Worship Script (1 of 5)

 “Play”

 

OPENING WORDS

Ecclesiastes 8:15

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

 

HYMN #1 May Nothing Evil Cross this Door

 

FIRST READING

From “Joy and God’s Play” by Andy Otto

Those who are too serious in their lives might relegate games or play or imagination to the realm of children. Many of us lose our imaginational dexterity as adults. We stop playing games because we convince ourselves there are more important things to do. We forego even a staycation because we convince ourselves that our money is better spent on more important things. But is God not playful? God often surprises us with something that opens us up to the joy and playfulness of the Divine. These are God moments. A women I met recently told me about how several occasions of prayer in different places had been accompanied by hearing a mocking bird sing to her from outside. I myself have found moments where the lyrics of a song speak exactly to my needs of the moment. I often see the love of God in a dog bounding with joy or a child’s wonder in an acorn or a leaf. This is God’s joyful playfulness.

 

SECOND READING

From Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Dr. Stuart Brown

 Neuroscientists, developmental biologist, psychologist, social scientists, and researchers from every point of the scientific compass now know that play is a profound biological process. It has evolved over eons in many animal species to promote survival. It shapes the brain and makes animals smarter and more adaptable. In higher animals, it fosters empathy and makes possible complex social groups. For us, play lies at the core of creativity and innovation.

 I have spent a career studying play, communicating the science of play to the public, and consulting for fortune 500 companies on how to incorporate it into business. I have used play therapies to help people who are clinically depressed. I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it a part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being. The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.

 

HYMN #23 “Bring Many Names”

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES

From “A playful romp with God” by Debie Thomas, Director of Children's and Family Ministries, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto

Every few years, I return like a wanderer coming home to a scene in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan has just come back to life after being killed by the wicked White Witch. Although the majestic lion’s resurrection foreshadows the novel’s happy ending, the land of Narnia is in immediate peril. War is ravaging the land, Aslan's faithful followers are dying, and the White Witch is gleefully certain that she has triumphed over her enemy. It is a dire moment.

And at this dire moment, Aslan takes a break from the solemn business of world-saving to play a rousing game of tag. “Oh children,” he shouts to the kids who have witnessed his resurrection, “I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh children, catch me if you can!” And off he goes, leading them on an exhilarating, joy-filled chase through the hills until they finally collapse “in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs.” “It was such a romp,” Lewis writes, “as no one had ever had except in Narnia.”

 

The first time I encountered this scene—as an adult, reading the Narnia books to my own kids—I cried. The possibility that God might laugh, romp, and play with his children stopped me in my tracks. How could such a scandalous thing be true? Growing up, I never heard a word about God laughing, joking, or doing anything for fun. No one invited me to imagine the Jesus of the Gospels smiling, much less goofing around with his disciples, playing hide-and-seek with the children who flocked to him, or basking in the sunshine on a gorgeous summer day. The list of characteristics I associated with God—omniscience, holiness, transcendence, righteousness—did not include playfulness. It did not include an affinity for tag.

 

My first encounter with Aslan’s romp in the hills was a revelation. It opened up the possibility of a wilder, roomier, and more beautiful God—a God who knows how to have fun, who isn’t afraid of pleasure. A God who takes seriously the business of play and invites me—a creature made in God’s image—to reflect that playfulness back.

 

MEDITATION

From Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli

Play is an expression of God's presence in the world; one clear sign of God's absence in society is the absence of playfulness and laughter. Play is not an escape; it is the way to release the life-smothering grip of busyness, stress, and anxiety.  

(Pause) Blessed be.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is. We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and that they speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

Finding my way to full-hearted parenting

by Heather Christensen

Last year my therapist started asking me at every visit, “You having any fun?”

I’d laugh, and say, “Nope.”

Eventually, I realized that I just wasn’t any good at fun. Either I’d never learned, or I’d forgotten how to let loose, kick back, and have a blast doing something.

So I did what we do these days: I asked Facebook.  My friends gave me all kinds of suggestions, and some of them actually sounded like things I might enjoy.

In the time since then, I have had more fun. But lately, I’ve been thinking that question is a hard one for parents of young children.

Do you remember that Nyquil ad? The one that said, “Moms don’t take sick days”? (And yes, there was a dads version of that commercial. No non-binary parent commercial though.)

For whoever is the default parent, there are no sick days. There is no end to the work of child-tending, and every precious hour of respite care, should we be lucky enough to have that, is measured out carefully. We always ask ourselves, “Is this a good use of babysitter time? Is this the best thing that I could be doing with a daycare day?”

There are always dishes and laundry, deadlines and past-due projects—so many things that seem more urgent than self-care of any kind, let alone play.

After five-plus years in the trenches, I’ve decided that there are only two ways that parents get to have fun.

Option one: convince yourself that fun belongs on your to-do list. That it’s not optional. That the well-being of your children depends on your ability to have fun. The oxygen-mask metaphor is so old that we roll our eyes at it, but it’s true. Play is as important as air and water and food and shelter. Without it, parts of us die.

Which leads us to option two: play with your children. I’m not just talking about getting down on the floor with them and making elaborate racetracks. I’m not just talking about doing whatever the things are that your kids think are fun. Find the places where your joy and their joy overlap. For my partner Liesl, that’s the racetracks. For me, it’s art. It’s liberating to do kid art. The kids and I will sit at a table with a big piece of paper, a bin of crayons, and a timer. Every time the timer rings, we switch chairs, and color there. It’s so much fun—free of the constraints of needing to make “real art.”

Last weekend the kids and I went to something billed as a “Clay Extravaganza.” My daughter and I both tried our hands at a pottery wheel—and loved it. Then we watched skilled potters compete—competitions that were silly and serious at the same time. In the first one, a team of three potters worked together—one operating the pedal controlling the speed, and the other two each using one hand only, working cooperatively to draw the clay evenly upward. In the second one, seven potters sat at wheels—with paper bags over their heads, a silly face drawn on each bag. The timer started, and all but one created beautiful pieces. One potter, when she removed the paper bag, said, “That’s not at all what I was imagining!” The crowd’s favorite was the potter whose piece collapsed. I think he actually won.

Had I been alone, I would have loved to stay and watch more of the competitions. I would have taken longer to explore the exquisite works of art for sale.

But it was time for my son’s nap, so we packed up and went home. He had a snack, then went down easily for a long nap.

Did I want more? Maybe. But if I’d been alone, I would have missed seeing my daughter’s delight and mastery. If I’d been alone, I would have missed a lesson in saying, “It is enough. My heart is full.” And if I’d been alone I might have been drawn into judgements of good art and bad, or comparisons between my creations and those of the talented artists I was watching. But my children and I were able to stay with the spirit of art as play, and each of us and our relationships together came out stronger for it. 

 

HYMN #108 “My Life Flows On in Endless Song”

 

BENEDICTION
By Rev. Gary Kowalski

Gathered in our varied faiths,
We give thanks for the blessings of world community
As we share our common dream:
Homes and schools where children thrive,
Neighborhoods that are safe and clean,
A city rich in colors and cultures,
An economy where no one is expendable,
A beloved community where rich and poor alike have access to the
opportunity for a dignified and productive life,
Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples 
Where our deepest hope is to be of service to a hurting world.

Enable us as we leave this place
To carry forth this prayer into the coming week,
Turning our thoughts toward charity,
Our hearts toward justice,
And our hands toward the work of peace.

Shalom and Amen.