Wednesday, March 10, 2010

pass the peace in God’s world as acts of prodigal fathering

I fumbled the benediction in chapel today. Life’s a bit full at the moment, so I was bound to fumble something at some point and life’s like that.

The Biblical text was the prodigal son and around that Jonny Baker and I framed call to worship, an imaginative engagement with the text, some stations to allow reflection, confession, intercession and communion.

I was aware that there was no “passing of the peace” and aware that this has been a feature of various Uniting College chapel service’s I’ve been a part of. I’d been teaching just before chapel, looking at New Testament images of church. Which include the new creation and salt, as an image for a church deeply immersed in the world.

So it seemed to me in light of that impulse, that passing the peace could thus be an act of benediction, an invitation to mission as Christ’s reconciling people, offering the embrace of the father as an act of prodigal fathering.

So I decided in the midst of the service to conclude with a benediction, “Go, Pass the peace, in God’s world.”

So I invited people to face the door. But all that came out was the word “peace.” I waited for more. So did those gathered. I knew I had more to say, but my brain had simply stopped working. And so we all exited, knowing that something had not quite been completed.

Life’s like that sometimes.

So I simply note it here for completeness, for humour and as a theological and liturgical question:
What are the implications of making the passing of the peace the benediction, rather than an act in worship and after confession?

Posted by steve at 01:22 PM

Friday, March 05, 2010

praying the psalm? or the moment?

My Paraclete Psalter: A 4-Week Cycle for Daily Prayer arrived this week. It prays all the Psalms over a 4 week period. This is not a heavy book of Daily prayer, flipping from page to page. This is the Psalms arranged morning, lunch, tea and evening, as an invitation to use the Psalms, stones worth smooth by the centuries (to quote Rowan Williams). It’s gorgeous, just begging to be touched and opened. Leather cover, delicate pages, light and transportable.

The Psalms are arranged according to the time of day, which makes for a lovely resonance.

Until I went swimming.

And then my Psalter suddenly felt a bit sloshy – in a good, yet provoking, way.

The sun was setting into the sea and I just floated, watching this golden orb drop away. It all got pretty spiritual. It even got captured in a prayer: Swimming this evening; Sun dropping gold orbed into summer sea, God of full immersion, Swirl in, on, around me; Your resting child.

Which got me wondering about the place of spiritual disciplines in life. Was this not my “evening Psalm prayer”; the giving of my day, what was done and undone, to God? Wasn’t that Psalm, waiting in my Psalter, crafted out of a moment exactly like this? How do these natural and unexpected moments of our lives align themselves with the “stones worn smooth” of the church’s history? How often is our worship captured in a building and a book, strained through someone else’s words, in a way that alienates us from the moments of life?

Posted by steve at 08:27 AM

Friday, September 04, 2009

do you have a sinner’s table please?

Zaccheus was a sinner, well-known for his exploitation and participation in injustice.
Jesus asked to go to his house for dinner.
At Zaccheus’s house, Jesus saw redemption.

Who are our Zaccheus’s today, the people and places, we need to invite ourselves to eat among?

This week a newer Christian at Opawa read the book of Ruth to a local drug dealer, while another newcomer invited a practicing wiccan to an upcoming church service.

How much redemption do we miss because we fail to eat at the houses of an/other?

Posted by steve at 05:27 PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jesus as mother prayers

Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children
- Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:7

Truly Lord, you are a mother
for both they who are in labour
and they who are brought forth
are accepted by you.
- Anselm of Canterbury

Suck not so much the wounds as the breasts of the Crucified.
He will be your mother and you will be his son.
- Bernard of Clairvaux

But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life,
blessed may he be. So he carries us within him in love and travail
- Julian of Norwich

From Giving Birth: Reclaiming Biblical Metaphor for Pastoral Practice. Part of my research, for a workshop I’m leading on Friday in Auckland on “Emerging disciples”, with a sub-section addressing the theme of discipleship as midwiving.

Posted by steve at 06:04 PM

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

old prayers, good prayer

Please give us, Father-God, a clean start for beginners, intelligence to the young, aid to those who are running hard, repentance to those who fall, a revived spirit to those who are lukewarm, and to those who have given their best a good ending. Amen.

Irenaeus of Lyon (died AD 202)

Posted by steve at 03:46 PM

Thursday, August 06, 2009

can the dry bones of this church in this city live?

I am speaking at a retreat centre called Nunyara. The food is fantastic, the accommodation hospitable and the Australians friendly. The retreat centre is based in the hills, and the chapel has a breathtaking view over the city. Yesterday it was clouded in fog, offering a mystical yet loving enclosure.

Today the sun was out, offering a breathtaking view of city skyscrapers and streets running into the sea.

Morning worship was expertly and creatively curated by Sandy Boyce. With the conference theme of Breathe – she offering a creative, tactile, spacious engagement with the Spirit as lifegiving breath to dry bones in Ezekiel 37. All participants were offered a stone, cold, hard, to consider as pray began.

