Consecrating the elements

A simple call to the Communion table for Sundays centred around storms or sailing stories.

When the dark clouds thicken 
and the squall rides high
and the wild winds whistle
and the storm birds cry,

we will find our peace 
at a table wide 
decked with risen bread 
and a carmine tide 

of blood-stained tears 
in a silver cup
surging, spilling,
lifted up

to the Southern Cross  
which points our way 
on the boundless sea
to the breaking day.

Who is this Jesus?

A reflection on Luke 8:22-25 for Storm Sunday and ahead of the Global Climate Strike ….

One day Jesus boarded a boat with the disciples and said, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took off.

As they were sailing, Jesus took a nap.

Soon a squall came down on the lake, and they began to take on water to a dangerous degree. They woke him and said,
“Rabbi! Rabbi! We’re sinking!”

Jesus got up, and reprimanded the wind and the waves. Immediately the storm subsided and all was calm again.
“Where is your faith?” he asked them.

But they were both afraid and amazed, and they said to one another, “Who is this, who gives orders to the wind and the waves, and they obey him?”

Luke 8:22-25 The Inclusive Bible

Believe it or not we’re all in the same boat. And it’s taking on water – fast!

Whether we’re male or female, old or young, Anglo or Asian, wealthy or poor, Christian or atheist, politician or street-cleaner, living in first world Australia or war torn Congo, we are all vulnerable to and responsible for the extreme weather and climate events happening across the world.

From heatwaves, fires and droughts to hurricanes, heavy downpours and floods,
~ Earth demands our attention,
~ Nature reminds us of how fragile we really are,
~ and Disaster brings us together in acts of courage and compassion that deny our self-interests and defy all that divides us from one another.

We may well ask, in the midst of all this danger and devastation, where is the Lord God Almighty?

Luke’s answer, at first glance, is not a reassuring one: Jesus is asleep in the boat!

And whether we’re talking about situations that have us physically in fear of our lives or so mentally exhausted or emotionally drained that we don’t know how we’re going to make it through the next day, that’s just not the picture of God that we want to have in our heads.

Anyone of us who has gone through or is going through a tough time can fully understand that the disciples natural reaction in their time of trouble was to turn to the most powerful person they knew: wake up! Do something. Show that you care. Jesus, save us!!!

That is the cry of so many hearts throughout the world today – many of them not even believers; simply people so desperate that they’ll try anything.

Do we have any idea what it feels like to be waiting for that one final wave that will sink our boat and pull us down, down, down into the deep where there is no breath, no light, no hope and no-one is prepared to help?

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that the Gospel is not just the good news that Jesus loves me and died that I might be free of my sin and shame to live life full and free as I choose. The Good News as embodied by Christ Incarnate in our midst is that God is right here in the boat
with the abused wife,
the persecuted Muslim,
the homeless refugee,
the hungry child,
the last northern white rhinos
– with all of our sinking humanity, our groaning creation –

… for God so loved the world that he gave his only son ….  

John 3:16

I wonder what those desperate disciples were wanting Jesus to do when they woke him. Were they thinking that he could help them bail out some of the water? Did they hope that he would lead them in prayer and God would intervene on their behalf? Were they looking for a final blessing so that they could enter their eternal rest at peace?

They certainly didn’t anticipate that Jesus would scold the storm and it would listen. When he quiets the wind and the waves with a word, they are both too amazed and too afraid to even respond to his question, “Where is your faith?” 

Instead, they have a question of their own: “Just who is this Jesus that we’re following?”

It’s a question that we might want to add on to “how does this advance the coming of the kingdom of God?” as we seek to be an authentic, inclusive community of faith in this particular time and this particular place for the answer changes everything. 

“Just who is this Jesus that we’re following?” 
The son of Mary and Joseph?
A carpenter?
A teacher? 
A myth, a legend?
A historical figure?
The Son of God?
The Promised Messiah?
The Light of the World?

In our text today, in the time of need, Jesus’ disciples call out to their Rabbi – their teacher, their master. They’ve seen him heal a leper, eat with sinners, stand up to the religious whose practices kept people from knowing the presence of God. They’ve heard him preach with power, cure disease at a distance, and they’ve even witnessed how he raised a widow’s son from the funeral bier – yet somehow they have not understood who he is: the Lord of heaven and earth, the Living Word.

For a couple of decades now, we’ve been trying to repackage the Almighty God into Jesus, our best friend, soft and warm and cuddly and conveniently on call for emergencies or when there’s no one else around to care but, today, the One with the authority to calm the waves and speak peace to the wind asks us, “Where is your faith?” 

I want us to take a moment to feel the weight of that question, the intensity of Christ’s gaze on us, because the words are not just a reprimand in response to them doubting his power. I believe that beneath the surface lies a deeper question: why did you wake me instead of stilling the storm yourselves? 

Friends, we are more than disciples: we are sons and daughters of the Most High God. God’s Spirit dwells within us – the very same Spirit that hovered over the deep and brought life and light to the darkness and the chaos. And we have been given authority to go into the world, to get into the boats that are sinking as a sign of the presence of the Living Word with all that He loves, and to do more than try to rouse God in our Sunday services and occasional prayers ….

