Here is the contemplative service from St Andrews Episcopal church in Seattle for the seventh Sunday of Easter. Enjoy
Fr. Rich Weyls, Rector, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers. Permission to web stream or podcast music in this service is granted under One License number A-710-756. www.saintandrewsseattle.org
Think about how many ways people gathered around the world to celebrate Jesus and their relationship to God BEFORE covid-19. People gathered in great cathedrals and under large trees and in the open air. They gathered in house church settings, small church buildings and in coffee shops, pubs, and even art gallery spaces. There are formal and informal gatherings, contemporary and very traditional, both low and high liturgically and many liturgies in between. None of these are better than another, they are just unique ways of being together that are particular to a worshiping community. Whatever the worshiping community or the church, we all have traditions and liturgies and ways of worship that we love. And just one of these ways to worship is singing. But there are SO MANY other ways to worship beyond corporate singing.
Jesus took me on the adventure of creating and curating worship beyond singing starting in 2001.
Up until then, I’d loved singing and worshiping with my voice, with my hands lifted, belting out songs of praise. I was a part of a church community that believed 20 minutes of singing worship wasn’t nearly enough! If we could sing longer, or host entire nights of singing worship we would! Then God surprised me and took me to a small Episcopal church and rocked my world with liturgical worship and old hymns. I fell in love with the beauty and rhythm of the church year and the Lectionary.
And then the Holy Spirit invited me to start an entirely new worship service called “Sacred Space” without a musician of any kind… no worship band, no choir. It was a way to learn how to worship beyond singing. We sometimes said we did DJ church because we created a soundtrack for our gathering with walk in songs and walk out songs that were meant to set the scene for what we would experience and learn about during the gathering, like a prelude and a postlude on an organ. We followed the lectionary, but instead of a sermon or homily, we used interactive prayer stations to experience the gospel passage. I became the worship curator, helping people experience God with all their senses and helping people see that they could share their gifts as acts of worship, like poetry, art, photography and playlists.
It was DJ church because we still used music and songs, but we listened to them and allowed the Holy Spirit to teach us through listening to someone else sing the words and viewing the lyrics on the screen. Since this was way before the pandemic, participants could sing, but many didn’t really enjoy corporate singing anyway, so the choice to just listen was very welcome. Worship songs became contemplation and often prayers.
As a worship curator, I’ve learned that there are so many other ways to express our love for God beyond corporate singing! We are all just so used to ONE way that we often cannot see beyond it to envision all the opportunities that not being able to do corporate singing can give us!
We can learn how to worship without singing and beyond singing!
Covid-19 is a great opportunity for MORE PARTICIPATION! We all get to respond beyond using our voices. And for people who don’t enjoy singing, this is what they’ve been waiting for!
THIS is an opportunity to show our communities how their varied gifts can be gifts of worship too, beyond those who are usually up front, and those who have the gift of music and singing.
We GET TO experience music in an entirely new way!
For those who love singing, you can learn a new way to worship with music and beyond!
Worship beyond singing will also give your music worship teams, of whatever flavor of music, an opportunity to just “be present” in worship, rather than working.
Here are five ways to use Music in worship beyond singing.
1. JUST LISTEN to a Song or Hymn. Print the words in the bulletin or post them on the screen. Allow people to listen to the music… use a recorded sound track withe words and music. JUST LISTENING… allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire. We too often don’t pay real attention to the words we sing and need time to hear.
2. SHARING WHAT WE HEARD: Part two of Listening to a song, hymn or worship set, would be to listen together and then have people share what they heard or noticed as they listened to the song. It’s like a Lectio Divina with music.
3. CREATE FROM THE SONG: Along with Listening to a song, hymn or worship set, have people draw or journal about what a song means to them. Or invite people to write a prayer or poem, or draw a picture as a worshipful response to the song or “worship set” you listen to in community. These pieces of art, poetry, etc can be shared instantly, or could be shared later on Facebook, Instagram or on your website.
4. CREATE A WORSHIP PLAYLIST: Have people in your community create a worship playlist you can share online or even in your worship gathering to go with the theme of your teaching/preaching series or with the themes in the lectionary. Have them pick three songs that reflect or express the theme to them… as the worship curator, it’s your job to select the playlists to share in the big group but all could be posted online for the community and others to enjoy and use in their own worship time.
