During this season of Lent, my wife, Jenny, and I have been preparing and leading an embodied reflection at each of our church’s Sunday services. The theme is reconciliation and the goal of these reflections is to provide the congregation with a physical way of reflecting on the sermon. You can read the sermons our pastor offered here.
Embodied Reflection for 1 March 2009 (with communion)
Often the things that we cling to hinder us from reconciling our broken relationships. These things can be pride, hurt feelings, resentment, or theology, to name a few. But in order to have reconciliation with other people, we need to let go of those things we cling to—our capital—which get in the way of restoring broken relationships. Or we at least need to loosen our grip on them. Maybe a start is to recognize that we cling to something.
These nuts symbolize those things we cling to that hinder us from having reconciliation in our broken relationships. Today, as we take communion, let us remember Jesus’ words: “if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Mt 5:23-24). As we come to the table today, we remember our broken relationships, and let us drop our nuts into the jar in a symbolic letting go of whatever it is that hinders us from being reconciled to these people.
Let us not think, however, that we will actually be able to let go of our pain and other hindrances just because we release the nuts. Let’s not pretend that our hurt feelings, pain, and fear will dissolve in an instant. Things take time to heal, and sometimes things even get worse before they get better. So the letting go of our nuts does not symbolize the end of our pain and hindrances; rather, it symbolizes the beginning of a long process of reconciliation.
Since all of our nuts will be released into the same jar, we can remember that we are not alone in our burdens and pain—we bear one another’s burdens and in so doing, we find strength from one another. After all, “A chord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecc 4:12).
This is the essence of communion—we are not alone. We remember that we have each other and we have Christ to lean on. So as we give up our nuts—that which hinders us from being reconciled to others—we receive communion and remember that we are already reconciled to God and we journey toward reconciliation hand-in-hand with one another. And since this journey can take time, we will leave this jar of nuts on the table for the remainder of Lent, to serve as a reminder of the continual process of reconciliation. Please don’t feel pressured to give up your nut just yet. If for some reason you would like to hold on to it for a while, feel free to take it home. You’re welcome to add it to the jar anytime during Lent.
Now, be welcomed, at your own time, to come up, release your nut if you are ready to do so, and receive communion. Jesus, the one who reconciles all things, said “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19).
Embodied Reflection for 8 March 2009 (led by Jenny)
Hi, I’m Jenny, and I’m a consumer. It’s been 5 days since my last purchase.
Our world is obsessed with stuff—we’re no longer seen as people by much of the world; we’re consumers. We are defined by our consumption. And the myth we’re constantly told is that the more we have, the more we are. We’re stuff obsessed.
In a recent interview with Reader’s Digest, Margaret Attwood talks about money and stuff as a diversion. As my friend Dan has written in his blog, it’s like a magician getting you to look at his left hand while his right hand is performing the trick. The question is, “what does stuff distract us from?”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
It seems as though our possessions distract us from carrying on the work of God, from being the hands and feet of Jesus in a hurting world. Perhaps this is why Jesus told his closest followers, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff.” He knew that their possessions would weigh them down and distract them from carrying out the more important work of bringing about the kingdom of God, caring for the poor, healing the sick, and loving the unlovable. If they had decided to take their new clay pot with them, they’d need to spend money on a cloth to wrap it in so it doesn’t break, and they’d have to spend time washing it and storing it properly. If they had been allowed to take their new RV, they would have needed to bring along the specially-designed vinyl cover for it, an extra tire or two, and they probably would have needed to buy a new chariot, because their old one didn’t have enough horsepower to haul it—plus, the new year 37 models were really stylish.
What I’m trying to show is that the more possessions we have, the more time, energy, and money we need to spend to keep them maintained and safe. The nicer our house, home theatre (which is a bit of a paradox), and car, the better alarm system we need to buy and install to protect them. And then there’s insurance on top of it all. All of this adds up to a big distraction from what really matters in life, one another. How are we to love one another when we are too busy loving our stuff?
Today, for our embodied reflection, we’re going to create a simple visual representation of the need to rid ourselves of our stuff-obsession, our addiction to hoarding possessions. These mothballs represent the time and money that we spend on maintaining our stuff, rather than maintaining God’s mission for the world. In needing to maintain our possessions, we become bound to them, rather than bound to God and one another. So today, we’ll each take a mothball and tie a bit of string around it to represent how our possessions bind us. Then, we’ll place them up on the table as a visual reminder of our need to put God and one another above our possessions, to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven—in the kingdom of God—where moths do not destroy. May it ever be so.
Embodied Reflection for 15 March 2009
Victor Frankl was born in Vienna into a Jewish family of civil servants. In September of 1942, he and his wife and parents were captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in a concentration camp. As a psychologist, Frankl assisted other prisoners in the camp of his own free will. After his liberation in 1945, he went on to write his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, which was originally entitled, From Death-Camp to Existentialism. In this book, he writes, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the people who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Even when he was imprisoned in Auschwitz, where innocent men, women, and children were murdered every second, Frankl never allowed himself to be completely controlled by the Nazis. He recognized the importance of agency; when he had nothing left and possessed seemingly no control. His agency to choose his attitude helped his press forward through this mess and help others as they attempted to do the same.
Like Draupadi, Viktor Frankl looked deep within himself and found that prayer—that glimmer of hope that comes from claiming one’s freedom to have agency. Both Frankl and Draupadi recognized and claimed their agency, even when all hope seemed lost. They knew that they must have the power to make their own decisions, to lead their own lives, and to control their own futures.
Today, we remember the story of Draupadi and reflect on its meanings for our own lives. Where do we sit on the agency continuum? How much agency to we believe we have? The answers to these questions are not easy to find; we must look deep within ourselves and we must do so again and again for, as Lia has told us, this continuum is dynamic and ever-changing.
Let us each come to the table today and cut off a piece of this cloth so we can take it with us as a reminder of Draupadi’s never-ending cloth and the agency that she refused to surrender to those who would harm her.