Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
In addition to this virtual worship post, Hannah will be on WALH radio today as part of the Quaker Hour. Tune in at 10 am or 3 pm.
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Ross and Violeta. All of those who are sick, or who have loved ones who are sick. Healthcare workers, grocery store workers, and other essential workers. Our neighborhood and our community. The family and friends of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our leaders in all levels of government. People in the recovery community. Parents, children, the elderly, and others who are isolated. Everyone who is feeling discouraged. All of those who have lost jobs, or who are struggling financially during this time. 2020 graduates who are missing out on their graduation ceremonies. The young people of WYM who won’t get to go to camp this summer.
Hymn-Great is Thy Faithfulness
Meditative Moment (Followed by silent worship)
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Revised Queries #1: Do I listen to others when they share their spiritual experiences? Am I willing to share my spiritual experiences with others?
Luke 24:13-35: Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
There is an episode in season two of The Office where the employees of the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company go to a local Chili’s for an annual office awards presentation known as The Dundies.
If you’ve never seen The Office, the premise of the show is that the manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton—Michael Scott—is absolutely terrible at his job. He’s clueless and insensitive. He tries to be a jokester, which always seems to blow up in the worst kind of way. He can’t handle pressure or make tough decisions—and his employees constantly get screwed over in the process. Michael Scott is the worst boss imaginable, which is why nobody really wants to go to The Dundies. The Dundies are Michael’s misguided way of showing everyone what a “fun” boss he is. He frequently gives out awards that he thinks are funny but are actually cruel—such as awarding an unattractive woman in the office with a “Redefining Beauty Award”. Michael tells terrible and offensive jokes throughout the ceremony, and the whole evening always ends up being terrible for everyone but Michael.
So, anyway, in this particular episode, one of the main characters, Pam, has a fight with her fiancé at The Dundies. He goes home, and Pam—who is typically very soft-spoken and introverted—proves to be one of those people who loosens up a lot when they drink. Michael decides to stop The Dundies early due to being heckled by other Chili’s customers for his cringy awards, but Pam leads a chant among the employees, urging him to continue. Pam also ends up getting banned from Chili’s for stealing drinks from other people’s tables. But before this happens, Pam receives a Dundie for “Whitest Sneakers”, drunkenly thanking Michael, her Keds, and another coworker—Dwight—for this prestigious award. She wraps up her speech with this now iconic Office quote: So, finally, I want to thank God, because God gave me this Dundie and I feel God in this Chili’s tonight.
The line is supposed to be a joke. Its supposed to indicate just how intoxicated Pam is, that she would thank God for winning an award for having clean tennis shoes. Saying that she feels God in this Chili’s tonight is supposed to be another uncharacteristically bizarre thing that Pam does while under the influence in this episode, because who actually feels the presence of God in a Chili’s? Especially when you’re at a Chili’s with your horrible boss, as he tells off-color and embarrassing jokes. But despite knowing that, and knowing that a show like The Office isn’t exactly a spiritual show—that line strikes me every time as a nugget of theological truth. We can encounter the presence of God anywhere. We don’t have to go to “sacred” or “Holy” spaces in order to have a meet-up with God. We don’t have to go to a church, or to a shrine to reach out to God. God is everywhere. Everywhere. This world is absolutely permeated with His presence, and He is always available to talk. God is always, always there.
It is a very human way of thinking to suppose that God desires some sort of extravagant Holy place to live in that is strictly separate from us. That Creation is too tainted for God—that we are too tainted for God—and that He can’t bear to be near all of that tainted-ness. I could blame it on King David—the temple in the Old Testament was his big idea, after all—but the truth is that he probably got that idea from another nation that had built fancy temples for their gods that he had seen while on one of his war campaigns. It would seem that no matter who we are, or in what time period we live in, hierarchy comes naturally to us. Because God is King, this is His world, and He is good, He needs this elaborate, sacred place to live that is far, far away from all of our un-sacred crap. And to David’s credit, God did go along with the temple idea. God moved His presence into the temple, and He stayed there for centuries, until Judah’s idolatry got out of control and the Babylonians came. And it’s this picture of God living in the temple like He did in the days of the kings that is what Cleopas and his friend are talking about on the Emmaus Road in today’s scripture. They had hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. They had hoped that He would be the one to take Israel back to its glory days—when Israel was prosperous, and the other nations feared the great God who was Israel’s true King and who gave them success.