5. MUSIC STORY TIME: Have people share a favorite hymn, worship song or other song that has meaning for them and have them share this song with the congregation. LISTEN to the song together and then have the person share why this song means something to them.
Part 2 HISTORY LESSON: Give them the history of the hymn or song. Doing a history lesson on a hymn even if your normal singing worship doesn’t include hymns. It’s great to know and understand more about our worshipping heritage.
You might notice that these things involve lots of participation! You can get people to bring in their own supplies, like clipboards or journals to use for writing, and bring in their own art supplies too so you don’t have to worry about cleaning things or spreading germs.
You will want to build a team and find someone who wants to be the worship curator to help coordinate this new way to worship if you or your worship music person doesn’t feel comfortable with doing this. The worship curator helps bring all the pieces together to create a beautiful painting of worship.
There are SO MANY other ways to worship beyond corporate singing. and beyond the music worship ideas above.
I’d love to help with you expand your worship and figure out what can work for your church in the middle of this crazy season. This is what I love to do, help people of all denominations and flavors move their worship beyond singing. Just contact me.
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com
We are heading towards Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all people. But first Jesus has to ASCEND to heaven in order for us to receive the Gift of the Comforter! Ascension Day was officially yesterday (May 21st), but we most often celebrate the feast on the Sunday following. So as you look towards Sunday, and as we prepare for Pentecost on May 31st, 2020, let’s look first at how Jesus commissioned his disciples before he went back to the Father. Below you will find The Great Commission passage in Matthew 28 and some questions you can consider and journal from. Then I’ve given you some ideas to take us into ALL THE WORLD even though we cannot actually travel right now.
Before you start, consider a favorite place you’ve traveled. A place that has inspired you or been meaningful to you. Find a favorite photo of this place or a souvenir of this trip. Take time to remember the things that made that trip special. Thank Jesus for the time you had there. Ask Jesus to fill that place with his love and hope today! We did this as our thinplaceNASHVILLE gathering this week, so if you’d like to use it with your small group or community have everyone bring a photo or a souvenir to your zoom call and have them share about their special trip or place.
NOW read out loud or listen to these passages from Matthew. (lectio divina)
Matthew 28: 11-20 NIV
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 11-20 THE MESSAGE
Meanwhile, the guards had scattered, but a few of them went into the city and told the high priests everything that had happened. They called a meeting of the religious leaders and came up with a plan: They took a large sum of money and gave it to the soldiers, bribing them to say, “His disciples came in the night and stole the body while we were sleeping.” They assured them, “If the governor hears about your sleeping on duty, we will make sure you don’t get blamed.” The soldiers took the bribe and did as they were told. That story, cooked up in the Jewish High Council, is still going around.
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 11-20 THE PASSION TRANSLATION
11 After the women left the tomb, a few of the guards went into Jerusalem and told the chief priests everything they had seen and heard. So the chief priests called a meeting with all the religious leaders and came up with a plan. They bribed the guards with a large sum of money 13 and told them, “Tell everyone, ‘While we were asleep, his disciples came at night and stole his body!’ If Pilate finds out about this, don’t worry. We’ll make sure you don’t get blamed.” So they took the money and did as they were told. (That is why the story of the guards is still circulated among the Jews to this day.)
16 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples heard the wonderful news from the women and left for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. The moment they saw him, they worshiped him, but some still had lingering doubts.
18 Then Jesus came close to them and said, “All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”
What is God’s Word for you today? What is God speaking to you about today? Use the psalm and/or the Gospel as your inspiration. Write, Journal, or create in Art, or Just BE with Jesus. Allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you! THINGS TO CONSIDER WHILE JOURNALING….
What speaks to you today? What do you notice from the passage that you didn’t notice before?
1. The temple leaders couldn’t believe the truth of the situation. They couldn’t receive the gift of the resurrection. So, they bribe the soldiers, make up a story, and lie about the reality. What does this remind you of? Have you ever made up a story because you didn’t like the reality?
