Like lambs among wolves

After chatting over coffee and the excellent cake that Emma had made we were introduced to the evening by Bethany.

To start with on our tables were a series of questions for discussion. We read Luke 10:1-11, the sending out of the 70 and then turned to the questions.

  • Which verse stood out for you?
  • What was the reason for sending out the 70 before Jesus?
  • Why was it important for them to travel in pairs?
  • Why do you think the Jesus tells them not to move around from house to house?
  • Why are they told to tell people “the kingdom of God has come near” in towns that accept and reject their message?

 

For the second part of the evening we moved into the other room where there was a whole collection of craft material. Bethany explained how to make felt and set us off. We spent the next 45 minutes enthusiastically pushing a pin through wool to slowly transform it into felt.

As we were doing this we were given some question to think about:

  • In what ways have I been sent out by God in the past?
  • Who was it that I was travelling with?
  • Where could I be sent next, and what challenges might I face?

Gradually the wool transformed into felt and we then tried to use other colours to put features into the shapes – to make lambs.

This was harder than it first appeared. Finally we attached key rings to our felt shapes so that each time we used our keys we are reminded that God is sending us out.

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Jesus calms the storm

Emma had set up a labyrinth in the chapel space and we were encouraged to go and spend some time walking it when we’d eaten enough cake.

Around the labyrinth were a series of short bible passages along with questions to help reflection. The passages led through the story of Jesus calming the storm.

That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

In what ways is Jesus calling you to go outside your comfort zone? When have you done something unexpected because of your faith?

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with hi. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 

What storms are you experiencing? How do you react when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Why was Jesus sleeping when his friends were in danger and afraid? Have you ever felt like Jesus was absent?

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves. “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Why was Jesus reluctant to use his power over the storm until his disciples asked him? Why do you think Jesus doesn’t always calm our storms immediately?

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

What is your biggest fear? Does fear or faith dictate most of your decisions?

They were terrified and asked each other, “who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Who is Jesus to you? What experiences have shaped the way you see Him or your relationship with God?

At the centre of the labyrinth was a craft activity (It was Emma leading after all!). There were instructions for folding an origami boat. It wasn’t the easiest folding, but it offered space to reflect as you followed the instructions. Most of us managed to make a boat that resembled the picture on the instructions!

 

We retraced our path out of the labyrinth and back to more coffee and cake and a great discussion about the various things we had reflected upon.

Lord now let your servant depart in peace…

Our journey through epiphany is rapidly bringing us to the feast of the presentation of Christ in the temple (candlemas). Josh invited us to read Simeon’s prayer  – the canticle we are familiar with as the Nunc Dimittis and spend some time reflecting on it. We were then invited to try to write our own song of praise.

It is a really rich prayer, that in a few lines celebrates so much of God’s promises. Promises to the people of Israel. Promises to those who were beyond the nation is Israel. Personal promises to Simeon.

Some found it harder than others to know how to express the hope and joy they find in Christ. Some of us produced simple prayers of praise. Some of us spent time simply reflecting on the texts and on some reflections that others has written around it (the lines ‘Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word, Grant Israel’s consolation To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.‘ from T.S Elliot’s poem A Song for Simeon really connected for some).

Josh then invited us into the Chapel where he had set up a series of images of Simeon in the temple with Jesus. We watched the images and listed to some recordings of Simeon’s song

New Years Blessings

After the Christmas break it was good to be back with cafechurch. Starting the new year by asking God’s blessing on us seemed like a good thing to do.

We were each asked to write our names and things that we wanted God to bless in our lives. People then took someone’s name and prayerfully created a card for them.

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It was a lovely evening of sitting and chatting and creating.

Once all the cards were finished we gathered in the Chapel and began a tour around the building praying for God’s blessing on those who visit and work in the Emmanuel Centre. Eventually we arrived back in the chapel for a final blessing prayer:

‘Visit, O Blessed Lord, this place with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who work or visit here with your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.’ 

We then gave each other the blessings cards that we had made.

I Am the Way

Jesus said ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life’. Each one has so much to explore we decided to split them into three separate weeks. This week Wei helped us think about ‘I am the Way’. She took the idea of maps and compasses as the things that help us orientate ourselves in the world and give us direction and looked at how Jesus might do that for us.

