The last few weeks have been a series of consciously starting to let go, as I, and many of my fellow final year ordinands, come to the end of our formal training. I suspect that this process has been happening over a much longer period, but our final weekend at college brought us together as we ‘prepared for ministry’.
As part of that we were asked to plan a creative act of worship, and under the leadership of Sue (Smith), we, that is Ruth (Peet), Jenny (Tebboth) and I, worked collaboratively to do just that. What we produced turned out to be a powerful release as we thought about how we were continuously being transformed. That enabled us to let go of those things that may still be causing us to worry, to hesitate, to hold us back; which we could lay down at the foot of the cross and then to commit ourselves to moving out toward our new or existing ministries.
We wanted to share some of the ideas that went into creating this service as they might be helpful to others who are also on this pathway or who may be in need of laying something down before moving on.
On entering the room we were each given a weighty pebble which we were asked to hold on to at all times if possible until later. These were to represent the worries and burdens that we might consciously or unconsciously be carrying with us at this time. By keeping hold of the pebble we became aware of their weight. Sue then introduced our service.
Our training has been all about formation; however, over the last two or three years we can now see how our lives have also been transformed. Taking the example of the life cycle of the butterfly, we took a moment to think we are now in that process
For many people this proved to be a trigger to simply sit and consider just how far they had travelled and to realise that it would soon be time to emerge from the chrysalis – scary prospect but one that we didn’t do on our own, as the words of The Butterfly by Margaret Orford reminded us
My hands are warm to the butterfly
I am trying to set free.
Delicate, frail creature of beauty,
what can it know of me?
I am outside its comprehension.
It knows sunshine and showers,
darkness and the feel of flowers.
We do not ask it to do the impossible
and know Man.
So we with God,
who looks with tenderness on our frailty,
trying to guide us.
He knows the way and if we let him,
will open windows,
and cradling us gently in hands we cannot comprehend.
will lift us up and set us free.
Ruth then led us in a meditation which culminated with us placing our pebbles around the foot of a cross.
(Holding our rock …) God is always leading us to new places on our journey through this life towards the kingdom, and sometimes that means letting go of people, places and things that are familiar to us. For some of us this experience is particularly acute right now.
We may be moving to a new home in a new community; we may be finding a new way of being in a familiar community; both these transitions mean letting go of an old way of being … and beginning a new journey, finding out who we are in a profoundly different role.
For all of us, as God calls us forward, inevitably there are people and places and things and aspects of life we need to let go. The rock we are holding represents all this. These rocks have let go of their original place, hewn by wind and rain, and buffeted by storms and sand and sea, they are all the more beautiful for that. And the new rock face revealed creates the potential for other unique and beautiful new creations.
The rocks are heavy, not necessarily because the things we need to let go are heavy, but because the knowledge that we need to let go and the act of doing so may weigh on us so heavily. We may have been carrying this weight for a while, and we have represented this by holding onto the rock this evening.
We follow in the footsteps of many: Abraham let go of his home and moved to a new land.The Jews left the familiarity of Egypt to journey through the desert. The apostles gave up their means of living to follow Jesus. Jesus … gave up life itself for us. Now … it’s our turn. Still holding the rock … let’s think now about the things we are letting go … think about all that has been good in them … all the experiences that have taught us and shaped us … and we thank God for them now ……
Now we focus on one aspect … it may be the thing that we have to let go that is weighing on us most heavily … and in it let us find something good … an experience, a lesson, or an act of kindness we can cherish and take with us … and let us thank God for that now ……
Looking at the rock, we can imagine it laying on a beach. Now we ask God to show us a new thing that he wishes to grow in us, when the warmth of his love hits us like the sun bursting through clouds onto the surface of the rock. May the tiny sparkles the sun reveals on the rocks surface, represent the beginnings of new joys for us in the service of God ……
Then, when you are ready, and only if you feel that you can … take your rock and let go of it at the foot of the cross as a sign that you are letting go of the past and moving on … not forgetting … remaining grateful for all that we have received … but simply giving it to God and letting it go ……
Jesus said … ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’ (Luke 18:29-30)
For many of us this was a significant moment as we realised that what was happening to us was very much real; but we were not left to dwell too long before the tension was broken by the song ‘Be who you were born to be’ by Bliss which encouraged us to look forward instead
Getting ready to step out
Just before we took those first steps to go out though we were encouraged by Jenny’s prayers:
Lord God, you are the one who makes all things new. Not discarding the past but redeeming it for a richer way forward. Thank-you for all we have been learning and for the way you have been forming us. Thank-you for this place and for the care and teaching we have received. We pray for the work and development of this college and for all the staff and students here
Lord in your mercy….hear our prayer
As we have released those things which we hold close but need to surrender we have empty hands to receive all that you will give. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith who we follow and whose Spirit is our companion and helper so that we can go forwards confident that the way ahead is known to you and that you will equip us for every work that you have prepared.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer
We pray for your Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may know you better. Enlighten our hearts to know the hope to which you have called us…. And help us to know your incomparably great power. Fill us with hope and expectation, faith and especially with your love for people we will meet and reveal to us where you are at work already so that we may work in tune with you.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer
We pray for those communities where we will be working…….. We pray for those who will be training us………. We pray for our families as they adjust with us to our new situation…… We commit ourselves to your unfailing love
Let us say the Lord’s Prayer together:
Our father in heaven hallowed be your name, your kingdom come your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the Glory are yours now and forever, Amen
And so we were now ready to step out, hopefully a bit more confidently than before. Our final act was a commitment to hand everything over to God to whom we knew we could return whenever we needed to. Each person made this commitment by laying their ‘feet’ along a path, strewn with a few rocks on which we might stumble from time to time, but that led out towards the door and our new ventures… we were finally moving on!