We See His Love

windowtreefor Sunday, April 27, 2014
2nd Sunday of Easter
Year A
lectionary focus: John 20:19-31

Welcome!

The other day I was working at my computer. I stopped to think for a few minutes and found myself staring out the window. I can see a big tree from there. Its leaves are new and just unfolded. As I watched, it looked like the tree was dancing! The branches were swaying slightly and the leaves were wiggling, popping up and down and all around. Now, we know that the tree was not dancing. We know that the branches and leaves were being moved by the wind. And yet, we can see the tree and leaves, but we cannot see the wind. We know the wind is there by seeing what the wind does.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. Alleluia! (Alleluia!) The mystery and joy of Easter are so great that we cannot celebrate it all in just one Sunday. In our Bible story today, Jesus is risen from the dead and has been visiting with the disciples. But one disciple was not there: Thomas. We don’t know exactly why he wasn’t there, but we do hear that  when the disciples told Thomas about seeing Jesus, Thomas had some trouble believing. The mystery and joy of Easter was too great for him. He wanted to see Jesus, too. He wanted to touch Him. The Bible story goes on that Thomas does get to see Jesus. Jesus is not angry or disappointed that Thomas hesitated to believe the others; Jesus simply reaches out to Thomas, saying, “Do not doubt but believe.” I have felt like Thomas. How nice it would be to see Jesus walk into my house. How nice to touch Him and hear His voice.

But when I think about the wind, I know I don’t have to see Jesus to believe. Just as I know the wind is there by seeing what the wind does, I look around for what Jesus does. All of the things around us: smiling people, flowers, the blue sky, sunshine, rain, friends, doughnuts, family, ways for us to help others, singing, a phone call, a good book, learning, laughing, loving; all of these things show us that we don’t need to see Jesus. We see His world. We see His love. We see Jesus by seeing what His love does. Jesus simply reaches out to us through all that is around us, saying, “Believe.”

Our Lord, our God. He is with us. He is in us. His love is our world. Let us continue to rejoice in the mystery and joy of Easter.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
that we see Your love
all around us.
Help us
to help others
see Your love
all around them.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

We Are His Flowers

easter14for Sunday, April 20, 2014
Resurrection of the Lord
Easter Day
Year A
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18

Happy Easter! Alleluia! (Alleluia!) Look at all of the flowers! We have filled so many vases! The flowers make the sanctuary look lovely, and after our service, we will deliver them to members of our church family who are sick and ill and cannot be here today. Thank you for sharing with them in this way.

The flowers you have brought come from many places. Some of you got them at the store, some from the farmers’ market, some from your yard, some from your gardens. But each of them came from God’s earth. Flowers are part of plants. Flowers have the important job of making seeds; the seeds are how the plant makes more plants. And each year, each plant makes more flowers to make more seeds. Flowers are part of the beautiful cycle of God’s green earth. Flowers are God’s beautiful creations. And flowers make people smile.

Today is Easter Sunday. Alleluia! (Alleluia!) The Easter story begins with Jesus’s friends being sad. Jesus has died on the cross. The women are going to the cemetery to finish the funeral service. When they get there, something seems very wrong. The stone door has been moved and the tomb is empty. Jesus’s friends think someone has taken the body of Jesus. There is much confusion. Mary stands there in the cemetery, crying and frustrated. She sees a man. Mary thinks He must be the gardener…

Now we know that a gardener’s job is make sure the plants have what they need to grow and bloom and be beautiful. Gardeners work hard to make sure the plants are well cared for. Our Bible story today does not describe the cemetery, so I don’t know if the first Easter was abloom with so many flowers like our sanctuary today. But when Mary thinks that Man is just the gardener, she is wrong…but she is right. That Man, of course, is Jesus, alive, risen from the dead. That Man is not the gardener of the cemetery; that Man is Jesus, the gardener of the whole world, and we are His flowers. Jesus cares for us, making sure we have what we need to grow and bloom and be beautiful. You are each God’s beautiful creation. And Jesus is the Gardener who cares for us.

