As people arrive light refreshments are served. This week’s ‘table ornament’ for reflection is a jug of water. It needs to be placed on the table or near where the refreshments are being served. At the moment it is empty there are also glasses or paper cups for everyone to share later. The jug of water will later become a focus for reflection and for prayer. It will be helpful to have a low table in the middle of the room, or at some appropriate focal point, where the jug can later be placed.
Once the group is settled and everyone has arrived the leader can begin the process of helping the group to get to know each other
· go round the circle and invite each person in turn to say who they are and where they are from and to mention a couple of their favourite things.
· go round the circle a second time and invite each person to say why they have joined this course and what they are hoping to get from it. The leader leaves his or her own contribution until last, taking the opportunity to describe the course and its aims:
Jesus came to break down barriers and to build up friendships between people and between people and God. He called people from unexpected backgrounds to be his disciples, he taught the way of love in the sermon on the mount, he met the needs of hungry people in the feeding of the 5000 and of hurting people in the many he healed; he touched the untouchable leprosy sufferers, and accepted the touch of the woman dismissed by others as unclean; he reached out to the woman at the well and broke down barriers of race, religion and gender. No wonder he was seen to be the prophet ... and much more, the very one the people had been waiting for, the Messiah.
Take the empty jug of water and hold it
There are many barriers in our world that call for our concern, our action and our prayer. It is easy to take so much for granted. We can fill this jug with fresh water so easily from the tap: but many cannot do that. They have no clean water on tap; often no clean water at all.
Ask someone to go and fill the jug with fresh water. You may like to share pictures, or leaflets from Christian Aid or CAFOD that highlight the needs of the two thirds world, not least the need for clean water. When the jug of water is brought back put it on the low table in the middle of the circle or at some other prominent point.
Today our theme is Friendship - sharing prayers of concern for a world in need. What do you think are the barriers which most divide our world ... and which call for our prayer?
Spend some moments sharing ideas
Read John 4:1-42 - this lends itself to a dramatised reading - you may decide to omit verses 31-38.
What do you make of this story? What is this story saying that can feed into our time of prayer for a world full of barriers that need to come down?
Allow the group simply to share their responses to these questions - as leader you might look out for some of these points ...
Allow a good period of time sharing reflections on this passage.
In the light of the experiences we have shared together from our own lives, and in the light of the reflections we have shared on John 4, where should the focus be for our prayers for the world?
Finish this part of the evening by inviting people to share thoughts that can feed into the last part of the evening, sharing prayer.
Play some quiet reflective music. Make sure that the jug of water is on the table in the centre of the circle or in some appropriate place. As the music is being played arrange glasses or paper cups for each member of the group around the jug of water, or on a tray beside the jug of water. On the table place a card with the words I want to reach out and share the water of life with ...
In a dry, barren world, Jesus shared the water of life.
His was a world of broken relationships, violence and abuse,
where the fear of rejection was all too real.
Ours is too.
His was a world of barriers and divisions,
of faith and religion, of culture and gender, of politics and race.
Ours is too.
His was a world of hunger, a world of need, crying out for
a healing touch, a look of friendship, forgiveness and love.
Ours is too.
In our dry, barren world, Jesus shares the water of life.
Pause for a moment of quiet and reflection
Think for a moment of a barrier, a division, a hurt in our world which cries out for that healing touch, for the water of life.