Sermonless Sunday

The Ericksons (the awesome family that does the music for Greenhouse Mission) were away this past Sunday. When they first told us of the scheduling conflict, it was our first challenge to practice one of our values: that when people aren’t there for some reason, we don’t just sub in someone else and go on like there’s no difference. That it’s okay – good, even – to miss people.

We sort of succeeded. At first, we talked about possible “solutions,” treating this like a dilemma we could figure out. Should we use a DVD for worship? Or partner up with Venture, the Vineyard in Somerville? Maybe watch an inspiring movie?

Any of these would have been fine (except DVD worship. Based on what we have, that would have been awful.) But none felt right. I just had this sense that God wanted us to look at this “hole” in our Sunday program as an opportunity, not a problem.

Then on Friday as I was driving, I heard the phrase Experience God Four Ways. I saw a picture of stations set up around the conference room where we meet, each featuring a different way to connect with God. I’ll admit that “Experience God Four Ways” sounded to me like a menu item at a Chinese restaurant. But it also sounded cool.

So on Sunday morning, we set up six stations. Each of us picked four, and spent 15 minutes at each, asking God, “What do you have for me here? What do you want me to see?” As we set up the room, I realized that this was something you could do anywhere, anytime you had a few 15 minute segments and a desire to connect with God. So I thought I’d share them here.

***

Experience God through ART – Each week we have the opportunity for Arts ministry (inspired by our friends at Bluewater Mission in Hawaii) and we’ve had some really encouraging experiences as God has spoken to us. One of the kids will get a prompting of something they should draw, and then either they or someone else gets a sense of, “Oh – I know what that means…” It’s cool, especially for someone like me for whom creating visual art isn’t usually part of my week. This station is a chance to give this a try. God may give you a picture to draw, or maybe it will be easier to hear from Him when your mind is focused on something else. Or perhaps you’ll just relax a bit and rediscover a new way to have fun. Regardless, take a breath, say a prayer, and trust God to guide you.

Experience God through OTHER PEOPLE’S WRITING – God often speaks, answers questions, and encourages us through other people. This happens in real-life conversations, but I’m surprised by how often God draws my mind to different things through other people’s writing -where it’s not a conversation at all, but just me mulling over and absorbing other people’s ideas and stories. The collection we pulled from included Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, Miracle Work by Jordan Seng, Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, and The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhann.  You can do this with pretty much any book or magazine. Again, take a breath, say a prayer, and ask God to speak to you through what you read (or how you respond to what you read).

Experience God through PRAYING FOR OTHERS

This kind of prayer is sometimes called INTERCESSION: where you bring the needs of others before God, praying on their behalf. On the table we had the book of Children Waiting For Adoption, the Boston Globe, and the latest issue of Fast Company. The suggestion was to pray through pictures, rather than words, because it’s easy to get caught up in reading about something or someone and forget to pray. So we tried to put prayer first, trusting God to lead us. I mentioned how sometimes when I’m praying like this, I’ll suddenly feel pain in my knee, for example, or a weird sense of embarrassment. I’ve learned to take this as a prayer cue, praying for healing and protection over that person’s knees…or for God to free them from shame and embarrassment and surround them with supportive friends. It’s a bit of an adventure to see how God leads us when we bring people before Him like this.

Experience God through SCRIPTURE

God’s word is ALIVE. It is Jesus, speaking to us today. So we put out an assortment of Bibles, with different passages and stories marked, recommending that everyone read through one or more of them, asking God to speak and encourage us. There’s this suggestion in the Bible that even having these words pass in front of our eyes or having them read to us “washes” us; that it has a purifying, good effect. Sometimes we get an “a-ha” moment when we read the Bible, while other times it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. And yet we’re encouraged to believe that it does make a difference, regardless of how we feel in that moment. Trust that.

Experience God through SILENCE

Sometimes we just need a chunk of silence in our week where no one needs us or wants anything from us, and where someone else is in charge of the time. As my friend Shelley puts it, “Occasionally I just need to sit and stare at the wall.” We set up the Cross in the space between two windows as a suggestion to look at the world from the perspective of being on this side of the Cross – for evidence in our city that Jesus’ death and resurrection make a tangible difference. But it’s also okay to ignore the window, set a timer, and just stare at the wall.

Experience God Through WALKING    

Sunday was a warm, gorgeous day. So added a walk through Kendall Square as one of our options. The suggestion was to keep it open: if you felt prompted to pray, pray. If you sensed God speaking to you or showing you things, notice. It was okay to just enjoy…or smile at people…or not.  This turned out to be one of the most powerful stations for the people who did it.

***

After we’d each cycled through four stations, we took Communion together. Then we prayed for a couple of people. Then we went home. Through it all, I kept thinking of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s funny observation about Lent: “You know, God created seasons in the church year so you can try sh*t without people freaking out…”

Jesus showed up. No one freaked out (much). And I wasn’t the same person as when I walked in. Which is, I guess, the point of church.

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