(pic of rainbow cross, found at https://christianmusicmerch.3dcartstores.com/RAINBOW-CROSS_p_7-10.html)
Just returned from a week of mission ministry with thirteen of our church’s youth and three other adults. We stayed local this year, just traveled into West St. Paul (MN). Roughing it, it wasn’t, as we were hosted by Augustana Lutheran Church. We slept in Sunday school rooms, had clean bathrooms (a shower in each) a fabulous youth room to play, meet, worship in and plenty ‘o food. Air conditioning was our friend and we were grateful for its company as temps reached well into the 90’s. Marcia, our fearless and ever present hostess, kept us informed, on task and moving…oh, and the kids adored her, absolutely adored her.
Ok, enough gushing about our hosts (although I could go on and on)…I’ll get on to the Host who set the week up and orchestrated it…
Even though we were on task most of the week, doing things such as beading bracelets with children in the “hood”, landscaping a Latino church’s front walk area and packing hospice kits for shipment to Africa, quiet time with God and worship were pivotal points of connection with the One who called us into that week of mission ministry.
Prior to the trip our youth pastor, Julie (who worked twice as hard as any of the rest of us! Thanks Julie!!) noticed a worship gap in the week and asked if I would fill it. After a quick ‘yes’ I prayed for guidance and solicited the advice of Emily, our seventeen year old daughter (who wasn’t on the trip as she is at band camp this week). After Em’s great tips on song selections, I cut a CD and made song sheets. The other part I felt led to incorporate had to do with a passage in Jeremiah 18, which goes like this:
1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. (New Living Translation)
I felt like I was guided to do a Lectio Divina reading of this (which is a slow, reflective reading where one listens to God speaking to one’s heart through the text). A part of me wondered, though, if this wasn’t a bit advanced for teenagers. Exterior and interior silence are key components of this ancient discipline, and we all know teens aren’t accustomed to that…few of us are, regardless of our age. So, I ran it by Julie with the idea of including clay for them to handle/form during the reading. She gave a thumbs up (clay wars were not expected with this set of kids), so I figured it was a ‘go’.
Last week, before I left, I had a short list of grocery items to gather (stocking the freezer for the guys left at home) and a full handful of Father’s Day cards to buy, so I headed for Cub Foods, my usual haunt. On the way, though, I heard God tell me to go to Rainbow instead. I said “OK God, I don’t get this, but whatever…”. Into Rainbow I spun and in the card aisle a package of colorful clay practically jumped off the shelf and landed in my cart. Not literally, but you know what I mean…I couldn’t not buy it. I had clay at home (of the earth toned colored variety), that I figured I’d use, but not after this grocery store clay attack. Rose Art clay it was, a rainbow of colors we’d use.
The day before worship I spoke with Julie again and we decided we’d play the Lectio Divina thing by ear, see if the Spirit was leading it to happen. I had my doubts and they kept popping up…I didn’t want these kids first experience with Lectio Divina to be flat or even boring, God is so full of life that the thought of His Word coming across as flat and boring made me hesitate.
The morning of the worship, as I lay in bed mentally prepped for the day, I realized I didn’t have a cross or even a candle for us to look at during worship. Augustana is a great space, but low in iconography they are, at least in the basement ’tis so. I pondered running outside and finding some sticks to make a cross with, or going upstairs and asking the receptionist if there was anything I could grab for awhile. I rolled out of bed and there it was, right before me: a picture of a cross with rainbow colored rays emanating from it (see pic above) was on the floor next to my bed. A day or two earlier it had been on the wall attached with poster tape and, while we were away serving others, it fell from the wall, landing upright and facing forward, top frame piece and multiple white poster tape squares still stuck to the wall. It was ready and available for worship…the rainbow colored clay I was led to buy was reflected in the rainbow colors coming from the cross. I had a Divine “Yes, do the Lectio Divina in worship”…doubts fled instantly.
After worship and before the reading I shared this story. I tried to make it clear that God had orchestrated this completely…that He had something He wanted them to hear from the text, to learn from this activity. I couldn’t take credit for it, I couldn’t begin to tell them what He had in mind for them…that this was just between the two of them and that they should be attentive and listen, be aware that He had put this together for them.
We did it. After the reading and our clay creations were formed, we placed them at the foot of the cross and clearly saw that our colorful creations were a reflection of the rainbow coming from the cross.
Many insights can be culled from this story, but then if I list a bunch you may miss the one He has for you…the Word He has for you in it…