But it would seem that those particular glory days are not the ones that God wants to go back to. God seems to want to push the reset button entirely. He wants to go all the way back to the Burning Bush and to the Garden of Eden—when He walked alongside us, lived among us, and appeared to us in the form of ordinary plant life. God wants to have theological conversations on roads to remote villages with us. He wants to break bread with us. He wants to hang out in a Chili’s with us. He wants to go to the grocery store with us, and to the park with us. God wants to live in our hearts, no matter where our hearts might take us. Simply put, God wants us. He wants to be with us. He wants to be in the thick of it all with us—even in those moments that we might think are mundane, profane, or unimportant. The entire world is Holy Ground, for no reason other than that God created it, and it is within this beautiful, broken world that He chooses to dwell with us.
I know that it isn’t always easy to believe that sometimes. When you’ve been stuck in your house since March, and you’ve been staring at the same four walls, day in and day out, its hard to believe that God is there, ready for some quality time with you. When the baby needs fed, your toddler is coloring on the wall, and your other kid is crying over their math homework, it’s hard to believe that God would want anything to do with that chaos, let alone that He’s with you in the house. When you hate your job, or when you have that one coworker who pushes your buttons and who makes your workdays miserable, its hard to imagine that the presence of God is anywhere in the building. Or in the people who you work with. But He is. We just have to pay attention. We just have to look. God is always there, able to transform daily tasks like cooking dinner, gross jobs like cleaning up dog poop, and annoying moments like having to scrape crusted cheerios off of the kitchen floor into Holy moments where we can connect with Him. He wants to be with us, even in the mess. Even when we’ve lost our tempers and let a bad word slip. Even in those moments that seem hopelessly meaningless, and make you fear that you’re not doing anything valuable with your life. God has made a home, right here in our daily lives, and He’s all in.
A lot of you already know this, but I started going to Al-Anon meetings last year. Al-Anon, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a twelve-step program for relatives and friends of alcoholics. One particular Al-Anon meeting that I attend is unique in the fact that once a month, we join the AA meeting that takes place in the other side of the building at the same time, for a conjoined meeting. The first time that I attended one of the conjoined meetings, I was unsure about going. For one, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I also wasn’t sure that I would get anything out of the meeting. I go to Al-Anon in order to get support from people who have had similar experiences as me and to find healing. I was skeptical that I might find support or healing from the people on the other side of the fence, so to speak
But I’ll tell you what—that meeting was absolutely amazing—and it’s because the presence of God was in that room. A room full of recovering alcoholics and people who are recovering from having been hurt by alcoholics is one of the last places that you’d expect to find God, but He was there. He was present in the vulnerability and the honesty of the people who spoke. God was present in the grace that folks gave to one another, as we heard about their struggles and their triumphs—their biases, their regrets, and their hopes. God was present in the acceptance, the tough love, and the humor that was exchanged back and forth. In that meeting, that night, I felt the presence of God more deeply than I had felt it in a long time. He was there in the fellowship, in the love, in the mercy, and in the mess that occurred at that AA/Al-Anon meeting. And it was incredible.
If we want to connect with God, Friends, we need not go much further than the places where we are sitting or standing right now. God is in the laundry room. God is at the kitchen sink. God is on that busy, loud, never-ending stretch of highway that is your daily commute. God is in the heart of your fussy infant. God is at the workplace, at schools, at recovery meetings, at family dinners, at game nights, in jail cells, in that alley where all the troubled kids go to get high, and of course—at Chili’s, like the fictional Pam Beesly says. God is so in love with His creation, and so in love with us, that He will go anywhere—as long as He gets to be with His beloved.
This coming week, Friends, try to take some time to look for the presence of God in all the places where you might find yourself. And take some time to look for the presence of God in the hearts of the people with whom you find yourself surrounded by, too. You just might find yourself refreshed and captivated by the Holiness that goes unnoticed all around us all of the time, and by the love that God offers to us through His willingness to live among us and to walk alongside us. As the old hymn goes, open my eyes, that I may see, and open my ears, that I may hear. Be well, Friends, and know that of all the places that God could have chosen to live—a beautiful temple, a soaring mountain, a placid lake, a quiet forest—He chose a dusty road and an impromptu dinner. He chose us. Our tainted-ness and our messes be damned—He chose us.
Hymn- Be Thou My Vision
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving every day. Amen.