Listening and Reflecting
Lent 2016 Session 3
Journeying with …
… is about being united to one another within the Church, the body of Christ, the people of God.
… It’s about belonging to our local church,
… to the benefice,
… to the Diocese of Birmingham,
… to the Church of England,
… to the worldwide church.
This icon painted by André Rublev in the 15th century is a well known depiction of the three Angels visiting Abraham in Mamre (Gen 18:1-8).
In silence and on your own, spend a few moments looking at it.
- What do you see?
- How does it speak to you of community?
- If you were to paint a similar picture based on lay people in the benefice, who would be in it?
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
Ignite in us your holy fire;
Strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
Revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Trinity is a community. We understand God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit living together in a community of love, and we are called to live in God’s image, reflecting this community of love. Jesus commanded his disciples to ‘love one another as I have loved you’, yet sometimes churches can be difficult places. In quietness, reflect on these points:
- How are you going to make an effort to love the people who are different from you in church?
- Who might you need to make an effort to get to know, to understand, and to bear with in love?
- Who might you offer simple hospitality to?
- In what ways do you feel rich through God’s blessing in your life? How do you respond?
We told our stories, that's all.
We sat and listened to each other
and heard the journeys of each soul.
We sat in silence entering each one's pain
and sharing each one's joy.
We heard love's longing and the lonely reachings-out
for love and affirmation.
We heard of dreams shattered and visions fled.
Of hopes and laughter turned stale and dark.
We felt the pain of isolation and the bitterness of death.
But in each brave and lonely story
God's gentle life broke through
And we heard music in the darkness and
smelt flowers in the void.
We felt the budding of creation in the searchings of each soul
and discerned the beauty of God's hand in each muddy, twisted path.
And God's voice sang in each story.
God's life sprang from each death.
Our sharing became one story of a simple lonely search for life and hope and oneness in a world which sobs for love.
And we knew that in our sharing, God's voice with mighty breath was saying: love each other and take each other's hand. For you are one, though many, and in each of you I live.
So listen to my story and share my pain and death. Oh, listen to my story and rise and live with me.
Please get into fours and first all of discuss your reaction to the above poem. Today we are very much going to concentrate on hearing parts of one another’s stories
Then read the following and then discuss the questions.
A number of images in the New Testament help us to think about this reality.
15‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes* to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed*by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become* my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
1 Corinthians 12.7-17
7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
Jesus uses the picture of the vine and its branches and St Paul writes about the church being a body with different members, in which each member has a vital part to play.
- Which of these two images resonates most strongly with you (vine or body)? Why do you think that is?
- How do you participate in the life of your church?
- Is this the best use of your talents and time?
- Are you as willing to help with the hidden and unattractive jobs, as you are the obvious and exciting ones?
- Might you be able to contribute to the life of your deanery or the diocese as well?
In Anglican terms, ‘The Church’ may be understood at different levels like a series of concentric circles.
- See of Canterbury
- Anglican Communion
- World Christianity
- All Faiths
- Are you conscious of being committed to God’s Church in all its variety?
- Do you pray regularly for the different members of your parish church?
One way to pray for the Church in the diocese and across the world is through the use of the diocesan prayer diary.
That helps us to earth our daily life with others who journey with us.
When invited to, someone in your group reads this aloud. Then, in quiet spend a couple of minutes reflecting on this prayer.
As we think of St Paul’s picture of the church as a body with many parts and Teresa’s conclusion that Jesus no-one else to work through except you, discuss these questions in your group:
- We are blessed to have such a pool of talent, experience and skills among members of our congregations. How can we best harness these gifts to serve God in Moseley?
- Reticence and Englishness go hand-in-hand. Why is it that many genuinely find it so hard to offer their skills?
- We pray and expect God to use other people to answer our prayers when quite often we are best placed to be the answer ourselves. As Teresa says above, Christ has no hands or feet but ours. Share in the group any instances where you’ve seen yourself to have been the answer to your own prayers – even with hindsight.
- As you have travelled your Christian journey and perhaps been a part of different churches, which people from your history stick in your mind and why? What do you remember them doing?
From all that we has thought about, read, discussed and prayed over this evening, what strikes you? Feedback in one sentence.
Choose either question 10 or 11 and discuss it. There will not be a request to feedback.
- Are there ways in which people from our congregations are generous in their lives outside church? Do we pray for their activities and celebrate all that people do in our community?
- How does the church/PCC express generosity to our own congregations and to the wider community? Are we generally aware of the needs of those who worship alongside us? How might we grow trust within the congregations so that needs can be expressed?
We are now going to return to familiar questions but this week the invitation comes to think of our responses in terms of ‘journeying with’ – thinking of the wonderful people, their stories, their gifts, talents and skills that come with us on the journey. You will be asked to feedback this time!
In all of the invitations about exploring where we’ve come from, who we think we are and where we think we are going, there has been an encouragement to lift horizons and dream big. However, the vast majority of feedback that has been offered so far concerns the times and format of our worship. Is God really only calling us to review our services? Why is it that people seem fearful to dream dreams or see visions of how being church in Moseley might be different?
- How do our buildings, plant and land contribute to the life of the worshipping and wider community? Could we do more or better if they were developed? If so, how might they be changed and to what end?
As we journey with one another and recall the stories we have heard:
- Where have we come from?
- Who are we?
Generous God you give us so much.
Every breath is a gift, every sight, sound, taste and touch; every friend and loved one.
Teach us now to respond to such abundance with love and imagination and to share your generosity with a needy world through a servant Church.
May our living faith make a difference in the lives of others through the extravagant love of Jesus Christ our Lord.