2. What makes it hard for you to believe and receive the truth about the resurrection?
3. Are you feeling like worshipping Jesus today? Or do you feel more doubtful today? What are some of your doubts or fears as you consider Jesus in the new world we live in today?
4. What does it mean to be a disciple?
5. Jesus invites us into a relationship with the Trinity…Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not alone, we are not orphans. We are now a part of a community. And Jesus commissions us to include others in this community. How does this make you feel?
What does the TRINITY mean to you?
6. “Train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life”….How does this feel different from “make disciples of all nations”? Do you have any “baggage” around The Great Commission? Talk to Jesus about this.
“Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.” What are the practices that Jesus commanded? What are the practices that we can learn and pass along to others as we include them in the community of following Jesus?
7. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” How does this make you feel? What is comforting about this?
HOMEWORK: GO INTO ALL NATIONS…since we cannot go anywhere much right now, let’s take time to pray!
Pick a country or two to pray for this week. Maybe it’s a place you’ve wanted to visit, or a place you’ve been to before that has won your heart. Pray for this country to know and experience more of God’s love and presence in the days ahead.
Do some research into how things are going there due to COVID19. Pray for specific needs. If you have friends in this place, pray for them. Besides the pandemic, pray for other things that the Holy Spirit highlights for you.
Watch a Youtube video or travel video/film on a country and imagine yourself there. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you new things about the people and culture. What do you notice? How can you pray more for this country ?
TAKE TIME TO PRAY for you neighborhood, your town, your state this week. Print out some pictures, watch a video, or find a website or instagram feed to help you pray with between now and Pentecost.
Ask Jesus to help you see Him in your neighbors.
main photo: Hans Suess von Kulmbach, Ascension
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com
Guest post by Mark Pierson
I live in New Zealand, home of Hobbits, Zealong Tea Estate, and Jacinda the Magnificent. I started today (Day 7 of Level 2 Coronavirus Lockdown, the date of which I would write 21/05/20), with a cuppa.
In most of the English speaking world “cuppa” refers to having a cup of tea. It doesn’t need anything with it, but a biscuit would be appropriate. Again, in most of the English speaking world, a “biscuit” means a sweet, flat, often hard, unleavened piece of baking. Other parts of the world might call it a cookie. It’s not a scone. A cuppa and a biscuit is acceptable fare at any social interaction from smoko on a construction site to its precocious offspring – high tea. Which would have a scone. And cream, with jam.*
The quality, style and manner of use – or not – of cup, saucer and plate may vary wildly when having a cuppa, as may the tea itself – black, white, weak, strong, tea or tisane, leaves or bag – but the basic elements remain the same: tea and biscuit. Regardless of age, gender, background, social status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, ability or lack of it; white collar, blue collar, dog-collar, no collar, a cuppa and a biscuit is your basic currency of community and connection where I live.*
If we ever needed more of anything in our world at the moment its community and connection. Johann Hari (Lost Connections) reckons the diminishing of both is the major cause of the tsunami of anxiety and depression that has swept over our world recently. I think he’s right.
A few years ago the people at the United Nations – no doubt over a cuppa, although the title would suggest something stronger – decided today would be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. If they’d talked to Johann Hari we might have had the World Day for Cultural Connections for Dialogue and Development.
There’s nothing difficult about overcoming racism and bigotry, you just have to listen to someone who’s different to you (colour, faith, sexual orientation, gender, background, or education) tell you their story. With the emphasis on “listen” and “their”. Actually that is very difficult for most of us to do. In fact it’s pretty much impossible. Unless of course you are committed to following Jesus and letting his agenda become yours. And this only works because of who Jesus is: part of the trinitarian relationship that is the Christian God. His ascension from earth back into that heavenly kingdom means Jesus is God, God is accessible to us, and that God stands for us. This is especially true when we are doing our best to listen to the stories of others so we can be changed more and more into the likeness of Christ, who said that every person is made in the image of God. Every person. Every person.
Today is also the day we particularly remember the ascension of Jesus from earth to the heavens. That’s worth sitting down with a cuppa and a biscuit and thinking about as well.
