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.

The Importance of With

photo by c. woodruff

photo by c. woodruff

for Sunday, June 15, 2014
Trinity Sunday
Father’s Day
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 28:16-20
inspiration: Wow. Sara Miles. (read this)
Sara’s inspiration: Samuel Wells.

Welcome!

Today’s Bible story includes the most important word in the Bible! Ohhh. I see lots of eyebrows going up and eyebrows coming together and puzzled faces as most of you are trying to figure out which word I’m saying is the most important word in the Bible. Some of you are thinking that it must be love or forgiveness or mercy or justice or God or Jesus or Holy Spirit. No. Not those words. They are definitely important, but the most important word in the Bible is with. What? Yes, you heard me correctly. I say that the most important word in the Bible is the word with. With is a simple word. With is a small word that means beside or together. Ahhhh. I think you are starting to see why I say that this little, simple word is the most important word in the Bible.

In our Bible story today, Jesus sends the disciples out into the world to share God’s love and tells them, Remember I am with you always. There’s that word! Jesus is WITH us always. Jesus does not promise that things will be easy or that we will always get what we want. Just this simple word with. Jesus is beside us always. We are together with Jesus always. He is here now. He is here later. He is here. And that is what God’s love is all about. With. Together. Never apart. Never alone.

A few weeks ago, I got a stomachache. I had some sort of virus and it made my stomach hurt. The doctor gave me some medicine to ease the pain but said it would just take some time for the virus to go away. My husband was great at taking care of me. A lot of the time I just lay there and moaned in pain. Mr. Bill would ask What could he do? He wanted to do something for me. He wanted to fix it. And there wasn’t any thing he could do. But it was nice just having him with me. And so he just sat with me.

When Jesus said this most important word in the Bible, I am with you always, He was showing us how to be Christians. He was showing us that simply being together, simply being beside each other, simply being with each other is how we show God’s love in the most simple, basic way.

He is with us always. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Near or far, happy or sad, healthy or sick, Jesus is with us always, with us, loving us.

Say this word after me: with (with). Amen.

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 with me.
Help me
to be with You.
Help me
to be with others
and share Your love.
Amen

We are not Christians alone. (We are with each other!)
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Welcome!

joyfor Sunday, June 8, 2014
Day of Pentecost
Year A
lectionary focus: Acts 2:1-21
note: You can certainly adjust this sermon to fit a mission trip your congregation knows; to create a size comparison between the mission area and your local area, check here for country size and here for US state size.

Welcome!

Recently my daughter Cherry went on a medical mission trip to Uganda. Uganda is a country on the continent of Africa. Uganda is about the size of Alabama and most of Mississippi together…so it is a tiny country. Yet Uganda has five times the number of people as we do in the same space! So, Uganda is a tiny country with lots of people! It took Cherry 15 hours by airplane and 6 hours by bus to get where they were going. Some people in Uganda speak English, by many people don’t. The official language is Swahili, but most people don’t speak that either. In fact, in this small area there are forty different languages spoken! That means that talking can be difficult! My daughter’s group had several translators with them. Each translator knew several languages, but each one did not know all forty languages. Sometimes her usual translator would say…I don’t know that language, I’ll go get one of the other translators. Understanding people’s stories took time, but they found a way. Cherry said the communications were another amazing aspect of the trip.

Today on the church calendar is called Pentecost. We get this name from another language, the Greek language: pentecost means fiftieth. We call today Pentecost because it has been fifty days since Easter. Pentecost sounds much prettier and fancier than saying Holy Fiftieth Day!  In our Bible story today, we hear how on this fiftieth day, the disciples received the Holy Spirit. The disciples were all together when a great force came over them. And then each was able to share God’s love in one of the many languages of the people in the community. The disciples were speaking in the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs! With the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to speak about God’s great deeds in many different languages!

Nowadays we think there are almost 7000 different languages in the whole world. Sharing information and stories can be difficult with so many languages, but our Bible story today tells us that we should not let differences in language prevent us from sharing God’s love with each other. Everyone is invited to be part of God’s family. All are welcome. Or we could say Bienvenidos! Or Willkommen! Or Merhba! Or as they say in the Rutooro language in Uganda: Oraire ota! (oh-rah-EE-ray OH-tah) Give that one a try; say after me:  Oraire ota!  (Oraire ota!) Welcome! Welcome! We are all welcome to God’s love.

The church is a community of people. Not just the people here, but people everywhere. God calls us and equips us through the Holy Spirit to share with others and build God’s church around the world.

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

Dear Lord,
The world is full of Your people.
Thank You
for helping us
find ways to share
Your love
near and far
with each and all.
Amen

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

Being Squirrely

IMG_4202for Sunday, June 1, 2014
7th Sunday of Easter
or Ascension of the Lord Sunday
Year A
lectionary focus: Acts 1:1-14

Welcome!

Do you know about squirrels? They are cute little animals. Can you make a squirrel face? (Make a squirrel face and hold your hands up in front of your heart.) The thing about squirrels though is that some of them are not very smart. Have you ever seen one crossing the street? In front of a car? Now some squirrels will hurry on across and get out of the way. But some squirrels will stop and stand up and just watch the car coming. And when they finally do something, well, it is too late. In my family, we say that when a squirrel is standing in this dangerous situation that he is holding his hands in front of his heart to see if his heart is still beating, to see if he is still alive; and since he is just standing there in front of the oncoming car…well…then…he is usually no longer alive. Those squirrels just stand there watching, doing nothing.

In our Bible story today from the Book of Acts, some of Jesus’s friends get caught just ‘standing there.’ They have been in a situation where they are confused and so they just stand there, like statues, like squirrels in the road. Then two angels come to them and basically say, “Don’t just stand there; do something!” Now I don’t think the disciples were checking to see if their hearts were still beating, but this is what I learn from this story: sometimes even the best of us can get stuck, can get frozen, can just stand there watching. But God calls us to be people of action, to be people who do. Don’t just stand there watching, set forward and help someone. Don’t just stand there watching, step forward and smile at someone. Don’t just stand there watching, step forward and learn from someone. Don’t be a squirrel checking for your heartbeat. God calls us to do His work, to share His love. We are not here just to watch; we are here to do.

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 squirrels.
Thank You
for watching over us.
Help me
to do Your work,
to share Your love.
Amen

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