Can these dry bones live? A provocative question to ask amidst a Uniting church conference, a denomination declining in number and growing in age. A poignant question to consider as I sat in chapel and gazed over the city of 1 million people. In the grace of God, can this church denomination, amid this city, live?

Posted by steve at 01:36 AM

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

mission here and there jigsaw prayers

This was the prayer from Sunday morning. At the door on the way into church, everyone was invited to choose a piece of jigsaw.

Introduction: As you came in you should have been offered a piece of jigsaw. I invite you to hold that now and to consider our theme of mission. Mission here. Mission there. The jigsaw invites us to consider what small part we have to play in God’s mission. As a jigsaw is 1 piece with 2 sides, so mission can be expressed here. And there.

Prayer: So I invite you to look at 1 side of the jigsaw and consider your part in God’s mission here. And now to turn the jigsaw and consider your part in mission there.

(And so the jigsaw was turned about 5 times, naming various involvements. For example, HERE included re-start of community kids programme, 85 people who attended the family film night, the flu packs, our mission collectives, while THERE included missionaries we know, seeds our missionaries in history have planted, the children many of us sponsor).

Ending: (excerpt from prayer by Nakatenus, 17th century priest, adapted).
God of Christ Jesus, the task of loving every neighbour as we love ourselves has become too big for us. The world is now too small, it’s population too large, the burden of its evil and misery too enormous. Therefore we pray to you for common sense. Let each of us be ready to do what can reasonably be done, play our piece in your puzzle, and leave you to put the jigsaw together. Amen.

Posted by steve at 06:14 PM

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

20 minutes encouraging “winter” sabbath

So you have been given 20 minutes in a standard morning service. The Bible text is about encouraging sabbath and the “worship” aim is to give people some time and space to “worship by sabbathing”, ie to provide a range of options/stations which a diverse, inter-generational group of people could enjoy. All ideas need to be easy, to ensure that those running the service are not stressed at the expense of those who are enjoying.

(For example, hot chocolates would be great, but a lot of work for 140 people when you don’t have a kitchen in the building).

What would you put into the time/space?

Posted by steve at 04:30 PM

Sunday, July 05, 2009

winter spirituality

It’s the middle of winter here. Short nights. Cold, cloudy, grey days. Buildings are cold. We’re trying to recognise this as a church, by building in a change of pace, encouraging our congregations to go slower for a two week period.

So tonight, our Soak service swapped individual stations and lectio divina for soup and community. Four large dinner tables were set up, adorned with candles, fragrant oils and winter sweet. One had a jigsaw, another had cushions.

Three different home soups were on offer, complete with sour cream, parsley, bacon bits (TVP). Discussion questions lay around:
- where was/is warmth in your house?
- what nourishes your soul?
- how do you (your family) unwind in the winter?

It provided a very different sort of spiritual nourishment, a pleasing change of pace, a relationally warm time, a uniquely winter spirituality.

Further posts:
Personal winter spirituality here.

Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

Sunday, May 03, 2009

the work and worth of prayer, thoughts from Dorothy McRae-McMahon

I snuck out of the office on Friday and sneaked into the back of a liturgy workshop by Australian, Dorothy McRae-McMahon. Most of my experience in writing prayers and creating worship has been intuitive. I simply started writing and creating and the more I have journeyed with people, the more I have seen the power of entwining symbol and tactile experience around creative words.

So it was very stimulating to be able to listen to someone else reflect on their experience. Lots of creative suggestions, lots of helpful framing and a great discussion with Dorothy in the break about words and how they work in community. Above all the encouragement for me to just keep writing words and keep creating spaces. Here are my notes. (more…)

Posted by steve at 11:18 PM

Sunday, April 26, 2009

urban Easter sunday prayer

One the ways we sought to express our missional life over Easter was with regard to our corporate prayer life. Over the week prior to Easter, we placed a large 2 metre high wooden cross at various points around our community – McDonalds, police station, urban developments, state housing village. Pictures were taken. These were then shown in both our Easter Friday and Easter Sunday services. (Friday was greyscale here (click to move through each slide), Sunday was colour – here – click to move through each slide). Some historical research was done and a prayer was composed, for 2 readers (A and B), weaving a conversation between the history of our community and what the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus might mean.

It was a fascinating exercise, a way of inviting us to take Easter outdoors (where it was orginally played out), and to consider the relevance of the cross for our local communities in 2009 – amid urban grime and fastfood outlets and urban development and social housing.

I posted the Friday prayer here, but for those interested, here is the Sunday prayer:
(more…)

Posted by steve at 06:06 PM

Friday, April 10, 2009

urban Easter prayer

This Easter, we are gathering with our neighbouring Baptist church. They are struggling and this Easter could literally be a story of death for them. Equally, we are talking with them about partnership and some new forms of church, so this Easter could equally be a story of life.

