Friday, March 18, 2011

this table remakes us: a creationary communion introduction

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

We find ourselves today gathered in a circle
in a flow of love

We find in our centre a table

And a loaf of bread

And a cup

This table has remade us
changed the way we sit
changed the way we relate
as equals, in a flow of love

Explanatory note: On Wednesday at chapel, I had been asked to lead the communion part. As I entered the room, I noted that the usual seating had been rearranged. Instead of rows and a front, there was a small table, with a white tablecloth, upon which was the bread and cup. And the chairs had been placed in a circle. The change of architecture intrigued me and on the spot I thought it warranted changing (remaking) of my communion introduction. I note it here in honour of the role that space plays in our experience of worship.

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM

Saturday, March 05, 2011

lenten creativity: clay for the wilderness

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

This is a fantastically creative Lenten activity. Methodist minister, Ric Stott, has made 40 clay figures (link with Ash Wednesday) and located them in and around Sheffield (into the wilderness) for 40 days (one for each day of Lent) to see what happens as they interact with the world. Ric blogs here

This gets towards the heart of what I am trying to explore with this project, when I finally gather up all that remains (which may well be very little) we will be able to see what effect the world has had on these fragile figures. Some will be worn down by rain, wind and time, some will have been swept away by street sweepers or stolen, or crushed underfoot. One remains in a church where, I suspect, it will stay safe and unchanged.

I remember when my first child was born – he was so fragile and perfect, untouched by the rigours of life. I was aware as soon as we stepped out of the sterile hospital into the cloud of smokers congregating at the entrance that moving out into the world meant becoming polluted, becoming dirty and damaged. But what kind of life is spent in a sterile space? It’s when we start to get dirty that we change, grow and become more human.

Each has a note inviting those who find them to take a photo and email it. It’s tactile, it’s public, it’s potentially interactive, it’s curiousity rousing. Good stuff.

Hat tip Jonny.

Posted by steve at 08:07 PM

Friday, November 12, 2010

creationary: communion as call and response

I am placing on the blog two communion prayers. Both are based on a call and response, where the essential telling of the story is done by the congregation, not by the presider/leader.

I have found this pattern of enormous help in recent times. It is an echo of the Hebrew Passover pattern, in which the child asks questions and the answers tell the story. It is an echo of Baptist communion theology in which the gathered community are the site for naming sacramentality (for where two or three are gathered, there is Christ). It is a way of inviting the community to do liturgy – the work of the people. It is a chance to deepen understanding, for as people say words, they are more likely to be engaged and thoughtful in and around those words.

One of these “call and response” prayers comes from the church in Kenya. The other comes from colleague Craig Mitchell (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:39 AM

Saturday, October 30, 2010

creationary: Luke 19 and Zacchaues as babe in womb

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

I’ve been pondering this art image through the week, from the so visually helpful, Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource (which offers art in relation to the Lectionary readings) in relation to the Zacchaues story. It suddenly struck me how “fetus like” is Zacchaues. Not sure it’s the artists intent, but the linking between Zacchaues and that sense of being born again got me thinking …

like a baby in womb

Held by tree cleft
Like needle eye
rich baby this one

like umbilical cord
stretching toward

Toward heartbeat
with life
of the Christ

I see you, little babe
I’ll grow you, little babe

Toddler step down
Teenager make meal

Challenge us
Sorry in cash
and half my retirement
So boldly brash
little babe to man

Posted by steve at 07:58 AM

Monday, October 25, 2010

creationary: Zacchaeus story in Luke 19

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

The lectionary text this week is the Zacchaues story in Luke 19. It’s such a familiar story. In preparation, I have been finding this poem helpful, Martin Wallace, City Prayers, Canterbury Press, 1994

As you and I walk down this terraced street
Where all the houses seem to be from a common mould
And each door looks the same,
It would be easy to be mistaken
And assume that those inside each house
Are from a common mould.
You and I know, Lord,
That each household has a different story
Of happiness, heartache, and health,

wealth, weariness, and worry,
sadness, solitude, and sickness,
energy, encouragement, and excitement.

I see pictures of biblical villages,
With square white houses all the same,
When the same assumption could be made.
Yet you cut through all of that
And treated everyone differently:

‘Follow …’; ‘Return …’; ‘Give away …’;
‘Be reborn …’; ‘Tell everyone …’; ‘Keep silent …’.

Keep me alive, Lord,
To the special uniqueness
Behind each door.

Posted by steve at 05:47 PM

Monday, October 11, 2010

creationary: worship as a journey on Sunday October 17

A map from Cheryl Lawrie sparked my thinking as I engaged the lectionary texts for this week. She had made up maps, using a 1896 Scottish Geographical Magazine, which was then photoshopped to remove names.

