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.

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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.

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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.

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’.

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.