If Only You Were Here…

“If only you were here, Lord, my brother would not have died.” This is what Mary and Martha said to Jesus about their brother, Lazarus, who has died. We read this story found in John 11:1-44, and it happens to be the story on All Saints 2018 (RCL).

 

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Last week, I was at the Cross+Generational Conference about to do a workshop with my good friend and colleague, Stephanie Luedtke. We entitled the workshop “Do It S+M+ART! How to integrate Story, Music, and ART cross+generationally into worship?”

Why these three areas?

Story: Human desire is to connect with one another. Stories help us do this – stories transcend time (think Aesop’s Fables), stories transcend space (think Bible stories), and stories connect the generations from 3 – 93 years old. One Bible story on a Sunday morning is all it takes to connect the generations.

Music: If story is how we connect together, then music is the language of worship. Nothing else connects our spirits with our minds, with our emotions, and with our bodies like music does. It says in melody and poetry what cannot be expressed any other way.

Art: Art is the expression of community or self. There is no wrong way of doing art. In fact, everyone is an artist, and art levels the playing field with all hands [doing, creating, painting, writing, coloring, knotting, stitching, drawing] together.

One Practical Take Away

One thing Stephanie and I wanted to give participants was a practical take home of storytelling, music, and art that people could replicate in their own churches. Using the All Saint’s story of Lazarus, here is what we did :

  • Storytime: No more children’s sermons or messages! It’s a storytime, where all generations are engaged. The Storytelling of John 11 is done sort-of “Makarena” style in hand gestures. When the word “Lazarus” is said, the people respond with “Heal me, help me, and love me, Lord!” See “Makarena” hands to remember what to repeat:

 

  • Read the Story. After storytime, make sure you read the story. People need to hear the story multiple times for it to start to stick.
  • Practice Sermon Giveback: What does that mean? Well, it’s part sermon, where the preacher unpacks the story, but then the preacher gives the story back to the people to interact with it. The way I unpacked the All Saint’s Lazarus story was around the Mary and Martha phrase of “If you were only there, Lord, my brother would not have died.” Because in the end, Jesus did show up for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; he was there for them. He healed them, helped them, and loved them. As God’s present-day people, we often say similar things, wondering if Jesus is there for us. The answer is “yes” Jesus is there for us. We see him in and thru the people who have shaped our lives of faith.
  • Reflective Art: The “congregation” at the conference was invited during sermon giveback to write on a two inch strip of grave cloth all the names of people – dead or alive – who have shaped or impacted their lives of faith. Once done, they tied their grave cloth to the cross made up of tied up sticks.
  • While people processed the art and reflected on their lives, hymns were sung including: There is a Balm in Gilead, Break Every Chain (Tasha Cobb’s version), Lazarus (Wes King), Christ is Risen (Matt Maher), Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land, and Come Alive (Lauren Daigle).
  • Conclude with prayer, and follow with the hymn of the day. 

 

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