Steve led us this morning with the remit of taking us through the entire history of the Bible in approximately 30 minutes! It was sunny and beautiful, but surrounded by the travelling fair! Despite that we managed to make it work – and it was great!
It was a time given over to allow us all to reflect and be quiet. The time fell into 4 sections. The first focussed on creation as we all faced the river and heard selected verses from Genesis 1 – 2. These words were taken from The Message and we were all struck by each of the readings in terms of their freshness and power, cutting through our over-familiarity with them. In this case, it was the generosity of God that particularly impacted on me.
We were all invited to create 7 words or images to reflect God’s creation and it was good seeing the different ideas emerge from everyone.
- 7 responses to the creation story
As we turned 90 degrees to face the town, Steve spoke of the Fall and our own personal ‘falls’ and we listened to words from Genesis 3.
Our third section, facing the third direction allowed us to focus on redemption. Here we assumed a bowed position as we received bread and heard Jesus’ words explaining the significance of the incarnation in John 6:31-33. Again the Message seemed to make Jesus’ words so much more accessible: ‘The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven, but that my Father is right now offering bread from heaven…’ This was followed by the last words from Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:44-46) as we ate the bread and raised our heads.
At stage 3 ½ (!) we heard Paul’s words from Romans 8:18-25 about all creation yearning for redemption. If you haven’t read those words from The Message, just read this:
18-21 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Following this we prayed. We took time to write our own responses to ideas linked to being saved, with headings:
I have been saved. For the past and particularly for this past year, I give thanks for…
I am being saved. Today I ask for…
I will be saved. For this coming year I am trusting…
For those known to us undergoing difficult times – birth pangs – who need God’s saving power now…
For those yearning for help who are not known to us, but in situations we are aware of…
We shared our prayers for others and concluded with one hand on the shoulder of the person to the right of us – praying for one another and all named in our prayers, saying:
May the love of God the Father,
the saving power of God the Son
and the peace of God the Holy Spirit
fill you and reside in you,
today and in the year ahead.
Finally, facing the direction of the sun, we drank our cups of wine as we heard the promise of the consummation – the renewed heaven and earth, from Isaiah 25:6-10 and Revelation 21:1-8, with God moving into the neighbourhood and proclaiming ‘It’s happened’. Roll on that day! We finished with a commissioning blessing. Thanks Steve – it felt good to start the new academic year with a sense of being grounded in the very centre of the Christian tradition, being part of God’s work in the world from the start to the conclusion…