I am the Light of the World

This week Emma helped us explore Jesus saying “I am the Light of the World”

We started with some discussion of the various Bible passages that speak about light. In John’s gospel Jesus is introduced in the opening chapter as the true light coming into the world to enlighten everyone, a light that darkness can not overcome. Later in the gospel Jesus makes it clear that he is that light (John 8:12). We were interested to explore the difference in Matthew’s gospel. Here Jesus tells the disciples they are the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16). We threw around questions about whether we have the light of Christ in us, whether we have our own light that God gives us, or whether we act as reflectors – reflecting the light of Christ when we are turned towards Him.

After our discussion we went into the chapel to explore three different stations that Emma had created. The first had a child’s kaleidoscope along with a reflection and an invitation to look through the lens. The coloured patterns fell into place as the scope was slowly twisted, giving moments of clarity and beauty.

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The second station was a very simple tray for votive candles, with an invitation to light a candle and pray. There was the reminder that even when surrounded by great darkness the candle still burns brightly.

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The third station was a bit more complex. A bright light was shone onto a large sheet of paper. People sat in front of the paper and someone then drew the silhouette  of their head. Once this had been done the person wrote or drew ways that Jesus has
been a light in their life inside the shape of their head. Outside the shape they drew ways in which they could be light to the world.

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Once we had finished exploring the three station we returned to coffee and chat. Emma shared with us C S Lewis’s famous saying “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

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and Malcolm Guite’s poem ‘I am the Light’ which drew together many of the themes explored in the stations. Vicky commented that the poem described every detail of the walk she had done the previous day. Maybe God was trying to reveal His light and, as the poem says continually ‘call me back to you’.

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I Am the Bread of Life

This term we are looking at Jesus’ ‘I AM’ sayings, beginning with ‘I am  the Bread of Life’.

We started the evening as always with coffee and cake and a discussion starter ‘If Jesus is the bread of life what sort of bread is it?’. Those i was sat with had all sorts of great suggestions – wholemeal because it leaves you full, its deeply satisfying. Warburtons half and half, because Jesus is both human and divine. Sourdough because Jesus always has a beard and is the original hipster. A basic bread roll – it’s simple and important and is also known by many names. We then moved on to talking about leaven or unleavened bread. We thought leaven bread was a whole lot more complex, it required hard work and ultimately it was risen! Unleavened bread was simple, accessible and immediate.

We moved onto to reading John 6: 1-35. This passage gave us both the feeding of the 5000 and also Jesus saying he is the bread of life (there’s also a little interlude where the location shifts and Jesus walks on the water). We were struck by the dialogue that Jesus has with the crowds who have made their way around the lake to see him. Jesus seems to be frustrated with them. ‘You’ve only come to find me because you had you fill of the loaves’ he says. It is clear that having their physical needs met was the first thing that drew them, but it was not the simple needs that Jesus is most concerned about. Jesus is offering the bread of life in whom all their (and our) hungers will be satisfied, not just the physical hunger but the deep social, psychological and spiritual needs.  We talked about why people go to church and realsied that asking that question often gets only at the superficail answer. We rarely talk about the deep level searching for the thing that really satisfies our deepest longings (Augustine’s phrase ‘our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God’ comes to mind).

As our discussion came to an end we moved into the Chapel where there was a short piece of video playing (hopefully it’ll be uploaded here soon) as a reflection on the bread of life.

On a small table was a bread roll and a copy of Malcolm Guite’s excellent poem reflecting on ‘I am the bread of life’ (you can read and hear it here)

On the altar was a pile of bread rolls and an invitation to take one and break it. When the bread rolls were broken each one contained a piece of paper with a short quote on it that reflected on the theme ‘bread of life’ (a sort of more satisfying version of a fortune cookie).

