Spill The Beans – Advent through to Epiphany with a Scottish flavour
Beautiful collection of liturgical ideas, thematic crafts, games, dramas, readings. a Must have for people curating worship over Advent/Christmas time this year. Link
Truth in Tinsel – An Advent Experience For Little Hands
Spend December impressing God’s Word on your kids’ heart! You’ll get 24 days of Scripture reading, ornament crafts, talking points and extension activities. Plus fun printables and templates. This is the perfect book for kids of any age–from preschool to elementary Link
Mucky Paws – Advent & Christmas Liturgies
Mucky Paws is a collection of liturgies created for use in worship written by Roddy Hamilton. What follows is a beautiful catalogue of liturgy, prayer, art, worship, drama spanning over 7 years worth of creative worship.
- Mucky Paws – Blog
- Mucky Paws 2004 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
- Mucky Paws 2006 Volume 3 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
- Mucky Paws 2007 Volume 4 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
- Mucky Paws 2008 Volume 5 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
- Mucky Paws 2009 Volume 7 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
- Mucky Paws 2010 Volume 8 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
- Mucky Paws 2011 Volume 9 – Advent Liturgies (pdf)
Two beautiful stories written by Gordon Atkinson (aka Real Live Preacher) that will allow you to experience the Christmas story differently, these are truly original and amazing stories. You can download them from his site and listen to them, but please consider paying for them, on itunes (link)
Experience The Christ Child – Christmas With Children
Written by Meg Everard, BoE, Synod of NSW/ACT. This booklet is designed to assist your congregation, kids club, Sunday School group, to really experience Christmas anew. To listen, to feel and to see the stories that make up this magical story with new eyes. Each of the experiences are linked with a Bible passage and are adaptable as you see fit. Each of the experiences are as powerful for children as they are for adults, so don’t be scared to involve your whole congregation. Many of the experiences will take some setting up, and some organisation before hand – so working on these as a team can be valuable. This booklet is divided into three well known stories that symbolise Christmas for many of us. You are invited to use one, or all depending on your group. (pdf download)
Worship The Christ Child – Christmas With Children
Written by Meg Everard, BoE, Synod of NSW/ACT. This booklet is designed to assist your congregation, kids club, Sunday School group, to lead worship with primary school aged children in the days leading up to Christmas. Please feel free to use part or all of the ideas contained in this booklet. The booklet is divided into four sections:
- Gathering and;
Worship is central to our practiced faith as Christians, it is a time when we gather to praise, celebrate and share with God. For children is can hold mystery, wonder and sometimes, lets be honest boredom. This booklet looks at new ways to worship and engage children with stories, imaginings and prayer that reflect the reality of Jesus’ birth. Through this resource I hope that children will dive into the story that is Christmas, to see new wonder, experience the story anew and that together you will grow as a community of faith. (pdf download)
Last year my community started Advent by creating our own Advent Calendars, I put the kits together using Christmas cards, cardboard, reflections from other calendars I’ve received from Alternativity.co.uk and Proost.co.uk and friends like Mark Pierson over the years, I also put some rituals and practices together myself.
It was a great way for us as a community to start to think about how we individually and corporately prepare for Christmas. Link
ALTERnativity – Alternative Resources for Re-thinking & Re-imagining Advent & Christmas
Alternativity is a resource produced in the UK by a group of people who wanted to develop new ways and liturgies for individuals, families and communities to explore, re-tell, play with and enter into the story of Jesus’ birth. The books develloped by the project include liturgies that can be used in worship in a variety of settings, the book “The Alternativity Meal” for example gives a process for families or communities to enter into a meal that re-tells the story of Christ’s birth, much like the passover meal.
I highly recommend these resources to churches, families and communities who want a set of resources that are very different and that will encourage them, their children and their community to explore the stories of our faith in new, thoughtful and exciting ways… Link
The Church of England has a number of great resources available on their website for worship during Advent & Christmas.
Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, which means coming, and it’s the time when the Church gets ready for the coming of Jesus, celebrated at Christmas. The readings in the lectionary look forward not only to Christ’s first coming as a babe in Bethlehem, but also to his eventual second coming as judge and ruler of all. The themes are:
- darkness / light
- expectation of the incarnation of Christ on Christmas
- anticipation of the fullness of time at Christ’s second coming
In Roman times purple cloth was the most costly, and was associated with kings and rulers. And so the colour for Advent, the getting ready for King Jesus, is purple.
