Following the ROMBS conference this weekend, and spending a lot of time again using and explaining the Jesus Deck with folk, I have decided that now is the time to write about how I use it, why I use it in that way, and the amazing way that God speaks through it.
What is the Jesus Deck?
It was designed as a set of playing cards by the Rev Ralph Moore, in consultation with various Scripture and Theology Consultants, in the pack is a set of instructions for games and a description of each card. The cards themselves are an attractive set of playing cards well presented in a black box with the words Jesus Deck in gold block writing on the cover. They are divided into suits according to the gospels and contain pictures of events or stories form the life of Jesus.
The booklet is fairly helpful when it comes to looking at the colours on the cards, but that is about as far as it goes, and I wonder what Rev Moore would make of them being used as an outreach tool by folk involved in engaging with the new spiritualities that abound today.
Using the deck in a fair/ exhibition
Using the deck in a spirituality fair or exhibition is an exercise in cross cultural translation no matter how you use it. Some practitioners having set up their booths will simply use the Deck as one thing amongst many, offering people who are interested the chance to choose one card and entering into a conversation from there. Stories of the right card for the right person are many, including one from John Drane about a woman who picked out the card showing Judas hanging from the tree; the consequences of that were astonishing and really do point to the God who goes before us!
I use the cards in a form that emulates a five card lay from a tarot deck, when a seeker comes for a reading (you will note that my language is becoming enculturated here) I invite them to sit down, and if they wish I explain a little about how the Deck tells the story of Jesus. I might then offer to pray that the (Holy) Spirit would guide the cards so that the right ones are laid down. I then shuffle the deck lay the five cards and we begin.
I ask the seeker (querent) which card they feel most drawn to, and from then on the reading becomes an activity of three way listening, to the Holy Spirit, to the scriptures through the cards and to the seeker. As I have already said I am amazed at the way that God works through this tool, speaking clearly opening up deep conversations. Some folk have received guidance, others affirmations, and still others deep healing through these readings. Even when I am teaching folk how I use the Deck and they think they are coming for a demonstration rather than a reading the cards act as scriptures two edged sword and lives are changed in the process.
Taking a risk?
I have been asked on more than one occasion whether I think I am taking a risk in using these cards. My response is that yes I am, but that it is no more dangerous than expecting God to speak to me through the pages of the Bible! I also believe that God calls us to take risks and not to stay within our comfort zones, and that S/he is infinitely more creative than we can possibly imagine.
I will say however that this is not an ill thought out venture into the unknown; there are precedents for this kind of work in the book of Acts. John Drane noted at the weekend that Paul adapted the way that he approached proclaiming the gospel for the people he was speaking to. There are a number of people working in this field and we do share with and question one another. We also know one another well enough to ask the question if we think that one of us has lost the plot. That said, the question must be asked; is God here? If he goes before us where will the journey take us next?
The end of a reading at Southminster Spirit of Life Fair.
Mock up of a booth for 2 readers- not as tightly presented as we might like, this was not an exhibition but gives the idea of the set up.