Last year I served more than 1300 people cups of tea. Mostly at festivals and conferences, but also in churches and homes in NZ, Australia and the USA. I have a slightly formalised (some people would spell that with a zed or even a zee) way of doing it that involves telling some of the story of tea, and the customs associated with its drinking. Then I introduce people to some of the best teas in the world (Zealong Tea Estate) that happen to be grown in New Zealand, and we share cuppas and conversation for 45 minutes. I call it “Tea & Be”. It’s my response to the Ascension and the UN and Johann Hari.
Today is also International Tea Day. Those bureaucrats at the United Nations really like their tea. When I discovered there was no patron saint of tea drinkers (the Vatican prefers caffe crema) I anointed one and Francis Xavier of Goa became the patron saint of the International Guild of Tea Liturgists set up by a few friends who use tea in deliberate ways to bring people together, over a cuppa.
So today is a triple whammy offering me opportunity to think about making connections, having conversations, my prejudices, the flourishing and wholeness Jesus has made possible for me when I follow him, and to do that over a cup of tea – grown sustainably, harvested justly and traded fairly (as all Zealong teas are), perhaps even in conversation with someone who lives differently to me.
*How did you feel reading words and numerals that may have been used in a different way to what you are used to? Was your tendency to try to understand, skip over them, or not read this far!
Mark Pierson is a husband to one wife, father to four adult children, grandfather to four, and a pastor, writer (The Prodigal Project, The Art of Curating Worship: reshaping the role of worship leader), speaker, occasional blogger at markpierson.org.nz, curator of liminal spaces in public and church spaces, and tea drinker. You can connect with him or invite him to a virtual cup of tea here.
Photos by Mark Pierson, used with permission.
by Lisa DeRosa
As our spiritual practice for our weekly community meal last night, the Mustard Seed House celebrated World Bee Day by building a home for the bees that visit our garden. Christine purchased Turn This Book Into A Beehive for this project.
The book cover sleeve is the outer shell for the beehive and the inner tubes are made by rolling up paper provided in the back of the book.
Once all the papers are rolled, we stuffed the outer shell to provide snug living spaces for the bees.
So, in honor of the bees, we created this beehive as a community and read aloud a liturgy (posted earlier this morning) after enjoying a smoothy and waffle dinner with various types of honey.
These essential pollinators work tirelessly to make our garden flourish. We could not savor the scrumptious flavor of Brandy Boy or Sun Gold cherry tomatoes without these bees. Our trees would not produce the tasty cherries, apples, pears, plums, or peaches either! We are grateful for their unique design and role that they play in our garden.
by Emily Huff
When I signed up to share something for this day, our country had not yet seen “murder hornets” in the headlines. We now know that these murder hornets have come to the US and could be a threat to honeybees (along with pesticides and other challenges they already face) which are vital to our agriculture. This reveals the complexity of the ecosystems in which we live and the interconnectedness our world is built upon.
In honor of this day, I wanted to share a prayer from one of my favorite books of liturgies called Every Moment Holy. I think you will see how this prayer is certainly a blessing for the bees, but it is also a blessing for us all today to notice the world around us, to see the delicate balance needed in creation for sustainability and to hear the call to take care of the world God has given us.
A LITURGY FOR THE
Keeping of Bees
Together: We thank you, O God, for the blessing of bees,
Leader: for the wonder of their work,
for the sweetness of their offerings,
and the delight of their harvest.
People: We thank you, O God, for the industry of the hive,
which is like a picture of the kingdom of heaven, always
at work, in ten million places unseen.
We thank you too for the small
comedy of the creatures,
for the humor of their constant severity,
for the buzz and the bumbling of bees
in flight, for the sight of bees bending
slender stalks to harvest in the blooms,
their feet shod in bristling boots of gold,
their backs fuzzed with bright yellow dust
that is the color of joy made visible.
So varied are your creatures, O God!
So wise your creations!
For the blessing of bees we thank you:
for their bright and varied stripes,
for the wisdom of their queen,
and for the potent sting you have
granted them to guard the life of the hive
against the harms of a nature now
fallen and hostile.
We thank you for imbuing them with
an ingenuity of architecture
to build the perfect geometry of the comb,
a golden cathedral that cannot be
accounted an accident.