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There was also a table with mixing bowls and scales and ingredeints to make bread. Roisin made a large batch of dough and we then took small portions and kneaded them. There was a prayer on the table and people were invited to pray it was they kneaded and shaped their dough (it was a prayer from the ‘bread church‘ in Liverpool)

To finish the evening we sat around the table together and shared a meal, which finished with a refelction from Henry Nouwen and then sharing bread an wine together.

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What is Cafe Church?

Our first Cafe Church of a new term and new academic year saw us revisiting what we think church is. Being CafeChurch we started with the usual offering of coffee and excellent homemade cakes. Being the first time we’d met together since the June we also spent plenty of time catching up on what had happened for people over the summer including trips to Taize, Greenbelt and New Zealand. Eventually we made our way into the chapel to explore a labyrinth.

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The labyrinth explored what church was. At its entrance was a card that explained how to use the labyrinth and also laid out the principles on which cafe church is built.

  • We’re focused on God the Trinity
    • Worship lies at the heart of Cafechurch, and to love and know God as Father, Son and Spirit is our chief inspiration and primary purpose..
  • We’re incarnational
    • We are trying to live Christ-like lives in our Universities…
  • We’re transformational
    • We want to see the communities we are part of transformed, through the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit..
  • We’re seeking to be disciple
    • We’re trying to live out our calling to follow Jesus Christ…as we do that we know we will be changed!
  • We’re relational
    • We try to be characterized by welcome and hospitality. Our ethos and style are open to change when new members join.

The labyrinth had 4 stations that each exploring one of these aspects (the 5th – being relational required that we went back to our coffee and cake and shared our experiences and thoughts with others).

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The first station offered three ikons to reflect with. The first was Rublev’s famous ikon of the Trinity and a short commentary drawing out the welcoming nature of the figures in the image – the ikon is viewed from the empty fourth place at the table they are sat around.  The second was a version of this with the faces of Trump, Pence and Bannon photoshopped into it. There was a reflection on what it means to welcome that, disturbingly, used verses of scripture to show that not everyone was welcome. Who is really welcome to sit in the empty fourth space? The third ikon was one written by Meg Wroe.  It depicted the Trinity as three migrants. Another reflection offered more scripture verses that spoke of God’s welcome to all people.

The second station was a meditation on the incarnation and crucifixion. It reflected on the gifts given to Jesus and the gifts he gives to us.

The third station was about transformation. It very simply spoke about the problems of social isolation faced by students. It then invited us to pray for those who we knew who were isolated and then to encouraged us to spend time with those people this coming week.

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At the centre of the labyrinth the fourth station reflected upon being disciples of Christ. There was a bible passage to read about the call of the first disciples and then some questions and suggested actions to help us reflect .

  • What did the disciples leave behind to follow Jesus.
  • Why did they just leave? What made them take that life changing decision?
  • What kind of things have you left behind to follow Jesus?
  • What will it mean to follow Jesus this year at Uni?

Action

  • Draw around your foot and cut it out
  • Reflect on your courage to follow Jesus – where might it take you? Ask God to give you courage to follow in Jesus footsteps.
  • Write your thoughts (as words or images) as a prayer on the cut out foot.

Our conversations when we returned from the labyrinth were typically wide ranging, and varied from the light hearted to the deeply challenging about how we encounter God  and our sense of vision for cafechurch this term.

It was good to be back.

Water into wine

Sarah and Josh really wanted to take us back to the Epiphany reading we’d missed (because we’d celebrated Candlemas a bit early) I have no idea why they were so keen to look at water into wine. As always the evening started with coffee and cake (thanks Kim for the amazing Korean rice cake) before Josh introduced the evening and pointed us to a set of cards on the table that guided us through the session.

img_4679The texts from the cards read:

Task 1 – Get into groups of 2 or 3. From memory, retell the story of Jesus turning water into wine (John 2). DON’T BE A CHEAT.

What do you think are the most important points? Write these on the flipchart paper on the wall.

