Linked Heart Chains – 1 Kings 19:1-15 Luke 8:26-39 Galatians 3:23-29

There’s a theme of chains running through today’s readings, and the ‘linked’ (ho ho, pun intended) activity works well with all of the readings. It makes a stunning up-front demo, for services, Collective Worship or holiday clubs, or you can have people make their own version as a memorable take-home for Messy Church, Bible study (yes, adults too) or youth groups.

Doing – Linked Heart Chains

Take two strips of paper, each about 30cm x 4cm.

Glue the ends of each together to make two circles, but before you stick the ends, give each one a half twist. Twist one to the left and one to the right.

 

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You may recognise these as Mobius strips – they have fascinating properties, but that’s for another time. Make sure that you have two opposite twists, or the next bit won’t work. (When I made the ones for the photos I had two the same and had to pull one apart and re-do it!)

Glue your two bands together at right angles, so that they look like a twisted number 8. You can put them over your wrists like handcuffs to symbolise whatever you feel is chaining you. 

 

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Now for the magic. Carefully cut along the middle of each band all the way around. You will end up with two linked loops. Put the links on a table and fiddle with them a bit. They will turn into two linked hearts.

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Reflecting

Paul talks about is being locked up in custody under the law. Those spiritual chains were broken decisively by Jesus, and now we are bound only to him. Use the linked hearts to illustrate the change from bad chains to chains of love.

In the gospel reading, Jesus encounters a man who, though ‘chained hand and foot’ broke those chains and was driven by the demon into solitary places. Doesn’t sound much like he broke his chains at all. Not the real ones. Today we might diagnose a mental illness for someone in such a dark place. It doesn’t much matter the cause, he still had chains in his mind and needed Jesus’ word to free him. Use the linked hearts to show how Jesus turned his physical chains to a new life.

And then we come to one of the most touching stories in the Old Testament: Elijah, in great mental anguish, being tended to by God. There are no physical chains in this story, but it’s about release none the less. Which of us has never been under that dark cloud, dancing, as it’s sometime put, with the black dog?

This isn’t going to be a jolly pep talk. Dark places are real, and some of us spend longer there than others, but we all go through them. And I’m not going to say something stupid like ‘just pray hard enough and God will snap you out of it’. That’s not only untrue, but deeply unhelpful and hurtful for folks who are in vulnerable places.

Notice what happens in this passage. God does not wave a magic wand and make Elijah’s cloud disappear. Instead God sends someone, with practical help, and gives Elijah rest. For some black clouds that’s enough. Parents know that the cure for many childhood ills is food and sleep, and it applies no less to adults.

Elijah was in burn-out mode. He was exhausted, mentally, physically, spiritually. Do you know anyone in danger of burn-out? Perhaps it’s you. God walked with Elijah through his valley of shadows, provided rest and resources to get him through, and then sent him out again. The dark cloud did not mark the end of Elijah’s ministry (though it probably seemed like that to him at the time). Having a pit stop does not mean you’re a failure. Pit stops are important.

I wonder what I can do this week to be the one alongside someone under a cloud. Or what can I let someone do for me when I am the cloudee. We can use the linked hearts to remind us to be the one walking alongside, or to allow others to walk along with us.

 

Some black clouds are bigger and more persistent that Elijah’s, and can’t be fixed by chocolate and chat (though that never hurts). If you find yourself there, and most of us will at some point, don’t be afraid to say something. Tell someone, ask for help. It’s OK to not be OK. (And have the chocolate anyway.)

 

A Story

Fourteen years ago I had a baby. But we’re not planning a party because Tommy died, about two days before he was born. It was a very rough time. I can barely remember it. It was all just a mechanical haze as I tended his two older sisters, 3 and 1, and stuffed any remaining gaps with cotton wool so that I would not have to think about anything while it was all so raw.

It was a dark place and I could see no way out. It felt as if I and my girls were on a lonely rock in the middle of pounding ocean and everything else had been washed away except us. No rescue, no prospect of anything changing, just hold on and survive. Time has taken the jagged edges off the wound, but it will never go away. How could it? And I’d not want it to, anyway.

I remember how different people acted towards me at the time. Some crossed the road to avoid having to talk to me, and I don’t blame them. I’d probably have done the same. But others walked with me through the dark place. They couldn’t fix it, of course. Somethings are not fixable. But they were there. No words. What could anyone say? But there.

And they didn’t say ‘I know what you’re going through’, because no-one can, even if they have lost a child themselves. And they didn’t say ‘You’ll have another child’ (ARGHH!). And they didn’t say ‘You should pray that God would make you better’ (Great, add guilt as well). But they sent Christmas cards with Tommy’s name in as well as the girls’. They mentioned him and didn’t pretend he had never been.

Sometimes life just stinks and there’s no point pretending it doesn’t. Having someone who says ‘yes, it really stinks’, doesn’t change anything, but it still kind of helps.

 

Reading

1 Kings 19:1-15 New International Version

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

 

Luke 8:26-39 New International Version

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

 

Galatians 3:23-29 New International Version

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Credits

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


2 thoughts on “Linked Heart Chains – 1 Kings 19:1-15 Luke 8:26-39 Galatians 3:23-29

  1. Thank you for this beautiful story and reflection. I am struggling to follow your directions for making the linked hearts. If I cut them both around the middle they fall apart. I feel like there is a step missing somewhere. When I glue them together so the sides are parallel, they stay together, but the are glued so they don’t slide independently within each other. I love the visual and want to share it at our Bible study and make the hearts, but I can’t quite figure out how to properly make the linked hearts. Thank you again.

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    1. Hi Denise,
      You need two Mobius strips, each made from a strip of paper, glued into a ring, with a half twist.
      To check you have a Mobius strip, run your finger along the edge of the paper. It should travel all the way around ‘both’ edges and come back to the start.
      You need one that twists to the left and one to the right. If you put them next to each other they should look like mirror reflections.
      Now you need to stick them together:
      Lay the rings flat on a table so that they are both horizontal, like a figure 8 (albeit with twists in the loops). Then rotate one through 90 degrees so that it is vertical, standing up from the table, and glue it to the other one.
      You should have a loop (with a twist) that is horizontal glued to a loop (with a twist) that is vertical. Imagine if you held two rolls of sellotape next to each other, then twisted one away from you, while keeping them touching. It’s a bit of a tricky shape to describe!
      Now to cut the loops:
      You’ll need to fold the paper a little so that you can make a snip along the length of one of the strips. Put the scissors in the snip and keep cutting straight ahead all the way around until you get back to the snip when you started. You will go through the ‘crossroads’ as you do this, and the other loop will come unjoined. That’s fine.
      When you have cut round the first loop, the second loop will not be in a circle any more, so it is easier to cut from end to end.
      You should now have two narrower loops, each having a couple of right angles in them. The loops will be linked to each other.
      Fiddle them around so that the right angles are top and bottom, and let the top ones flop downwards as they will want to do. There are your linked hearts.
      Please ask if you are still having problems and I can perhaps send more photos if you think that would help
      Blessings
      Fay

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