Monday, 25 July 2011

More Dancing Stories

Just a very quick note to say that we have today posted some new Dancing Stories to Dancing Scarecrow, including the whole of the book of Job (!) and a telling of the Massacre of the Innocents for Remembrance Sunday.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Where's Wally?

So, today is Ascension Sunday.
Since the 1960s (and perhaps earlier) we seem to have got hung up on the historicity or otherwise of the Ascension story. Clearly the photographs of the earth from space have proved that there is no physical heaven beyond the clouds into which Jesus ascended.
We have, therefore, thrown out the baby with this bathwater.
It seems to me, rather, that the Ascension is more like a "Where's Wally" puzzle - or perhaps a "Where's Jesus."
The early church, having proclaimed the resurrection, now has the difficulty of explaining how the particular human being, Jesus of Nazareth, is now the divine Christ, universally present in people of faith. So the Ascension story sets the church free to be the Body of Christ on earth.

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, shall never die!

Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.
     © Brian Wren (1936–)

So, this morning, we'll be playing Where's Wally.

Monday, 16 May 2011

I forgot the camera!

Sometimes you really wish you had remembered the camera!

Yesterday we were at St PJs, the local URC church where we worship on a monthly basis. They know - and tolerate us - very well. We were following the lectionary readings which didn't exactly inspire. The theme of sheep/ shepherds seems to come around at least twice a year and there isn't much more we can say on the subject. However, comparing and contrasting the Acts 2 reading about the disciples selling their possessions and sharing according to their needs with the problematic parable of Jesus as the gatekeeper to the sheepfold led us to some musings about the nature of community.

We discussed different types of community - groups (loose unaffiliated groupings); associations (groups which come together around a single interest) and clubs (formal, regulated associations with rules about who is in and who is out). We then contrasted this with the community of the church - and reflected on what makes the church different.

We invited the congregation to put their hands up if...
they were not vegetarian
they were over 60
they didn't watch the FA cup final

and so on.

We passed a ball of wool around the church, linking all those who agreed that they were part of a particular relationship. This, significantly, included both Clare and myself - and Colin, the pianist.

We then reflected on what makes for broken relationships and for our prayers of intercession symbolically cut some of the strands of wool. Then, despite Colin being tied up, we asked him to play the normally unsingable "Bind Us Together" as we prayed for the Holy Spirit to re-tie the cords which could not be broken.

There were tears of laughter - and, I suspect not a few sentimental tears too. And, I fear, there may have been a few tears at the quality - or lack thereof - of our singing!

If only I'd remembered the camera.

Here's Clare's opening prayer:

Inclusive Community Opening Prayer

Come from birthplaces in far off lands

Come from birthplaces round the corner

God is for you

Come from distant hills and suburbs

Come from local terraced streets

God is for you

Come with your toys and play-mats

Come with your walking sticks

God is for you

Come in your wheel chairs

Come with your glasses

God is for you

Come with your hearing aids

Come with your special interests

God is for you

Come by yourself

Come with your civil partner

God is for you

Come with your grandchildren

Come with your friend

God is for you

Come with your neighbour

Come with your foster family

God is for you

Come with your highs and obsessions

Come with your lows and depressive thoughts

God is for you

Come with your addictions

Come with your eating disorders

God is for you

Come with your joys and celebrations

Come with your hurts and disappointments

God is for you

Come with your questions and cynicism

Come with your ideas and creativity

God is for you

Come for it is God who calls you here

To create a wonderfully diverse, inclusive community

God is for us.

© Clare McBeath, 2011

Scapegoat or Terrorist?

In the light of the killing of Osama Bin Laden it felt appropriate to give folk the opportunity to reflect on the issues raised.
Within OBT, there are a variety of views on the legality/ morality of "the War on Terror," so it would have been wrong to assume that we all felt or reacted in the same way.
We found a splendid Newsround clip on the BBC iPlayer which introduced some of the questions raised, then had a lively discussion about how Bin Laden's death made us feel.
Whether we agreed with the killing or not, there was some agreement that the death of one man was unlikely to end terrorism. In many ways, we felt that Bin Laden was being scapegoated.
However, the children didn't really know what a scapegoat was, so we read Leviticus 16:20–22.
We then found another YouTube video which showed us how to make our very own Scapegoat out of clay.
We pinned our prayers for the world - the things which we think are wrong - or the 'sins of the world' onto the scapegoat using yet more Post-it notes.
Then the children cast our scapegoat out into the wilderness of our front garden. There, I am sorry to report, he promptly collapsed under the weight of sin, and as it was a very windy day, the sins of the world were blown to the ends of the earth.
Whilst I am not sure about the ecological effect of our littering, it was an illuminating reflection on the dramatic events of the week.

