advent chapel

i curated the weekly chapel service for our office today. the synod office where i work has close to 100 staff, though only a handful come to chapel each week. i think it’s probably one of the hardest worship gigs i do.

the first three comments from people who came in were, in order ‘oh god, you’re not going to make us work, are you?’, then ‘i thought rob brown was meant to be on today’ [Rob’s our Synod CEO], and lastly ‘it’s not going to be all touchy-feely is it?’. lucky i was feeling feisty this morning, so it only reduced me to a state of nervousness, rather than outright panic…

nonetheless, it went well… apart from the failure of the wireless internet connection, which i was relying on to stream the NYTimes photodocumentary I linked to yesterday… and the cd player rejecting the cd it was playing happily just seconds before, halfway through the service. sometimes technology just doesn’t work… i have never had a problem with the wireless connection up there, and when i tested it yesterday it was absolutely fine… the cd was, as i said, working until half way through the service. i always have backups… i threw on a copy of the ‘whitelady’ dvd that was in my computer bag [which had no connection with the liturgy at all, but i figured everyone there would just put it down to being something deep and meaningful…]. i had no backup for the cd that didn’t involve a lot of disruption, so i just let it be quiet, until towards the end when i put music on through a laptop. so be it.

anyway, this was the outline of what we did. i liked it, anyway.

Welcome to this time of worship.

How does this advent find you?

does it find you empty
wondering how this story can become new again
when you have already wrung every miracle and promise within it dry?

does it find you cynical,
wondering how long you can hold the faith
when with all the waiting and yearning and longing of advent’s past,
the world has barely changed.

does it find you wanting so badly for this all to be true
that you will talk the world into joy and hope
out of fear that if you don’t
it just might not appear.

does it find you reluctant,
here only because the lectionary tells you it’s that time of the year again
and the world offers you no other choice?

in this time of worship this morning
let your act of faith be to
let advent find you
wherever you are
to create a space inside us and the world
where mystery and presence might grow.

Play ‘O come, o come Emmanuel’ – Sufjan Stevens

[invite people to move around the three spaces]

space 1:

[set up with a flash animation, a large lit candle and tea lights shaped into the outline of a semi-automatic machine gun, along with the following words:]

The Lord will teach us his law from Jerusalem,
and we will obey him.
He will settle arguments between nations.
They will pound their swords and their spears
into rakes and shovels;
they will never make war or attack one another.

People of Israel, let’s live by the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:3-5

The news about Palestine and Israel barely made the headlines in last week’s news.

We’ve heard promises of peace too often. We are suspicious of political manoeuvring. We know all the reasons – rational and not – why it cannot work.

What will it take for the world to lay down its bombs
What will it take for us to lay down our cynicism?

They will pound their swords and their spears into rakes and shovels
Light a candle and pray for a bomb-shattered world…

People of Israel, let’s live by the light of the Lord.
Light another and pray for cynicism to be transformed into faith…

Space 2:

[set up with a poster of the image ‘From Darkness’, Darab B. Shabahang; some ‘to do’ pages ripped from a diary, pens, and the following words:]

The Lord will teach us his law from Jerusalem,
and we will obey him.
He will settle arguments between nations.
They will pound their swords and their spears
into rakes and shovels;
they will never make war or attack one another.

People of Israel, let’s live by the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:3-5

Our weapons are much more sophisticated than spears and swords
much more subtle than air-borne missiles and semi-automatic rifles.

We have the capacity to destroy every day with power, influence, knowledge…

and like the craftsman who chooses whether to turn the metal into a rake or a spear, we choose how we will use the resources at our disposal.

They will never make war or attack one another.

Think through the day to come
the meetings you will have
the people you will talk to
the decisions you will make

what weapons will you lay down?
what ploughshares will you take up?

Write your prayer for today onto a note and take it with you.

Space 3:

[set up with a laptop streaming this NYT photo-documentary, a photo of Julie Mugford’s sculpture ‘Breaking Free’, a pile of magnetic poetry words, and the following words:]

The Lord will teach us his law from Jerusalem,
and we will obey him.
He will settle arguments between nations.
They will pound their swords and their spears
into rakes and shovels;
they will never make war or attack one another.

People of Israel, let’s live by the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:3-5

When the weapons are gone
peace can still be elusive.

Just because we have been released from our cells
doesn’t mean freedom is anywhere to be found.

What are you waiting for, this advent?

find the words that tell your story…

—–

[If the cd had still been working then i would have gathered people back together with Lou Rhodes’ song ‘Vox’….

and then we finished with this:]

As we leave to go back to our workplaces,
let our act of faith be to
let Advent find us
wherever we are
and to create a space inside us and the world
where mystery and presence might grow.

Go in faith
to find the peace that is already being given birth in the world
in the name of Christ.
Amen.