so much ugliness in our world, and yet so much beauty. The curses and the blessings are braided together, in our strand of life, and we lose ourselves in trying to pick it all apart. Quiet our hearts, and let us rest, and let us listen.
Where we’ve been more of a curse than a blessing, forgive us, and renew us. Where we’ve been more of a blessing than a curse, encourage us, and inspire us. And Lord, make us agents of forgiveness and encouragement. Make us those who love the world into greatness.
What we begin with our prayers, Lord God, may we continue with our lives. Let your kingdom come, Living Christ, and let your will be done, in our hearts and in our worlds. 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 Jesus, who gave himself for us, AMEN.
Offering and Offertory
Amazing Grace (Jazz Version) | 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, 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.
Create In Me | The Acapella Company
Hearing the Scriptures
Scripture Reading: Mark 14:12-26
On the first day of unleavened bread, when the Passover lambs were sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where would you like us to go and get things ready for you to eat the Passover?”
He sent off two of his disciples, with these instructions:
“Go into the city, and you will be met by a man carrying a water-pot. Follow him. When he goes indoors, say to the master of the house, ‘The teacher says, where is the guest room for me, where I can eat the Passover with my disciples?’
He will show you a large upstairs room, set out and ready. Make preparations for us there.
The disciples went out, entered the city, and found it exactly as he had said. They prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, Jesus came with the Twelve. As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “I’m telling you the truth: one of you is going to betray me – one of you that’s eating with me.”
They began to be very upset, and they said to him, one after another, “It isn’t me, is it?”
“It’s one of the Twelve,” said Jesus, “one who has dipped his bread in the dish with me. Yes: the son of man is completing his journey, as scripture said he would; but it’s bad news for the man who betrays him! It would have been better for that man never to have been born.”
While they were eating, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.
“Take it,” he said. “This is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is the blood of my covenant,” he said, which is poured out for many. I’m telling you the truth: I won’t ever drink from the fruit of the vine again, until that day – the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
They sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
Cory and The Seventh Story, by Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins.
Sermon: Life Stories
They were preparing for a long journey, rather than a period of self-isolating, but the frenzy probably felt similar. The plagues had come, for sure: frogs and flies, boils and locust and hail. And now, one final plague was coming, one that would certainly convince the Pharaoh to let God’s people go.
Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron that this event would be a new beginning of such importance that it would become the New Year in a whole new calendar system. All the Hebrews were to take a year-old male lamb without defect, from the sheep or the goats, and slaughter it at twilight. They were to feast, that night, on roasted meat and flatbread, made without yeast because there wouldn’t be time for the bread to rise.
And, as you know if you’ve watched Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, the Hebrews were also to paint their doorframes with lamb’s blood. It was there as a marker because God was passing through that night, putting to death all the firstborn boys and cattle, but God would pass over each dwelling decorated with the lamb’s blood.
Eat this meal, and let it sustain you. Share in this blood, as a sign of your covenant with God. Sound familiar?
Bread and blood. It’s an odd time, I think, to be writing a sermon on communion. I’m part of a bunch of clergy groups, on Facebook, and one of the big conversations in this time of social distancing has been how will we do communion?
Do you livestream the service, but ask the congregation to gather the elements themselves and consume them in front of the screen? Do you buy the prepackaged juice cups with the wafer in the lid, and distribute them? Do you offer communion in person, but only in groups smaller than ten?
Since I’m writing, rather than sharing in person, I want to be explicit that I’m not making light of those concerns. They’re based in theologies that differ from mine, but I share the same desire to be faithful in holy matters. More to the point, I appreciate the emphasis on physicality, a way of being together that so many of us are missing right now.
How do we, in this cultural moment, commune together?
Communing is how we find life, after all; that’s one of the truths of the communion table. Bread is what sustains us. Blood is what defines us, or enlivens us. Without either, we perish.
So when Jesus takes bread, at the yearly celebration of the Passover meal, and blesses and breaks and gives it, saying this is my body, we should be thinking about sustenance. I’m more of a potatoes girl, myself, and maybe you’re more a fan of rice or cornbread or ugali or pasta, but you know how they’re central to a meal. You know how you make a little more of them, if money is tight and you need to pad things out.
And when Jesus takes the cup, gives thanks, and hands it out to be shared, we should be thinking about what it is that runs in our veins. You know how the metaphor works, if I suggest that I inject my coffee directly into my veins, or if someone links their own heartbeat to Ohio State sports.
What if you got a blood transfusion from Jesus? What if Christ’s life ran in your veins?
I produced the longest Children’s Message ever, and I won’t blame you if you didn’t listen to the whole thing. I was reading a book called Cory and the Seventh Story, which I think is one of the best presentations of the Gospel that I’ve ever seen in children’s book form, so I thought it was worth taking the time to read the whole thing.
If you didn’t listen, though, or if you’d just like to be reminded, then let me just share the most important part:
Six old stories, wherever I go,
The same six stories are running the show:
The story of power to dominate.
The story of striking back with fury and ate,
The story of running to find a safe place,
Or point at other to shame and disgrace,
Or being stuck in self-pity for the pain we’ve been through,
Or of me having more shiny objects than you
These same six old stories steal freedom and laughter,
So nobody lives happily ever after. But…
There’s a new Seventh Story to live by, my friends,
A new Seventh Story without “us against them” –
Or working for fairness in all that we do,
Of refusing to strike back with others strike you,
Of facing our problems and not running to hide,
Of not letting differences make us divide,
Of turning our pain into compassion for others,
Of not wanting more than our sisters and brothers.
