Jane Williams has some provocative goodies for Sunday 17 August, and there’s a new suggestion for how to utilise the question format in worship.
How about creating a dramatised reading of the encounter of Jesus and the Canaanite woman? Grab the text from Oremus (Google it!).
If you’ve been pondering the meaning(s) of Jesus’ death over this holy season, the following blog post may be helpful to you, as it has been to me. At Christ Church, Whangarei (NZ) this past Good Friday we utilised the Great Three Hours service to consider 7 “models of atonement” including their strengths and weaknesses. This blog post comes very close to our broad consensus. Three of us presented the models: Vicar Denise Kelsall, hymnwriter Richard Gillard, and me (member of the Diocesan Enabling Team). It’s not a long piece – but you might find it thought provoking and useful in Holy Week next year!
Since we are dealing with the only festival day in the Church’s year which is based on a theological idea (God in Trinity) rather than the commemoration of a particular event, it makes sense to make the focus theological too. Here are three approaches:
God’s wisdom: The Hebrew Scriptures depict Wisdom as a female presence born at the beginning of creation, who says “whoever finds me finds life”. This is an idea echoed in John’s gospel in particular, and Paul writes of “Christ who became for us wisdom from God.” (1 Cor 1:30). Feminine imagery associated with God, and Christ as “mother hen” could be presented as ways to talk about God that are alternatives to typical Father/Lord language, and the question “How would we think/feel differently about God if we used this kind of language more frequently?
God as community: We sometimes forget when emphasising Christian community that God is also community, or if you like, in the business of communing. God is a dynamic threefold relationship of Creator, Incarnate One and Enlivening Spirit, to use just three descriptors – and most importantly it is love which is that which binds the Trinity in one. Ideas which stem from this are, for example, that Christian faith is most authentically experienced as part of the Body of Christ, in which we are called to dwell in love.
All age presentation: “Light for the Lectionary” offers a simple and useful idea for helping everyone to think about God in trinity. You gather together a box of objects all belonging to and representative of a well-known member of the congregation: an item of clothing, representation of a hobby, a book etc and see if people can guess who the person is. Ask how much the items really tell about the person, and what else you’d like to know. Talk about clues in creation as to the nature of God, and then how much clearer it is when the person themselves is present (have the owner of the items come forward). This is like God becoming incarnate in Jesus. Then, the Holy Spirit is like another person who has witnessed all of the aforementioned, and comes to tell others about it, or to remind us what we have seen and heard.
(This is a condensation of the teaching idea, and we recommend that you purchase “Light for the Lectionary” from Scripture Union UK if you regularly use all-age ideas in worship). Details are in previous posts, which you can find by clicking on the all-age tags on the right.
A celebration of the Ascension is a great opportunity to remember the theological basis for shared ministry: the gift of the Holy Spirit as emphasised in the readings for the day: “See I am sending upon you what my Father promised… power from on high”; “the riches of his glorious heritage among the saints (i.e. the believers)”; “the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”. All of this points to the theological idea that the focus moves from the earthly Jesus to the Body of Christ, but both have the same life-giving function in the world, with gifts for ministry given diversely to all the baptised.
A focus for the service could be celebrating the signs of Ascended Christ visible in the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in the church and beyond. This is probably more useful than trying to figure out some literal picture of the Ascension!