All too often, Advent gets lost in rehearsals for Christmas presentations, and the sense of anticipation and waiting disappears. The ideas in this section offer ways of recapturing Advent as a season in its own right – preparing ourselves to receive the gift of the Christ Child on Christmas morning. (Link)
With Love To the World is a fantastic, up to date, lectionary resource that could help people as they prepare for the coming of Love over the Advent season, or as they prepare their sermons and worship for the Advent & Christmas season.
With Love to the World is a daily Bible reading guide based on the Revised Common Lectionary as adapted for use in the Uniting Church in Australia. There are four issues per year. Link
Nine from Proost.co.uk
There is a traditional Christmas worship service of 9 lessons and carols which follows the Christmas story. Inspired by Grace in London who have created their own contemporary take on this service we invited nine artists or groups of artists to create a piece in response to one of the readings. We hope you like the results! There are 6 movies and 3 tracks.
As ever use with imagination… for personal reflection, to celebrate a family Christmas in the home, or to create a unique worship experience in your faith community/church. Read the reading and then watch or listen and reflect. Link
The Hopeful Imagination blog has been running over Advent for a few years now and has a great collection of reflections, ideas, prayers, poems written by a number of different people. Link
Advent is almost here. This wonderful season of hope and expectation begins a new liturgical year by drawing us into the excitement of Christ’s birth and the joyful anticipation with which we await it. It is a time to wait, to hope, to rethink our focus, and to imagine new ways to follow and serve Christ into the future. Now is the time to store up the resources we need to stir our imaginations and create new rituals and expressions of faith that guide us through a season in which our hearts ache for the coming of God’s light.
A great list of resources from Tom & Christine Sine Link
Christmas Starts With Christ – ChurchAds
ChurchAds long running campaign is “Christmas starts with Christ”. Each year they aim to retell elements of the Christmas story in a contemporary way. Last year ChurchAds focused on fashion, the year before they featured a baby scan and before that a bus stop nativity.
This year, they’re retelling the story with an eye-catching, brown-eyed Godbaby doll in a blue babygrow, with the slogan, “He cries. He wees. He saves the world.” Link
The guys down at ReJesus have a long list of resources for Christmas and Advent. ReJesus is a website designed for people who are looking for help in talking with people about Jesus and faith, the site includes puzzles, poems, spaces to ask questions, image downloads, worship, art and spirituality resources. It’s divided into 5 sections, The Story, The Encounter, The Popular Spirituality, Expressions and Community each section providing different ways to help people talk about Jesus with other people.
The Christmas resources on ReJesus includes puzzles, images, stories, fun activities and much more for you and others to connect with, go on and check them all out… Link
25 is a set of comic pages from illustrator si smith. each comic page tells an aspect of the christmas story. the speech bubbles on the pages have been left blank for you to fill in or tell the story in your own words and ways. there is also a digital advent calendar with 25 windows that are hyperlinks to the comic page of that number. as if that wasn’t enough, there are then 25 flatpack models that you can print on card, cut out and glue to make the characters that relate to the day of that number.
Worship House Media Video Clips
Worship House Media is a great website for people wanting to use multimedia resources in worship. WHM connects with multimedia producers from all over the place who provide resources in the form of movies, short films, image loops and still images for purchase and download and use in worship.
Are you wanting films or image loops for Advent? Worship House Media has a lot of resources just for you. Some of my favourite links on WHM for Christmas and Advent are:
- A 5 part series for the lighting of the advent candle: Link (these are really good)
- Jesus vs santa: Link
- Peace on earth: Link
- Breath of heaven: Link
- A short account of christmas: Link
- A Social Network Christmas Link
The Advent Conspiracy – Rethinking Christmas in a Consumer Society
We all want our Christmas to be a lot of things. Full of joy. Memories. Happiness. Above all, we want it to be about Jesus. What we don’t want is stress. Or debt. Or feeling like we “missed the moment”. Advent Conspiracy is a movement designed to help us all slow down and experience a Christmas worth remembering. But doing this means doing things a little differently. A little creatively.
A great resource for people wanting to think about what they give during Christmas and for turning Christmas upside-down so as to slow down and reflect on what Christmas should really be about.
I have the Advent Conspiracy DVD kit if you’d like to borrow it. The Advent Conspiracy crew have put a number of videos & resources online for people to access as they slow pace it through Advent:
- Session 1 – If a Little is Good Then A Lot is Best
- Session 2 – Christmas is Coming… Get Ready
- Session 3 – Love Found a Way
- Session 4 – Join the Conspiracy
- Session 1 – Worship Fully
- Session 2 -Spend Less
- Session 3 -Give More
- Session 4 -Love All
A few friends of mine and I came together a couple of weeks ago to put together a series of activities/practices/conversations/actions to help families prepare for Christmas this year. The Advent Calendar is ready for people to download and use in their household. Perhaps you’ve got a number of families in your community who would find this useful, perhaps you’ve a Messy Church community who would like this to assist them to prepare for Christmas, perhaps your own family would like to use the calendar to prepare yourselves?
