Advent Series: Highlighting the Chrismon Tree 2014

Advent Christmas 2014
Year B
Highlighting the Chrismon Tree

The Chrismon Tree is a relatively new option for sharing the story of God’s love. Started in 1957 by Frances Kipps Spencer at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia, the tradition caught on and spread quickly…long before the Internet! This year, our church is using the parts of the Chrismon Tree to help us slowly prepare for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. For more details on the history of the Chrismons, see the Ascension Lutheran Church Chrismons Ministry.

For other details on ornaments and symbols, see these sites:
Chrismon Customs
and Chrismon Symbols

And so here are 4 sermons for Advent and 1 for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day:
1st Sunday in Advent–Nov 30Mark 13:24-37–Wrapping the Chrismon Tree’s base with a tree skirt
2nd Sunday in Advent–Dec 7Mark 1:1-8-Ornaments will already be on the top ¾ of the tree; children will hang ornaments on the lower branches
3rd Sunday in Advent–Dec 14John 1:6-8, 19-28–The lights (yes, strung before the 2nd Sunday but not lit) will be turned on during the children’s sermon
4th Sunday in Advent–Dec 21Luke 1:26-38–The angel treetopper will be on the tree
Christmas Eve–Dec 24Luke 2:1-14 (15-20); 1 John 4:7-9, 16b; John 1:1-5–Christ is Born!

And we have another song! To go with our theme, we have adapted O Christmas Tree into O Chrismon Tree. Verses are provided below with their appropriate Sunday or you can see all of them together by clicking here. Thanks to Jill and Bill and Amanda for your musical help!

*

for Sunday, November 30, 2014
1st Sunday in Advent
Year B
The Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: Mark 13:24-37
prop: Just the bare Chrismon Tree, no ornaments, no lights, nothing. Have a tree skirt for this sermon. You might also have a real pine branch for illustration purposes if your church tree is artificial.

Welcome!

We are now in the Season of Advent, the time when we prepare ourselves for Christmas. Christmas is such a big joyful mystery that we take a whole month to prepare! This year, we will spend the 4 Sundays of Advent talking about our church decoration known as the Chrismon Tree. Wait? Don’t I mean Christmas Tree? No, our church tree is called a Chrismon Tree. Everyone say after me: Chrismon Tree (Chrismon Tree). The first Christmas trees were used over 500 years ago, and we decorate the ones in our homes to celebrate and share our family’s traditions. The first Chrismon Tree was created just over 50 years ago. A woman named Frances Kipps Spencer wanted to make something new out of an old tradition, so she decorated a tree for her church to celebrate and share the old and new story of God’s love for each of us. Mrs. Spencer named this a Chrismon Tree, adding together the word Christ with the word Monogram which are letters showing ownership; so a Chrismon Tree is a tree belonging to Christ.

But now I’m sure you are wondering why the tree isn’t decorated? Ahhh…first things first. As we said, the Season of Advent is the time we prepare for Christmas; and because Christmas is such a big joyful mystery we take a whole month to prepare…and we take a whole month to prepare so we can prepare slowly. Not slowly like we sit around doing nothing, but slowly like we take time to appreciate each step of our preparation.

Okay, but that still doesn’t explain why the Chrismon Tree is not decorated! Again, first things first. Let’s just look at the tree. Honestly, our tree is an artificial tree…that means it is not a living tree that grows outside. But it is a model of a real kind of tree, a real tree known as an evergreen tree. Do you hear that description? Ever. Green. Evergreen trees have these small pointy greens leaves; and evergreen trees hold these green leaves all year long, unlike other trees that lose their leaves each fall and are bare through the winter. We use evergreen trees at Christmas to remind us that God’s love for us is unchanging. God’s love for us is very old, and yet God’s love for us is also new. God has loved us, God does love us, and God will love us. Always.

And so on the First Sunday in Advent, we have placed the tree here in the front of the sanctuary to remind us of God’s unchanging love. We start decorating our Chrismon Tree by wrapping this blanket (tree skirt…whatever your terminology) around the base of the tree. Our Bible story today tells us to be ready. We have set the tree, the foundation for our Advent Chrismon Tree. Christmas will be here soon; but the first Christmas has already come. God’s love for us is unchanging; it is forever and ever.

