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Ezekiel 17.22-24; Psalm 92.1-4,12-15; 2 Corinthians 5.6-10(11-13)14-17; Mark 4.26-34

Outline act of worship for all ages

All-age worship ideas that offer an outline for worship. Individual items can be used alone or as part of your own worship design.

Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to find Prayers, Hymns and other resources; see also Sermon ideas and Thought for the week.

 

This week we explore the environment in which God's kingdom values flourish.

 

Gather

Use the activities and prayers to gather the group and introduce the theme

All age act of worship Session

From nature to God

  • Display an image of Jyoti Sahi’s ‘Dalit Madonna’. Ask people what they see, and in particular what connections they make between the figures and the rhythms of nature. The following description may be helpful:

The painting portrays Mary nurturing the Christ child. Nature, mother and child are interwoven. The child is depicted as a grain of wheat ready to be ground into flour. Mary’s thighs are loaves of bread. All four seasons are represented in seed, growing corn, harvested grain, and bread; as is day and night, light and dark, in the sun and moon. At the centre of the image are expressions of love, with the child enclosed and protected, ready for growth to happen.

  • In speaking about God’s kingdom, Jesus often drew on people’s experience of nature, as we will hear in this week’s readings. Invite a few people to say, in just one or two words, what speaks to them from nature about God.

Call to worship

‘Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.’ (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Let us worship our Creator God,
who has given us the miracle of life
and sustains us through the sacred rhythms of planet Earth.

A gathering prayer

Here we are, Creator God, Lord and Spirit,
standing before you, grounded on the earth,
our hands stretched high like a tree.
You fill us with amazement, wonderful God. Amen.

 

First impressions

You could also use the image and following questions to help introduce the theme.

Click on image to view larger version or use the Jump menu to go to This week's images.

  • What do you like or dislike about this ‘environment’?
  • What helps you to flourish?
  • Where do you see God’s kingdom-values at work in your community?
Share the Word
All age act of worship Session

Ezekiel 17.22-24

Ask people to think about a tree that they know. Ask them to imagine touching the bark; looking up into the branches; seeing the leaves; birds in the branches – and perhaps other creatures that live in or on the tree. Ask them to imagine themselves becoming the tree.

Alternatively, have a few volunteers mime for others to watch – their bodies become the trunk, their feet become roots reaching down into the ground, their arms stretch up to become branches.

Imagine the tree in the different seasons and weathers – all the time being held in being by God.

Ask people to listen to the reading, mindful of the special place that trees have in displaying God’s loving nature in and for creation.

 

Mark 4.26-34

Cut up an apple. Ask for a volunteer ‘mindfully’ to eat a segment, describing the experience as if they had never eaten an apple before. Show some of the apple pips, using or adapting these words to introduce the reading:

‘From these small seeds, more huge apple trees could grow, eventually producing more fruit and seeds. We can cooperate with the process: we can plant the seed; we can provide a good environment. We can also enjoy the process: the growth, the nesting birds, the blossoms, the flavours and nourishment of the fruit. But we cannot make it grow. God, through nature, does that. And so it is in so many areas of life.’

Invite people as they listen to the reading to think about what would be good ‘seeds’ to sow, and how they might give those seeds a good growing environment.

Explore and respond

A sequence of active worship ideas; individual elements can stand alone

All age act of worship Session

Active worship

Get close to nature

Explore being grounded

  • Invite people to go outside to the churchyard/garden or perhaps a nearby park. Look at the ground, the earth. Touch it. Smell it. Examine it closely. Notice the variety of things growing in it. For a few moments, immerse yourself in a connection with ‘earthiness’. (If this isn’t practical, set up a few trays of earth for people to do this inside.)
  • When everyone is back in their place, ask for responses using the following quotation from Thomas Berry to draw out some threads:

‘The spirituality of Earth refers to a quality of Earth itself…Earth is the maternal principle out of which we are born and from which we derive all that we are and all that we have. We are earthlings. Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfilment…The human and Earth are totally implicated, each in the other.’