Whichever it is, feel free to download, use and pass on the calendar to others who you think would find this useful.
A special thank you goes to Emma Parr, Aimee Kent and Daniel Mossfield who pulled together the creative juices and helped to put this thing together.
Download the Calendar here:
- Family Advent Calendar 2016 – pdf
- Family Advent Calendar – Pages document
- Family Advent Calendar – docx file
Fridge Advent Calendar
Emma Parr has put the Advent Calendar into a format that can easily be printed and placed on fridges, you can download the calendar from the children’s Ministry website here: http://childrensministry.org.au/2016/11/advent-home-cal/
Links and clips from the Calendar:
- Sunday 27th November – Create: Paper advent wreath TEMPLATE.
- Tuesday 29th Nov – Song: Kingdom Come
- Wednesday 30th Nov – Bible Reading Luke 1:26-33
- Wednesday 7 December – Bible Reading Luke 1:39-56
- Wednesday 7 December – Listen and watch: Magnificat Spoken word
- Tuesday 13th December – Listen and watch: “Mary, did you know?”
- Wednesday 14 December – Bible Reading: Luke 2:8-14
- Sunday 18th December – Create: Paper DIY Nativity TEMPLATE
- Wednesday 21st December Watch: An interpretation of the Nativity story
- Thursday 22nd December – Read: If I were a Refugee by Leunig
- Saturday 24th December – Watch and Listen: The Smallest Gift of Christmas
If you found this useful then perhaps these posts may also interest you:
I’m currently working towards becoming recognised as being able to celebrate weddings within the Uniting Church in Australia. As a part of the course I’m to write a wedding liturgy. The wedding liturgy I’m writing up here is the liturgy we created for the celebration of our wedding, the wedding of Darren and Holly. For the most part it follows the liturgy format of the UCA, with a few creative choices we made that stayed within the realm of the liturgy in UIW.
I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time, but for one reason or other we’ve never really written up the service that we had created, writing it now brings back many memories, it really was an amazing day, to think that the week before the day was freezing and wet, we started to doubt some of our choices (like hosting the service outdoors)
Precursor – I remember attending the wedding of a couple of close friends with Holly, the couple had recently began to attend worship with us, the groom had been a part of a UCA when he was much younger while the bride had started to attend with him as they moved towards getting married. The majority of their friends and family who attended the service I assume were not church people which was apparent due to the participation of the community during the singing and prayers.
On the way home Holly turned to me and said “wasn’t the service so beautiful?” to which I ill-advisedly responded by asking if we were at the same service. I spoke of how the community didn’t participate in anything, during the hymns they stood kicking pews, hands in pockets looking uncomfortable. During the prayers they sat there, looking uncomfortable, sharing glimpses of communication with each other and finally, during the sermon they talked to each other and played on their phones.
Holly responded upset, it seemed that we had both attended a different service.
I tried to quickly remove the foot from my mouth and asked “what did you find beautiful?”
She reflected on the couple, on their passion for each other, on the community who gathered around them, of the joy of the party around them who revelled in the couple’s relationship, on twelve of the family and friends who would gather around them even in a gathering that was completely out of their comfort level.
I agreed, we had been at the same celebration.
We talked about what we would hold important in our wedding liturgy, the main concerns were
- reflecting our relationship,
- inclusion of our community (children, youth, families)
- reimagining the “preaching of the Word”
- the inclusion of music which didn’t require communal singing
- prayer that was interactive and creative
- inclusion of people for whom a church building may be alienating or difficult (we chose an outdoor venue, one of the major considerations here was the sheer number of children and young people who would be present for the celebration)
These are some of the considerations we made when we were curating the liturgy for our service.
Weeks Before The Celebration
When we sent out the invitations we included cardboard cutouts of flowers. With the flowers there was an instruction to decorate the flowers with paint, crayons, texts, collage and to also write a prayer, hope or dream for the couple on the flower. If people were attending the celebration we asked them to bring their flowers with them, if they were unable to come we invited them to mail in their flower to us, or to someone else attending.
We created a Chuppah out of torn pieces of material and bamboo sticks.