Next Sunday we will see how this story continues.

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this First Sunday in Advent
we are reminded
that Your love for us
is unchanging,
old and new,
forever.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 1 for Advent 1
Branches green the whole year through
Show us God is old and new.

**

for Sunday, December 7, 2014
2nd Sunday in Advent
Year B
The Ornaments of the Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: Mark 1:1-8
prop: Prior to this Sunday string the lights (but they won’t be lit until Advent 3!) and hang the ornaments on the top ¾ of the tree. (Do not place that angel treetopper…that’s for Advent 4.) Have child-friendly ornaments for the children to hang during the sermon. As each church has different ornaments, you will need to choose the ones you have to highlight in this sermon. [Sites with ornament meanings: Chrismon Customs and Chrismon Symbols] This is the time to explain where your church got your ornaments: are they homemade by someone still in your church? or from long ago? a child’s grandparent? Share what the symbols mean as well as the personal stories of your ornaments. Prepare a time during Sunday School to share the different symbols and meanings.

Welcome!

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. We are slowly preparing for the big joyful mystery of Christmas! I’m sure you are noticing that our Chrismon Tree looks a bit different this Sunday. Last week on the First Sunday in Advent, we had just the bare tree here. We learned that we use a type of tree called evergreen to remind us that God is old and new; that God has always loved us and will always love us. God is unchanging.

Today the tree is hung with ornaments. Notice that they are all white and gold. White for purity. Gold for the Glory of God. Notice that they have different symbols. These ornaments tell the story of Jesus. [We see ornaments with stars…like the Star of Bethlehem. We see the Shepherd’s Crook…like the shepherds who came to Baby Jesus, and how we call Jesus the Great Shepherd. We see the Dove…Jesus brings Peace to the world. We see the Heart…Jesus loves us and God is love. We see many different crosses…we celebrate the birth of Jesus but also His continued life through Easter! The cross on this ornament is called the Jerusalem Cross and it was stitched by Cherry’s grandmother before Cherry’s father was even born!]

I wonder if you have noticed that only the top portion of the tree is decorated with ornaments? That’s because we want you to help! Each of you can come get an ornament to put on these empty branches down low. The symbols may seem unknown to you…but during Sunday School we will explain what each one means. Then you will know what part of the story of Jesus’s Church you have helped share!

Our Bible story today shares the message of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus who helped prepare the way for Jesus to share God’s love. The ornaments of our Chrismon Tree continue to share the message of the Church, telling us about Jesus and His love for us.

And I see you noticed that there are lights on the tree…but they are not lit. Remember, we are preparing for Christmas slowly. We will see what is next on the Third Sunday of Advent.

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this Second Sunday in Advent
we hang the ornaments
showing symbols
that share the story
of Your love
for us.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 2 for Advent 2
Ornaments of white and gold
Are symbols of the Church of old.

***

for Sunday, December 14, 2014
3rd Sunday in Advent
Year B
The Lights of the Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: John 1:6-8, 19-28
prop: the lights on the tree…flip the switch during the sermon.

Welcome!

Today is the Third Sunday in Advent! We are getting closer to Christmas! The Chrismon Tree looks almost totally decorated! Almost, but not quite. Advent is a time that we prepare slowly for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. We began our journey with the bare Chrismon Tree, reminding us that God is unchanging and loves us always. Last week, we placed the ornaments of white and gold that tell the story of Jesus and His love for us. Today our Bible story continues sharing about John, the cousin of Jesus. The words used say that John came to announce that Jesus is the Light.

And so I wonder if you can figure out what we are going to add to the Chrismon Tree today? Right! It is finally time to light the lights! Zach will you push the button, please? Ohh. Ahh. The tree was already beautiful but the lights make it shine. And this shining makes the beauty extend out into the room. Like John in the Bible, the lights of the Chrismon Tree remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World. When we have Jesus in our hearts, we shine God’s love out into the world.

Light shines fast, but we are preparing slowly for Christmas. I’m afraid I can’t imagine what else we can add to the tree!

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this Third Sunday in Advent
we light the lights
proclaiming
You are the Light.
Help us
to shine Your love
everywhere
all the time.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 3 for Advent 3
The lights are lit and shining bright!
Remind us Jesus is the light.

