On Sunday we will explore the story of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness in Luke 4:1-14. The story follows his baptism and precedes his calling of the disciples. The service that I'm planning has no sermon and instead a number of prayer stations. Some of it is based on a chapel service on Exodus 16 that I did at Uniting College. You can download that on the right below Worship Resources.
The worship space will have our cloth labyrinth in the centre and stations at the communion table and in several places at the edge of the church.
I've made a 5 minute video to show prior to worship. It has desert and wilderness images, mainly from pexels.com with the song "Processional" by William Ackerman from the album "Returning". To be honest, I would have preferred a more unsettling piece of music, but I know that I'm going to be asking a lot of the congregation, so a sense of "space" is enough. (Images from pexels.com and unsplash.com are used throughout the service.
(incorporating some words of Cheryl Lawrie's from "Hold This Space".)
Today we begin the season of Lent
- a forty day journey that will take us to the foot of the Cross.
This is a thin place, a sacred time
– not because God is here in a special way.
God is no different here than anywhere else,
but we are able to be different here in response to God’s presence.
We begin Lent with an unsettling story – of Jesus own forty-day journey
- of discomfort, of isolation, of desperation – his wilderness days.
Jesus is tempted. He hungers. He struggles.
Today I invite you to be immersed in his story
– to enter a desert place, a place of testing, of questioning,
of doubting, of wrestling and waiting.
No easy worship today. No clear comfort. No simple answers.
Our hope today is that God’s voice may come to us in unexpected ways
– through silence, through image, through symbol,
through movement, through music, through prayer.
God says to us that here in this place and time,
all of who you are is welcome.
Let us bring our humanity to this journey -
the bright and the broken parts of us,
those parts which strive to be beautiful,
and those which are nothing but flawed.
Let us bring them together,
to be held and shaped by the company
of God with us and among us.
Let our worship and our lives be a prayer of longing and of hope today.
Lord, hear us, we pray.
May we know your Spirit in our midst.
Song - "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying" (Ken Medema) - from All Together for Good.
Bible Reading - Luke 4:1-14
Video - "40". some time ago I set the amazing images from Si Smith's "40" (available from Proost) to the song "A Chronicle of Early Failures. Part 1" by The Dead Texans and the combination is just fantastic. Yes, somehow I have the single images from 'back in the day' so I could make my own movie.
Brief reflection and explanation of Stations
Song - "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" - Jacques Berthier (Taize)
Litany -(adapted slighly from an Iona piece in "The Wild Goose Big Book of Liturgies Vol 2")-
Let us prepare now to enter the desert
We will walk the road that Jesus walked.
Let us remember the times we turned away.
We will name our failings and turn back to him.
Let us face those desert places in our lives.
We will not go there alone: Jesus has gone there before us.
Let us recognise our deep longings, our emptiness.
We will wait and hope for God to meet our need.
Face the desert, we must, if we are to reach the cross of Easter.
Face the desert, we must, but Jesus has gone there before us.
Let us walk in his way.
I've cued three people to be willing to walk the labyrinth if no-one does. I'm toying with putting sand all across it. There's an explanation on the Worship handout (see below) from Grace community's booklet "Pocket Liturgies". I'll place a candle in the centre, and possible something for people to take before they leave.
My ministry colleague will administer ashes at the communion table, and people will receive the following reflection by Sarah Are.
Thumb to forehead,
that’s how this begins
— A thin dust reminder
that life, in time, ends.
So how do I want to spend my days?
How do I live a life that weighs
Heavy with love and heavy with truth,
Heavy with memories of laughter and you?
And is that what matters,
at the end of the day?
Or is it justice and peace and the sound of your name?
Thumb to forehead.
Remind me again.
That this precious life
begins and ends.
And like the trees in autumn,
may I learn to let go,
Making room in my heart
for a new kind of growth.
A change in seasons,
a change in me.
Thumb to forehead.
Let it be.
People bring their offering to the communion table. There will be a bowl and a video loop of week #1 from the Lent Event. The movie is subtitled so it will be playing without sound.
This station has sand, stones, and a video loop from "Rabbit Proof Fence" overlaid with some refelctive words that I wrote. The music is from "Paris, Texas" by Ry Cooder, and this looping soundtrack will fill the worship space for the whole half hour. It is meant to be repetitive and start to annoy people.
Text - Download A_Deep_Hunger
This station has a blue cloth representing the ocean, with a range of origami boats on it. At one end is a looping video of war. At the other end is a bowl of sand covered with barbed wire. There are tapers and matches next to the barbed bowl - the idea being that people risk getting cut in order to put their prayer candle into the sand.
Text - Download A_Cry_for_Help
Text - Download A_Place_of_Power
I have several sets of laminated cards of sayings about discipleship. I'll be selecting a bunch of these to put in bowls with the invitation to people to take one anytime as they are moving around and reflect on it.
8. Magnetic Poetry
This station consists of a couple of tables covered in magnetic poetry, and art image of the Bible story and the invitation to make a prayer.
Text - Download It_Is_Written
9. Prayers and Prose
For those who are less mobile, or less adventurous, or who simply wish to sit and contemplate, I have a worship handout with prose and prayers on it, and also a printed labyrinth that people can trace with their finger.
Song - "Jesus, Remember Me" - Jacques Berthier (Taize)
Brief Reflection and Prayer of Confession (prayer adapted slightly from Cheryl Lawrie in "Hold This Space" - see above)
God of the desert and the oasis
We too quickly lose faith that new life is possible
We are so often cynical at the promise of hope
We believe too easily that love only comes to those who deserve it
We have lost hope that justice can prevail
We have not believed our lives are worth starting over
We have believed too often that we don’t need you to bring life
Let your love take the place of all that is dying within us
Restore us to life in you
In Jesus name
Blessing - to be made up during the service as I have been doing of late.
Blessing Song - "For You, Deep Stillness" by Robin Mann
Here are some photos from today: