About Ruth

Children's and Families' Minister at All Saints, High Wycombe. Wondering, learning, exploring, and fortunate to be doing so with a fabulous bunch of children, who teach me far more than I teach them. Godly Play enthusiast, contemplative pray-er, avid reader, occasional knitter. Would always rather be by the sea.

“Won’t you come and join the dance? ” – a sermon for Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator, redeemer and sustainer, one in three and three in one. Many preachers have attempted various analogies for the trinity, and of course none of them come close to explaining this great and glorious mystery, but some of them might help us to understand something about who and what God is.

Today we are using fidget spinner to help us think about the trinity. When we hold the fidget spinner still, we can clearly see that it is one object in three parts (which is not quite what the trinity is!). But it’s when we start to spin it that things get interesting. The three seem to become one, as the spinner moves. Father, son and holy spirit, three and one in continual movement.

The idea of the trinity in motion is not a new one. The Church Fathers as early as the 4th century AD wrote about “perichoresis” – literally, dancing around one another – to describe the relationship within the trinity. The essential thing to understand about this idea of movement within the trinity is that God, though unchanging, is not static. God exists in movement and in relationship. And into that movement, that relationship, that eternal dance, we are invited.

The movement of God re-orients us, points us in a new direction. When we say on Ash Wednesday “turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ” or when we ask those to be baptised “do you turn to Christ?”, that is what we are talking about. When people speak about their lives being “turned around” by an encounter with God, that is what they are talking about – the redirecting of our lives and our very beings away from the things of evil and towards the goodness and holiness of God.

When we allow ourselves to be caught up in the movement of God, we are turned around, our focus and direction fundamentally changed, and then we find ourselves spun around and out, out into the world which is already Christ’s, to proclaim in every word and deed, the Good News of the triune God. The truth that God is love, and we are loved. That you, whoever you are, whatever you’ve done or had done to you, wherever you come from are loved, and called to love.

And when we step into that dance, that movement, that relationship which exists within the trinity, within Godself, we are caught up too in the work of God. In prayer, in worship, in communion, and in acts of service, generosity and love, we become part of the action of God in the world, as we are part of the body of Christ.

Jesus speaks of this in our gospel reading, in his final instructions to his disciples, the Great Commission. They are not to stand still, not to rest on their laurels. It is not enough to have seen the risen Jesus, they need to be transformed by their encounter with him, to let it change the direction of their lives. They need to take their place in the never-ending dance of God’s love. They are called to participate in the life of the trinity and in the mission of God. And so are we.

“Go” says Jesus. Do not stand still, but be drawn into the movement of God. Then go out, take your place in the joyful, life-giving dance of the Trinity, and draw in others to know the love of God.

Amen.

Lifting the Lid on Lent 5: Faithfulness

I am leading an intergenerational Lent group (more details here). This is what we did this week. 

Introduction: We found the letters of our theme word around the room, and worked out that it was “faithfulness”. We briefly shared ideas about what it means to be faithful, and what faith means to us.

Story: I presented the Godly Play story for the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

Wondering questions: We wondered together about:

  • I wonder what seeds we have?
  • I wonder what those seeds need to grow?
  • I wonder what was the most important part of the story?
  • I wonder if there’s anything we could take away and still have all the story we need?
  • I wonder where you are in the story?

Reflection activity: Everyone chose a seed, stuck it to a piece of paper, and drew a plant growing from it which we felt reflected our own faith. We shared what we had drawn and had the opportunity to speak about what it represented.

Creative response: We did marble painting, but using seeds instead of marbles – we dipped seeds in paint, and rolled them across paper to create patterns.

Prayer: We took it in turns to light candles and place them on a large world map.

Lord’s prayer.

There were seven of us for this session – three adults and four children. We discovered that mustard seeds are a bit too light for effective ‘marble’ painting – they fly everywhere and spread the paint far and wide! This in itself prompted some interesting reflections – is that what the kingdom of God is like?! 

“Who is in your family?” – a sermon for Mothering Sunday

In a departure from the Lectionary, I am preaching on Matthew 12.46-50

When I was in Year 5, we learned about family trees. We were each given a piece of A4 paper, and told to draw our own family tree. I looked at my blank paper. I tried to visualise my family tree. And then I put up my hand: “Please, Miss, I think I need a bigger piece of paper!”

Families are complicated, messy things. I know mine is. I think most are, in their own way. The reality of our beautiful, flawed, complex, imperfect, glorious, human relationships is not easy to pin down on paper.

I wonder who is in your family?

I wonder if everyone you just thought of is actually related to you? Or does your family include people who aren’t related at all? Mine does. It used to be common for children to call adults not related to us “aunty” and “uncle”. Now more and more people, especially those who have been rejected by their birth families, talk about their “family of choice” – those friends who are as close as any family.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus challenges his disciples’ assumptions about what a family is. The disciples assume they know who Jesus’ family is – his mother and brothers – but Jesus speaks about a much bigger idea of what and who his family is. Jesus’ family includes everyone who follows him, and does God’s will.

That’s a pretty broad definition of “family”! All of us, all of the people who follow Jesus, throughout the world and throughout history, are part of his family. When we choose to live God’s way, we become part of God’s “family of choice”.

And just as Jesus expands his disciples’ idea of what his family is like, so the Holy Spirit is continuing to expand our idea of what God’s family is like, and who is included.

So who is included in God’s family? Everyone. It’s a simple answer, and a challenging one. Everyone is included in God’s family, because everyone is loved by God. Love is what families, relationships, in all their complexity, are all about.

You are loved by God, and so you are part of God’s family. And so am I. And so are the people you like. And so are the people you don’t like (this is where it gets challenging!). All of us, together, in God’s messy, beautiful, unconventional family.