****

for Sunday, December 21, 2014
4th Sunday of Advent
Year B
The Angel Treetopper of the Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: Luke 1:26-38
prop: the angel treetopper (already placed)

Welcome!

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We are so close to Christmas that it may seem time is speeding up, but remember, we are preparing slowly for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. We want to appreciate each step along the way.

We began our season with the bare Chrismon Tree, reminding us that God is old and new and unchanging. On the Second Sunday of Advent, we added the ornaments symbols of the story of the Church and Jesus and God’s love. Then last week on the Third Sunday, we finally lit the lights proclaiming Jesus as the Light of the World! But what about today? I’m wondering if you notice anything different about the tree? Yes! At the very top! There is an angel!

In our Bible story today, we hear about Mary learning that she will be the mother of Jesus. Mary gets this news from an angel. When the angel first appears, Mary is a little surprised. I think I would be pretty stunned to meet an angel, too. And then to learn that God is calling her to such an important job! But the angel says, “Fear Not! God is with you.” This blessing gives Mary the strength to respond with joy and she says, “I am the servant of the Lord!”

God calls each of us to do important jobs. And sometimes we all just need to stop and remember: Fear Not. God is with us. And so, atop our Chrismon Tree, we have an angel reminding us that God is always with us and that we do not need to fear what God calls us to do. Like Mary, we can joyfully be servants of the Lord.

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this Fourth Sunday in Advent
we hear the angel
Fear Not!
and we know
that You are with us always.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 4 for Advent 4
The angel sits atop the tree
Says Fear Not to you and me.

*****

for Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Christmas Eve
Year B
lectionary focus: Luke 2:1-14 (15-20); 1 John 4:7-9, 16b; John 1:1-5
prop: the Chrismon Tree

Welcome!

And so we have spent the past four weeks taking a slow approach to Christmas. We have slowly decorated the Chrismon Tree as we have slowly prepared for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. We started with just the bare evergreen tree, reminding us that God is old and new and unchanging. On the Second Sunday in Advent, we hung the white and gold ornaments with their symbols of the Church and Jesus and God’s love. On the Third Sunday, we finally lit the lights, shining the beauty out into the world and reminding us that Jesus is the Light. This past Sunday, we topped our tree with the angel, hearing again the words “Fear Not! God is with you!”

So I wonder if our tree is finished? A little over 50 years ago, the first Chrismon Tree was decorated in Danville, VA, by a woman named Frances Kipp Spencer. She said “a tree was never finished until someone came to see it and have the story of Christ explained to them through the ornaments.”

So I wonder if our tree is finished? I wonder if we can do more?

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Tonight we hear the story of the birth of Jesus told from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And in all these stories, we hear one of my favorite lines. After the angels appear to the shepherds in the fields telling them about the Baby Jesus, the shepherds head to Bethlehem. The Bible story says, “They went with haste…” Those shepherds, those regular guys, did not move slowly. They went quickly; they hurried to do what God called them to do. Tonight is Christmas Eve. We have prepared slowly, but now it is time for us, too, to go with haste, to hurry to do the important job God has given us. It is time for us to hurry and share God’s love.

Say after me:
Alleluia! (Alleluia!)
It is Christmas! (It is Christmas!)
Heaven comes to Earth! (Heaven comes to Earth!)
God loves us all! (God loves us all!)
Alleluia! (Alleluia!)
Amen! (Amen!)

And now we will sing all of our verses of O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 1
Branches green the whole year through
Show us God is old and new.

Verse 2
Ornaments of white and gold
Are symbols of the Church of old.

Verse 3
The lights are lit and shining bright!
Remind us Jesus is the light.

Verse 4
The angel sits atop the tree
Says Fear Not to you and me.

Verse 5 for Christmas Eve
Christmas Day Christ has His birth,
A time when Heaven comes to Earth.

******

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

O Chrismon Tree!

IMG_3743Advent 2014
Year B

I’m still working on the Advent sermons, but we have crafted the new verses for our theme song–changing O Christmas Tree to O Chrismon Tree. Here they are so you can see if you like! (Please feel free to make suggestions.) Our choir master is going ahead and introducing them to our children…

For more information on our Advent sermon series…see this post.