During the past few weeks as we have prepared for the mystery and joy of Easter, we  have practiced Almsgiving. We have shared items with those in need that they may know God’s love. Today is Easter. Alleluia! (Alleluia!) Today is why we are here every Sunday. Today Jesus overcame all of the sorrow and cruelty and trouble of the world so that we live beautiful, everlasting lives. Today we begin the Seven Sundays of Easter…because Easter is too big to celebrate for just one Sunday. Today we are overcome by the mystery and joy of Easter. And today we reach out again with almsgiving; we share these flowers here in these vases, but we also pledge to continue sharing ourselves. Mary was right. Jesus is the Gardener of the whole world. We are His beautiful flowers, here to share His love and make others smile.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for the flowers.
Thank You
for being our Gardener.
Help us
to continue sharing Your love
throughout Easter,
throughout our lives,
in the garden of Your world.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Lenten Series: They Are Holy (Almsgiving)

IMG_3986_edited-1for Sunday, April 13, 2014
Palm Sunday
Passion Sunday
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
note: This is part of our Lenten Series on Almsgiving. Today we are collecting toiletries for our local shelter; for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, it would be cool to collect winter coats connecting to the laying of garments before Christ’s donkey.

Welcome! Thank you for your Almsgiving! Yes, here, we are gathering all of the toiletries into this basket. I see shampoo and soap and hairbrushes and toothpaste. So many items to help our friends feel clean and comfortable.

We call our church God’s house. We take care of God’s house by keeping it clean. We put back the hymnals and Bibles in the pew racks. We pick up our bulletins. During the week, we dust and vacuum. We change the flowers and the candles. We replace the burned out lightbulbs and put out new prayer cards. We repair anything that breaks. By making God’s house clean and neat, we keep it a comfortable and welcoming…and Holy place to be.

And since Jesus lives in our hearts, we also keep our bodies clean. My friend Margaret Atwood says, “In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” I agree! But I also agree that after smelling like dirt, it feels really good to get clean. To bathe and shampoo my hair and put on lotion and fresh, clean clothes. Ah. Nice. Getting myself clean and neat makes me feel comfortable and healthy…and Holy.

Today is called Palm Sunday. Today we begin the last week leading us to the Mystery and Joy of Easter. Our Bible stories this week take us from riding in a parade, to carrying the cross, to finding the empty tomb. We go from happy, to sad, to joyful. So many important things happen this week that we call it Holy Week. And as our hearts and minds go through all of the emotions of Holy Week, we ask: What can we do to help others? Our Almsgiving this Lenten Season has shared bread and water and socks and eyeglasses and even treats for animals. Today we have brought toiletries. Yes, it is a funny word, but these are items that help our bodies feel clean and comfortable and ready to go forth into the world. We share these items with others who are having a hard time so that they will feel clean, that they will enjoy comfort, and that they will know we see Christ in them, we see them as Holy. Thank you for your Almsgiving. Thank you for doing this Holy work of sharing God’s love.

Next week we will begin Easter with great jubilation. We will rejoice in the Lord. We want you to bring flowers. Your flowers will fill the sanctuary with nature’s beauty…and then after church, we will share the flowers with those in our church family who are suffering from illness or conditions that keep them from coming to church. Since they cannot be here, we will take some of here to them.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We enter Holy Week
thinking of others.
Bless our gifts for them
that they may feel clean,
that they may enjoy comfort,
that they may know we see them as Holy.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Lenten Series: Calling for You (Almsgiving)

harveyfor Sunday, April 6, 2014
5th Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: John 11:1-45
note: This is part of our Lenten Series on Almsgiving. As another option to the Humane Society, we looked for an organization that supports Guide Animals, but could not find a local one that needed our assistance.

Welcome! Lots of dog food and cat food and pet treats! Thank you! Thank you! Our basket is so heavy!

During Lent our Almsgiving has focused on helping people. We’ve given bread and socks and eyeglasses and money to help provide clean water. Today our almsgiving goes to help animals. Like people, sometimes animals need help. Dogs and cats may have to go to an animal shelter and wait for a new family to give them a home. A few weeks ago my friend Jill and her family adopted a puppy. Now their home is busy with Harvey; walking him and feeding him and playing with him. We say that they are training him, but most of the time it is the puppy training the family how to care for him. Jill said that it was hard at the animal shelter to decide which puppy to adopt; they wanted to take them all! But their home could not handle 35 puppies and 13 cats. They chose Harvey and now their home is alive with puppy.

