Last Sunday in an all age worship service we played Jenga. If you’ve never heard of Jenga it’s a game which centres round a carefully stacked pile of wooden bricks. Each player in turn has to remove one brick and the loser is the one who finally pulls out a brick that causes the whole tower to come crashing down.
There is no Biblical precedent for playing Jenga but it was fun and we discovered a surprising number of parallels and parables together.
First we imagined that the pile of bricks represented our own individual lives. Some of us feel we have life stacked up pretty nicely thank you, all the bricks are in the right place. Maybe we have the house, the car, the job, the relationship we always wanted. But what if life isn’t like that, what if we have recently lost some one or some thing that meant a lot to us, maybe some one has died or we have been made redundant. Then we say things like “that’s left a huge hole in my life” or “it feels like my life is falling apart”. We might have lost the ability to do something we love either through injury or ill-health or perhaps it was an opportunity we lost, whatever it was the ‘tower’ that represents our life feels shaky, possibly even at risk of collapse. When that happens we feel like we are about to be buried by the pile of bricks.
Then we took a second look at the tower of bricks and said “hey, this is bit like a picture of our church”. Not a picture of our building you understand, but of the people, our church family. Each of us is like a brick, when one of us is missing the whole structure is weaker.
This is where I digressed and talked about something that isn’t actually there in the game of Jenga: glue. There is nothing to hold the bricks together in the game but there are a whole load of qualities that are meant to hold us together as a church.
“Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, humility…” Those will do for a start! But over all these put on love says the apostle Paul and ‘forgive one another as God has forgiven you in Christ’. Every time we fail to show one of these qualities, the mortar that holds us together is weakened and someone is at risk of falling out of our community all together.
In a church, everyone matters. Everyone has a contribution to make. If you are not exercising your gift, then the rest of us are missing out. And how ridiculous would it be if we all just depended one person? But there are a lot of churches I know that look like the tower of bricks that rest on just one brick.
How bonkers is that?
To be honest when I’d got this far in preparing this all age talk, I thought I’d finished: two cracking analogies out of one game, what more could you want? But as my finger hovered over the print button, there was a quiet ‘cough’ and the still small voice said, “it’s not all about you, you know. It’s not about ‘you’ singular or ‘you’ plural, actually there’s rather a lot to be said about ME”.
Oops – whenever I’m silent long enough the Almighty does have a tendency to remind me how self-obsessed I am, and let’s face it I am not alone, all of us tend to go through life thinking it’s ‘all about us’: our issues, our needs, our fears, our concerns. But it’s not all about us, it’s all about God. (This is a very good reason for practising silent prayer and I am just practising).
When we come to worship we come to remember and celebrate what is true and unchanging about God, we come to stand in awe before who God is, we may feel we are ‘only just standing’ and we may feel a bit shaky’ but we come to a God who is solid, unchanging, faithful.
(At this point I asked the kids to build me a solid tower with no gaps) Each brick can stand for some characteristic of God.
We can rely on him to be compassionate. He is slow to anger, he is faithful to his promises, he is mercy, he is creator, sustainer, he has rescued us, he is this world’s rightful king, he remembers our weaknesses, all his ways are just.He is from everlasting to everlasting, he is gracious, he is powerful, he will judge everyone fairly, he knows everything, he knows everyone, he knows the secrets of our hearts, our motives, above all… he LOVES, God is LOVE.
God is a solid unchanging reality, a tower of Jenga bricks does not do him justice as a metaphor but it will do for starters.
Proverbs 18:10 tells us that ‘the Name of The Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are safe’. Okay, so here is where the analogy breaks down because I don’t recommend you run into a pile of Jenga bricks, but I did remind our Sunday morning family that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea after God rescued them, they built a tower of stones as a permanent reminder of the faithfulness, strength and power of their amazing God.
Anyone got time for a little construction project?
(Yes, church leader person, if you like this talk, you can pinch it free and gratis, with love!)