May 172008

No, I don’t mean the twisted and contorted way my mind works. Rather, I’ve been trying to put together some thoughts for the labyrinth at Crossover this year. The general theme for the festival is ’10’ – it’s Crossover number 10 – and there’s the obvious ’10 commandments’ idea which a number of agencies are picking up on. That got me thinking about ‘rules’ and how much pressure we put on ourselves to follow the rules, to be a ‘good Christian’. And it also made me realise that we so often distort our understanding of the ‘rules’ and put them first – we have to follow the rules before we can be called a Christian. And this is just so wrong. God’s grace means that we are offered forgiveness despite being unable to follow the rules. What’s more, the ‘rules’ are there, not to show us what we need to do before we can be accepted by God, but just how much we are incapable of being ‘perfect’ and are therefore fully reliant on God’s mercy (yes, I’ve been reading Luther for my recent Reformation Theology exam). In other words: the law is there to convict us; God’s grace is there to save us.

I want the labyrinth to reflect some of this and also what the proper response to the ‘rules’ is. So, my thoughts for the labyrinth stations are as follows:

  1. Our rules – everyday rules in society, work, relationships
  2. God’s rules – 10 commandments, love one another. Easy or hard? Like ‘society’ or different? How?
  3. Keys/chains – what is the ‘key’ to getting it right? Do we unlock our life or lock ourself into impossible patterns of behaviour?
  4. Gate/door – does our ‘key’ unlock the door to ‘good living’? Can we follow rules to get us into the Kingdom of God? Keys don’t work; need to knock and let God open the door. Jesus is the gate.
  5. New rules – Jesus hasn’t got rid of the law. Are there new rules? Do we now have to keep them for sure?
  6. Freedom – God’s rules are not to bind us but to free us. But what is freedom?
  7. Service – freedom and servitude, but not contradictory. Not just saved ‘from’, but also saved ‘for’. Saved to serve, but God’s service does not bind or constrict. Service to God ushers in the kingdom of God – a foretaste of freedom to serve God wholeheartedly and to love unconditionally.

Main question is – is it a coherent whole? In my mind it is, but that’s because I am probably filling in the gaps unconsciously. And I also need to come up with some activity for each one.

Comments and suggestions welcomed.

Apr 182008

It’s the church youth club fundraiser tonight – an overnight games marathon. 12 hours of games and mayhem and tired teenagers. What’s this got to do with me you ask? Well you might. I ‘retired’ from the youth club leadership a while ago, but they’ve been left in the lurch a bit for this event. It’s the usual story – pleas for help have fallen largely on deaf ears. It’s not helped by the fact that one of the leaders (who helped organise it) has since pulled out of leadership and isn’t going to come. So that’s what it has to do with me. I’m going to be helping out overnight. Great joy! Mind you, it’ll not be the first time I’ve done one of these, but I did hope that the last one would be just that. My wife has it worse though. She had offered her help as an extra adult body (but not a leader) when the other person quit so she’s having to help as well. Unfortunately she also has a major Girls’ Brigade fundraiser tomorrow which she can’t avoid. Prayers for all events and those involved would be much appreciated.

Just to add insult to injury – actually the other way round – one of my teeth broke today. The corner of a back molar came adrift when I was eating a ‘healthy’ cereal bar. I phoned my dentist and the next available date for a treatment appointment is the 26th of May – 5 weeks away. However, if I’m in pain, they’ll ‘see’ if I can be fitted in any earlier. I’m trying not to think about it because it doesn’t actually hurt at the moment but I’m convinced that there’s a dull throbbing starting to develop. I’m pretty certain this is just psychosomatic and certainly not helped by me poking around with a toothbrush to work out if it is sensitive at all. I really dislike going to the dentist, though I do go for my regular checkups. But I’ve never had particularly ‘healthy’ teeth. My mouth is a bunch of gaps, fillings and crowns. Oh well! Grin and bear it and hope that 5 weeks passes quickly.

Feb 052008

Duct tape, duck tape, gaffer tape. Call it what you will, it provided me with a ‘theme’ for the youth club last Friday. I had been asked to step in since the regular leader had a prior commitment and the other leaders weren’t too experienced. Not long before a ‘youth leader email’ had dropped into my inbox extolling the virtues of duct tape for silly games. Now the interesting thing about duct tape is that it can fix just about anything, has a million and one uses but it’s rubbish at the one thing it was designed for – sealing ducts. Apparently the adhesive dries out too quickly and it starts to leak. There are now better products on the market for sealing ducts, but duct tape is still a huge seller. Anyway, duct tape was my theme for the night. And here’s how it went…

We started off the ‘themed’ part with a silly game. The group had to get themselves into three teams. Each team had a roll of duct tape. I scattered lots of small squares of paper on the hall floor. Each team member in turn had to have a single wrap of duct tape round them, sticky side out, and then had 20seconds to ‘catch’ as many of the paper squares as possible. The team that collected the most were the winners and got to be first in the queue for the tuckshop. (The losers got to pick up any paper still lying around.)

Next up was the ‘God-slot’. I spoke about the million and one uses of duct tape, how good it was at so many different things and explained to them why it was rubbish at the one thing it was intended for. I then spoke about creation and how humanity was made ‘in God’s image’. We spoke a bit about what that meant, always nudging towards the idea of ‘relationship with God’ being one of the key things it means (God, as Trinity, is the perfect relationship of grace). And, of course, like duct tape, we have many talents and uses, but generally speaking, we’re pretty hopeless at the one thing we were meant to have – a relationship with God (and for that to be reflected in our relationships with each other). However, unlike duct tape, we haven’t been replaced by something better (skimming swiftly around the flood story at this point). Rather, God seeks to reconcile us to Him, imperfect as we are, through Jesus. There endeth the lesson.

I then set them another duct tape challenge. Back in their teams they had to see who could build the highest tower using only newspaper and duct tape. As they were building them, they were intent only in making their own tower as high as absolutely possible. Of course, they started to keel over and had to be propped up or guyed to try and get them to stand. At this point I had a burst of inspiration. During the chat about what it meant to be made in God’s image, someone suggested that we should have been perfect. I pointed out that in the creation narratives, God doesn’t declare creation to be perfect, but ‘very good’ – good enough, fit for purpose, just as it was intended to be. After calling time on the tower building (2 of the 3 had collapsed by this stage) I called everyone together and pointed out that what I had asked them was to see who could build the highest tower – that is, the highest of the three – which didn’t mean that it had to be a towering edifice, just higher than the other two – good enough, fit for purpose. We so often strive for perfection, driven by a false sense of what perfection is – fastest car, slimmest figure, biggest house, most money. We forget that we haven’t been made perfect, but we’re often good enough. It doesn’t quite fit with the highest tower analogy, but it did give me a chance to slip in another message.

So, there’s the gospel according to duct tape. Contrived, I’ll agree, but it sort of worked.

Nov 292007

Planning for Crossover 2008 is now officially underway. The dates are confirmed and the website has had a revamp (and no apologies for it looking familiar – it’ll get properly ‘themed’ when the graphics bods have had a go).

The theme is ’10’ or ‘X’ (think Roman numerals) since this is Crossover number 10 (well, duh!) and there’ll be a bit of a party atmosphere, we hope.