The group I was with worked hard to remember the text. We hadimg_4681 some clear memories of the story but we struggled to get all the details spot on – we were a bit mean with the amount of water/wine involved and we did the chief steward out of a job! It was great seeing what others had remembered (and forgotten)

Task 2 – Read John 2:1-11. In your small group reflect on what you remembered from memory and what was actually said in the text. What do you think the main point of the text was?

Does your opinion of the text change after knowing the following…?

  • Weddings were sometimes a week long affair.
  • Running out of wine was a social faux-pas.
  • This was Jesus’ first miracle according to John.

We had a really interesting discussion about wedding traditions, social conventions, generosity. We were struck by the fact Jesus didn’t physically do anything – no touching or holding, or taking, blessing, breaking & giving. There were just instructions to the servants to do things.

Task 3 – As a whole group, let’s reflect on the following questions:

  • When telling each other the story from memory – what surprised you? What did you remember of forget?
  • What parts of the story stand out to you?
  • Does anything confuse you about the story?
  • Why is Jesus’ response to his mum surprising?
  • What does the story tell us?

 

img_4682Task 4 – On the first piece of flipchart paper, you wrote down what you thought the most important part of the reading was from memory.

On the second piece of flipchart paper – after reflecting – what do you think the most important part of the reading is now? Has your opinion changed?

We realised that a sense of compassion came through the story – those getting married were faced with public embarrassment because of their lack of wine budget. We also realised that we had all forgotten the final phrase  ‘the disciples believed in him’ and with it had fallen into the trap of enjoying the wine and not spotting the true purpose of its provision.

img_4685To finish our evening we were treated to a wine tasting – two red wines (a basic in a plastic bottle and something from a supermarket fine wine selection) were given out for us to taste. Most of us found it difficult to work out which wine was which. Maybe too much cake dulls the palate!

It’s been a while since we used ‘remembered Bible‘. I had forgotten how insightful it could be.

Salt & Light

After a few weeks of reflective Café Churches based around installations, Emma led us in some discussions this week. The text was Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus tells us we are the salt of  the earth and the light of the world. We reflected together on what on earth Jesus might mean by comparing us to salt. There were salt-wordseveral uses for salt back in the days when he was teaching – it was used to preserve food and keep it fresh and good; it was used to heal wounds and fight infection, a painful but necessary process; it was mixed in with fuel to keep fires burning for longer; and it was used to add flavour and interest to food. We found meaning in all of these in one way or another, and different things struck chords with different people. We reflected that our bodies have the same salt content as the sea – a good percentage of us physically is salt. And we also noticed that salt never can lose its saltiness – our call from God is inherent within us, a lifelong identity that we can never be separated from. Perhaps this is why Jesus doesn’t say ‘You can be the salt of the earth’ or ‘You should be the salt of the earth’ but simply ‘You are the salt of the earth’. Our identity is in the very fabric of our being, both physically and spiritually. The question is how we use it.

candleflamesWe spent some time in the chapel bringing candles in and placing them in the centre of the room for all to see. It only takes a small number of candles to light the room – we prayed for the places where we are needed to be light in the world, and that the small part we could play would make big differences to those around us.

Candlemas

After a Christmas break and a couple of weeks with exams and deadlines this felt like the first cafe church back. Vicky led us in thinking about Candlemas – the presentation of Christ in the Temple (she also made us a fantastic lemon cake!)

In the Chapel there were 4 stations set up. Each one led us to reflect about a different part of  the story of Jesus’ family visit to the temple and their encounter with Simeon and Anna. You can read the whole text here or in your Bible, Luke 2:22-40.

 

On a table was a large egg timer. There was a printout of the passage Luke 2:25-28 & 36-37. Next to it was the following text:img_4665

Simeon and Anna had been waiting for a very long time to see Jesus. Both kept returning to the temple day after day. Waiting. Longing.

Turn the egg timer over and watch the sand fall. How does it feel to watch and wait?

How many times are you prepared to turn the timer over? How long will you wait for God?

