Today I led worship for our presbytery eLM ministers network (equipping leadership for mission). It was Ascension Day, and one of our colleagues is about to finish her role. So it was a time of thinking about leaving, and change. I used the text that follows in Acts 1, about the apostles choosing the successor to Judas.
The theme was "Falling Up". I had a pile of autumn leaves in the centre of the circle. I played a video loop of leaves falling from Pexels and two instrumental pieces - "Falling Asleep" by Tindersticks (from the Claire Denis original motion picture L'Intrus / Vendredi Soir) and "Falling" by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis from the soundtrack to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
The call to worship was a piece from my book Deeper Water - "We bring who we truly are".
Acts 1 - Jesus ascends and the disciples wonder what to do next. There's a Jesus-shaped gap to fill. There's also a gap left by Judas in their company.
So we reflected on leaving places of ministry, or significant ministry tasks, and how we would love it to be as if Jesus has left the building but it's also as if Judas has left - the good and not-so-good of ministry left behind us. What feelings do we have about leaving, and who and what are left behind?
After sharing my personal reflection about a time of leaving, we read some excerpts from Richard Rohr's Falling Upward, including
"Life, if we are honest about it, is made up of many failings and fallings, amidst all of our hopeful growing and achieving. Those failings and fallings must be there for a purpose, a purpose that neither culture nor church has fully understood. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up."
There was more about falling down and falling up. We reflected on sense of God's presence and absence in our lives, our ministries, our churches. And where is the good news in this? That the Spirit comes. That the Spirit is the Jesus-shaped presence with us. And that it's not up to us to fill the gaps after we have left. God continues to work.
I invited people to consider three questions in silence, and to allow one question to arise for their ongoing reflection:
What legacy are you leaving?
Who are you equipping to take your place?
What are you needing to let go?
We spent time in silent prayer for people in our presbyteries.
We concluded with this blessing that I wrote yesterday.
A Blessing for the Imperfect
May the blessing of work unfinished be yours.
Be content that it was not all yours to complete.
May the blessing of unfulfilled goals be yours.
Be content that others also need to seek their dreams.
May the blessing of unsolved problems be yours.
Be content that those most worthy are most wicked.
May the blessing of frayed relationships be yours.
Be content that they and you may heal and grow.
May the blessing of an anxious heart be yours.
Be content that the strength of your desire marks the fullness of your hope.
May the blessing of exhaustion be yours.
Be content that your energy has been expended with faithfulness and courage.
May the blessing of unrecognised service be yours.
Be content that the Giver sees your giving with gladness.