Lenten Worship.

We met in the park on a mild early spring morning. Our worship focused on Lent with help from Richard Rohr and Dale Ryan.

Call to worship

Lord God,

early in the morning when the world was young,

you made life in all its beauty

you gave birth to all we know.

 

This morning, in the multi-coloured company

of your church on earth and in heaven,

we celebrate your creation,

your life,

your love,

your interest in us.

 

We are your people, the creatures of your care,

the bearers of your image.

This day we will walk in your light,

live by your spirit and follow Jesus.

Amen.

Richard Rohr – thoughts on the temptations of Jesus.

The first temptation of Jesus was to turn stones into bread. Sounds good, but this is our need to be immediately impressive and successful, and make things happen right now. It is our natural desire to look good…. You can be a very popular and successful when you operate at this level, and you will think very well of yourself. That is why Jesus has to face this temptation first, to move us beyond what we first want, to what we really need. In refusing to be immediately successful and impressive;  in refusing to respond to people’s immediate requests, Jesus is saying, Go deeper. What do you really desire? What do you really need? It is not usually what you first think.

The second temptation of Jesus is another one that all of us must face. Jesus imagines himself up on the pinnacle of the Temple, symbolising the very top of the religious world itself, and he is tempted to play “righteousness games” with God. “Throw yourself off and he’ll catch you”. Holy words can be used for evil purposes. This second temptation is to think of yourself as saved, superior to others, the moral elite on the side of God and religion, and to quote Scriptures for your own purpose—being against God in the name of God. Actually it’s quite common.

The third human temptation is the need for control, importance, wealth, status, and power. The devil tells Jesus to bow down before the power systems of this world: “All of these I will give to you”. All you have to do is to make these things into your belief and security system. Formal atheism is rare, but this kind of practical daily atheism is almost the norm for most people. Jesus refuses to bow down before the power systems of the world….. He knows that the price of such love of power is to “fall at Satan’s feet and worship him!” Jesus says, “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone”. When you can recognise and face up to these kinds of well-disguised demons, temptation doesn’t have a chance.

confession

In the blazing light of your love

our failings are illuminated

our failure to love

our failure to always be kind

our failure to be generous

our failure to serve others

our failure to truly follow Jesus.

Please forgive us and renew us.

Enfold us in your arms

that we might know

your forgiveness and healing love.

 

let’s say to one another –

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

(Psalm 103:8)

 Preparing for more (in Lent).   Dale Ryan.

“Lent gets messed up when we experience it as an exercise in deprivation, like we should give up something for Lent as if in God’s family scarcity is of value. A lot of us have already lived lives of scarcity where there’s not  enough, you can’t get enough love, enough whatever, life for many is already about not enough, and here the Christian community says lets practice more of not enough, and that’s profoundly counter productive.

I learned a lot about Lent from my wife, who one year for Lent decided to give up shame. Her notion was why not give up something that’s really killing her. Something that’s really a burden that you don’t need. Give up shame for Lent. But that’s not the point. The point is to have a glimpse of what life might be like if you were a shame free person. First time through you might only get a glimpse, and maybe you only begin to see with more clarity about the amount of shame you are carrying. But that would be a gift, that would be having something you didn’t have before. And if there is a dynamic for living with less shame, that would be a lot to show. …………………………………………  Lenten practices should leave us in a spot where we’ve got more than we started with, not less. So don’t give up something that you really love, give up something that’s dragging your life down. Something that’s making your life have less resurrection – cause that’s what Lent is preparing us for – a life where there’s more, not less. ………………………………………………….”

Our fasting and feasting is a great way to start thinking about, for example, giving up shame for Lent while taking up positive things like attempting to be more generous, more kind and more patient.

Spend a few moments in prayer and ask yourself if you could fast from destructive feelings like; anger, resentment , bitterness, unforgiveness, guilt, shame, envy and regret.

 

sharing bread and wine………………….

Jesus, we offer ourselves,

To be your hands reaching out to the world,

With your compassion.

Fill us with the breath of life

To be instruments of your peace.

Where there is silence about how others are treated,

Impassion us with a desire for justice.

 

As we share bread and wine

may our eyes be opened

to recognise Jesus among us.

 

Blessing for Lent

In this season of Lent,

May we turn

May we dance….

Dance defiance on injustice

Dance inclusion on division

Dance forgiveness, generosity and kindness

Dance life in all its fullness.

May we join the dance of Jesus

And dance for a better way to live.

Amen!

 

 

God, Jesus, the Bible and violence.

On Wednesday, 17th March we met at Moca to study the important topic of violence in the Bible.

The scene was set with the following study; then followed a lively and very interesting discussion.

God, Jesus, the Bible and violence.

I’ve always found the violence in the Bible troubling – even when I was still an evangelical storm trooper! The Bible is riddled with violence from Genesis to Revelation.

You can read the Bible — from cover to cover — and draw up two contrasting pictures of God. In one, God is a God of violence who expects and commands humans to act violently. In the other, God is a God of non-violence who expects and commands humans to be non-violent and to act with compassion.

In Joel 3: we read: “Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears;  let the weakling say, ‘I am a warrior’”(Joel 3:10).

Numbers 31: God tells Moses to take vengeance against the Midianites. When the victorious Israelites report to Moses that they have only slaughtered the men, he tells them to go back and kill all the males of whatever age and all the women who aren’t virgins, and to take for themselves the virgins – presumably to use as sex slaves!

Joshua 6: on taking Jericho Joshua tells his men to spare Rahab and “all who belong to her”, then every living thing – men and women, old and young, and all livestock must be put to the sword.

Samuel 15: God tells Saul through Samuel to punish the Amalekites – “do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”.

It’s important to realise that the Israelites by slaughtering people after taking their towns are not behaving in a godly fashion but are acting as every tribe, civilisation and nation did until armies were paid! (And even sometimes after they were paid!!!)

In contrast Zechariah: says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.” (Zechariah 7:9-10).

And in Isaiah and Micah: we read: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3). And “every man will sit under his own vine, and under his own fig-tree, and no-one will make him afraid…..” (Micah 4:4).

Is God non-violent and/or violent? Is it honest to accept only one biblical portrayal of God and, if so, which one?

Even in the New Testament we are given two very different images of Jesus presenting even more difficult questions.

In his “first coming” the non-violent Jesus rides on a donkey into Jerusalem. And as Zechariah says: “he will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow will be broken, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations”. (Zechariah 9:9-10; with V9 quoted in Matthew 21:5).

But then in Revelation at his “second coming” the violent Jesus rides on a “white horse … makes war” and “from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 19:11,15).

We have God revealed in a Jesus who is both non-violent  in the Gospels and very violent in Revelation.  Has Jesus changed or have Christians changed Jesus?

How can we reconcile these two different pictures? Are we to imagine a God of both violence and non-violence? Could it be that a combination of violence and non-violence belongs to God alone and humans must leave violence to God? But we are made in God’s image so does divine violence mean that  humans can’t help but be violent? Christians can’t be expected to be the non-violent people of a violent God, can we? As Christians how can we explain the Bible’s contradictory pictures of God?

Our starting point has got to be Jesus of Nazareth. No one has ever seen God. But for Christians, God is visible in the person of Jesus. Central to Christianity is the claim of the incarnation: that Jesus is God made man; that Jesus is the son of God; that Jesus is the image of God; that Jesus shows us what God is like; that Jesus is if you like God in sandals.

Therefore, Jesus is the norm and standard by which we must understand the entire Bible.

John’s Gospel tells us that God so loved the world that he sent us a Person, not a Book, but a person – Jesus (John 3:16). That is why we are followers of Jesus rather than followers of the Book. We are the People of the Person. Not the people of the book! That is why we count time “down” to Jesus birth (BC) and count time “up” from his birth to the present (AD).

But you may ask, how do I know that Jesus himself was non-violent? The best answer comes from Pontius Pilate who executed Jesus publicly but never bothered to round up his followers. Don’t you think that if Jesus had been a violent revolutionary then the Romans would have rounded up his followers and executed them as well. But because Jesus and his followers were non-violent the Romans just executed Jesus and left his followers alone (although from the Gospel accounts the disciples were very fearful of being arrested, as they hid themselves away until they thought they were safe from the threat of arrest).

For me the non-violent character of God is fully revealed in Jesus as the non-violent radical against Roman and Sadducee  injustice.  Jesus presents the Kingdom of God with its values of non-violence, justice, and  compassion as God’s alternative to “the powers that be” obsessed with violence, status, and power.

Secondly, when we read the Bible it is important to understand that we are reading a library rather than a book. It was written by many different people who had very different pictures of what God is like and had very different purposes for writing. If we read the various books of the Bible with an open enquiring mind we’ll see that they are competing against one another with opposing visions of God.

Thirdly, we also need to grasp that throughout the Bible God provides a radical vision for society – one of non-violence, justice and compassion, while all the time “the powers that be” are constantly subverting and undermining that vision with our human obsession for violence, greed, vengeance, status and power. The Bible is a struggle between God making us in God’s non-violent image and we humans making God in our violent image. 

Here are some examples of diversions around God’s radical vision:

God says in Leviticus 25: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; and you are but aliens and tenants”.
The powers that be say: “OK, but we can still make loans with land as security. So it’s not about buying and selling but about loaning and foreclosing”. (Foreclosing means that everything is taken and not just the value of the actual debt).

God says in Deuteronomy 23 & Leviticus 25: “You cannot take interest on loans to your fellow countrymen”.
The powers that be say: “OK well perhaps no interest charges, but we can still charge penalties for default, and get another’s land that way”. (Isaiah 5:8 provides judgement against this practice – “woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land”. Also Micah 2:1,2 “…woe to those who plan iniquity…because it is in their power….who covet fields and seize them, and houses and take them….”).

God says in the Law: “In every Sabbatical Year all loans must be cancelled, all debt-slaves freed, and the land get a rest from exploitation”. (Exodus 21:2-11; 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-2,7-18).
The powers that be say: ”That may be so but we will find loopholes whereby we can transfer our claims to the courts. (The device to avoid cancelling debt was provided by the “Prosbul” – a loophole devised to get round the law of cancelling debts during the Sabbatical year by transferring a creditor’s claim to the courts).

Jesus showed humanity that God is very different and far better than religion up to then had depicted. Jesus personally had the full human experience of failure and rejection – while still forgiving his enemies – and told us;  “Follow me” and “do likewise”. Jesus message has always been too much for us and for 2000 years we’ve managed to avoid almost all of his radical teaching.

To briefly recap –

  • Jesus is the yardstick and standard by which we understand the entire Bible.
  • If we read the various books of the Bible with an open enquiring mind we’ll see that they are competing against one another with opposing visions of God.
  • The Bible is a very honest record of the constant struggle between God making us in God’s non-violent image and we humans making God in our violent image.
  • In the Bible God provides a radical vision for society – one of non-violence, justice and compassion; while all the time “the powers that be” are constantly subverting and undermining this vision.
  • Once we begin to realise what’s going on in the pages of the Bible we can begin to read it with new eyes and change our understanding of much that’s written there.

Questions for discussion:

The Sabbatical/Jubilee principles placed radical social justice at the centre of a fair and harmonious society, one where all people get a fair share of God’s good earth. Do you think these ideas are outdated and inappropriate for modern society?  What might modern applied versions of these principles involve doing today?

 

In Jesus’ time, Rome with the cooperation of the Sadducees was forcing many Jewish families into destitution, with high taxes and land seizures. People who had owned small pieces of land ended up as day labourers. Some Jews – the Zealots – advocated violent rebellion, others chose non-violent resistance.  I believe Jesus called for nonviolent resistance to Rome while advocating social justice with regard to land, wages and food. Was he crucified because the Romans saw him as a threat to stability and the Sadducees saw him as a threat to their financial activities?