We thank you, O God,
For the miracle of bees in their labors,
For their tireless industry-
May it inspire us to serve;
for their generosity-
may we also produce enough to share.
Bless these, your creatures,
Which you have given into the service
of your image bearers.
May they be fruitful.
Bless these, your creatures,
May their honey be plentiful and sweet.
May they find in fields of clover and wild
bloom a bountiful harvest of nectars,
that we might gladly share the abundance
of their labors, delighting in
the sustenance and small pleasures you
have provided us through them.
Bless these bees, O God,
and bless their keepers.
For all creatures are yours, bee
and keeper alike. Together may
our co-labors resound
to your praise and glory.
by Rodney Marsh
“But if you do that, we won’t be able to see your beautiful face.” That’s what I nearly said when advising a group meditation member to switch off their video in Zoom to avoid the connection ‘falling out’. I didn’t say it, but I thought it. I know why I thought it too. I missed the connection with God that came through seeing an image of this person. It is true. Every human face bears the divine image and is therefore beautiful in their own unique way. A deeper connection is missing when we cannot see their face. Our Zoom meditation group meets for thirty minutes once a week. Twenty-five minutes of that time is spent in silence. Yet a connection, (communion is the Biblical word for it) has been built between us – a connection of trust and respect. How? Not by verbal communication but by simply ‘being’ together in silence. Our communion is more deeply shared by video because we can see each person’s unique, beautiful, made-in God’s-image face. For over a hundred years we have been able to ‘ring’ family and now, during the Corona virus lockdown, we are thankful to be able to see digital images the faces of the people we love and who love us. What a wonderful gift. But as with all gifts, a gift that can be misused (or not used).
So, a warning: an icon (or digital image of a person) can be a vehicle, but it is not the person. Whether the person you see over Zoom or in real life is Christ to you depends on your view. So, when Jesus said:
Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (Matt 6:22,23 MSG),
he placed the emphasis on our quality of looking. The gift to learn to look and see the beauty of another person’s humanity (God’s beauty) is given to us as part of our humanity but to see Christ in another we need the gaze of Jesus. A gaze that is the perfect sister/to the kindness that dwells/in his beautiful hands and to see others with eyes of Jesus we need to be seen by Jesus: The eyes of Jesus gaze on us/stirring the heat’s clay (from John O’Donahue’s poem “The Eyes of Jesus” in To Bless the Space between Us”). And, in my experience, the quality of seeing with the eyes of Christ is developed by being with God in silent prayer. Christian meditation has been, for me, a way of being in which, gradually, as I am seen, I begin to see. When discussing human change, Thomas Merton advises, “Get to the root: union with God…. drop everything and hide in yourself to find Him in the silence where he is hidden within you, and listen to what He has to say” (Journals, II 64,65) and John Main says, “Simply to be with God is to be drawn into being the person God calls us to be.” As we become the person God calls us to be se begin to see others as God has called them to be.
For example, consider these faces (images) and, before you read on, consider how you respond to these faces. Are they attractive/repellant to you? Why?
You may note that these images are all of white people with perfect teeth and hair and fine proportions, but, in Jesus gaze, they are not beautiful. In fact, God does not love the people you can see here and they cannot love him. Why? Because they are not human. God did not make them. They are not in his image. These faces are created by facial recognition software at https://thispersondoesnotexist.com/. On the site you can refresh the page to generate an infinity of new non-persons. If you wish, you can also feed the jealousy, anger, sexual desire, fear or pride with which we all sometimes approach other real human neighbours. Neither can they love you into being who God is calling you to be. That requires a real, beautiful person, like you. To dispassionate AI these faces are numbers in a different forms and so other humans become to us without the eyes of Christ.
No matter how AI views you, or other people see you, you have a beautiful face in Jesus’ eyes. Sit in silence, in God’s presence and allow Jesus to sit with you and then the eyes with which you are viewed will become the eyes which see your own beautiful face and your eyes will see and welcome Christ in others because you will be given the eyes of Jesus to see their beauty.
Thought: To be in Christ means to see all creation (including people) with new eyes…. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were or could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream… it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” Thomas Merton, Journals, March 19, 1958, III.181–83.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see those I meet today through the eyes of Jesus. Amen.