Here are my opening prayer and Clare's Eucharist:

Opening Prayers:
We aren’t exactly a crowd,
two or three gathered together
in the confines of a living room.
We aren’t exactly a crowd.

We don’t exactly have a loud voice,
singing quite badly, protesting
in the powerlessness of our little community.
We don’t exactly have a loud voice.

We aren’t exactly confident,
huddled together, looking on
revolted at the baying mob.
We aren’t exactly confident.

We aren’t exactly changing the world,
meeting, praying, protesting,
trying to live out the values of Shalom.
We aren’t exactly changing the world.

In the face of the shouts of the crowd:
We are silent.

In the face of confident political lies:
We are silent.

In the face of media consensus
We are silent.

In the face of the pro-war propaganda
We are silent.

In the face of the temptation to conform
We are silent.


In the silence of an upper room
Would-be disciples
huddled together,
not knowing what to say
when their leader was killed.

In the fear of an upper room
former disciples
mourned the loss
of their confidence
in the justice of their cause.

In the isolation of an upper room
lonely disciples
watched the mood of the nation
turn against them
as the mob bayed for blood.

In the sanctuary of an upper room
faithful disciples
prayed together and stayed together
hoping they were right
in the presence of God.

in the presence of God,
they prayed
for the coming of Shalom:

Our Father…
©Tim Presswood, 2011

Scapegoat Eucharist

All we’ve done wrong
All our anger
All our fear
All or prejudice
All our conflict
All our hate
All our violence
All our greed
What do we do with
Such human emotions?

If we keep
such human emotions inside
they churn us up
mental illness
physical illness
alcohol abuse
low self-esteem.

All we’ve done wrong
All our anger
All our fear
All or prejudice
All our conflict
All our hate
All our violence
All our greed
What do we do with
Such human emotions?

If we let
such human emotions show
domestic violence
broken relationships

All we’ve done wrong
All our anger
All our fear
All or prejudice
All our conflict
All our hate
All our violence
All our greed
What do we do with
Such human emotions?

And so the scapegoat
was born
to deal with the not so pretty
side of humanity
something on which we could load
all our human failings
and the things
we have done wrong
all our violence
and destruction.

And so the scapegoat
was born
to deal with the not so pretty
side of humanity
so we might restore
our broken selves
so we might restore
our broken communities
so we might restore
our broken world.

But what of the scapegoat
the one we make the victim
the one who takes the blame
the one we send off
into the wilderness
or imprisoned

How can killing
one violent man
be he Osama Bin Laden
or any other political
or death row prisoner
bring an end to
the war on terror
bring peace
bring justice
to our broken world?

And so on the night before
Jesus became the scapegoat
Jesus sat around a table
And shared a meal
With the followers who
would run from him
With the friend
Who would deny him
With the enemy who
would betray him.

And so on the night before
Jesus became the scapegoat
Jesus took bread
and tore it apart
this is my world broken by you
this is my body broken for you
and the scapegoat
the victim
forgave us
and set us free.

[tear and share bread]

And so on the night before
Jesus became the scapegoat
Jesus poured
A cup of wine
this is my blood poured out by you
this is my life given for you
and the scapegoat
the victim
gave us a glimpse of the humanity
God intended us to be.

[pour and share wine]

All we’ve done wrong
All our anger
All our fear
All or prejudice
All our conflict
All our hate
All our violence
All our greed
What do we do with
Such human emotions?

We lay such human emotions
At the foot of the cross
And learn God’s way
Of being fully human
Of love
Of justice
Of mercy
Of peace
Of forgiveness
Of reconciliation.

And we find that we are born again
to a new way of being human
a gradual learning
as we grow and change
of who we are
and how we relate
to our family, our friends
our community, our world
as we become the people and community
that God intended us to be.
© Clare McBeath, 2011

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

At Last!

A very quick note to point out that I have, this afternoon, got round to adding a search button to the site. 