Jesus came proclaiming the message that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Yet “the powers that be” continually say: “We are about power and wealth. Who are you to bring up this social justice thing? It’s nothing but a race to the bottom!” Is this how God’s radical vision for society has continually been subverted, and undermined?

Ideas for further study?

Does God really need Jesus – his only son – to be a blood sacrifice before God could love what he has created? Is God really that needy, unloving, unfree and unable to forgive? Is violence and vengeance really the way of the universe? Does a violent theory of redemption legitimise violence as a way of problem solving in human affairs? What does Franciscan Incarnational Theology have to say on these questions?

Was violence legitimised in Christianity when it became the religious arm of the Roman Empire? As a result was the life and teaching of Jesus sidelined and spiritualised so as not to offend the “powers that be”? Was Christ emphasised at the expense of Jesus? Was God portrayed as Jupiter/Zeus and Christ as the Emperor?

Haven’t all Christian groups & denominations  evaded major parts of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolising “mammon,” his example of non-violence, the parable of the sheep & the goats, and his instruction to love our enemies and forgive 70 X 7. Jesus has always been too difficult for us!

 

 

Lindisfarne comes to the bandstand!

Steve and I were just back from Northumbria and brought some shells from Holy Island to facilitate our worship. It was COLD, so we spent just 15 minutes outdoors and did the rest at Cool River.

We began using a meditation from the brilliant David Adam as we walked around the park trying to look with new eyes at the beauty of our surroundings (in the Celtic tradition) saying over and over:

You, Lord, are in this place.
Your presence fills it.
Your presence is peace.
You, Lord, are in this place.
Your presence fills it.
You, Lord are in this place.
You, Lord, are.
You, Lord.

Each had chosen a shell and carried it, symbolically connecting with our brothers Aidan and Cuthbert who loved the sea and stones and shells or Lindisfarne and found God in their surroundings – as we do.

Back at the bandstand we considered how opening our eyes to encountering God in the world around us can open our expectations and awareness of things we might not otherwise have noticed. On one occasion Cuthbert tended to a very weary traveller and urged him to stay to eat, saying that the bread was not long from coming out of the oven… He went to pray and brought the bread only to find the young man vanished and no footsteps in the snow. On entering the storehouse to put away the table, he found three steaming loaves of unusual whiteness awaiting him. He had thought to feed a stranger but was fed himself.

So, in memory of Cuthbert and all our brothers and sisters who are no doubt cheering us on in finding new ways to encounter God, we shared bread – three warm rolls from the oven, and then wine.

In the warmth of the café we heard stories of Cuthbert’s other encounters with angels and I shared two ideas that had come to me regarding these stories and all my reading about these Celtic saints.

1. In Rob Bell’s ‘Everything is spiritual’ he says ‘What you look for you will find’ – if we choose to live as if there is no intervention of God in our world and if we see with those eyes, that is what we will see. If we ask God to open our eyes to the wonders of this world that speak of him, we can see things we would otherwise miss. The Celtic tradition is about reading the world, looking for God in his creation, expecting to encounter him using the five-stringed harp in all activities.
2. Our recent thinking about the kingdom of God seems to tie in with this. Stories about Cuthbert about angels or of unexpected things happening could be dismissed as exaggerations (what you look for you will find) or we could say, it’s just an extension of looking for the kingdom being at work here – of the kingdom breaking through in thin places and thin moments. Isn’t that what we pray for?

So, to prayer.
We put our shells on the café table and shared people and situations  that needed our prayers – who needed that thinness of Lindisfarne and of Aidan and Cuthbert, to allow God’s work to break into their situations… Then  I commissioned the shells, so to speak, with the  following words and we took our shells away for the rest of the week:

May these shells bear witness to these prayers in this coming week. May they remind us that thin moments and events happen! And may they challenge us to be like our brothers who loved Holy Island, who loved the sea and stones and sand and shells, in reminding us to have open eyes to see God and his kingdom all around us in the coming week.

