NOTE: Over the past year, I have put a lot of research into this particular combination through the issue of domestic violence. These projects are stripped down reflections of that work.
The story of Jeremiah’s call has been used by anti-abortion people to say that all lives are precious within the womb. Yet the passage states God knew Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb,” which some interpret as God knowing Jeremiah as a soul without flesh.
This is actually a great project for a group and one I’ve adapted from expressive therapies. You’ll need two pieces of paper and a stick of charcoal for each person. Pose the question “What did you look like when only God knew who you were?” And then draw that image, which may or may not be in a human body.
If you have a group, people then place their images in a circle with a blank sheet of paper in front of it. People then take their time walking around the circle and adding a word or two about what they see. If you have limited space or people who are less mobile, then pass the pictures around the circle after paper clipping or stapling the sheet of paper for words to the drawing so they don’t get mixed up.
Give people a moment of silence to reflect on the words. As a take-home assignment, ask people to rewrite verse 5 to reflect their call.
There’s actually a 30-page paper I wrote on this psalm of individual lament available at academia.edu with all the justification for what follows.
Re-write or print the psalm with extra spaces between each verse. Part of being able to help someone is being able to set aside how you see their life and being open to seeing it through their eyes. Before you can do that you have to be able to sit with your own suffering or acknowledge your own doubts about God. Slowly read the psalm and use the extra space to express WITH THE PSALMIST the times you have felt like God isn’t listening as well as you would like.
We’re going to play with verses 28-29 and the question of “What is acceptable worship?” through a collage. Find images of people worshipping in a location and style you prefer. Make that your background. If you can, add a colored wash to unify the image. Then look up the definition of “worship” and select phrases that resonate with you. Add those phrases using stamps or stencils. Then add another colored wash. When you’re done journal on the question “What is acceptable worship?”
The story of the woman bent over is unique in Jesus’ healing stories because the woman does not seek out Jesus for healing but he calls her over after he notices her. It is this aspect that ties the story to domestic violence because the person committing violence makes the other feel a sense of shame and isolation that keeps them from seeking help. When we are aware of it, but don’t reach out we take part in the conspiracy of silence that allows the violence to continue. If you think you know someone being abused, reach out to them but also seek help from the local domestic violence shelter or a social worker so you can help without endangering the person being abused.
Now for the project: Put yourself in the woman bent over’s shoes. Think of a time when something was happening in your life that people didn’t know about that made you feel isolated. Rewrite the Gospel from that perspective. When you encounter Jesus (or followers of Jesus), how do you want Jesus to reach out to you? What might you say to Jesus and what does Jesus say to you?