It is powered by Google - and your results will show up in a Google window, rather than on Dancing Scarecrow itself. However, the only results you will get are from Dancing Scarecrow, so it should make the site a bit easier to navigate.

Monday, 11 April 2011

I Quite Liked Church This Morning…

Last week some friends joined us for worship on Sunday morning. As it happened, it was the day before Clare's Dad's funeral, so the McBeaths were in Abingdon. Joan was away and David was unwell. So "Church" turned out to be Deborah, Beth, me and our two friends!
In a thank-you note, one of our friends commented: 
"I quite liked church this morning…I felt like I had something to contribute, I liked the fact that the contributions came from all including me, and a child, and  theologians and scholars and academics.... the interactive.... and the quiet, the thinking..... the nobody telling me what I was supposed to think... and not much singing"

I was touched beyond measure at these comments, as that is exactly what we are seeking to achieve here.

The reading was the anointing of David from 1 Samuel. I decided to take this as one of our season looking at issues of peace - particularly since it was only a week since Britain launched yet another war, this time in Libya. The Bible portrays David as the great warrior-king who united Israel and built a great, united Empire. Yet even in the Biblical account there are hints that David may not have been the hero he is portrayed to be. 
So we discussed why the Biblical narrative might have been written in the way it was. We watched a clip from the BBC's "Bible's Buried Secrets" and we discussed the concept of a Just War.

Then we sculpted our prayers out of clay, and weighed them - 'what makes for war' and 'what makes for peace' in the scales of justice.

Some might argue that for such a difficult subject, humour is inappropriate. I disagree. I wrote a playful eucharist, which plays with the concepts of just war and justice. To me, the joy of playing with language highlights the horror of failed linguistic attempts to solve our differences.

See what you think.

Eucharist – Just War Just Life

In just a few moments,
I shall have convinced you that my cause is just.
Just pay attention.
Let me just speak
The words just pour from my lips.
I will speak for just long enough
to just suggest
that there is just no alternative.

It’s a just war
It’s just a war

Just as you thought humankind
had had just about enough of violence
another tyrant just has to be stopped.
He is just evil.
Our cause is just.
A regime will change just like that.
Those who get in the way will just have to accept
that there is just no alternative.

It’s a just war
It’s just a war

Those who die are just little people.
Soldiers are just doing a job.
Oil is just irrelevant.
The mission is just to prevent attacks on civilians.
Invasion just won’t happen.
We just won’t allow our troops to get carried away.
Their training is just sufficient.

It’s a just war
It’s just a war

So just 233 planes take off
and just bomb the baddies,
just targeting precisely those they want to take out.
Forgetting that our bombs are just the same
as the ones which fell just now;
just ignoring the lives
which young soldiers have just left behind,
our planes just take off and just drop anonymous bombs.

It’s a just war
It’s just a war

Just as, just two thousand years ago,
a man – just one man
was just so threatening to powers and principalities
that they just couldn’t cope with his challenge
and just nailed him to a tree
just to silence him.
Just one man.
Just not important.

This is just bread
broken bread remembering the un-just

[Break and share bread]

But they just didn’t understand
that he wasn’t just a man.
He was just love
And love just cannot die
So just as dead trees
just spring back to life,
just three days later
he just sprang back to life

This is just a cup of wine
poured to celebrate just-ice

[Pour and drink wine]

He is just life.
His life is just.
And so we just want to live
the life of justice.
Just like that.

© Clare McBeath and Tim Presswood, 2011

Sunday, 27 February 2011

YouTube Worship

There are numerous advantages to being a small church. Indeed, one of the things we will be talking about over the next few days/ weeks is whether "church" is a helpful label for what we do. But that's not the point of this post.
Todays readings from Isaiah and Matthew (A Epiphany 8) have often been used to say, "Trust in God and everything will be alright." It won't surprise you to learn that I think that is nonsense. Everything was not alright as Jesus was hanging on the Cross!
The Message, helpfully translates Matthew 6: 34, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
So we are going to watch a couple of YouTube vidoes (helpful to have internet on the telly). Kaa, the snake, singing "Trust in Me" from Disney's Jungle Book, and Bobby McFerrin, singing, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
The McBeaths and Joan are away this weekend, so I think it will just be 5 of us. We might just have a lively discussion!