Unexpected encounters

20181021_163748This week we explored the story of Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8.26-39). An unexpected encounter on a dessert road.

We began our time together with tea, coffee and some fresh scones, and an invitation to recall a time when we have had a unexpected encounter. When we had bumped into a friend, or passed someone famous when least expected.

Holding on to our memories, we turned to our passage from Acts – Philip and the Ethiopian.

Philip (a follower of Christ) is called by an angel of the Lord to go on a journey, to take the dessert road, an abandoned road (?), a road less traveled (?) a road best avoided with its dangers of muggers, snakes and wild beasts (?) A road which lead from Jerusalem to Gaza.

Philip soon found he was not the only one on this road.

An Ethiopian man was travelling home in his chariot, after attending worship in Jerusalem. The angel of the Lord lead Philip to journey alongside the chariot where the man was reading from the book of Isaiah.

This unexpected encounter leads to Philip telling the man the good news.

In the chapel was the prayer labyrinth and an open invitation to reflect on Philip’s and the Ethiopian’s story, to think of those who we had encountered so far on our own faith journeys.

 

With sand to write in, stones to hold, water to renew and light to guide.

Maybe you want to take a couple of minutes now and recall who God has placed in your path, who have been apart of your faith journey? who has opened up scripture, helped you to understand what God might be saying or has simply shared the Good News of the Gospel with you?

And then…  maybe think about whose path God has placed you in, a time when you have shared the Good News of the Gospel…

 

 

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Rahab

ribon2.jpgThis week we were looking at Samuel 2, and the strange meeting between Rahab and the Israelite spies. We read Rahab’s story and then discussed how this encounter changed Rahab’s life and the lives of those around her. Looking from the different perspectives of the characters in the story we able to appreciate how God can enter into every kind of situation, and that even those who’s lives seem insignificant can end up being the most important in God’s plans.

There was also a short reflection, with strands of ribbon representing the scarlet chord that Rahab tied to her window. After the session, we each took some ribbon away with us, as a reminder that there are times when we all need rescuing, and God will always remain faithful.

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Pentecost

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Over the past couple of months, we have been exploring the idea of change, and looking at how the disciples managed change from Jesus Resurrection to Pentecost.

This week we reached Pentecost, having explored the idea of uncertainty and trepidation last week while playing ‘Exploding Kittens’ (a game over for the brave), we reached joy and excitement, or so we thought.

Wei guided us through our session. Beginning with the passage from Act 2.1-15 and offering discussion questions. We tried to put ourselves in the disciple’s shoes – how would be have reacted? Was it a time of joy and excitement? or do we just see it that way now looking back?

We were then invited to make doves and flames, symbols representing the Spirit.

It was interesting how our conversation developed around the idea of the Spirit of peace, we often thinking of God’s Spirit as peaceful, but it is not always the serene peace we expect, but one of empowerment. We mused over how the disciples must have been uncertain of what was going to happen, maybe even fearful, but when the Spirit came upon them, their fears where ‘dulled’ and they found voice to share the gospel, to step into the unknown and be.

It doesn’t mean to say our fears disappear or change becomes easy, but God’s spirit can give us the strength we need to hold that fear, to take on the challenge of change, to dip our toe into the unknow and see what happens.

 

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.

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.