February 2013: Desire
[Here are our notes from the running order. This service was inspired by John of the Cross. In particular through a chapter of the book The Shattered lantern.]
Part 1 - longing
Two veils suspended across the middle of the church.
A candle is burning that can be seen through the two veils at the far end of the church.
All other projectors off/veiled at this point
Gather people in end of church between entrance and first veil.
Lower lights at start to blackout so candle can be seen and start Nostalgia clip (9 minutes long) from balcony projector
(let clip run a minute or so... then)
God is here - you are welcome
God You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you
John of the Cross pt 1
Tonight our worship is inspired by John of the Cross who you may or may not have heard of. He is best known for what he called the ‘dark night of the soul’, naming an experience of the absence of God (which we are not particularly focussing on). He lived in the 1500s. At the heart of his thinking and writing and poetry is the simple notion that human beings have a desire, a longing, an ache, a wound, a restlessness for union with God. That is the goal of life and the fulfilment of our deepest desires.
Play yearn (start when he lights candle in video clip second time)
Read a few quotes related to longing, restlessness, desire for God...
In all humans there is powerful homing instinct, a longing for home, a longing for a place where we can have a true sense of belonging, where we can be fully who we are without fear or shame, where we know we are beloved on the earth, where we can become all that we are meant to be in life.
The more I have the courage to be myself the more likely it is that I will know the love of God who yearns for me to come home.(Dreaming of Home by Michael Mitton)
Our natural will is to have God, and the good will of God is to have us, and we may never cease willing or longing for God until we have him in the fullness of joy. Christ will never have his full bliss in us until we have our full bliss in him. (Julian of Norwich)
Let film run to end...
Start desire movie loop running of words from John of Cross poem
John of the Cross pt 2
On the journey to union with God John of the Cross suggests our desire for God is easily blunted, covered over, or diverted by many other desires - appetites, addictions or distractions. I love Lynda’s term for them - ‘the wanting’! He has a poem that goes like this:
To reach satisfaction in all
desire satisfaction in nothing
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing
There are four areas of desire in the poem - pleasure/satisfaction, knowledge, possession/stuff, and being/ambition. In order to mature in faith John suggest we need to pass through what he calls the the veil of the senses i.e. to let go being controlled by these desires. There is nothing wrong in these things themselves - it’s more a letting of our possessiveness to make space for grace, for God.
So we have constructed our very own veil of the senses with stations on these four areas and would like to invite you to take 15-20 minutes to reflect, explore 1,2,3,4 of these. Feel free to linger with just one. And then when you are ready walk through the veil of the senses and find a seat in the space behind.
Part 2 - Veil of the senses
Project on the veil - sequence of ads and sequence of photos of shop windows and slides.
Four stations in front of the veil based on the four words in the poem
knowledge - tippex and UV lights
possession - magazines and pens for strikethrough ads and projected image sequence of shop windows
satisfaction - stones and letting go satisfaction
being - fill in job application and then shred it
Part 3 - Veil of the spirit
Project on veil - on one a sequence of alt worship images; on other religious images
Have bowls of sweets with wrappers inbetween veils - sign saying ‘take eat’.
Get people to sit in groups around bowls
Discuss sweet tooth - what do you have a sweet tooth for?
John of the Cross pt 3
For John of the Cross there is another veil to pass through - he calls it the veil of the spirit. In the same way we are distracted by our selfish desires, the same thing happens with religious experience. We develop a religious or spiritual sweet tooth.
The veil (and dark night) of the senses loosens our hold of material things and possessions. The veil (and dark night) of the spirit loosens our clutching of spiritual experiences. We get used to our songs, our images, our readings, our aesthetic, our retreat, our alt worship or whatever does it for you. We learn to seek God and trust God when we might have no feeling of God’s presence, when we experience absence and unknowing (which is a common and normal part of faith).
Story of washed glass - found and lost
Sweet wrappers and bins
Invite people to write on sweet wrappers what their spiritual sweet tooth is and to place in bins on way through veil of the spirit.
Part 4 - Union
A solitary candle is burning, a loaf of bread is beside it
People sit in choir stalls
John of the Cross pt 4
(candle loop plays that ends with candle blown out)
For John the whole point is union with God - we lay aside other motivations and desires in pursuit of this greater desire but even the candle can be a comfort (blow it out). Invite you to sit in silence in the dark for a while because letting go of the other desires does not lead to ecstatic feeling, more likely a dark night on the way to union with God.
Jesus said I am the bread of life - whoever comes to me will not go hungry. He also said ‘my food is this to do the will of him who sent me’. Invite you to pass this bread around and take eat as a prayer to be united, one with God and as you do chew on these words ‘my food is this to do the will of him who sent me’.
Sing - Breathe on me breath of God
John of the Cross pt 5 and lent notices
It’s lent starting Wednesday through to Easter. This is a time where the church and we in Grace often focus by way of preparation for easter on what it means to follow Christ. We’d like to invite you to two practices -
strikethrough - hopefully you took a pen. Notice any desires and write through them literally
Secondly and this is a suggestion from John of the Cross - read the gospels and try and discern Christ’s motivations - write them down and pray to make them your own.
Go in peace to make Christ’s motivations your own.
May you pass through the veil of the senses
May you pass through the veil of the spirit
May you be united with Christ
May you find your rest in God