A chuppah (Hebrew: חוּפָּה, pl. חוּפּוֹת, chuppot, literally, “canopy” or “covering” – pronounced huppah), is a canopy under which a Jewish couple would stand during their wedding ceremony. It consists of a cloth or sheet, sometimes a tallit, stretched or supported over four poles, or sometimes manually held up by attendants to the ceremony. A chuppah symbolizes the home that the couple will build together. Darren first read of the chuppah as he read through Rob Bell’s book “Sex God” and Darren liked the idea so much that we decided to build one for the service.
The Morning Before The Celebration
We invited the community to pitch in and participate in the preparation of the day’s celebrations.
The men were invited to join Darren at the venue where they would set up the chairs, chuppah and tables in preparation for everyone’s arrival. We held a bbq and ate bacon and egg rolls as we worked and laughed and prepared for the celebration. The community was great, we all pitched in and rolled up our sleeves.
The women were invited to gather at the house where Holly was preparing, together they shared breakfast, laughter, stories and support for the bridal party. Some of our friends helped with make up, others with the hair, everyone was involved and supportive.
Immediately Before The Celebration
As people arrived they were invited to design a flower (if they hadn’t already done) and prayer, hope or dream that you have for Darren and Holly as they become husband and wife.
As people arrived they also were asked to take a ribbon attached to a coloured cutout of an autumn leaf and to write their definition/description of love onto the ribbon and tie it to the Chuppah which was now set up at the front of the space.
As people arrive – Ambient Music
Bride Introduction – Book of Love by Magnetic Fields (Darren to play on guitar)
Prayer (Planting Flowers) – All is Love by Karen O and Nick Zinner
Prayer – Prayer of St Francis by Sarah Mclachlan (sung by Natalie and Jared)
Registrar Signing – Real Love by The Beatles (sung by Natalie and Jared)
Outro – Fool For You by John Butler
Dance – Space Cannot Touch by Kate Miller-Heidke
The Marriage Service
Bridal Party entrance
Bride walks up to the worship space the groom will begin to play the song “The Book of Love” to which the Bride and her crew (bride, father, mother, bridesmaids) will walk down the aisle to the music. (backup – will have the song on ipod also)
Bridal Party – Jen Lobb, Bess Harcther, Keith and Megan Holly Lobb
Music – Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields (Sung by Darren)
The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing but
I love it when you read to me and
You can read me anything
The book of love has music in it
In fact that’s where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb but
I love it when you sing to me and
You can sing me anything
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we’re all too young to know but
I love it when you give me things and
You ought to give me wedding rings
I love it when you give me things and
You ought to give me wedding rings
- Greeting and Welcome
- Mosese to introduce himself
- Breakdown of what will happen during the ceremony (this afternoon we will celebrate the marriage of Darren and Holly, together we shall listen to words from the gospel of Mark, hear words sung by friends of Darren and Holly from songs that hold special meanings for today, listen to friends of Darren and Holly sharing some of their wisdom, plant our prayers of hope and support around the couple, be a witness to the vows and giving of rings of Darren and Holly and finally we shall celebrate together, eat and have fun)
- Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians of the Land
We would like to first acknowledge that Indigenous Australians are the first peoples of this land and the Wiradjuri peoples are the first regional custodians of the Wagga Wagga area and have cared for this land since time immemorial.
Call to Worship – A Welcome Rant (Mosese) (Joyful! – Loud!)
God is here, his spirit is with us
This is not a performance. This is our worship
Today let us come together to meet God in a way that includes everyone here as a participant.
In as much as we give in worship, so we might receive from God.
This is an act of faith.
Today we come together to celebrate with Darren and Holly, and you, their family and friends.
We invite you to bring your whole self, your thoughts, fears, hurts, joy, faith, hope and love to God.
Let us celebrate our coming together in worship
For our one sure hope is that God is here
And our God is Love
and those who live in love live in God
and God lives in them
Matthew [NRSV] 5:1-10 (Lisa Wright)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Prayer (Natalie and Jared)
Natalie: “Forgive us for the times where we have not loved, where our apathy has controlled us”
Natalie and Jared sing the song:
“Prayer of St Francis” by Sarah Mclachlan ( https://youtu.be/agPnMxp5Occ )
Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Declaration of Purpose (Mosese – straight from the Order of Service)
Service of the Word (10 minutes)
We asked a few friends to share & reflect on their marriage and faith.
- – Adrian & Lyndal Greenwood (How has your love challenged/supported your discipleship journey? / How have you both been able to live out your lives as disciples and a married couple?)
- – Mosese & Seini Taufa (What does “love” mean to you?)
- – Neena & Warren Evans (What have you learned about love over the course of your married life?)
- Neena and Warren shared a picture book – Amy & Henry by Stephen Michael King
Declaration of Intent (Mosese – straight from the Order of Service)
Affirmation by the families (Mosese – straight from the Order of Service)
Invite all the family to stand up (ALL of the immediate families – both Holly and Darren’s)
Do all of you give your blessing to Holly and Darren and promise to support them in their marriage?
Affirmation by the people (Mosese – straight from the Order of Service)
Will you, the families and friends of Holly and Darren, who have come to share this wedding day, give them your blessing and support?
(After the “affirmation by the people” the community will enter into a time of prayer where they are invited to come forward and “plant” their flowers around the couple as an act of prayer – surrounding them in prayer. Song playing on cd during the prayer “All is Love” by Karen O https://youtu.be/jTtddTpl4m8 )
Invitation to Prayer (Katherine McCorkindale)
Now is the time you’ve been waiting for
It’s time to plant your flowers
Let’s enter into prayer together
As we all walk towards the couple and plant our prayers and hopes around them
Let our prayers focus on the couple today
As they come to the most holy part of this service
Let us pray
(motion for people to walk towards the couple and plant their flowers)
The Vows – Option B (Mosese – straight from the Order of Service)
I, N in the presence of God
take you, N, to be my husband/wife
All that I am I give to you
and all that I have I share with you.
Whatever the future holds,
I will love you and stand by you
as long as we both shall live.
This is my solemn vow.
Blessing of the Marriage – Mosese to share a Option C
- No wedding candle, instead one or two of the children help the couple pick a bouquet of the “flowers” to take with them as they recess?
Prayers for the couple – (Mosese)
Invite family to come forward and lay hands on the couple.
Invite community to join hands
- Signing of Registrar
- Natalie and Jared to sing “Real Love by The Beatles”
Real Love by The Beatles
All my little plans and schemes
Lost like some forgotten dreams
Seems that all I really was doing
Was waiting for you
No need to be alone
No need to be alone
It’s real love
Oh it’s real, oh it’s real love
All the little girls and boys
Playing with their little toys
Seems that all they really were doing
Was waiting for love
No need to be alone…
From this moment on I know
Exactly where my life will go
Seems that all I really was doing
Was waiting for love
No need to be afraid…
Thought I’d been in love before,
But in my heart I wanted more
Seems that all I really was doing
Was waiting for you
No need to be alone…
… It’s real love
Notices – (Mosese)
- Reminder that confetti is a bad idea and will get the couple into trouble.
- Reminder that Lunch will be served here, but before that the couple will need to do a quick dash to take some photos, feel free to play some games, have some fun, meet new friends and family until they re-join us in a little while.
- Reminder where toilets etc are
- Instruction re cameras – please send your photos of today to Darren and Holly, we may also have a computer on site for stealing photos from people. ( to be printed also on the order of service)
Blessing (Mosese / Seini in Tongan)
This week’s lectionary reading is the story of the “Prodigal Son” or of the “Ungrateful Senior Son” or “The Father of Grace,” whatever you’d like to call it. The actual reading was: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
As I was pondering and reading I remembered this story I wrote a number of years ago when this particular reading and I was sitting in another sermon…
I’m currently calling this The Prodigal Part Deux – The Brother Bites Back.
The elder son, having heard news of his father’s extravagant grace and the way that he had welcomed his younger brother back into the house became outraged. (How dare his father welcome that ungrateful prick back into the house like that, and what’s up with not inviting him to the party?) Having to be told about all of this by a servant made matters worse…
Incensed the older brother took off, away from the household and gathered the troops, many of the young men and women from the town gathered at the local town hall where they were told that it’s possible that their and other fathers may also share the same philosophy, and, even more frightening there could be hundreds of fathers all over the land welcoming back ungrateful and undeserving children back into their families, that others may also suffer the same injustice that he had been served at the hand of his nutty father.
The outraged mob developed a plan that would make sure that this kind of injustice would never happen again, or if it were going to happen the wretched prodigals would have to at the very least have to earn their passage.
The plan that they developed was quite devious, and very simple.
Together they formed a society of people who would keep an eye out for prodigal sons and daughters traveling down the roads around their home town, heading back home. When these prodigals were sighted it became someone’s task to head down the road and try and turn them back.
Various practices would be performed in order to deter the hopeful prodigal from continuing down the road. Conversations would encourage the hopeful to think about how hard the rest of the road home would be, they would plant seeds of doubt in their father’s potential to forgive, they’d play guilt trips, created rituals for people to perform in order to prove their worth, (many of which were quite impossible to complete) and generally make the journey back to where they came from seem simple and preferable to the rest of the road ahead of them.