In our Bible Story today, one of Jesus’s best friends, Lazarus, is dying. Everyone is sad and has gathered together. Everyone, except Jesus. Jesus takes so long to arrive that in fact, Lazarus dies before He gets there. Lazarus’s sisters are hurt and upset. Jesus says to them, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Then Jesus does a great miracle: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus comes out of the tomb, comes back to life, because Jesus calls him to live. This miracle is amazing and one we would all like to see. The thing is, every day, Jesus calls each of us to live. Every day, Jesus calls us to come out into the world, and we answer this miraculous call to life by caring for each other.

Today our caring extends to the animals of God’s world. Some people may think it odd we are helping animals. But when God created the world, God made us responsible for taking care of each other and of all creation. Like people, sometimes animals need our help. We can’t adopt all of the dogs and cats, but our gifts today support the shelters that help the animals until they find their new best friends. We are answering Jesus’s call to live by helping God’s creation…the people creations and the animal creations. Thank you for sharing in God’s miracle of life.

Next Sunday is called Palm Sunday and we begin what is called Holy Week…the week leading us to Easter Sunday. Next week, we ask that you bring what we call toiletries. No, not a toilet like in the bathroom, but toiletries, items we use in the bathroom to make our bodies clean: soap and shampoo and toothpaste and brushes and lotions. Come and see how these gifts help share God’s love and make others feel welcomed.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for Your people.
Thank You
for Your animals.
Blessing our gifts
as we answer Your call
to live
to love
to share in the miracle of life.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Lenten Series: On Top of Your Head (Almsgiving)

IMG_3858for Sunday, March 30, 2014
4th Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: John 9:1-41
note: This is part of our Lenten Almsgiving Series; you will need a basket to collect the eyeglasses. We will be giving the old prescription lens to our local Lions Club and the new reading glasses to one of our shelters. The opening story will work with eyeglasses or sunglasses.

Welcome! See all of the eyeglasses! Thank you! Thank you! Here put them in this basket. Wow. So many for our almsgiving. Thank you.

Yesterday I went looking for my own glasses. Since I only need them to read and see things up close, I put them down and sometimes forget where they are. I looked beside the bed because I had used them reading the night before. Not there. I looked in my purse. Not there. I looked in the kitchen. Not there. I looked beside the computer. Not there. So I went to my husband and said, “Have you seen my glasses? I can’t find them anywhere!” And Mr. Bill said, “I see them. They are on top of your head.” (You can act this out and end with them on top of your head.)

In our Bible story today, Jesus heals a man who was blind, someone who had never been able to see his whole life. This miracle caused quite a stir. The people argued about how it had happened and when it had happened and who was this Jesus. But the man who had been blind was not confused. He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he praised Jesus.

Seeing with our eyes is important. Through our eyes, we see where we are going and what we are doing and whom we are with. But Jesus did not work just to heal those blind in their eyes. Jesus lived His life that we all are able to see the Kingdom of God with our hearts. Jesus is the light of the world, and through His teachings and blessings and love, we each are able to see with our hearts all of the beauty of God’s world around us. And seeing God’s world, we want to share God’s love with each other.

Today we have collected eyeglasses. As tools, these will help others see with their eyes more clearly; as gifts, these will help others see God’s love with their hearts. Thank you for your almsgiving that we all might see and share God’s Kingdom.

Next Sunday, we will hear a story about a best friend so we are asking you to bring dog food and cat food and pet treats.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for our eyes that see.
Thank You
for our hearts that see.
Please bless our almsgiving
that others my see Your Kingdom
and know Your love.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Lenten Series: Living Love (Almsgiving)

IMG_6494for Sunday, March 23, 2013
3rd Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: John 4:5-42
notes: Have extra cups (and extra cups of coins) ready before the service. We are using Red cups for accent. 

Welcome!

Look at all the Cups of Coins! Everybody rattle your coins in your cups! Such a joyful noise! Now everybody pour your coins into this big basket. What a marvelous sound! It is so loud and tinkly. (Collect all of the coins into one big basket; you might want to have an older youth collect the now empty cups to keep them from being a distraction.) But these Cups of Coins don’t sound anything like water, do they?