Finally we were set homework: To try out a prayer of Cuthbert once this week. Pray standing with your arms outstretched in the position of the cross and see how you want to pray as you do. Join us?

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!

Empty?

What a change a mild morning at the bandstand, bulbs peeking out through the soil and a glimpse of the sun.

We said together the following prayer of praise:

O Divine Voice,

You sing and the universe comes into being;

O Divine Breath,

You breathe and all things spring to life;

O Divine Word,

You call and creation is sustained;

O Divine Flesh,

You are born among us, and the Creator is clothed in creation;

O Divine Spirit,

You fill all that has been formed;

O Divine Life,

You are the pulse of all that is.

And so, in amazement and awe, in wonder and celebration

we marvel at this mystery:

In you all things live and move and have being,

In all things, you live and move and express your Divine artistry;

And so we join with creation in the eternal song of worship and wonder………………….

One of the brilliant things about Third Space is the thoughts it provokes, weeks and days after the subject has been raised.

Wendy introduced us to some of the sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas a couple of weeks ago   http://third-space.org.uk/finding-the-kingdom-of-god/ 

One of which says:

97 Jesus said, The [Father’s] imperial rule is like a woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her [along] the road. She didn’t know it; she hadn’t noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty.

What Barbara shared this morning was how the last two Sunday mornings had made her realise that she was not running on empty, and suffering from “activists burnout”, but that over the last thirty eight years the work of the Kingdom of God had been following her (spilling behind) in what she did. Thus enabling others to come and take on what she had been doing in the community and how that had enthused her to continue to be involved.

Slow walking in the Park

Walk slowly across a grassy area to the place where the grass ends. While you walk pray:

  • For the areas in your life where you want to see evidence of the Kingdom of God.
  • For things that are important to you that you have tried or been trying to achieve.
  • For the people you know who need to be touched by God.
  • At the end of your walk open your bag and read what to do next.

Instructions

  1. Rip a hole in one corner of your bag (it contains bird seed) Leave a trail of the seed behind you on the grass as you walk back to the bandstand.
  2. As you walk remember the story of the woman with the broken jar who left a trail behind her and give thanks that you can leave a trail of the Kingdom of God behind you too.

We went on to share Bread and Wine together.

 

Finding the kingdom of God

We started in the cold at the bandstand listening nonetheless to birdsong in the trees, reading the following:

Psalm 19: 1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 95:1-7

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Psalm 104 Selected verses

He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.

The trees of the LORD are well watered…
There the birds make their nests…
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all.

ThirdSpace

The kingdom of God is near!
It is all around us,
springing up in the park,
sparking light in Matlock,
pushing into darkness across the nation,
conquering evil throughout the earth;
An unstoppable force
out there and within us.
The kingdom is near, is here, is coming!
Repent…
Turn. Turn. DANCE…
And believe the good news!

Wendy led the session, sharing new insights for her into the kingdom of God, with input from The Gospel of Thomas – Read on! This is what everyone got to read and do:

The Gospel of Thomas
These are 114 sayings of Jesus, found on parchment in Egypt in 1945. Although it is difficult to be sure of a date of origin, most scholars now believe that it is a very early collections of Jesus’s sayings which had circulated at the time of the oral tradition. Some dismiss it as Gnostic – and therefore a heretical twisting or invention of ‘Christian’ teachings, but little in it is a clear fit with this claim. Indeed, 50% of this ‘lost’ Gospel is identical to or very close to words of Jesus found in the canonical Gospels. Included are the following teachings known to us on the kingdom of God: The parable of the sower; the mustard seed; the wheat and the tares; the rich fool; the banquet; the tenants in the vineyard; the pearl; the yeast; the treasure and the lost sheep.

The following are not in our Gospels. What, if anything might they have to offer to us?
In this translation the kingdom of God is translated as ‘The Father’s [or Heaven’s} imperial rule’ – or ‘the Father’s domain’’

3 Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) imperial rule is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) imperial rule is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”

97 Jesus said, The [Father’s] imperial rule is like a woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her [along] the road. She didn’t know it; she hadn’t noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty.