The society would preach a message of repentance, and they would make it almost impossible for people to completely feel like they were ever going to be forgiven, their motto was that the road to forgiveness was long and extremely difficult.
Most of those that did end up passing the rituals and tasks ended up joining the society, many becoming the best members of the society deterring more and more people on the road back to grace, after all, their path had been extremely difficult and they weren’t going to let others get their serve of grace easily.
Soon this society would hold weekly celebrations on how successful they had been in deterring people on the road, together they would jump about, clap their hands and sing songs as they retold their stories of how they deterred people on the road and celebrate how their methods had brought them new recruits.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Question for discussion:
Can you remember a time when you were either
A) made to feel welcome
B) felt that you were unwelcome or an outsider?
*This also doubled as a commissioning service for a friend entering a new congregation in a new ministry.
If you’re ever going to be a magician you need to learn the art of distraction, for when everyone else is looking right you’re able to do something left, for with magic nothing is what it seems.
The art of distraction it seems is also extremely handy if you’re an author of fiction, especially thrillers or mysteries for you don’t want people to solve the puzzle too early, so you have them looking in one direction while the mystery sneaks up behind them.
This same skill is often practiced by the authors of the various books of the bible, especially the Gospels and within that by Jesus in his telling of parables. Parables have you expecting one conclusion only to have your world turned upside down by the parable’s surprising ending. The Gospel writers often do something similar, and we regularly seem to find it difficult to focus away from the distraction.
Take this week’s gospel reading from John 2:1-11 as an example.
We often talk about this story, the story of Jesus’ first miracle as the turning of water into wine, after all that’s how it’s often read and the punchline of “but you have kept the good wine up until now” has us completely overwhelmed by the action of Jesus.
But that’d be a distraction, and we need to look more closely to the story to understand what else is going on.
It seems strange that Jesus would choose this miracle as his first, it’s no healing or raising from the dead, it’s an action that means a party can keep going for another few days, was there something else going on, something else that hinted towards Jesus’ intentions and mission that our distraction keeps us from seeing?
Let’s turn our eyes from the wine for a moment and back to the story at hand.
By now many of us would be aware that these types of celebrations would last for days on end during which much wine and food would be consumed by the community as they celebrated the joining of the newly weds. The running out of wine before the celebration closed would have been a huge embarrassment to the host, and it would have also meant that there’d be many empty wine jars in the area, but it’s not the wine containers that Jesus asks to be filled, it was the “six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification.”
These six huge stone jars would hold the water that was used in purification rites, and we should know by now that Jesus has an issue with these rites, in fact he deliberately flaunts and challenges these rites a number of times, (as an example he heals a bleeding woman before moving into a religious leader’s house). These rites have been used to make sure people know who is “in” and who is “out” it’s these rites that kept certain people out of the temple, it’s these rites that set up a number of cultural divides, that set up the haves from the have nots.
So, he takes these sacred jars, fills them with water and turns these purification jars into wine containers.
See what John did then?
Not water into wine, but sacred purification jars into wine containers…
That’s Jesus’ first miracle, a miracle that shows right from the start that he’s out to disturb the status quo, that he’ll question the religious practices of the time, that no longer would people be on the “out” because of the ritualistic purification laws
A miracle that turned something religious and divisive into something ordinary, and in turn created something holy.
And this is where we come to today and I ask you to think back to your stories of being made welcome or unwelcome and forward to the ministry that you’ll be sharing with Hannah.
Our churches and communities have a number of things that are like the stone jars, they seem to be monuments to who is in and who is out.
What are the religious things that need to be recreated as ordinary so you can experience the holy?
What are the things that define who’s in or out that need to be broken down for your community to truly experience the gospel of Jesus?
How do you welcome Hannah into this community, do you approach with hesitancy & judgement or do you open your lives and prepare for the possibilities?
And are you as a community ready to welcome the other, even if it means turning what’s religious to you into something that’s ordinary to them in order to experience the holy in the other?
Hannah will, inevitably turn some of your sacred things into ordinary things in order to welcome others… that’s often our task, our mission. What I’d like to ask you is how open will you be when this happens? How will you join in with the ministry that Hannah brings and help her in our mission?
Baptism is a naming. Ultimately baptism is naming someone as a child of God. I think we’re all children of God and that baptism acknowledges that.
You don’t become a child of God when you cross off a list of things to do, or even when you are baptised, being baptised is simply a naming, an acknowledgement of someone’s existing belovedness.