Our Bible Story today sounds like it is about water. In the Gospel of John, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well, the place where the people get their water since they don’t have sinks with faucets. Every day the people have to go to the well to get water that they use for drinking and cooking. Every day. Back and Forth. Jesus points out to the woman that everyone who drinks the water from the well will be thirsty again. Then Jesus tells her that He has Living Water, water that becomes in us a spring gushing up to eternal life.

Like our Cups of Coins, this Living Water doesn’t sound like water at all.

Many times in the Bible, stories speak of one thing but mean something else. In this story, Jesus says Living Water, but He is really talking about God’s love. Our bodies need water to live; each day we get thirsty to remind ourselves to drink what our bodies need. But we also need God’s love. And the joy Jesus shares is this, we are never without God’s love. God’s love fills us like a big, old bucket that never empties. God’s love just grows more and more. The more of God’s love that we share, the more of God’s love that we experience. Living Water is really Living Love.

The Cups of Coins that you brought today will be used to share water AND God’s love. There are people around the world who do not have the clean drinking water our bodies need. We will send our Cups of Coins to Living Waters for the World. Through this organization, we will help dig wells in these communities. Through this organization, we will share God’s love. Today your almsgiving gives others what they need: water for living and living water. I like the sound of that. Thank you.

Next Sunday, we ask you to bring eyeglasses: either old prescription glasses that are no longer needed or a pair of new reading glasses that you choose from the store. We will SEE how those connect with our Bible story next week.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for water to drink.
Thank You
for water to live.
Thank You
for Your love
that never ends.
Bless those
who need drinking water
that we may also show them
Your endless love.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Lenten Series: Your Going Out, Your Coming In, Your Socks (Almsgiving)

bootsandsocksfor Sunday, March 16, 2014
2nd Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: Psalm 121
note 1: This is part of our Lenten Series on Almsgiving. I originally thought I would use the lectionary from John for this sermon, but changed my mind to use the Psalm.
note 2: Have a basket to collect the socks.
note 3: Have cups (we are going to use red plastic cups) to pass out for next week’s almsgiving: collecting coins in cups for Living Waters of the World.

Look at all of the socks you have brought! Our basket is so full! Thank you! Thank you!

When we think of Bible stories, we don’t often think of socks. I think that most of the people back then wore sandals without socks. But in today’s story, we read from the book of Psalms. In verse one, we hear, “I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where will my help come?” I think you know the answer to the Psalmist’s question. In verse eight, we hear, “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” In this Psalm and throughout the Bible, we hear how God guides our feet, always here to help us, always here to love us, always here to walk with us.

For the past many weeks, Pastor Catherine has had a hard time walking with her broken foot. Yes, her “boot” is really cool looking, much like an astronaut’s boot. And her scooter is even cooler, more like a toy than a tool. But Catherine has confessed to me that we don’t really think much about our feet until they hurt or they don’t work right. She is not able to go running or hiking or even to walk the dog! And you’ve seen how she has a hard time on the chancel steps. Catherine is getting a good lesson in an old saying, “Your feet are your friends.”

In my family, we like to do lots of walking and so to remind the people in our family that we love them, we like to give socks as presents. When we give each other really nice, comfy, sturdy, good socks, we are saying, “Hey, I want your feet to feel good. I want your feet to be strong and healthy so that you can walk well and do the things God calls you to do.”

Today you have brought socks: nice, comfy, sturdy, good socks. And this afternoon, Mr. Bill and I will take these socks to the First Light Shelter. The guests are at the Shelter because they need help; they are having a hard time in their lives. Through your gift, they will know that you want their feet to feel good; they will know that you want them to walk boldly and strongly and comfortably; they will know that God loves them because you have shared with them. Your almsgiving this week will help meet their need in a loving way. Thank you for sharing God’s love this way.

To prepare for next week’s almsgiving, I am going to give each of you a cup today. Our Bible story next week is about water. Now I’m not asking you to bring your cup back full of water…that would be silly…but I am asking that you bring your cup back full of coins! You will see next week how your cup of coins can help meet others’ need for water.

Will you say a prayer with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for my feet.
Thank You
for walking with me.
Please bless these socks
as we share them with others
so they will know
our love
and Your love
and they will walk
boldly and strongly and comfortably
with You.
Amen

We are not Christians alone,
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.