In the very next chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sends out the twelve with no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt, to proclaim the good news and heal people everywhere. That moment in the boat of sheer desperation, that question “just who is this Jesus that we’re following” changed everything … and I wonder, this morning, what lies ahead in our next chapter as Church? 

With the drought, our young people calling for our support and action in addressing climate change, and the press of problems in the loves of people that we know and people we may never even meet, it can’t be
~ business as usual,
~ worship as usual,
~ giving as usual ….    

We’re all in the same boat. And it’s taking on water – fast! May God reprimand the powers that seem beyond reproach this week and speak “Peace” through us.

May the peace of the Lord be with you.

Storm Sunday

Ideas for intergenerational worship on Storm Sunday. I used Rex Hunt’s wonderful progressive liturgies for the Season of Creation as a starting point.

Call to worship

The windows of the sanctuary are covered with black fabric or cardboard and a black tablecloth is placed on the altar with a single, unlit candle. As people enter the sanctuary a digital display of powerful storms, accompanied by sounds of rain and thunder plays.

Before the call to worship is offered, one volunteer is positioned with a gong on one side of the church and children with an assortment of pots, drums, spoons and other “noisemakers” on the other. Other volunteers stand ready to remove the window coverings. Instructions are given on what each group must do when you signal to them.

In the beginning the Creative Spirit hovered over the darkness of the deep …
<a cymbal or gong is clanged>
… and into the emptiness, into the chaos the Living Word thundered
<a cymbal or gong is clanged>
“Let there be light.”

<the black cardboard or fabric is removed from the windows
while you light the candle on the altar>

And there was – Light and Life and Love.
<the gong or cymbal is clanged, three times>

This day we invite, through the Spirit,
the power of the storm to gather with us.
The wild winds and the dark clouds,
the lightning flash and the thunder roll.
The fierce gales and blinding rains,
the crashing waves and swaying trees.

<wild crashing of pots and pot lids by children>

But with our invitation comes the question:
Where is the Almighty in all of this?
In the storm?
In the cyclone?
In the tsunami?
In the thunder of the storm?

<wild crashing of pots and pot lids by children – followed by signal for silence>

Or in the stillness after the storm?
<the quiet is kept,
the storyteller takes their place behind the altar and lays out the pieces for the story to come,

the children can be invited to gather round with simple hand gestures> 

Prayers of wonder: Noah’s Ark

For the story on Storm Sunday, I use Godly Play materials and an adapted version of “the flood and the ark” which includes “wondering” invitations to prayer/sharing throughout. A simple children’s story Bible could be used instead with these responses added where suitable. 

I have included the “wondering” responses and the wording which precedes them below:

  1. But people began to do bad things. God decided to send a great flood of water to wash everything clean and make it new again. I wonder what we want God to wash clean or make new in our lives. 
  2. Noah and all his family began to build the ark. I wonder what God would like us to build together in this place as God’s family.
  3. But God did not forget the creatures on the ark. I wonder if we have ever felt like God has forgotten us.
  4. All the creatures began to come out of the ark. They were so happy to be home again that they could not help it. They had to say their prayers to try to say how happy they were. They made an altar and gave thanks to God. I wonder what we’d like to thank God for today.
  5. Suddenly, all the creatures saw a great bow in the sky. It was a bow of many colours. You can still see it today when there is rain and the sun is shining. Today we call it a rainbow. <Use the prism to create a rainbow in the room – you may have to experiment in advance as to where and what angle best catches the light – if you’re happy with a little more chaos, give children flashlights and let them figure it out>This rainbow was God’s sign to say that God will never send such a flood again. I wonder what promises God has made you and what promises you have made God.
  6. The creatures then went out into all the four corners of the earth and filled it up again with life. <These words lead into the prayers for the world>

Prayer for the world 

Like many places in the world at the moment, water scarcity is a major concern in our community – particularly for those who make their living on the land. Our faith community will be joining other congregations in the region in prayer for an end to the drought. While these prayers can be offered in the church, we will “go out into the four corners of the earth to fill it up again with life.” 

In a circle outside, with some chairs for those who cannot stand for long periods of time and bubble wands for the young and young at heart (echoing the rainbow colours inside), we will simply sing these four lines as our prayer:

Let it rain,
let it rain.
Open the floodgates of heaven.
Let it rain.

Children’s activity

We have been creating a Season of Creation panorama using the glass panels in our church. For Storm Sunday, the panel will be covered in black cardboard and the kids’ rainclouds will be added after the service.

The instructions for these cute clouds can be found at Raincloud craft.

Love Feast

After reflecting on “Who is this Jesus?” from the Gospel Reading of Luke 8:22-25, a simple love feast will be shared using the following words as a call to the table:

When the dark clouds thicken
and the squall rides high,
and the wild winds whistle,
and the storm birds cry, 
we will find our peace
at a table wide
where the Lord of Love’s 
pierced limbs and side
reveal the truth
that he is here
and death is done
and guilt and fear.

<the blessing, breaking, and sharing of bread and wine>