There’s not much point talking if we first can’t worship together. So Easter Friday is at their place and Easter Sunday at ours, with both pastoral teams planning both services together and sharing bits at each place.

As part of that, we wanted some way to pray in our shared life and our shared mission. So we grabbed a wooden cross and took photos of it at various geographic landmarks between the two buildings – construction site, new Police station, fastfood outlet, well-known development currently growing weeds, local pub facing council housing and a sports stadium. Six slides became a visual backdrop – good-friday-urban-prayermed (click to move through each slide)

Some hard work followed, research into the lives, history and narratives that shape each place and then the seeking to weave these narratives into the events of Easter Thursday and Friday, in the form of a urban Easter prayer. This is the result – our Easter prayer as we consider the cross in our Christ’s church city streets.

A: Jesus, On Easter Thursday,
you prayed for us, you sweated drops of blood for your church
prepared yourself to be dragged from prison to passion, from trial to tribulation

B: Jesus, On Easter Friday
you carried your cross,
you walked through your city streets,
you were willing to love your neighbours, criminals to your left, crucifiers to your right

A: Jesus, This Easter, show us what it means to pray,
to weep for your church and Christ’s church
to carry our cross, to walk our city streets,
to love our neighbours, our communities from Colombo Street to Brougham Village

B: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours,
shopkeepers building right beside us at Beckenham Baptist
A: And so we remember our neighbours
we pray God’s peace on those who shop and those who build
we pray wisdom on those who plan our cities
and smooth process for those who seek consent
Help us live your cross in our communities this Easter

B: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours
the new police station being built
A: And so we remember our neighbours
we pray integrity for our police
we pray restoration for those criminals behind bars
B: We pray redemption for their victims,
grace for those who suffer. And justice in our courts,
Help us walk your cross with our neighbours this Easter

A: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours. McDonalds and so many fast food outlets stretched down Colombo St
B: And so we pray for those who flip burgers and fry fries
for those seeking work in a credit crunch
for those who fear the loss of their daily bread
A: Lord, forgive us our fast food, instant takeway attitudes
Jesus, may our neighbours find You as their daily bread this Easter

B: Jesus, (click), these are our neighbours, developers at Sydenham Central
David Henderson who risked. And the Council who resurrected
Help us show your cross to our neighbours, rich and poor, this Easter

A: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours
those who live in council housing in Brougham Village
B: We pray protection for the vulnerable
safety for the easy led, deliverance for those addicted
freedom for those enslaved by debt and habit
Help us carry your cross to our neighbours, rich and poor, this Easter

A: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours
the Canterbury crowds, who walk to AMI Stadium,
cheering for winners, jeering for losers
B: Jesus help us look at the crowds as you looked at the crowds,
To feel your compassion for the harrassed and helpless
To weep for your city this Easter,

Posted by steve at 09:56 AM

Thursday, April 09, 2009

finding God with flax as Easter spirituality

For the last 10 years, the Easter Journey, has been a feature of ministry at Opawa. However, for the last year or so, there has been a growing feeling that it is time for something new to emerge. Opawa is changing and so are Pete and Joyce. While the Journey has been a tremendous blessing, we have to be sensitive to the moving, changing winds of the Spirit. Too often, good things for a season become institutions the church feels compelled to keep propping up. Letting things go is an essential Christian discipline.

To help us let go, and to start the process of dreaming again, we are starting with an Easter Saturday day of paper making. April 11, 9:45 am for coffee. Bring lunch to share. Together we will turn flax into paper, both for individual journals and for use in the church at Pentecost.

Why paper making? Well this is what I said on radio recently. (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:16 AM

Saturday, July 12, 2008

faithful imaginative interpretation

I am starting a series on Deuteronomy. I have been struck by how this is a book for people in the midst of change, written as a guide for the whole of life. I love Brueggemann’s phrase: faithful imaginative interpretation

It fits so well with part of the welcome to membership prayer we pray at Opawa.
As your disciples may we know the freedom to move into the unknown and the untried,
To see the opportunities of the new day,
And to serve our present age with compassion, imagination, and courage.
(Taken from Terry Falla’s, Be Our Freedom Lord).

Anyhow, inspired by faithful imaginative interpretation, I thought it would be Biblically fun and coherent if I could weave Moses benedictions in Deuteronomy 32 into the order of service. So here’s my faithful imaginative interpretation of the blessing of Joseph (v. 13-16).

May you be blessed by God:
Blessed with sleep to wake refreshed in each morning
Blessed with a work-life balance that keeps you energised into the evening
Blessed with the sun to warm you on cold days
Blessed with star glimpses that open your mouth in wonder
Blessed with moments to lift up your eyes to the Port Hills
Blessed with all the best from Earth’s good gifts,
Blessed with the smile from God’s talking and God’s presence.

Posted by steve at 07:09 PM