1, What is your interpretation of these sayings?
2. What would you say the kingdom of God is like, in today’s terms? Create a ‘The kingdom of God is… / The kingdom of God is like…’ saying.

3. Write a line or two for a creed ‘We believe that the kingdom of God….’

Just for fun – what do you think of the following?
77 Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”

4. Where do you find God? Jot down some examples.

 

We shared answers to all of these, created our creed and shared stories of finding the kingdom in Cool River café over a much needed hot drink, after praying for God’s kingdom to come in us and without in our world, using feathers blown into the park and sharing bread and wine.

We finished in the café with a blessing:

And so may we be inspired in this coming week

to be conduits of light and love and faith and forgiveness

to become thin places

to proclaim that the kingdom of God is near.

May we have the renewed passion to join Christ’s mission

to be part of what he is doing

in the inexorable coming of his kingdom!

 

I hope this inspires anyone reading this to see the kingdom in the coming week and to be part of it!

 

Christmas Eve at the bandstand

So, it was relatively mild this morning – although Paul would hotly (?) dispute that! It was good to have Kitty and Harry back with us and we had a very festive bring and share time of worship together.

Paul began with a favourite and heartfelt Psalm of thanksgiving, then Grayden shared two articles from the Guardian on the disparity of wealth in the UK this Christmas time.

We sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ – rather well I might say – for our one time of year that we sing!

Wendy shared thoughts on angels: Are we too sophisticated to believe in such beings now? What of the 1 in 4 people in Britain who believe in them? What are we to make of tales of tall, radiant beings in all religions and cultures and of stories of ordinary looking people who show up to save and then vanish? The message of the angels was the announcement of the arrival of love itself – there could be no better symbol for that than a new-born baby. Our mission is to join with those angels to be messengers of hope and love and good news to a world in need – to be messengers from God – angels – in our own way.

She shared the story of a hugely generous act of kindness by a stranger to Kitty and another student in Salisbury – a woman whose hospitality went beyond that expected. An angel of sorts…

And we saw photos from Ashbourne Methodist Church of their 803 knitted angels that were placed around the town bearing messages of love and hope and taken by passers by who sent in their thanks and photos.

It would seem that people connect with Angels  – and their part in the Christmas story still has resonance today for us all.

Grayden shared a story then of another act of amazing generosity by someone they know who sold his house in Derby and bought a new one in Hull in order to house refugees and asylum seekers – another challenge to us to be looking for how we can be God’s bringers of good news.

Then we had our annual prayer event: We have a shepherds crook and write prayers on labels which are then hung on to it for a year. Our prayers are for all those who need the closeness of Jesus, the Good Shepherd in the coming year.  We took off our prayers from last year and mused on them and burned them as a final offering.

 

The new ones are on the crook along with the names of the ten worst countries for Christian persecution, which Fiona had brought. She then led us in an encircling prayer for all those named:

Circle them Lord

Keep protection near

And danger far

Circle them Lord

Keep Light near

And darkness afar

Circle them Lord

Keep Hope within

Keep doubt without

Circle them Lord

Keep Peace within

Keep evil out.

 

We shared bread and wine together and Barbara rounded things off with some fun and a blessing…

We had all the serious stuff and some very thought provoking and challenging input but we had to end with some festive fun:

Apologies for what follows!

“It was Christmas Eve at the bandstand

when all through the park

The birds they were singing (not including the lark)

Friends were shivering together, just out of their beds

While visions of dog friends danced round Ribble’s head.

But what to our wondering eyes did appear,

But a sack full of crackers behind Barbara’s rear.

She’ll give one to all like a jolly old elf

And when you all get one your laugh to yourself. 

But I hear you exclaim as they’re pulled out the bag

Happy Christmas to all!  … Let me read out my gag!”

Why Crackers?

