We began with these words after a moment of listening to birdsong and taking time to appreciate the stillness of the morning:
We are here at the invitation of God
The God who lured us into his kingdom
Speaking forgiveness and acceptance and love
And brought us here together to be welcomed at this place.
Whatever our day, our week ahead,
Whatever our state of mind or heart…
With one another,
With all the saints around the globe,
With the saints of old
And with the saints resurrected,
We come with gratitude and praise.
Therefore… let us be at peace.
May we know the love of Christ that surrounds us.
Breathe it in and let it wash over you
God is here, we are here
God is love, we are loved.
Welcome to the bandstand.
Everyone then got an envelope and piece of paper and had time to write on one side of the sheet a list of things we wanted to give thanks for from 2019, before coming together for our Litany of Thanksgiving.
I shared quotes from Adrian Plass’s excellent book I’d just read ‘Jesus, safe, tender, extreme and spoke a little about each. Here they are:
(p114) Here he speaks of ‘the need to set one’s mind to the place where there is always an expectation that God will be involved and creative and active… Take the experience of being stranded in a railway station, for instance. Instead of finding it annoying and boring, I might become intensely curious about what God will do with this unexpected and, in human terms, unwelcome extra half hour, or however long it is… The problem with this, and it is a perennial one for me, is that I slip out of the habit of making the right mental adjustment and forget that God is not just in the picture but in charge of the picture. It is worth working on, though, because daily life in the context of an omnipotent God with really good ideas can be quite exciting.’
Help me to practise the expectation that God will be involved and creative and active in every event of my life…
(p184) ‘Unless and until we begin to genuinely seek out the centrality of Jesus in our lives and pray for the courage to set aside personal agendas that never were initiated by the Holy Spirit, we cannot step out and perform the big and little and mild and dramatic and banal and bizarre acts of service that will be required of us. I pray that as you join me on my journey, you will feel personally inspired to reach the place from which all things are possible and to feel affirmed in your own attempts to be ‘extreme’ for Jesus.’
Help me to find what it means for Jesus to be in the centre of everything so that my life takes on new meaning…
(p189) In his 30s, Adrian Plass had a mental breakdown and in a moment of anguish hit his hand against a telephone kiosk pane of glass, smashed it and cut his wrist badly. He suffered the humiliation of being arrested. For a long time afterwards he looked at the wound on his hand and thought about the wounds on Jesus’ hands, thinking about the love and heroic obedience of Jesus.
“Much more than this” the voice of imagination, or delusion, or Jesus, would whisper in my ear at these times, “I would do and have done much more than this for you and for the rest of the sheep who have no shepherd. I am still bleeding for you – for the world. They will not let the bleeding stop. Will you make the shedding of my blood worthwhile? Will you make the shedding of your own blood worthwhile? Give me your wound. Give me all your wounds. Do you dare to do that and let me transfigure them and use them as currency in any way I choose?”’
Take my wounds and transfigure them so that they can be used for good…
Following this everyone was invited to write a prayer on the other side of their paper detailing hopes and fears for 2020 and incorporating anything from the Adrian Plass extracts that resonated. I suggested that then – or later in the day we might each say that prayer and listen for a response – whether of our imagination, delusion or maybe just Jesus.
We performed our annual burning of prayers atttached to the shepherd’s crook last year and attached new ones for the year ahead.
We finished with the sharing of bread and wine using the simple words
Jesus for me, with me, in me