Are We Forest Church?

We split our time this morning between meeting in the bandstand and under the stark, bare winter beauty of the weeping beech.

Looking on the internet last week for some resources about outdoor church I came across the following:

“If you asked me to describe a transcendent moment, the first one that jumps to mind is always the tree of jewels that stopped me in my tracks one spring morning. If I thought about it harder I could have remembered a more iconic example from a retreat on Iona, a sunset in Cornwall or my first experience of the Alps, but the tree is always first in my mind. I saw it during a crisply cold, very still, early spring mountain bike ride through the Forest of Dean. The undulating route we were on turned a corner and began to descend. There in front of me was a young birch holding up its smoky, purple sprays, each bud, each twig holding a perfect drop of water, each water drop holding a miniature panorama and the bright morning sun. I stopped for, I don’t know how long, and I remember experiencing a completely absorbing sense of connection and appreciation for the Spirit who was both in this intimate magical moment, and timelessly behind the whole Universe.

For some years I’ve been asking other people about their most perfect, transcendent moments or for their descriptions of thin places, where the division between heaven and earth is at its thinnest. The majority of people’s descriptions of these are from nature (I’ve yet to hear many descriptions of them occurring during religious services in buildings). Usually they don’t last long and they often seem to happen when the person is involved in something out of the ordinary. “

Thanks to: Bruce Stanley frovm Forest Church: A Field Guide to Nature Connection for Groups and Individuals

I have had one or two moments here in the park. The most memorable is the day the leaves just rained down on us all. Seeing the cobwebs on the bridge clothed in raindrops and sparkling in the reflected sunlight was another.

Pause to think about any special moments you have had in the outdoors here in the park or elsewhere. Thank God for those times.

Prayer

So – We are meeting this morning, Creator God
in an outside space so we can experience
the beauty of all you have made,
experiencing this poem being written
not in words,
but in colours,
wind’s whisper,
singing birds,
snowdrop’s petal,
gentle rain,
sunlight’s warmth.
This is your space, Creator God,
a space where we meet with you, a space where we are blessed.

Amended – With thanks to Forest Church

Fiona read her favourite poem “Table” from the Turkish of Edip Cansever 

We placed the everyday things we are thankful for on the ground which represented our table.

Wendy continued the theme of thin places, thin times and the Kingdom of God with some thoughts following a clip we watched from American Beauty last Wednesday.

“Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I ever filmed? It was one of those days when it was just a moment away from snowing. And there was this electricity in the air – you can almost feel it – right? And this bag was just dancing with me, like a little kid, begging me to play with it. For 15 minutes.  

That’s the day I realised that there was this entire life behind things. And this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid. Ever. 

Video is a poor excuse I know, but I need to remember sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world.”

We were asked to walk and ask God to open our eyes to the beauty that speaks of the Kingdom. To our delight as we walked beside the river to the weeping beech a flock of ducks walked with us.

Divine Entanglement with Bread and Wine

Look up, all around, entangled and surrounded, mind-blowingly all enveloping – God’s breathing, God’s love sweeping down and curling around.

Acknowledged blessing and unacknowledged blessing, love noticed and unnoticed, blessings overt and covert. Incidences and coincidences and God-incidences too complex for us to sort through and untangle. We are caught – in the web. God behind us, God in us, God before us.

Surrounded and enveloped by God’s care, those blessings obvious to us now and those blessings only to be known about in the future and those blessings perhaps never to be known by us.

God at work in us and in those around us and in those we love and in those we despair of. God’s love touching us, our ground, our lives through His humanity and love incarnated in Jesus.

We are surrounded in our space and time by roots, by branches, by leaves, by this living and growing 360 degree, multi dimensional, 24/7, God who loves. We are not tree hugging, but we are God- hugged.

And so while we are still indifferent, ignorant, hostile, unblissfully unaware, God loves us and in our hands we hold the bread and wine which expresses, encapsulates and enfleshes that Jesus love.

So why us? Why are we invited to this banquet under this umbrella of God’s love? Because we deserve it, merit it, lead good lives and have good theology? No, because God loves because he loves because he loves….

And so together as one body within God’s enveloping, connected with the worldwide family, we eat bread.

And so together as one body within God’s enveloping, connected with the worldwide family, we drink wine.

And so we have communed with God in this banquet but we do not now take our leave of Him. These roots and branches encircle and will not let us go even though we depart from this holy ground. He goes before us, marks our steps and our way.

And so we pray for all:

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.

AMEN!

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