On Sunday, 6th September at 4pm (GMT) we will gather on Facebook Live (or on YouTube) with interactive discussions afterwards at 5:15. (Join via this Zoom link.**). Lots of folks enjoy interacting in the comments on Facebook Live as we meet together at 4.
Today is our first day back to this format after spending August gathering only on Zoom. So welcome back if you’ve been off on some travels! We’re starting a new season of talking about stories – the stories Jesus told (and why) and the stories we tell (and why).
Song – Kaleidoscope (IGB Band)
Question for Sharing
Do you have a favourite story? It could be a book or a film or story from real life. It could be something recent or something from when you were younger. What is it that you like so much about the story?
On Parables: A Litany for Telling Stories to Bridge Divides and Build Empathy by Michael T. McRay (IGB Core Team: Danielle, Tom, Pete, Eunice, Julia, Naomi)
NAOMI: Jesus of Nazareth, you told stories to shorten distances. Your parables opened worlds. You knew that no one could be fully defined by a story, and no one could be fully understood without one. Open us to the stories of others, ground us in the stories of ourselves, and shelter us through one another because it may be our only hope.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is unfolding.
JULIA: Jesus of narrative, teller of parables, bless our stories to unsettle our prejudices.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is upending.
TOM: Spirit who accompanies, inspire us with breath and boldness to speak our stories.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is unique.
EUNICE: God of unity, draw us together with curiosity and humility because our story is theirs and theirs is ours.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is universal.
PETE: We pray for a world relentless in the pursuit of justice, compassion, and kindness.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is unending.
NAOMI: Bless us with childlike imaginations so we can be wild in envisioning the possibilities of peace because nothing holy is tame.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is untamed.
JULIA: We ask for wisdom to know there is more common ground than we expected.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is unexpected.
TOM: We ask for the wisdom to remember that no amount of common ground will save us if we believe that difference is dangerous.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is uniting.
EUNICE: May we challenge the poisonous narratives that uphold our violence and craft new stories of collaboration rather than competition.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is the foundation to everything.
NAOMI: Divinity within us all, pour over us the patience and perseverance to hold with respect the experiences of those with whom we disagree.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is yours.
PETE: God of love, may we love ourselves enough to own our own stories with confidence and courage.
ALL: In the beginning is a story, and the story is mine.
JULIA: In a violent and divided world, bless our differences to bear fruit rather than arms, for our humanity is bound together and our lives inseparably intertwined.
ALL: In the end there’s still a story, and the story is everyone’s. Amen.
Personal Story – Nona
Reading – Matthew 13:1-23 (The Message):
At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”
He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
“But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.
“Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
“The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
“The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
“The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”
Reflection– (Danielle) –The Power of Story
Song – Love So Great (Ellie & Ali)
Love Feast (Ruth)
Poem – Rainbow People by Lee Evans
What’s Coming up (Danielle) *
Blessing: “May we live fully, love wastefully and have the courage to be all that God has created us to be.”
*If you are part of our community and would like to make a gift toward Inclusive Gathering Birmingham, you can do that here. Anything you give helps to support the costs of making church happen and allows us to be generous as a community. There’s no pressure to give!
** After our Worship Gathering, at 5:15 anyone who would like to continue to discuss these themes can join our discussion via THIS ZOOM link(Meeting ID: 895 7113 2962 Passcode: 182586).
If you’ve got any questions about Inclusive Gathering Birmingham or would like to have a chat with someone from our community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch.