Did You Pack Your Baggage? A silent drama within a sermon


I’m trying to schedule meetings for September, and keep running into conflicts with “We Haul”—the whole “help the frosh unpack” enterprise. I’m imagining all those first-year students in their rooms at home the last weekend in August, their lives about to get turned upside down, sorting through all their clothes, books, CDs, high-school memorabilia. Wondering what to bring to college, what to leave, what’s important. Maybe this is a place to begin thinking about a sermon for the first LOFT of the year. It’s easy to connect with our “Long Obedience” theme—discipleship as a lifelong journey following Jesus. What do we think we’ll need on this Christian adventure?

U To do: Don’t put the cart before the horse: Look for texts that speak to this theme.


Read a review of The Red Tent. Possible text for sermon at first LOFT: passage in Genesis where Rachel leaves her home and packs along her household idols.


Two very interesting things happened today at Worship Apprentice Training. First, we did an exercise identifying the most and the least participative moments in worship. The entire group agreed that the activity scoring lowest on the congregational participatometer is nearly always the sermon. Ouch. (I put on my preacher’s cap to register mild surprise, and we proceeded to caveat the observation to death—not true every week, not true in many other traditions, etc. etc.—but still troubling and too often true.)

The second interesting thing happened in our brainstorming about what we wanted to see more of in LOFT this year. Nearly everyone agreed that we need more drama. Not a lighthearted warm-up to the sermon, not a subtlety-deficient morality lesson—a good hard thwack in the ethics—but something that genuinely invites the congregation into the place where the text and our unique lives intersect.

So is there a connection here? Can we use drama—especially this first week at LOFT—to make the sermon itself more dialogic? To ask questions folks are asking (or should be asking) and then leave space for a thousand individual responses?

U To do: Get someone to collaborate on a script.


I should have known—of course no one has time to pull together a script. Least of all me. Talked to Bob, who said “Why do you need a script for a drama?”

Typical—he’s so far outside the box, he doesn’t even know where it is.

Maybe he was thinking of an extemporaneous drama, but now I’m thinking about a silent one. A pantomime with props. Not more words but lots of quiet space to enter into the questions we’re asking.

Bonus: I’ll have props to use while preaching. Talk about idols we bring out of fear and false identity, pick up a trophy; talk about idols carried out of habit, pick up cigarettes or Game Boy; talk about idols of shame and regret, hold up a prom dress.

U To do: Give list of possible props to Matt and Bandon. Explain drama. Ask them to add to list.

Could be really neat: Someone reads the text. A mini-sermon repeatedly asks a crucial question (What household idols did you bring?). Then I sit. Someone walks forward to a large dresser right up front, then carefully—and silently—considers common items and whether to pack them in a duffel nearby. Let folks watch and wonder. Let them imagine their own experience of packing. Let them draw analogies to their own lives. Let them answer the question for themselves. Let the Spirit speak in the silences. Repeat as necessary.


Pack Light

Meditation: Packing is a spiritual exercise. What will you pack for your journey with Jesus?
Scripture: Selected verses from Genesis 31
Meditation: What household idols did you bring along to Calvin this year?
Drama 1: Putting things from dresser into duffel: clothes, makeup, trophies, yearbook, prom dress, CDs.
Meditation: We bring idols out of fear, out of habit, out of shame or sorrow.
Scripture: Mark 6:7-9, 11
Meditation: Jesus tells his disciples to pack light. What’s really important?
Drama 2: Someone packs extremely light.
Meditation: Packing light shows attitude of trust, opens us to adventure, indicates we’re in it for the long haul, allows us to pick up other things God offers along the way.
Scripture: Colossians 3:8-15
Prayer: Silence, then “Give Us Clean Hands” by Chris Tomlin.

Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra has been a regular contributor to Reformed Worship over the years. He is the director of worship life and professor of preaching and worship arts at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America , author of Church at Church, and coauthor with his wife, Debra, of Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry. Together they have three grown children, a multiplicity of living-room instruments, and a tame backyard they are slowly rewilding.

Reformed Worship 72 © June 2004, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.