When Jesus was baptised, he didn’t only begin to be loved by God when he was baptised, it was an acknowledgement of his eternal belovedness.
I really think that baptism is an acknowledgement of people’s belovedness, and when we treat it like that… in the orthodox tradition a part of the baptismal service is a renunciation of Satan and his daemons and of evil. The way I look at that and apply that is that baptism is a renunciation of all the competing voices that try to tell you who you are.
The world gives you names like screwup, faker, fat, slut, addict…
in baptism you’re named beloved.
The daemons, the world beckons with rich, powerful, pretty, bright…
in baptism you’re told you are beloved and that is enough.
I think that everyone wants to be told who they are, and in baptism we’re told that we are a beloved child of God and to renounce anything that says otherwise. It’s a defiant thing to do.
I look at baptism as defiance, because the world will always try to name us, and in baptism we say “no, my name is beloved.”
Whether that happens when you’re an infant and you’re remembering your baptism as God naming you beloved, or whether it happens as an adult, I think that when we think about the significance of our baptism it’s that we are named by God, and that is enough.
It is good news
I’m preparing for the baptism of Theodore this weekend and have been reminded of this beautiful piece by Roddy Hamilton from his Mucky Paws collection.
Create a central space filled with various bowls, of glass, filled with (warm) water.
Twist ribbons of coloured paper through them with the words ‘bring on the wonder’ printed on them.
in a bowl of water
that brings on the wonder
that is true life
and it is only truly found
in what this water
washes away to reveal
that has always been there
but without being open to it
or allowing it to live
it lies there dormant
under the dust accumulated in this world
Water washes through us
This symbol of who God is
and what God does
is not something that we are given
like a present
Baptism isn’t a gift
in the way it is something we get
Baptism is a gift
in the way it reveals what is already there
We readily talk of it in these terms
little knowing what it means:
It removes the grim
and when you wash
you reveal what is already there
It’s like a restorer of a great painting
ever so carefully
removing the decades or dirt
that the canvas has accumulated
to reveal the colour and texture
the brush strokes
and the patience and skill of the artist
Pablo Picaso said:
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”
Perhaps he didn’t know water is the original art
Baptism is like that
in a very real way
what God has already placed there in us
at the start of time
that human being
that eternal light
that beauty and grace
that has been pushed down in our souls
for too long
bring on the wonder
We aren’t doing anything more
that being the restorers
of great artworks
that have been shaped and sculpted
ever so lovingly
and whose beauty
has been somewhat lost
under the grime of the lives we lead
better known as worry and anxiety
and the injustice and pain we create and suffer from
the hesitation of living upward
so this water
brings on the wonder
brings on the song
that is us
and this is the PS
baptism is an ever renewing sacrament
While we get wet once
at each baptism
our own baptism
and let that same water
reveal in us
that our artist God
has chosen to create
But perhaps we hesitate still
to believe the grim is removable
and the colour that is our humanity
can be still brighter
only if you might find it appropriate
you are invited to touch the water
place a whole hand in it
or just a finger or two
rub your hands together
form a ross on the back of your hands
whatever you feel is right
and only you understand that
it washes away
the wonder God created
when God first imagined us
12th january 2013
Today I don’t want to preach on the miracle, I don’t really want to preach at all.
Close friends of mine currently sit by their newborn son in ICU as he struggles to survive, Hyperplastic Left Heart Syndrome has meant the two week old has had to undergo over 16 hours of surgery and currently struggles for his life. They sit by him, unable to hold their loved one due to the tubes surrounding him and the surgery undergone, praying, loving, hoping.
This week the Gospel story is too much for me.
Why is it this week that we hear these stories?
Why this week do we hear these stories and prayers of grief as parents pray over their child in the slim hope that he may survive.
I don’t want to preach on the woman who was healed, or the child who was not dead.
Instead, I want to give space for the 12 years of grief, of struggle, of prayer the woman had experienced as she suffered and lived as an outcast of her community. I wonder how many times she cried out to God, how many times she felt that she was not heard and sat alone in pain. I wonder how many times she felt that the community around her, and even her God had abandoned her.
Instead, I want to give space for us to hear the cries and the grief of a parent as they deal with the reality of loosing a child. A father who seeks out a prophet, one who has been causing their community a lot of trouble as a last ditched effort to heal his child. I wonder what goes through the mind & heart of the parents of a dying child that makes them so desperate to reach out to this prophet.
