Archive for the “worship” Category

John 13:1-17 is about feet…

Washing feet… dirty, smelly feet!

We usually read this passage on Maundy Thursday so to deal with it this early in Lent gives us the chance to look at it in a very different context.  (We have skipped a chapter so it’s worth reading chapter 12… there are lots of connections!)

In this passage the washing of feet happens during dinner!!!  During the last supper.

Foot washing didn’t happen during dinner.

It happened when you arrived to wash away the dirt of the journey.

You did it yourself.

Or a slave did it.

So, there this is something else going on here apart from hygiene.

This is a Gospel moment… but we know that.  It’s a demonstration of what love looks like.  OK.

But it’s also near the end of the road.

Judas is there.  The man who leaves and betrays him.

Peter is there.  The man who denies even knowing Jesus…

and both get their feet washed, even though Jesus knows what they both will do.

This is an incredible act of love.  Way beyond what we might imagine.  Jesus loves them despite their anger and doubt and denial.

Perhaps there is hope for us after all…

 

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John 11:1-44

Lazarus.

Jesus’ friend.

Dying.

And what does Jesus do?  Something else.  There’s no hurry.  No rush to see him or any hint that he might save him.  So many miracles, so many strangers healed, made whole, restored… why not Lazarus?

Again the story is laden with symbolism but there’s some real raw emotion in here too.  Mary and Martha are two of his closest followers and Jesus seems pretty indifferent about their brother’s fate.  I wonder how they felt about Jesus at that point?

 

Of course it all turns out well in the end… or does it?  Lazarus will spend the rest of his life as the man who died.  And not just for a moment.  He was dead for days.  Long enough for decay and stench to set in.

How do you come back from that and live?

How do you come out of the darkness of the tomb back into the light?

But that’s exactly the point… I AM the resurrection says Jesus.

And Lazarus lives again.

(Perhaps The Stone Roses… for the offering?)

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I’m thinking…

That’s what the start of the week is for.

On Monday mornings at Morning Prayers we explore the scripture passage from the day before and shed more light on it having had time to reflect and digest.  When I get home I read the passage for this week and the process of thinking starts again.

I’m going to start sharing some of these initial thoughts, just in case you want to do some thinking too!

It’s Transfiguration Sunday.  Usually we would read the story of Jesus on the mountaintop where he changes and is joined by Elijah and Moses.  Instead we’re exploring a different kind of transfiguration…

John 9:1-41 – A man born blind receives sight

We take a big jump this week from chapter 4 to chapter 9 (you should read the bit in between!).

On Sunday our story of the Samaritan woman happened at midday, in contrast to Nicodemus’ nighttime visit.  Now we are plunged back into darkness and light in this story of a blind man.  There is loads going on and much of it reflects where John’s community find themselves;  Thrown out of the synagogue, at odds with the religious authorities because they can see while others are blind.

As always, John is writing in several levels at once.  There are some issues that jump out:

  • Sin and questions about who is to blame.
  • A healing that echoes back to the Genesis 2 creation story involving both seeing/light and water.
  • Religious rules that hinder rather than help.  Is healing on the Sabbath ‘work’?

I like that the man can see but doesn’t know who did it, or at least what Jesus looks like, and that his friends don’t recognise him now that he can see!  It’s like partial illumination… something that for the man is completed in his second encounter with Jesus.

Lots to think about.  What do you see???

 

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For five minutes or a couple of hours on the first Sunday of the month people come and sit in a candlelit church.

Sometimes it is the simplest idea that catches the imagination.

Providing a place of sanctuary and stillness is one of the gifts the church can provide to a busy world full of stress and concern.

Be still and know that I am God.

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Intergenerational church.013

Amy Peterson

I’m training to be a minister.

I have all kinds of issues with that statement, but for now it can just be a few words that give context to what follows.

Part of my training is to spend time with the Scottish Episcopal Institute studying a diploma in theology for ministry.  I had very little experience of the Episcopal Church prior to this so their use of written liturgy and the way they celebrate the Eucharist (communion) was odd to me.  I had never experienced a sung compline or evensong.  My experience up to now had been of  preaching box churches, cubes of Mother’s Pride and shot glasses with a varying quality of content, all ‘dispensed’ in a way which is often the antithesis of communal.  But that is my primary experience.  Most of the other times I’ve participated in communion have been in ‘informal’ gatherings with a common cup and a lump of bread which feel more communal but sometimes lack a sense of connectedness to much beyond the people we are with at that time.

I know that church is odd, but because of my previous experience with my brand of oddity I thought Episcopalian liturgical practice was just plain weird.  It sits a little uncomfortably with my view of ‘priesthood’ and what happens when we celebrate the eucharist, but there is also something about it that speaks to me.  There is great depth in the weirdness which seems perhaps to be missing in what I’m used to.

So, confronted with this ancient ritual and drama, I wonder a little more about what we think church is, and is not, and what we might have gained and lost in our rush to be ‘relevant’.

If you search back on this very blog I’m sure you’ll find me railing against a church that finds itself ‘irrelevant’, and I still believe that to be true.  The relevance I hope for is that what we do helps people to connect with God, each other and their communities.  That relevance is captured in what we do and say, not necessarily in adopting the latest cultural fad or style.

This would be the stage that you point at me and call me middle aged, expose my growing ‘conservatism’ and  wonder what happened to the rebellious youth…

He’s still here.  I hope.

I’m still passionate about people who lead worship being creative, engaging and taking risks, but all that happens within and around a central act where we gather around a table and break bread and share wine together.  We join in a great and mysterious act that binds us together with what was, what is and what is to come.

“I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘‘relevant.’’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”

That’s nothing less than radical.  That’s nothing less than transformative.  That’s nothing less than deeply relevant.

And it’s weird.  And I like that.

I’ve come to like the use of the same words at the same point.  The words of Compline have become dear to me and the appearance of some of those words in my mother’s funeral service struck a real chord, exposing that deep connectedness again.

It’s there that relevance lies for me.  In the depths, not the shallows.

It’s in the words of our rites and rituals.  It’s in the words of carefully crafted sermons.  It’s in the poetry of prayer.

Some of the mystery and life in those words is in the speaking of them.  Rob Bell told a story in a recent podcast of his preaching class at seminary where a student preached a very boring sermon.  The teacher picked up the script and started to read the same words…  The class were amazed.  It turned out that the words were great, it was the initial presentation that was lacking.

Church is weird.

I hope it stays that way.

But I also hope we can remember that the weird stuff we do and say needs to be done and said well.

 

 

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loom

There are times when it’s ok to let something pass quietly.

There are other times when something has to be said.

I was charged with leading worship at the URC Youth Assembly last weekend and as we neared the end of our time together it grew more and more apparent that we should acknowledge the moving on of those aged 25, who would be old to return next year.

I saw a loom like this one on Twitter last week.  Someone created one for the Deep Impact conference in Aviemore.  It looked great, so I stole it.  I was going to use it for something else but as the young people wove their brightly coloured strands together it struck me that this could be something we could use to mark a rite of passage.

Here’s what was said between the singing of Guide me, O thou great Jehovah and I, the Lord of sea and sky:

“Could those for whom this is their last Youth Assembly please stand if you are able or raise your hand to let us know who you are.

You know that I like songs and that extends, perhaps surprisingly, beyond Abba’s greatest hits. There’s a song by Semisonic called ‘closing time’. Everyone thinks it’s about chucking out time at the pub. But it’s not. It’s actually about a man contemplating the birth of his child. It has one of my favourite lines in it, and I think it says something for us all, but especially for you at this time. It’s this:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Youth Assembly is one of those things that come into our lives and it can be a hugely significant part of both our journey of faith and our journey through life. For those who have come to the upper age limit today, passing the grand old age of 25, this time of worship marks the end of your time with this particular part of the church.

And that is how it should be. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. And that’s as it should be.

God needs you. The church needs you.

So we want to take the opportunity to thank you, for you’re the gifts you have shared with us, for your enthusiasm and most of all for your friendship. You have blessed this community. Your stories, just like the strips of cloth on the loom, are woven into the story of this church and have been an integral part of the fabric of our life together, bringing colour and beauty.

We would like to bless you as you step out from this place and set out on new journeys of faith.

We would encourage you to take all that this place has meant and still means to you with you, to take the best of us, to take your passion for God, and share it with those you meet along the way, wherever your journey takes you.

When we bless people and send them out we have a tradition of ‘laying on hands’. So, could those around the people who are moving on gather round them and just lay your hands on their shoulders as we pray a blessing on them.

 

A Commissioning (adapted from Spill the Beans)

The Gospel,

The Good News of Jesus Christ

is demanding,

and challenging,

and subversive.

It is nothing short of revolutionary.

 

This is the message we preach.

This is the story we live.

It’s not an easy life.

But is a life like no other.

 

The call to you

is to stand up and be counted,

exactly as Jesus did:

to go after the big fish,

to make disciples of all people

often leaving familiar things behind.

 

It’s time to step out

Time to embrace your calling

Time to break cover

Time to follow Jesus

into the world

 

But go with our friendship

go with the love of God almighty

go with the leading of Jesus, the Christ, your saviour

go with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit

to guard and keep you safe

this day and always.

Amen”

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Pilots Worship Pack Lost and Found

 

I’m delighted to see the new Pilots Worship Pack: Lost and Found, which Soo and I wrote, is about to be sent out into the wild. It’s a pack with 4 sessions which help young people to explore the idea of Lost and Found along with some resources for a worship service led by young people.  The resource comes from Pilots but would be suitable for use with any groups of children and young people.

I’ll post the details of where you can get a copy as soon as it is available.

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