Vanity of vanities…

Tom Bandy conference… worship on the first day… People will be sitting around tables. We’ll have six locations, each with the same three stations set up around the room. Each station will need to have space for about 10 people. Worship will begin with people seated around table.

This all follows the way, way before time meditation (which has been reworked a little to make sense!)

Meditation: Vanity of Vanities

[This meditation, based on Ecclesiastes 1, will be projected onto the screen. There’ll be something very grungy playing behind it.]

Vanity of vanities
all is vanity
Useless. It’s all useless.

What do people gain from all at which they toil under the sun?
We can’t work any harder.
We can’t do any more.

A generation comes and a generation goes
None of it makes any difference

What has been is what will be
What has been done is what will be done
we’ve consulted,
we’ve strategised,
we’ve restructured

There is nothing new under the sun
we’ve put our trust in the ‘next new thing’

Is there a thing of which
it is said ‘this is new’?
how many times must we do that?

The people of long ago are not remembered
What if there is nothing we can do to save the church?

Nor will there be any remembrance by those who are to come
What if it’s lost forever?

Vanity of vanities. All is vanity
What if it’s just useless. All of it. Useless.

(at end of swf, fade to black and silence for 10 seconds, start Baraka ‘religions’ clip)

Spoken ‘bit’ from the front:

The writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t offer a solution. He doesn’t look for a way out of his despair. He is beyond the point where a platitude or vain hope will make things better. He is comfortable with knowing that all he does is in vain, that all is temporary. He knows we are foolish to believe otherwise.

And he also knows that in the face of all that is vanity, in the face of all that is useless, the only important thing – the only faithful thing – we can do is to look for the life in the only thing we have in our grasp – this moment right now:

To eat the bread.
To drink the wine.
To dance.
To laugh.
To sow and to reap.
To build and destruct.

To live what brings life in this very moment. Because every moment to come, and every moment that has passed is already and only God’s.

In each corner of the room are three different stations. For the next ten minutes, I invite you to move to the stations…

(play baraka clip again, words from Ecclesiastes 9 over the top)
Station 1: 2005 calendars (printed from Outlook), pens
To live in this moment, we have to let go of our longing for yesterday. We have to let go of our nostalgia and sentimentality. We have to leave behind our guilt and grief over decisions made, things done badly, things undone.

Wait for a moment, here.

Think of those things from the past that might be holding you back from living life in this moment.

When you are ready, write a word or symbol representing them on the calendar.
Let them be written into the past
so you can live this moment, here, now.

Station 2: Bread and wine
Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a heart filled with joy; for God has long ago approved what you do. (Ecclesiastes 9)

Just for this moment, stop thinking about what the church should be doing. Stop regretting what the church hasn’t done. Stop planning or strategizing, preparing, worrying, despairing…

Know there is nothing you need to do to earn God’s approval or love. Eat the bread and drink the wine. And as you do, let God into this moment and this place.

Station 3: clay, skewers

And if the future is not ours to create, but God’s, then we need to trust it to God.
Remember the dream that inspires you…
Think of the anxiety or expectation that scares you…
Remember the promise that compels you…

Write them into the clay.

Trust God to shape them into life.

In whole group, gathered back – final prayer:

And when it is to end
The silver cord snaps,
the golden bowl breaks;
the water pitcher is smashed,
and the pulley at the well
is shattered.

So our bodies return to the earth,
and the life-giving breath returns to God.

(Ecclesiastes 12)

Take the clay of our lives, God, and shape it to love
take the clay of the church and shape it to grace
take the clay of the world and shape it to peace
take the clay of today and shape it to hope.
and then breathe your spirit into all.
again.

for ever and ever.
amen.

(Play “New World in my View” King Britt)

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