Instead, I want us to hear the grief of another, rather than to forget it, quickly bypassing it in the celebration that follows the healing of the child as we are told she is only sleeping.
I would like us to hear the grief of the other, just for a while, to listen to the cries and suffering and to live in that grief, appreciating the struggle that brings you to the space where you risk it all for that last chance of healing, that last hope that your child may have for healing.
The grief & despair and loss of hope that comes with the possibility of losing the thing you love the most.
I would like us to hear the grief of David as he mourns the loss of Saul, the King and Jonathan who he loved as a brother. To hear his grief as he cries it out to the Lord in the knowledge that at least God will hear his grief.
I would like us to hear the grief in the prayer of Psalm 130, where “Out of my depths I cry Oh God.”
Sometimes we ignore the depth of grief and pain of others, because we only want to focus on the hope, the healing, the laughter and joy that comes with realising that the child is merely asleep.
And that turns us into a community that can’t embrace, or live with the grief of others.
It turns us as a community who can only read the scripture primarily as a text of hope and joy, praise and miracles and ignores the voice of grief and lament that the Bible holds within it’s pages.
I would like us to be a community who can meet each other and embrace each other in our grief, in our brokenness, a community where we can share our grief with each other without being told to get over it, to find the silver lining, that God loves us and that everything happens for a reason.
How can people enter into our faith communities and express their grief?
Maybe thats why the gospel reading is bracketed by Psalm 130, a lament which portrays the “proper” way to pray, pointing the depths of one’s self towards God, crying out for mercy in grief.
Maybe that’s why this Gospel reading is bracketed by two different forms of lament in the story of David as he laments the death of a King and also laments the loss of his brother, Jonathan who he loved more than anyone.
Psalms come in forms of praise, thanksgiving, there are also Psalms that come from the depths of our grief and pain, we call them Lament.
Lament is a form of prayer that directly points the suffering and pain of a person or a community towards God in the knowledge that God hears our prayers and takes them seriously.
Psalm 130 is one of the more polite forms of Lament, many other’s aren’t so well spoken and are quite irreverent and angry, many of them are not solemn at all. They’re not solemn because in the depths of our anger and grief we are not concerned about being quiet, solemn or polite.
Maybe these readings are here to remind us that grief is allowed in this space, that questions are allowed in this space, that yelling out in anger to God is allowed in this space.
Maybe these laments are included in this lectionary to remind us that our God is big enough, strong enough, ugly enough and loving enough to take on our grief, to both hear our cries and to take them seriously.
These readings remind us that not only is God able to take on our grief, but reminds us that our community needs to be a community that can embrace, listen and take on each other’s grief. That if we are ever to make a difference in the world that we need to be a faith community where people can share their pain, anger and grief and that we do not shy away from it in fear.
We need to be people who love like God, who pray like people of passion, who love until and beyond it hurting.
I want us to ponder.
When did we last grieve?
When did we pray our last prayer of Lament?
What it would take for us to be a community where Lament is possible?
Is now the time for us to be able to do that?
To remember that God is big enough, loving enough and ugly enough to embrace our grief, to sit with it, knowledge it and to love us through it.
As a nation we are a country who is causing harm to the most vulnerable amongst us, and we need to be a community who is able to grieve over it and name the injustice for what it is, to express our anger and to point it towards God in the knowledge that God hears our cries, just as he hears the cries of those our country is mistreating.
I wonder what goes through the mind of parents and family who face their last chance to escape violence, torture, famine and genocide to get on a boat and make their way to another country. I wonder what it will take for our community, our country to give space for their cries to be heard and for our cries to join with theirs.
Themes: Christmas, Advent, Animals, Nativity, Gift, Present, Remembering, Community
The narrative of the nativity has been told and retold in a number of ways over the years. Together, Penny and Stephen create a new and beautiful re-telling where the animals of the world maintain the act of remembering, and in doing so create a space for something magical.
In a different slant to many of the Nativity stories out there the animals take on the act of remember the story of a baby born in a stable. The Owl tells the story of the star that shone so brightly, the Nanny Goat speaks of the sleepless night all the animals endured as they awaited something wonderful to happen while the donkey remembers that it was one of his kind that carried the mother of the child to the stable and the cows speak of how they gave the mother and father milk to drink.
The animals are both the actors and the storyteller in this whimsically illustrated book that has quickly made a huge jump up my list of favourite Christmas books. I cannot think of any illustrator that I’d invite to paint the Christmas story other than Stephen Michael King, he continues to bring colour and life to a tale that may seem old, this is the third book I own where he adds his imagination to the tale told from house to house over Christmas.
May there be many more…