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 1 for Advent 1 (We explain the tree itself.)
Branches green the whole year through
Show us God is old and new.

Verse 2 for Advent 2 (We explain the ornaments.)
Ornaments of white and gold
Are symbols of the Church of old.

Verse 3 for Advent 3 (We explain the lights.)
The lights are lit and shining bright!
Remind us Jesus is the light.

Verse 4 for Advent 4 (We explain the angel.)
The angel sits atop the tree
Says Fear Not to you and me.

Verse 5 for Christmas Eve (We celebrate!)
Christmas Day Christ has His birth,
A time when Heaven comes to Earth.

Check back for more information…

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

Advent is Coming!

IMG_0388Year B
November 30-December 24, 2014

Three weeks until Advent!
I am working on an Advent Series and will post it shortly (possibly in bits and pieces).

Here is where we are headed: this year during our children’s sermon time, we will focus on the Chrismon Tree! Right, I said Chrismon Tree, not Christmas Tree. See here for an explanation of this relatively new church tradition. Last year, we had such fun building the creche with the Year A lectionary, and lighting the Advent candles goes best with the Year C lectionary; we are excited to see that the Year B lectionary fits nicely with the Chrismon Tree. Not every church uses a Chrismon Tree, so you can refer to my previous series for Advent Year B. But if you have a Chrismon Tree, think of how your church might highlight it to share God’s story. Below is a draft outline. We are also working on crafting O Chrismon Tree from the traditional song O Christmas Tree. (More later as rhyme and meter are settled!)

We are stressing SLOW. Our choir will do the anthem (one of my all time favorites: Lord, Before This Fleeting Season by Jindra/Larson… “let me remember to walk slowly…go less, stay closer to home, kneel more”), and so we will slowly decorate the Chrismon Tree over the 4 weeks of Advent.

To keep from being too complex during the children’s sermon, we will light the candles of the Advent Wreath during another portion of the service so we don’t need to refer to the wreath during the children’s sermon.

November 30
Advent 1
scripture– Mark 13:24-37 (Keep awake!)
focus: We open Advent by explaining that this is a season to move slowly and prepare for Christmas. Not slow in sitting around doing nothing, but we take time to be intentional.
prop: While the sanctuary will be decorated, the Chrismon Tree will be bare. Children will gather around the tree…which will have NO ornaments or lights. Discussion will focus that we are moving slowly this Advent. We bring in the tree and wrap its base with a tree skirt (yes, a la Linus and Peanuts), setting the foundation for our Advent Season. Yes, we want to get everything decorated and finished…but this year, we are moving slowly.
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 7
Advent 2
scripture– Mark 1:1-8 (Good News!)
focus: To go with the scripture, this Sunday we will highlight the ornaments of the tree. The top ¾ of the tree will have ornaments (lights will be strung, but not lit until the 3rd Sunday). Children will have the opportunity to place child-friendly ornaments on the lower branches during this sermon. The ornaments tell the story of the Church throughout time using various symbols.
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 14
Advent 3
scripture– John 1:6-8, 19-28 (Bear witness to the Light!)
focus: The Lights! Today we light the lights! These lights remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World!
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 21
Advent 4
scripture– Luke 1:26-38 (Fear Not!)
focus: The Angel appears to Mary saying, Fear Not! Did you know that every time an angel appears in the Bible, they say Fear Not!? God is with us always. The angel tree topper will be at the top now.
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 24
Christmas Eve
scripture– Luke 2:1-14 (15-20); 1 John 4:7-9, 16b; John 1:1-5
focus: We have been moving slowly during the Advent Season, but now Christmas is here. We will be like the shepherds and make haste to see the Baby Jesus!
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

and Bonus! Epiphany (Jan 4 or 11?)
We will still have the Chrismon Tree, and I hope to get the youth to participate in that children’s sermon, leading the kids in singing The Trees of the Field song…as we go out with JOY from the children’s sermon!

The Nose Knows

IMG_1341for Sunday, September 14, 2014
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 18:21-35

Welcome!

Some things in life are called Once in a Lifetime. They are so special we get to do them only one time: a school play, Prom, an amazing last second football win, a trip to Paris.