Which sparked for me, because the Revised Common Lectionary Bible readings for this Sunday, October 17, involve journey and travel and movement – Psalm 121 is a pilgrimage psalm, Genesis 32:22-31 is the narrative of a faith encounter by a man on a journey. I am speaking to Uniting churches from the Yorke Peninsula over the weekend. They too are on a journey, inviting me to explore with them their mission future.

So the map is an apt metaphor for them and invites a conversation with the Biblical texts. Having an actual physical map would work as a gathering point. Shorn of detail, it is more likely to allow a focus on the Biblical text.

So for those interested, here’s a potential participative framework that includes thanksgiving, confession, hearing, prayers for others (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:32 PM

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

creationary: lost coins, lost sheep

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

With the lectionary text for Sunday being Luke 15:1-10 or Luke 15:1-32, here are some resources I’ve used previously, buried in my blog archives, that might be useful.

First, here is a missional pondering on Luke 15, in which I tease out some of the potentially unhelpful mission and ministry images that might be at play.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t she leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until she finds it? And when she finds it, she joyfully sits down. Then she calls the friends and neighbors of the lost sheep together. And as this moment, as a new missional congregation is planted, the shepherd and existing congregation burst out ‘Rejoice; the lost sheep is found.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Second, a gender in ministry reflection emerging from the lost coin parable on Jesus as the good woman. Here’s an excerpt:

Luke 15:1-7 presents Jesus as like a good shepherd, searching for a lost sheep. Luke 15:8-10 presents Jesus as like a good woman, searching for a lost coin. The church has been very happy to tell me about the first, Jesus as good shepherd. But why has the church been strangely silent about the second, Jesus as a good woman? As Kenneth Bailey, Finding the Lost, notes, Jesus is remarkable for the way he affirms both women and men as “full and equal participants in the kingdom of God.” Surely this pairing has something to say about women in ministry.

Third, some potential worship stations.

Sheep station – with a metal fencing and gate, and the invitation to

Look: at the fence and the gates.

Act: by sitting inside the sheep pen.

Reflect: How would you feel if you were ninety-nine? Pray for us at Opawa, and for what your feelings mean for the future of the church.

Art station – an invitation to

Look: at the art image, Woman Sweeping, by Jean Vuillard; which portrays God as an ordinary house-keeper in everyday life.

Reflect: on the following poem
I was passionate,
filled with longing,
I searched
far and wide
But the day
that the Truthful One
found me,
I was at home.
by Lal Ded

Coin station: – with a whole lot of coins scattered around

Act: by holding a coin. On one side of the coin is a name of a child in our community. Pray that they will be found.

The other side of the coin is blank. It might be your name. What does it mean for you to know that God, like the woman, searching is for you? It might be someone you know. You might want to pray for them by writing their name (permanent marker supplied).

Whatever you do, take the coin with you into your week.

For more go here.

Finally, for those who need a bit of a light relief, here is the true story of what happened one Sunday in worship (ending with a reflection on leadership). Like all good Kiwi stories, it started with a sheep. (more…)

Posted by steve at 03:22 PM

Monday, June 14, 2010

creationary: elijah in his man cave

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. (For more on what is a creationary go here; for other Creationary resources, go here).

The OT lectionary text is 1 Kings 19. The last few weeks have made Elijah out to be a hero, so we need this reading to bring Elijah down to earth. The great prophet is oh, so human after all.

I’d invite people to list their caves, the places where they go when tired and depressed. I’d probably do this quietly ie no public response, simply describing the text, giving space for people to name their places quietly, and then to affirming that God of grace will find us in those places, just as God found Elijah. This could easily become a lectio divina meditation and could be really powerful in terms of people finding God in their caves.

I might frame this around the fabulous art piece, Elijah Visited by an Angel from the Altarpiece of the Last Supper, 1464-68 by Dirck Bouts, which has 2 Elijah’s, one being awoken by the angel, another walking into the wilderness. Which again invites people to explore whether they have two Elijah’s and how they might find themselves wrapped in God’s care for themselves, both in sleep and in flight.

I’d make a “shuffle pack” of religious practices. To generate the practices, I’d look up a book like Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, which has 62 practices, each with an introduction, Scriptural framing, discussion questions and practical examples. I’d spread selected practices, say 7, out on tables and invite people to choose one at random. And keep choosing a card until they come across a practice that is alien and strange. Better, if I had time, I’d have a few “spiritual guides” actually do the shuffling, helping guide people to find a new practice.

Why a new practice? Because in 1 Kings 18, Elijah finds God in fire and wind that brings rain, yet in 1 Kings 19, God is not in fire and wind, but in the still voice. Elijah has to learn to hear God in new ways. Such is the journey of discipleship.