We started the evening by making compasses. Most of us are familiar with the sort of compass that you might take out walking, but it is possible to make your own . Wei gave us instructions using needles, corks, sticking plasters and a strong magnet. The needles were magnetised, stuck to the corks and then placed in bowls of water.

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Much to some of our surprise the needles gradually moved around to align with the earths magnetic field and to point North. We checked this using Wei’s compass she had brought in.

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Having made compasses we then moved on to map making. We were given a large sheet of paper on which to draw a life map. The map could either be retrospective (a sort of timeline from birth to now) current (a sort of mind map of all that was currently in our lives) or something that was future facing (showing what directions and draws there might be in our futures).

Many of us chose to draw a combination of the current and future. Key to the map was reflecting on where Jesus was and how our relationship with him helped to make sense of the map. As we drew our maps we talked and reflected upon how the different aspects of our lives (study, leisure, family, friends etc.) changed in their significance over time. We shared about how our relationship with God helped in life’s changes and the challenges of sustaining that relationship.

I am the Resurrection

stations of resurrection

Lots of us are familiar with the idea of the Stations of the Cross and using them to help us reflect upon Jesus’ passion. We worked with a similar idea but instead focused on the Resurrection as we continued our exploration of Jesus ‘I am’ sayings.

The evening started as always with coffee and cake and general catching up with each other before the evening was introduced. We were given the story of Jesus and Lazarus to read and then instructions for the evening.

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Around the chapel were 14 stations. Each one had a Bible passage that led us from the discovery of the empty tomb through to the ascension. Along with the Bible passage were some of Si Smith‘s excellent illustrations from his ‘Raised in Leeds’ series (you can see the images set to music here, or order a set from proost). Each station also had a either a question for discussion or reflection, or a short prayer to use.

In pairs or small groups we made our way around the stations, reading, talking, reflecting and praying together.

 

There were some great questions to reflect on and the conversation flowed as we were challenged to really explore what the resurrection means to us in our daily lives.

tombs

It was perhaps the question about rolling the stone away from our own tombs that caused the most discussion and reflection (thanks Joe).

 

I am the Good Shepherd

As we continue our exploration of Jesus ‘I am’ sayings Vicky helped us explore ‘I am the Good Shepherd‘.

Sat around our tables drinking coffee and eating the most sticky of birthday cakes (thank you Sarah for making it and Roisin and Vicky for having a birthday) we were given a card with a lovely picture of a sheep on one side and some text written on the other.  ‘Shepherds appear throughout the Bible – Abel is a keeper of sheep, Jacob is a shepherd, shepherds first hear of Jesus’ birth, Jesus tells us he is the Good Shepherd. Why is the image used so often? Does it have different meanings?’

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We quickly started talking about the importance and ubiquity of sheep and of Jesus using the things he and others were familiar with to communicate ideas about God. The shepherd had care for the group of sheep and there was a problem if the group were neglected. There was also knowledge of each sheep individually and care taken for each one. We pondered why Jesus didn’t say ‘I am the good carpenter’  and Joe suggested it was because shepherding was an all-consuming activity – you have to do it even on the days you don’t feel like it, unlike the more episodic craftsman type activity of carpentry.  We talked about shepherds helping the sheep fulfil their true potential – both in the care that was offered making sure they were well nourished and protected, but also in the selection of sheep for breeding.

We were invited to move into the chapel where we were invited to ‘listen, watch and reflect.’

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Vicky then played us some film clips about the life of a shepherd and read us some extracts from James Rebanks book about his life on a Cumbrian sheep farm ‘The shepherds life‘. The combination Rebanks’ words and the films (summer, autumn, winter (from 2’31), spring) gave us new perspectives on what it really means to be a shepherd. What came through really strongly was the sheer hard physical nature of the work but alongside that the great care and at times gentleness of the shepherds. One of the phrases that stood out was ‘if my dad lost a lamb he’d be gutted’ … ‘until he’d saved another’.

We returned to eat more birthday cake and shared our thoughts on being under the care of the Good Shepherd.