But have your ever noticed how chores are never done? We empty the dishwasher one day, and we have to empty it again the next. We make up our beds, then sleep in them and have to make them again. Every week we have to take out the trash. Every month we have to pay the bills. Chores are chores because we have to do them over and over and over again. When I was a kid, one of the most annoying things about chores was being “reminded” to do them. My mom would say, “Don’t forget to put your dirty clothes in the laundry.” And my sister would say, “It’s your turn to clear the table.” And in my family, we would respond to these “reminders” by placing our finger on our nose. Can you put your finger on your nose? Doing this (finger on the nose) was our silent way of saying “I know” because “know” like we know something (point to your brain) and “nose” like on our face (touch your nose) sound a lot alike. “Yeah, yeah, I nose that. You don’t need to remind me.”

Sometimes I feel like touching my nose when I read our Bible Stories. Yeah, yeah, I nose this story already. But we tell these stories over and over because they are special and important, too special and important to forget, too special and important to tell only one time.

And to add to our over and over of over and over, today’s Bible Story tells us that we must forgive over and over. We all nose we are to share and be nice and say sorry and it’s okay, but today the disciples ask Jesus just how many times do we have to forgive someone. They want to know if there is a limit. If we are ever done forgiving.

And Jesus says no.

Forgiving is something that we do over and over, but forgiveness is not a chore. We forgive again and again because each time it is an opportunity to experience something special. Forgiving others makes us feel better. Forgiving others brings us closer to each other. Forgiving others brings us closer to God. Forgiveness is such a big mystery that there is no limit. Forgiveness is an Over and Over Lifetime Event.

We certainly nose that God forgives each of us over and over, and today we are reminded again in a story we already nose to let others nose that we forgive them.

This time as we pray, when we say the word know, be sure to touch your own nose. Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We are thankful
that we nose
You love us.
We are thankful
that we nose
You forgive us.
Help us
to let others nose
that we love them
and that we forgive them.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.

Accepting the Yoke

for Sunday, July 6, 2014
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
4th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

yoke

Yoking With Friends

props: a yoke or photo of yoke from Caroline Brown (scroll to the Gospel text); a belay device or photo of belay device from the internet (try Wikipedia); a baseball glove; an airplane yoke or photo of airplane yoke (see below); or whatever modern tool you choose.

note: Three years ago, I accepted the yoke of creating this website. It has been a great adventure, keeping me close to the Trinity and bringing me close to new friends around the world. (Who is the Malta friend?) For this post, I couldn’t decide which one story to share, so there are three…but I encourage you to find your own yoke. I love how Jesus speaks to each and all of us through so many different pictures. He is always saying He is with us, He loves us.

Welcome!

Today’s word is Yoke. Everybody say Yoke. (Yoke) It is a funny sounding word. Kind of sounds like that yellowy-orangey thing inside an egg…but that is called a yolk. Yoke also sounds like a funny way to say joke…yoke, yoke, yoke…like I’m laughing weirdly. But actually a yoke is a tool. Here is a picture of one kind of yoke. (Show Caroline Brown’s yoke.) Though this is a common tool in some parts of the world, we don’t really use these too much anymore around here. We usually see them in pictures before there were cars or trucks or tractors…tractors being the clue. Without trucks and tractors to haul large loads and do heavy work, people use strong animals like oxen and horses. And if one ox or horse is good, two are better. A yoke is used to connect the two animals together to double their work effort. This part goes around their necks and this bar keeps the two animals shoulder to shoulder. Then whatever is behind the animals and connected to the harness can be pulled by both animals at the same time. Yes, it is still work for the animals, but as we know, two working together makes any job easier.

