Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

August 2018: Acts of imagination

acts of imagination photo

Greenbelt requested that Grace do a service at the festival at very short notice. Most Grace people were already away on summer holidays, and only a few were going to Greenbelt. So we recruited some Proost friends who would be there, and connected it to the promotion of the Future present book at the festival.

Order of service

Setup in marquee:

Rectangle of soil on tarpaulin in centre. Objects concealed in it to be taken out in the first section.

Intro and welcome

[Andy Freeman, Jonny Baker]

Opening prayer

[Jonny Baker]

Act 1: Out of nothing

[Steve Leach, James Fox Robinson]

The first act of imagination is creation out of nothing

Steve Leach plays soundtrack of child speaking a version of the Genesis 1 creation story. James Fox Robinson, dressed as a steampunk explorer, took objects out of the soil which related to the creation story.

Prayer

[James Fox Robinson]

Creator God,
it is not only creation but creativity that awes us.
It is a wondrous, fearsome thing that you share your power to create.
May we dance, drift and dream.

Creator God,
we shrink from your power yet we claim it.
The power to have light burst upon a mind
or darkness descend upon a heart.
May we dance, drift and dream.

Creator God,
we rejoice in the artists who dare to use their gifts
who dare to breathe visions and vibrations into the dullness
as you breathed life into dust.
May we dance, drift and dream.

Creator God,
we honour not only the pianist, poet and painter
but those whose laughter lights up a room
whose integrity inspires, whose commitment builds a church
whose compassion builds a community
whose demands stretch our souls
May we dance, drift and dream.

Creator God
We put our trust in those crazy people who somehow
know the word is always unfinished
and who happily risk pushing and shoving
and tugging and pounding until it and all of us
come out in a more glorious shape
May we dance, drift and dream.

Act 2: Imagine

[Steve Collins, Ben Cohen]

We are made in the image of God, so we can imagine and create too

We wrote the word 'imagine' in nightlights on the soil and tried to light them - unfortunately the cold wind kept blowing them out! So we continued the futile lighting until it became a part of the 'grief' section following. Andy Freeman made a 'tree' from sticks on an adjacent tarpaulin.

Reflection

[Steve Collins]

the cosmos was a seed once
god showed it to a woman in a vision
she saw a thing like a hazelnut in his hand
it was so tiny that only god’s love kept it from vanishing
what is it, she asked
it is all that exists, said god

imagination is a seed, almost nothing
only our love keeps it in existence
it is waiting for a place and time to open
a future packed into a suitcase

some seeds are scattered like sand
most will die but it doesn’t matter, as long as one or two live

some seeds are single and armoured
their strength is in waiting and hiding, until conditions are exactly right maybe it will take years

a seed does not grow by simply getting bigger and bigger
until it crowds out everything around it
nor does it live forever in its first form
to expect this shows a lack of imagination
and yet that is how we expect most human things to grow

the economy of god is different
seeds split, divide, reach down, reach up
become something totally unlike their first selves
give food and beauty and shelter
and recreate themselves in seed before dying
then they die, so their seeds can live

god took her imagination
and squeezed it into a ball no bigger than a hazelnut
sustaining it with her love
and suddenly all that exists came bursting out
until there was us
each bearing a tiny seed of imagination
what will you do with it?

The word:

[Ben Cohen]

John 12:24
Believe me, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will remain only a single seed. But if it dies, it will produce many seeds.

Luke 13 18-19
Jesus asked, 'What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.'

Creed:

We believe in the Creator who imagined this world
And then made it with all its earthy glory
Who made us in God's image
With the same gift of imagination
Made to CREATE
To look after the earth and develop its resources

We believe in Jesus the Son of God
Who most perfectly embodied that God like image
He was able to see what God was doing and join in
Participating in the overflow of God's love for the world
Who calls us to PARTICIPATE
In the the same love for the world

We believe in the Spirit of Life
Who animates us with the breath of God
Who assures us that we are God's children
Who calls us to RISK
To offer up the gifts we have been given

We believe that one day God will make all things new
While we wait we will ENGAGE
In our communities, our neighbourhoods and our workplaces
Bringing foretastes of that new creation now
Sharing the good news of God's wonderful Kingdom
To make God's Future Present
Amen

Act 3: Grief

[Steve Leach]

Story of Mary Magdalene in Garden of Gethsemane

Sometimes dreams turn to nothing or we get stuck as we face difficulty. But grief can be the trigger for innovation. Dissatisfaction can create a longing and passion for a better world.

What are you dissatisfied with?
What are you grieving about?

People were asked to come forward and write in the soil.

Confession:

Gardener God
Forgive us for the times we have kept our seeds in the packet
For the times we've been too scared to risk, too selfish to love, too embarrassed to try
Gardener God, have mercy on us

 

Forgive us for where we have let weeds grow in the soil of our lives
For the times we have forgotten to pray,
for the days when we don't bother to listen,
for the moments when we neglect the stirring of your spirit
Gardener God, have mercy on us

 

Forgive us for when we have trampled on the seedlings of others
Through careless words or outright criticism,
through envy or feeling threatened,
through being insensitive or wrapped up in ourselves
Gardener God, have mercy on us

 

Forgive us for when we think it's all down to us
When we forget that to grow we need the earth of our community,
The water of other people's contribution,
The sunshine of your favour,
The nutrients that come through conversation and challenge
Gardener God, have mercy on us

Amen

Absolution

James scattered glass beads representing tears onto the soil.

Act 4: Future present

[Jonny Baker, Jane Perry]

The Kingdom of God is innovation on a cosmic scale. Innovators (prophets, dreamers) join God (or aspire to) by catching his dissatisfaction with the world as is, dreaming of a future and embodying it as 'future present'. Innovation happens when God's future begins to re-form the present. And we get to join in!

Scene 1: Future present us

[Jonny Baker]

Take a '3 questions' postcard and discuss your responses with the people next to you.

futurepresent three steps postcard

Plant seeds in the soil to represent your dreams of a better world.

Scene 2: Future present God

[Jane Perry]

Take a 'God as a girl' postcard and meditate on the words and image.

futurepresent come as a girl postcard

Prayers for our world:
Response: Come to us like a girl

Act 5: Say yes to nothing

[Jonny Baker, Steve Leach]

Inspired by Viv Albertine - who wrote that, when stuck in life, sometimes she needed to 'say yes to nothing' and step into the 'void' - and always found looking back that it had been the right thing to do.

So we offered three responses for the congregation as they left - see below

Sending out prayer:

[Ben Cohen]

Daring God
Thank you so much for the thick fertile loamy earth that you have laid in us,
Each one of us – in bountiful measure.

You long to hold our hand and create with us.
As we pull silver tears, lions, tigers and sparkling narwhals out of deep rich soil.

Help me to see where you've placed me today.

Have you called me to say yes to a scary void? Have you called me to let go of what I cling to most dearly? Help me see that as I let go and tumble into the void, I fall into your open arms.

Have you called me to cry and mourn as an act of creation? To weep with those who weep? And in my tears, to finally see what in the world I was really weeping for. And then to make that thing a reality.

Or have you already set me off on a path of imagining - yours and mine, God? Help me savour the sweetness of sensing I'm in the place I should be. And pepper my horizons with rainbows, to keep me reassured. And keep me travelling.

Help us all keep imagining in the power of your Spirit.
And help us to take our place in your creation story.

Amen

Final responses:

If you are ready to say yes to nothing: take some soil, hold it for a while - and then let go

If you are in a place of grief: stand in pairs and say one another's names

If you are in the right place: take a sweet and savour the sweetness

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