T Berry, ‘The Spirituality of the Earth (1979).’ In Tucker M. (Ed.), The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century, (2009), New York: Columbia University Press. (pp.69-79). E S

 

Begin to grow a rule of life

A way to enable God’s nature to flourish in your life

  • ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.’ In ‘Canticle of the Sun’, St Francis reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.
  • Show a clip from the YouTube video, ‘Growing a Rule of Life’, from 11:15 to 13:30. (If you have time, you could use more of the video.) Ask people to share ideas about practices and rhythms that might enable God’s nature to flourish in personal or shared lives, using the metaphor of a garden as in the clip. E S A

 

Exultation

Using music to encourage a joyful response

  • Listen to ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, inviting people to reflect on what God may be saying to them through the evocative music. The music was inspired by a poem by George Meredith (you could read out the first few lines).
  • Either give out paper and pens, and invite people to respond by writing words or phrases of joyful exultation, perhaps a few lines of poetry, or a verse or two for a psalm or prayer; or invite people to share their inspired and joyful responses verbally. W E S

 

Craft and reflect

A creative response to nature

  • Read this quotation from Thomas Merton:

‘A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him…The more a tree is like itself it is like Him. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way no other tree before or after it ever did or will do.’

Then read the poem ‘I go among trees and sit still’ by Wendell Berry.

  • Make available a range of craft materials (paper, card, scissors, glue, tape, crayons, etc.) including small twigs and leaves. Invite people, working together in households or groups, to make a collage of a tree with branches and leaves, and a sense of the creatures that find a home in it. Suggest that just as a tree glorifies God by being a tree, so everyone gives glory to God by being fully themselves. E S

 

Graffiti turns cities into botanical tours

Explore a focus on God’s nature in the city

  • During 2020’s coronavirus lockdown, in some cities labels sprang up on the plucky plants that were living in the cracks of deserted streets. ‘Rebel botanists’ chalked names near weeds and trees to strengthen people’s connection to nature and raise awareness of overlooked flora.

"Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health." Anonymous London chalker

  • Create a graffiti botany tour of the streets around your church, and invite members of your church to explore it. S A

 

A simple worship activity

A prayer of contemplation and thankfulness

  • In advance, gather a basket of natural objects from outside – e.g. pebbles, feathers, twigs, leaves, grass.
  • Pass the basket round, asking everyone to take something from it. Invite people to spend some time examining carefully the object, as if seeing it for the first time: consider its colour, shape, texture, smell, etc. Imagine its history. Where has it come from and how? What has it contributed simply by being itself? Spend a few moments appreciating the wonder, diversity and interconnectedness of each single part of nature.
  • Invite everyone to say ‘thank you’ to and for the object for all it is and all it symbolises, and ‘thank you’ to God for the wonder of growth and interconnectedness of creation. E S

A prayer for all ages together

Living God,
open our eyes to the goodness of your creation. (look around)
Help us to care for it like a gardener (mime digging)
with times for planting, watering, harvesting and rest. (mime each one)
Help us to live in the rhythms of nature, (quietly tap a slow rhythm)
treading lightly (gentle ‘on the spot’ steps)
and hearing your voice call softly in the evening. (hand behind ear, listening).
Amen.

 

Activity sheet 

Go with God

Consider together what you have explored, what that means for each of you and how it might influence your daily lives

All age act of worship Session
  • Invite people to spend a few moments thinking about what they have learned about ways in which God’s nature flourishes, and/or how we can discover more about God’s nature through attention to nature.
  • Working in twos or threes, discuss practical steps that you can take, or habits that you can work on, to create an environment in which God’s kingdom values can flourish.

 

A sending out prayer

Go in peace to love and serve God’s world.
It is beautiful and you are part of it.
It is our sacred commission to help God love it.
Amen.

Go with God 24/7

Encourage everyone to put their faith into action

Choose one action or habit to work on this week that will help to create an environment in which God’s kingdom values can flourish in your life and in your patch of planet earth. A

 

Give out the ROOTS at home resource to encourage faith at home.

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