And I’d invite them to practice that for the month coming. I’d also provide instructions and invite them to weblog it. (For an example of how I’ve done this previously, inviting people to discern the Kingdom, here). Why this sort of community formation? Well, it would make concrete one of the commentaries, “Prophecy cannot be carried out in a desolate desert. Rather, it must be manifest within a community, and manifest specifically among God’s people.” Abingdon Commentaries – 1 and 2 Kings So we need ways to explore spiritual practices in community, and using of blog-rings allows people to do that, yet still at a time that suits them.

Posted by steve at 12:05 PM

Monday, May 31, 2010

creationary: Elijah and widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. (For more on what is a creationary go here).

When I read the narrative of Elijah and widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:8-16 I think of sticks and big jars.

Bring sticks. The widow is out collecting sticks when she meets the prophet Elijah, who invites her to practice generosity – to a stranger. And it’s in a time of drought, which is certainly the experience of many churches in the West in general! So the story has a lot to offer in terms of giving – a people in drought are called to be generous with the little they have. So invite people to bring a stick – any type, any sort – simply to create curiousity. And then as a response invite them to bring their sticks as a way of saying yes, I am willing, no matter what the season to practice generosity.

Big jars. In the story, the widow only has a little flour and oil. Which makes me wonder what we all already have, even it it seems a little, that we can offer to God. Using a variant of appreciative inquiry, there could be space, in groups, as part of worship, to reflect on what people think their community has already – our gifts – to talk about, write them down, share together. Perhaps even actually have a few big jars. The feedback from the groups could be attached on this. The offerings could be collected in these (allowing reflection on both individual and communal) gifts being given.

It could all make for a great communion: the twigs around the communion table, the pots on the table, affirming God’s generosity and provision, despite our sense of lack.

There’s also a gospel/culture moment in this story that intrigues me. It’s to do with geographic location. The widow comes from Sidon. So does Jezebel, the champion of Baal, the local god of fertility. So there is a pairing of Jezebel and the widow, both woman, both from the same home town. I like it a lot that Elijah finds life – food and sustenance and gracious hospitality – in the midst of another’s belief system. I’m not sure what to do with that, but given that we live in a pluralistic context of many faiths, that’s worth pondering. Perhaps some phrases in the collect or the benediction: may we find generosity, in the cultures of another.

So that’s my first creationary: a creative mind wandering around a lectionary text (1 Kings 17:8-16), the narrative of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, seeking to make connections in regard to communal worship.

Posted by steve at 01:28 PM

Friday, May 28, 2010

What is a creationary?

A creationary is a space to be creative with the lectionary. It is not a sermon. Rather it is what happens when a restless mind reads the Biblical text. It is the linkages that could be made between the text and various bits of the worship service, questions that could be explored, tactile ways to engage people around the text, songs and videos, poetry, spirituality2go ideas that begin to form.  The creationary is a space to be creative with the lectionary.

The creationary is a regular feature I want to keep to the foreground both in my life and in the life of this blog-site.

There are some personal reasons for this. As a pastor for the last 14 years, I enjoyed (most of the time), the Sunday rhythm of regular engagement with the Biblical text in preparation for worship. The week started with reading the text and there was a creativity about that process. Alas, in the strange ways of God, I’m still in ministry, but no longer (currently) in congregational ministry. So the disciplines have begun to change. Yet in preparing for a recent Ascension service at College chapel, I realised how much I am nourished and find creativity when I engage with the text. I wonder if I can keep in that creative space, even if there is no Sunday outline.

In addition, this blog still gets lots of visits from people looking for creative worship ideas. A 2004 Pentecost worship experience got a lot of hits last week.

And there are lots of creative worship treats buried in the archives of this blog, years of ministry, which readers might appreciate.

For example, in regard to Trinity Sunday:

  • a worship idea here
  • a kids talk on Rublevs icon here
  • some Trinitarian art reflections here
  • a Trinity tryptch takeaway idea here.

All on this blog, all potentially useful.

Hence the creationary is a space to be creative with the lectionary.  I’m adding a new category, and as a category that runs across the top of the blog. And every Monday I am going to seek to craft some time to read the lectionary texts for the Sunday coming, and to blog some of my thoughts. It might be a list of links as above. It might be some fresh ideas and sparks. If I’ve worked on a certain lectionary text before, I will try and engage with another of the suggested readings for the Sunday coming. I won’t promise to do this every week, but I think it will be pattern that will be good for my ongoing spiritual nourishment. And perhaps in the mercy of God, it might spark more creativity in you my readers.

Posted by steve at 03:30 PM