Image result for christmas cracker
  • A snap to wake us up to the true meaning of Christmas
  • A joke to give us joy
  • A gift to remind us of the gifts of the Magi
  • A crown to remember God’s gift of Jesus

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Putting Jesus back into Christmas

Frost glistening on the grass, winter sun rising over Riber if we were singers we would have sung out …
“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,                                     
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;”
Christina Rossetti 
The cold and frosty start seemed to fit with our theme this morning. All be it one that has been tried and tested many times before.
I love the build up to Christmas, the lights in shop windows, Christmas markets, buying presents, thinking about how I will decorate my home etc. etc.  But this week amid all the glitz I was thinking, where is Jesus in all this? Particularly after being in touch with a local food bank and receiving an appeal leaflet from St. Georges Crypt in the post.  www.stgeorgescrypt.org.uk
So what followed was a time to worship and reflect.
Interspersed in the words below I read extracts from the St. Georges Crypt Appeal leaflet – words of challenge and hope, words showing the the Kingdom of God in action.

 

God of generosity and justice come into our midst this morning.

Breath your breath, your Holy Spirit,

your enlivening, your imagination upon us.

Wake us up, open our eyes, unplug our ears;

that we might hear, that we might see, that we might grieve, that we might dream.

That we might truly follow the ways of your extraordinary kingdom. Amen.

 

The People Who Worship

Our gathering emphasises community

Our gathering is an experience of radical equality

Our gathering is characterised by joy and hope and laughter.

The God We Worship

Our gathering names God as the true and only God

Our gathering proclaims the sovereignty and presence of the risen Jesus

Our gathering affirms the values of the Kingdom of God.

Our Mission and Ministry

In our gathering our many different gifts are brought together into unity

In our gathering we acknowledge that we are sinners

In our gathering we show care and encouragement to one another.

 

Wandering slowly around the park we meditated on:

The Empty Place

People who do not hold tightly to things are happy, because all of God’s kingdom is theirs.

People who are gentle with the earth will see it blossom forever.

People who can cry for all the world’s suffering will live to see happiness                 Misplaced halo?

People who hunger and thirst for justice will finally have their fill.

People who really care will find love wherever they go.

People who don’t let the world get them down will see God.

People who give up their won comfort so that others can be helped know what heaven is all about.

Lord, let us be like these!

The Franciscans

 

Jesus calls us above all else to seek the Kingdom of God, putting our trust in God who creates, provides and redeems, and whose love is never ending.

Jesus taught us that we should uphold justice and generosity, strive to safeguard the integrity of all living things and always to be mindful of how other people are treated.

What can I do to make this a reality in my life?

 

Sharing of bread and wine

We share bread and wine, Lord Jesus, as a memorial of your life given for us,

Your body broken and your blood poured out.

But we cannot share bread and wine with our eyes closed to the needs of others.

May our thanksgiving for your unbelievable gift be so real that we too,

may become bread broken and wine poured out for others.

Empower us by your Spirit to be peacemakers, hurt healers, justice doers, life enhancers.

Amen

 

 

Closing Prayer

May the love and encouragement we find in this community

Make us peacemakers and justice-doers:

and may the Spirit who fills us again

lead us to be those who proclaim God’s Kingdom

in everything we do.

Amen.

Words used this morning with thanks to J. Frank Henderson, John van de Laar and Jonny Baker

Third Space Ancient and Modern

A mild autumn morning greeted us all in the park; birds singing, leaves turning from shades of red to brown and beginning to carpet the floor. A fine morning for thinking about outdoor worship.

We began by being Franciscan and reading together part of the Canticle of the Creatures. Saint Francis is said to have composed the canticle in late 1224 while recovering from an illness at San Damiano.  (The ancient)

The Canticle of the Creatures

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
to you be praise, glory, honour and all blessing.

Only to you, Most High, do they belong
and no one is worthy to call upon your name.

May you be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir brother sun,
through whom you lighten the day for us.

