We are spread out in this sanctuary like dry bones in a wide valley… I think we should come together – move the chairs into a circle. (At this point we did just that – everyone, including the musicians gathered in a circle – then I gave this introduction):
Eugene Pederson – in his introduction to the book of Ezekiel writes: “Catastrophe strikes and a person’ world falls apart. People respond variously, but two of the most common responses are denial and despair. Denial refuses to acknowledge the catastrophe. It shuts its eyes tight or looks the other way; it manages to act as if everything is going to be just fine…
Despair is paralyzed by the catastrophe and accepts it as the end of the world. It is unwilling to do anything, concluding that life for all intents and purposes is over… “
Since I came here four years ago, we have lost four members to death, one is in extended care, and several others have chosen other places to worship. We’ve carried on… we’ve been creative, and our Thrift Shop ministry is thriving. But last Sunday, worship attendance was so low, that I felt despair. I went from everything is fine to nothing is fine – which is not a very comfortable space. But sometimes when you experience two opposites, you can find some motivation for creativity, for a new vision, for something different.
So – an invitation for worshiping differently. About a month ago, I felt a strong call to write these words: “Sometimes, you just need someone to listen. I’ll listen.” You may have seen the poster. These strange stories from scripture today may have something to say to your life, and you will know how they connect – so I want to listen – to you.
What calls you to pay attention from either of these stories?
Was there an image or phrase that got you curious; that connected with you in some way?
Have you experienced a time when you felt `cut-off’ from what was live-giving for you? What hindered and what healed?
The reading from the gospel of John – long and complex… What are you curious about?
Lazarus is in the tomb for 4 days – it’s starting to stink –
Any situations where you’ve felt – `this stinks!’. I have a poster that says, “If something stinks, change it.” What have you done/could you do to change something that `stinks?’
Jesus says: “Unbind him, and let him go.”
What is binding you, constricting you from living fully?
Where can you help unbind someone from a death-like way of living?
Jesus calls on the community to unbind Lazarus.
How, as a community of faith, can we bring freedom and life for others?
I offered the above questions to those gathered and we took turns in the circle offering wisdom and stories in response to the questions. What a beautiful and powerful experience!