In our Bible story today, Jesus calls all of us who are tired from working hard and carrying heavy burdens, and He offers us His yoke. It sounds funny. And no, Jesus is not offering us a real harness to carry or pull heavy objects. Jesus speaks in pictures. The people in the times of Jesus knew the purpose of a yoke; those people valued yokes; and they recognized the yoke as a symbol for strength and efficiency and community. With the picture of a yoke in their minds, the people understood that Jesus was offering to help them; Jesus was promising to be with them; Jesus was ready to work beside them.

photo by J. Stewart

The belay device is actually on the other end…no one ever photographs the belayer. photo by J. Stewart

(OPTION ONE) I’ve been thinking about what modern day tool Jesus might have picked to help us picture this truth today. And since it’s summertime, of course, I started thinking of summer activities that I enjoy…like rock climbing. When doing a really big climb, people use ropes and harnesses and this tool called a belay device. Your friend stays on the ground with the belay device attached to their harness, the rope runs through the belay, up through the climbing bolts in the rocks, and to the harness on your body. The friend on the ground is called the belayer. The belayer controls the amount of slack in the rope, so if you fall, you don’t fall very far…because the belay device helps lock the rope. The belayer and the climber have to talk a lot. When the climber is ready, she calls, “On belay!” And the belayer responds, “Belay on!” The belayer gives extra rope when the climber is moving, but if the climber needs a rest, the belayer locks off the rope with the belay device…so the climber stays safe.

I wonder if today Jesus could say, “Come to Me, all of you who are tired, and I will give you rest. Belay on and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My belay is easy, and my climb is awesome.”

With that picture of a belay device in my mind, I understand that Jesus is wants to spot my climb; that He is promising to hold my rope; that Jesus is connected to me for life. And I think my answer is, “Yes, Jesus, on belay!”

Jesus calls us in many ways to share our lives with Him. Jesus promises to be with us. Jesus loves us.

Will you pray with me?*

 

IMG_4651(OPTION TWO) I’ve been thinking about what modern day tool Jesus might have picked to help us picture this truth today. And since it’s summertime, of course, I started thinking of baseball. I wonder if a baseball glove might be a good symbol. A baseball glove protects our hand when catching a ball. We can certainly use a ball stand and practice hitting a baseball by ourselves and we can catch a ball that we throw into the air, but baseball works best with a friend. Whether throwing or catching, you need someone else to do the other. Baseball is better together.

So I can imagine today Jesus offering us His baseball glove: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired, and I will give you rest. Take My baseball glove and learn from Me. For My throw is easy, and My game is awesome. Want to catch?”

With that picture of a baseball glove in my mind, I understand that Jesus is offering to work with me; that He is promising to be with me; that Jesus is on my team. And my answer is, “Yes, Jesus, I would love to catch with You.”

Jesus calls us in many ways to share our lives with Him. Jesus promises to be with us. Jesus loves us.

Will you pray with me?*

photo by B. Stewart

photo by B. Stewart

(OPTION THREE) I’ve been thinking about what modern day tool Jesus might have picked to help us picture this truth today. And I thought of a yoke. Not the ox/horse yoke, but an airplane yoke. You’ve seen how cars have a steering wheel…one steering wheel. In an airplane, there are basically two steering wheels like in this photograph here, but instead of calling them steering wheels, they are called yokes. And they are connected. When one pilot moves his yoke, the yoke of the other pilot moves the same way. In addition to steering, flying a plane involves navigating and monitoring lots of controls…so pilots are flying together by working together.

So I can imagine today Jesus offering us to fly with Him: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired, and I will give you rest. Take My airplane yoke and learn from me. For My yoke is easy, and My flight is awesome. Let’s go fly.”

With that picture of an airplane cockpit in my mind, I understand that Jesus is offering to fly with me through life; that He is promising to navigate my way; that Jesus has the wheel. And my answer is, “Yes, Jesus, let’s fly.”

Jesus calls us in many ways to share our lives with Him. Jesus promises to be with us. Jesus loves us.

Will you pray with me?*

 

*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 being yoked with me.
Thank You
for helping us
live our lives
to Your glory.
Belay on!
or Let’s catch!
or Straight out, cleared for takeoff! (how a pilot responses to the tower)
Amen

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

Focusing on God

IMG_4628_edited-1for Sunday, June 29, 2014
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 8
Year A
lectionary focus: Romans 6:12-23

Welcome!