The new Seventh Story that I’m speaking of
Is the story of peace, and the hero is love.
The speaker of that poem, Swifthorse, is taken out of the narrative. The possibility is raised that Swifthorse is removed by violence, but it’s for kids, so it doesn’t get graphic or gory.
Swifthorse’s disappearance doesn’t signal the end of the Seventh Story, though. A community continues to gather, telling the Seventh Story and exploring how to live in it.
It’s a covenant community, although it isn’t quite called that. It’s a community of people who see the promise before them, and are trying to live along. It even, sometimes, includes one of the characters who chased Swifthorse away.
At the end of the story, we’re offered three questions that read like Quaker queries:
Which stories are you living by lately?
How are they working out for you?
How can we live the Seventh Story together?
We all live in stories. We can’t help it. As a species, we’re as dependent on storytelling as we are on blood and gravity, Stories are an integral part of how we make sense of the world.
That’s why this story in Mark’s Gospel is set during Passover week. First-century Jews didn’t tell the Passover story through the lens of Charlton Heston, but they did sometimes tell it with their own nationalistic focus. A new Messiah would come, like Moses, and create a new political order in which the Hebrew people would no longer be slaves in someone else’s empire.
And while Moses was a prophet, not a soldier, many people expected that the Messiah would be one to lead in battle, delivering death to the enemy and political victory to the righteous.
But here at the celebration of Passover, that’s not the kind of salvation that Jesus offers. He just offers himself and his own faithfulness; his body as the bread, and his promise as the wine.
You may remember that Jesus was betrayed, on this night, by one of the people eating at the table with him. Realizing that is also what communion is about: being willing to share a table with your betrayers, to know that they are also, somehow, held in love.
Jesus knows that he standing where power is about to dominate, where people will strike him in fury and hate, where he’ll be suffering shame and disgrace when he could have fled to a safe place… and still, what he offers is love.
Dear Friends, this is how we resist.
We’ve been talking about resistance, as we’ve been following Mark’s telling of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. We watched Jesus resisting the trappings of political power, as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, rather than a warhorse. We watched Jesus go up against both the religious and political enablers of justice, as he cleared the temple and took on the empire.
We saw Jesus get apocalyptic, not telling us how the end will come, but just reminding us to stay awake. We saw Jesus having dinner with lepers – shared tables are symbols of life – but also being anointed for his death.
And then here we are, at the table.
It’s a good time, I think, to be reminded of the communion of the saints. A few of us gathered to create videos for congregational singing, this week, and one of the songs we sang together is at the close of this service: We Are God’s People. Ruth Brindle reminded us of how Muriel Hiatt would remind us that this hymn is set to the same tune as the Wilmington College alma mater.
And I’m not much of a mystic, but in that moment, I felt so connected to Muriel that I kind of wondered if she was there.
That’s not a ghost story. It’s just that nothing separates us from the love of God. Nothing in all creation. Not height nor depth, not power, nothing in the present or the future, no supernatural forces, not death or life themselves: nothing separates us from God’s love.
And if we can’t be separated from God’s love, then we can’t ever really be separated.
I’ve seen the truth of this doctrine so many times, this week. I’m sure that you have, too. We’re physically isolating, but I think we’ve rarely been more aware that our lives are bound together. We’re seeking community like our lives depend on it… which, really, they do.
We can live by stories about greed and rejection and escape, or we can live by a better story, the story that Jesus lived in. We can live by stories of violence or self-pity, or we can live in the story that Jesus chose to celebrate with his disciples.
We can live by the story of shedding blood, or we can live by the story of blood poured out. We can live by the story of captivity, or we can live by the story of freedom.
It’s really as simple as that. Christ’s power sustains us, and Christ’s life becomes our life, and we learn to live in the Seventh Story together. That’s how we resist the narratives of selfishness and greed: not by giving in, or by running away from the problem, but by telling a better story.
Cory and the Seventh Story ended with the characters sitting around the fire and talking late into the night. I’m acutely aware, as I’m giving this, that my sermon won’t be followed by the rich and creative waiting worship that I’ve come to expect – and rely on – at Wilmington Friends Meeting.
But as you’re considering the stories that you’re living by, and how they’re working out for you, and how we can live the Seventh Story together, I hope that you’ll also consider how you can share your witness. Is the Spirit asking you to say something, and if so, how?
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.
We Are God’s People | The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration, #283
(Lyrics available at the link.)
I owe you an apology: there are four verses to our closing hymn, but I liked how Barbara ended the hymn so well that I didn’t want to go back and re-record it. Here’s that last verse:
We are a temple, the Spirit’s dwelling place,
Formed in great weakness, a cup to hold God’s grace;
We die alone, for on its own
Each ember loses fire:
Yet joined in one the flame burns on
To give warmth and light, and to inspire.
Carry those words into your week, Friends. Wherever we are, the Spirit dwells with us. However we’re gathered, the flame burns on. 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.
Little Fugue in G Minor | Bach, as played by Stephen Malinowski