We sat and watched the sands pouring through the glass and waited. Some of us turned the timer over multiple times, others of us were just a little less patient.

 

In another corner of the Chapel was a laptop  that was connected to the rather marvellous tagul.com  The Bible text was  Luke 2: 22-24, the part of the story talking about the sacrifice that Mary came to make.

The instructions next to the laptop read:

Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to make an offering for Mary’s purification after giving birth. They were too poor to offer a sheep (which was the usual offering) and so have to settle for a pair of birds instead.

Take some time to reflect on what you would like to be able to offer God, if you were able.

Now think about what you are able to offer to God.

Add one word to each word cloud on the laptop to represent your answer to each question.

As more words were added to the list the cloud slowly grew. By the end of the evening this is what they looked like.

 

 

The third station reflected on Luke 2:29-35, 38. There was a screen showing a Spontaneous busker….. The text next to the screen read:

Anna and Simeon both move and live in the Spirit. They hail the child. They are prophets. They are also aged people, probably frail and on the margins of society. But they are a rich source of wisdom.

We are surrounded by Simeons and Annas – people who have skills, talents and wisdom yet who often go unnoticed. Watch/listen to the video and reflect on those on the margins who might be able to give us a glimpse of God’s kingdom.

(This is a recording of local man, Bernard, filmed on New Year’s Eve in Leeds in 2015. He died in December 2016.)

The final station had a set of headphones. The text next to them read:

Luke 2:29-32

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

Having waited for so long, Simeon has finally found peace with Jesus’ arrival at the temple.

Listen to this recording of Simeon’s song and let it bring you peace.

 

After spending time exploring all the stations we then joined together to say evening prayer (following the Book of Common Prayer) taking time to enjoy the quiet sense of God’s presence at the end of the evening.

Stirring things up…

The final Sunday of the church year is the feast of Christ the King. It is also known as stir up Sunday after the opening words of the Prayer Book collect for the week ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen’

For our worship Sarah helped us explore the various themes linked with the week.

First we were offered some help to reflect on the year that was finishing. There were a selection of questions and prompts to get us thinking – ‘How has the past year been for you?’ , ‘Where has there been a lack of God’s presence?’, ‘What will you take forward with you next year’, How have you changed throughout the year’, ‘What will you leave behind’, ‘Where have you seen God this year’. Each one could have made for a whole evening’s worth of reflection and many of us spent a long time prayerfully reflecting on them.

Further into the chapel was a board with the text pinned to it. ‘Our collect today reminds us that it is ‘Stir up Sunday’ a Sunday synonymous with Christmas puddings. The great cry ‘stir up’ was a reminder to congregations to get the Christmas puddings made in plenty of time to mature before Christmas. An important addition to the mixture is a coin, who ever gets it on their plate on Christmas day should get worldly riches heaped upon them.’ People were asked to write what they would you wish for if they got the coin on Christmas day.

The next installation took the reflections on the collect to a deeper level. On the table were coloured glitter jars. [Sarah and Emma made the jars  – here are their instructions 1. Fill a jar with about half an inch of warm-hot water 2.Pour in all of a glitter glue pen (about 15ml) 3. Add glitter in matching or contrasting colours – as much as you like! 4. Shake it up until the glitter glue melts and mixes with the water, so there are no blobs left (make sure the lid is on tightly!) 5. Top it up with more warm water (not too much or it’ll be too thin and your glitter won’t float) and keep adding glitter until you’re happy with it]

We were invited to pray for God to stir up our wills as we shook the glitter jars and used their colours as a reflection and focus for our prayer.

The final installation asked us to reflect on the gospel reading Matthew 25:31-46 – the story of the sheep and the goats. Again, there was a short reading to help us with our prayer and reflection.

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After we had all spent time reflecting we returned to out coffee and cake. conversation flowed as we talked about how we understand Christ’s kingship and how we make sense of judgement.