And it is challenging sometimes, isn’t it? Like any family, we disagree, we fall out, we upset each other. But there’s always something that holds us all together. And that something is love. God is love, the most powerful force in the world.

We are called to share that love, in whatever ways we can, with whoever we can. And we are also called to look for that love. Sometimes it’s easy to see – in happy families, loving mothers, supportive friendships. And sometimes it’s very difficult to see indeed – in broken relationships, abusive families, conflict.

But always, always, that love of God is there. It is there in the Junior Doctor running across Westminster Bridge into an unknown danger, in order to hep people. It is there in the child who invites their classmate who doesn’t have a friend to sit with them at lunch. It is there wherever people treat each other as precious, unique individuals made in the image of God.

Today we celebrate the love which has nurtured us. The motherly love of God. The love of the people who have guided and cared for us. For some of us, that will be our mothers, and we celebrate them today. For others of us it will not, and we celebrate instead (or as well) the other relationships which have shown us something of the vast love of God.

Whoever you can think of who has nurtured you – whether they’re related to you or not – I invite you to write their name or draw a picture of them on the paper flower you were given when you arrived, and bring them to the front.

Let us thank God for the many, diverse, beautiful expressions of love we have known, each of them showing us something of the awesome, mysterious love of God.

Amen.

Mothering Sunday Flowers

Display of paper flowers, showing the names of people who have nurtured us.

Lifting the Lid on Lent 4: Generosity

I am leading an intergenerational Lent group (more details here). This is what we did this week. 

Introduction: We found the letters of our theme word around the room, and worked out that it was “generosity”. We talked briefly about time when someone had been generous to us, or we had been generous to someone else.

Story: I told the story of the Widow’s Mite, using toy people and props to act out the story.

Wondering questions: We wondered together about:

  • I wonder why the people in this story wanted to give?
  • I wonder what it feels like to give away everything?
  • I wonder what was the most important part of the story?
  • I wonder if there’s anything we could take away and still have all the story we need?
  • I wonder where you are in the story?

Reflection activity: We thought about what gifts we have, that we could give to or share with others, wrote/drew these things on coin-shaped pieces of silver card, and discussed them.

Creative response: With a variety of materials available, everyone was invited to create something to give to someone else. 

Prayer: We made a paper chain with prayers written/drawn on each link.

Lord’s prayer.

There were five of us for this session – three adults and two children (aged 6 and 8). For two of the participants, this was the first session they had attended. The freedom of having a range of materials to use, and minimal guidance about what to make, led to some interesting discussions about what we had each chosen to create and why. 

Lifting the Lid on Lent 3: Growth

I am leading an intergenerational Lent group (more details here). This is what we did this week. 

Introduction: We found the letters of our theme word around the room, and worked out that it was “growth”. We talked briefly about things that grow, and what they need in order to grow.

Story: I presented the Parable of the Sower, using 4 trays containing objects to represent the 4 types of ground. .

Wondering questions: We wondered together about:

  • I wonder how the sower felt when they saw that some seeds grew and some didn’t?
  • I wonder what was the most important part of the story?
  • I wonder if there’s anything we could take away and still have all the story we need?
  • I wonder where you are in the story?

Reflection activity: I introduced the idea of Lent being a time when we “grow in faith and holiness” and we discussed what  that might look and feel like.

Everyone was given a piece of paper and some string. We cut lengths of string, stuck them to the paper and decorated them as plants, to represent things God is growing in us. Different sizes and types of plants were used to represent different things, and we discussed these.

Creative response: Everyone had the opportunity to plant some seeds to take home, and decorate their seed pot.

Prayer: We wrote/drew on printed outlines of people to represent the people we are praying for.

Lord’s prayer.

This week there were 7 of us – 3 adults, and 4 children aged 3-9, including one child with significant learning disabilities. It was notable that this child was more integrated than they would have been in a children’s group (where they would require adult support) because the adults were not there to ‘help’ them, but as fellow participants.

 

Lifting the Lid on Lent 2: Repentance

I am leading an intergenerational Lent group (more details here). This is what we did this week. 

Introduction: We found the letters of our theme word around the room, and worked out that it was “repentance”. We briefly shared ideas about what repentance means is. We each had the opportunity to share a time when we had said “sorry” and a time when someone had said “sorry” to us.

Story: I presented the story of the Prodigal Son, using Objects of Reference.

Wondering questions: We wondered together about:

  • I wonder what made the son come back home?
  • I wonder how the father had felt when he was waiting for the son to come back? And how the brother felt?
  • I wonder what happened the day after the party?
  • I wonder what was the most important part of the story?
  • I wonder if there’s anything we could take away and still have all the story we need?
  • I wonder where you are in the story?

Reflection activity: I introduced the concept of repentance meaning “turning” back to God, and shared a brief demonstration of this: water (representing all that is good) is poured continually from a jug (representing God) to a cup (representing us). When we turn away from God, we don’t get filled up with those good things in the same way, but whenever we turn back to God, we do. God never changes, and is continually pouring out good things for us.

Then we stood between two large pieces of paper. We wrote/drew on one the things we wanted to repent of and change. Then we physically turned around to face the other piece of paper, and wrote/drew on it what we wanted things to be like instead.

Creative response: We had double-sided cards (a different colour on each side) which people could use to write/draw some of the things they wanted to repent of, and what they wanted instead, in the same way as on the large pieces of paper, to take home as a reminder.

Prayer: We used pipe cleaners to make the things/people we were praying for.

Lord’s prayer.

There were six of us this week – two adults and four children (aged 6-10). There was nobody who came both last week and this week (except me!).

Our prayer time was developed and enhanced when one of the children suggested that we got the world map out, to place our pipecleaner people on.