Today is June 29th. And according to the Internet, today is National Camera Day. A day to celebrate the wonders of cameras and making art by taking pictures. Reading the websites, no one is sure who first decided today would be National Camera Day, but people have been celebrating this day for several years. This is my camera. And in reading the history of photography, I’m also not sure who first invented the camera. But I have learned that this tool is the result of many people’s inventions. For over 200 years, designers have been tweaking and twisting and making picture-taking easier and easier and harder and harder. I am sure though that this camera here will not be the last, best machine of its kind. Many people will continue to improve the technology and develop more simple and more complex and more accurate cameras. And through these ever-better cameras, photographers will continue to inspire and encourage people around the world with their art.

In our Bible story today, St. Paul has written a letter to the Romans to share God’s good news. St. Paul gives much advice on how to live a life for God. In today’s reading, St. Paul reminds us that through Jesus we are forgiven…but that doesn’t mean we stop striving to do what is right. As part of God’s Kingdom, we work to be better people. Picture this: we expand our hearts; we widen our smiles; we extend our words; we unfold our hands; all to be better instruments of God’s justice, mercy, and love.  And yet, each of us is not the best we are to be. Because of God’s grace, each of us are still growing and developing. Honing our focus on what God calls us to do. We continue each and every day to open ourselves and be filled with God’s light that we may reflect His love to the world around us.

Cameras are great tools for making art; our ever-growing lives for God are Holy art making the world a more beautiful place.

Now, let’s celebrate National Camera Day and God’s love for us by taking a group photo here on the chancel steps. Say, “Blessings!”

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 cameras.
Thank You
for new inventions to make art.
Help me
to grow and develop
as Holy art
to share Your love
with the world.
Amen

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

Acknowledging Jesus

IMG_3209for Sunday, June 22, 2014
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 7
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 10:24-39
note: Over the years, my family has moved three times so we have had three opportunities to ‘shop’ for a new church. We boiled the process down to judging churches by the number of people who greeted us. I keep this in mind each Sunday, trying to greet each visitor. Even though, in our small church where we say ‘Visit us twice and we’ll put you on a committee,’ it can still be difficult to put myself out there.

Welcome!

Last summer I went on vacation to another city with my friend Susan. While we were there we went to church. We had never been to this church; we just saw it near our hotel; looked it up online to find out the worship time; and we went. It was a very nice service; the choir was excellent; and the sermon was good. But no one spoke to us. The usher did smile and give us a bulletin. But after the service, not a single person welcomed us or greeted us or anything! Susan even stopped on the church steps to take a picture and still no one spoke to us! We were quite amazed. There were probably 150 people at the service. We wondered what was wrong. We wondered if maybe we had become invisible!

In our Bible story today from the Book of Matthew, Jesus is instructing the disciples as they prepare to go preach. Jesus tells them that they must acknowledge Him in the world…just as He will acknowledge them before God. People have long wondered how we are to acknowledge Jesus in the world. When we acknowledge something, we say that thing is true…but when we acknowledge someone, we greet them. Since Jesus is a someone, He is reminding us to greet Him in the world, just as He will greet us before God. To greet Jesus, we must see and recognize Him…and I know that each of you knows where we find Jesus. Jesus is in our hearts. So to acknowledge Jesus in the world is to greet HIm in our own heart and in the hearts of each other.

During church, we take a moment to share the Peace of Christ with those around us…sometimes I feel shy speaking to people I don’t know. And after church, there are so many people and I want to get to the doughnuts and maybe those people visiting our church were sitting so far from me. But if we don’t acknowledge Jesus in the people here at church, well then, it will be even harder to do that with the people out in the world!

Now you might think that you are too young to be greeters, that you don’t have to do that, but you are certainly smart enough to see and acknowledge and greet Jesus in other people and you are children of God. I challenge you each Sunday to find at least three people…regular members or someone you’ve not met before…and greet them here at church. Just walk up the them and say, “Hey, Good to see you today.”

And on your way home, you can check with everyone in your family to see how many people they greeted. Then we each will improve the way we acknowledge Jesus in the church…and that will make us better at acknowledging Jesus in the whole world. By greeting Jesus in others, we recognize others and Jesus and ourselves as visible.

Let’s practice. Repeat after me: Good to see you today! (Good to see you today!)

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 acknowledging us.
Help us
to acknowledge You.
Help us
to greet You
in the hearts of our old friends,
our new friends,
ourselves.
It is always good
to see You
in those around us.
Amen

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