He is beautiful and radiant with great splendour.
He signifies you, O Most High.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister moon and the stars:
clear and precious and lovely, they are formed in heaven.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother wind;
and by air and clouds, clear skies and all weathers,
by which you give sustenance to your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother fire,
by whom the night is illumined for us.
He is beautiful and cheerful, full of power and strength.

Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, mother earth,
who sustains and governs us
and produces diverse fruits
and coloured flowers and grass.

On a slow walk to the beech tree we considered the verses and used them in worship and thanksgiving.

On reaching the beech tree I reminded everyone of the day we took off our shoes and made contact with the earth beneath our feet. While in touch with the ground I asked everyone to write down what was going on in their mind. I put together what we came up with and read out.  (The modern)

 

Rooted and Grounded

This morning we are here to touch the cold, wet, earth

Firm under our feet

Here we are rooted and grounded

In this Thin Space/Third Space

To stand on …

 God made Holy Ground,

This is holy ground …

Giving us roots and wings,

Here in this place teeming with creatures

like the first creation, 

Seeing the magnificence 

elemental, historical, futuristic

Where the grass sings and the earth hums

Roots and wings

Rooting us, upholding us

Help us to see God in this place

All connecting, my life, our lives, all life

to share our own joys, sorrows and laughter

and intercede for all in God’s earth.

 

“And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand….

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it. But what did I see in it? It is that God is the creator and protector and the lover.” Julian of Norwich (b. 1342)

 

Take a hazelnut from the bowl and pray for those you love, and those people and places that need help. As you drop it pray that “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” 

The Peace

May deep peace be in our thinking

May deep peace be in our hearts

May there be deep peace between us and God’s good earth

And may the deep peace of Jesus be with us.

 

The bread and Wine

The bread

It represents

The provision of God

The bountiful harvest

The work of the labourer

The hands of the baker

In remembrance

Of bread broken

And shared

Of a body broken

Of a people blessed

And a forgiveness shared

The wine

It represents

The provision of God

The bountiful harvest

The work of the labourer

The skill of the vintner

In remembrance

The ransom paid

The hands pierced

The blood shed

The redemption

The celebration of the resurrection

 

“Circle me Lord, Keep protection near, And danger afar.”

“Circle me Lord, Keep light near, And darkness afar.”

“Circle me Lord, Keep peace within, Keep evil out.”

“Circle me Lord, Keep hope within, Keep doubt without.”

 

May you be a bright flame before me
May you be a guiding star above me,
May you be a smooth path below me,
And a loving Guide behind me,
Today, tonight, and forever.

All this and then off for a coffee at Cool River winner of the best Bistro/Cafe in England award.

 

Hands and Feet

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Autumn seems to have struck …

A misty morning, temperature low – what a shame we have  been asked to wear sandals.

Moving to the place under the beech tree we love so much we began with a Litany from the Iona Community Worship Book

The God of Columba 

The litany reminded us of those saints in the past who have had a huge impact in the world,

we joined together saying to God “stay with us now”

Wendy brought a prayer activity based on God writing our names on the back of his hand

 

Meeting outside has made us more aware of seasonal changed, of people around us, of our environment taking off our shoes and feeling the earth beneath our feet made us even more aware.

The activity was introduced with the idea that Moses took off his shoes when he met with God saying it was Holy Ground.

With our shoes off we let our minds wander – here is a compilation of our musings …   IMG_20170903_100906515

 

Rooted and Grounded

This morning we are here to touch the cold, wet, earth

Firm under our feet

Here we are rooted and grounded

In this Thin Space/Third Space

To stand on …

God made Holy Ground,

This is holy ground …

Giving us roots and wings,

Here in this place teeming with creatures

like the first creation,

Seeing the magnificence

elemental, historical, futuristic

Where the grass sings and the earth hums

Roots and wings

Rooting us, upholding us

Help us to see God in this place

All connecting, my life, our lives, all life

to share our own joys, sorrows and laughter

and intercede for all in God’s earth.

 

Steve had written some brilliant words to accompany bread and wine and closed with a blessing