Suffer the Little Children…

This is the E-PACKET for:

Suffer the Little Children–Worshiping Joyfully With All Ages:
A Hodge-Podge of Practical Resources, Ideas, and Discussion
A Workshop Presented at The Main Event: Leadership Development Conference Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley & North Alabama Presbytery
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. ~Ephesians 6:15

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. ~Ephesians 6:15

We start with questions to ponder…
What would a perfect worship service look like for a kid?

What would a perfect worship service look like for an adult?

I think the answers are pretty much the same. This presentation shares how Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Homewood, Alabama is going beyond the children’s sermon to incorporate children into the whole worship service seamlessly and joyfully. It’s not about changing the words, just adding words to include children. It’s not about a time FOR children, just crafting the service so that children feel included.

Having a hard time convincing your congregation? Need some supporting dialogue? Try these posts:

Building Faith: Children in Church, Healthy Church Resources, Dear Parents,

A Holy Experience, 2015

Ministry Matters, 2011

How do we make this inclusive worship happen?

#1 Resource: Worshiping with Children by Carolyn C. Brown

Carolyn is a Certified Christian Educator in the PCUSA and my mentor in designing intergenerational worship. Through her blog WORSHIPING WITH CHILDREN, she provides lectionary explanations, activities, hymn and story cross-references, themes, illustrations, ideas, suggestions, and answers. After reading through her Topical Index, especially Popping Posts About Almost Anything Related to Including Children in Worship, find what you need for a particular Sunday through her Lectionary, Scripture, and Date Indexes. Subscribe to her blog and never miss a post!

Today’s Presentation Menu
In the presentation, I gave myself only 20 minutes to share some of the moments where we intentionally yet seamlessly blend children into the worship service.
Here are the descriptions; please feel free to ask questions:

1. Minions
(Acolytes)
Our kids start acolyting in Second Grade. Yes, it is scary to give them fire, but they love it!

2. Thanks to the Ox.
(Baptism)
I learned this one from First Presbyterian in Oxford, MS.
For a baptism, the children of the church are invited down to the fount. After the parents answer their questions (and before the sponsors and congregation answer theirs), these questions are asked of the children:
Do you promise to be a friend to ________? (We do.)
If he/she needs directions, will you show him/her the way? (We will.)
If he/she falls down will you pick him/her up? (We will.)
Will you play with ___________ and share with him/her the stories of Jesus? (We will.)
This could also be done when a family with children  joins the church.
I’ve also thought it would be lovely if the Youth Group (or representative) came forward, too.

3. We claim this space!
(Baptismal Waters)
Before the Prelude at Edgewood Presbyterian Church, our pastor and a child walk down the aisle to the Baptismal Fount. As Pastor Joe reads scripture, the child (ages 5 years and up) pours water into the fount. Said child then walks (usually skipping) back to their seat while Joe invites the congregation to prepare for worship by listening to the Prelude.
Lots of things happening here. It is theological and practical: We don’t have lots of baptisms and so this act reclaims the sacrament for us each Sunday. The visual entrance and audible pouring claim the space and signal that worship has begun. Besides any kid willing to do it can; no training or scheduling necessary.

4. Is this microphone on?
(Lay Readers)
We’re not just talking about the elementary aged kids! Middle and High School kids can be lay readers. EPC did a whole Christmas Eve service with just the Youth reading. (Kids are not just for Youth Sunday anymore.)

5. Yum
(Communion)
For years, we took communion back to the nursery at the appropriate time. Now we haul all those kids into the sanctuary at the appropriate time. My favorite was the time they were a wee bit late and Charlie called out, “We missed him breaking the bread!” Some kids go and join their parents (as we walk to the table) while others stay with the nursery worker.

6. Neo-Impressionists
(Didn’t you grow up drawing on the church bulletin?)
Let’s put that energy to work! Provide postcard-size papers in the pews and invite the congregation (hint hint the kids) to write and draw messages and inspirations and encouragements that can then be collected (during the offering or at the end of the service) and mailed/sent to those on the prayer list.

7. Not at all like proper children
(Shadows)
Kids don’t actually have to do the work to do the work. Meaning: have a kid stand next to the greeters or ushers or chalice bearers or preacher…they can walk down and stand there for the welcome and then go sit down. They don’t have to say anything, but they can carry stuff, handout stuff, or wave hello. Of course never pressure a kid to do any of this! Just allow, invite, and welcome.

8. Give and Take
(Blessings)
Didn’t you grow up drawing on the church bulletin?
Let’s put that energy to work! (oh wait, we’re already doing this?)
Provide smaller than postcard-size papers in the pews and invite the congregation (hint hint the kids) to write and draw blessings. At the end of the service provide a bowl at the door, people put a blessing in and take a blessing out. This gives the kids something prayerful for their participation in the service.

9. Thou Shalt
(The 10 Commandments)
On my blog I have developed the 10 Commandments of Children’s Sermons. Check them out!
But these rules fit all parts of worship:
The Lord is God: Keep it simple! Including kids doesn’t and shouldn’t be hard.
Honor your father and your mother: Yes, some of church gets lost on the kids, but by letting kids know they are included they will feel comfortable asking their parents for explanations later.
And my favorite, You shall not murder: Nothing kills a child’s participation faster that being the spotlight especially if their action causes the congregation to laugh. I know, we are laughing at their cuteness and innocence and all their good things, but they just hear laughter AT them. Do not put the kids on display for kids on display’s sake. This is worship of God. We are praising God together.

10. Back to School
(Blessing of the Backpacks)
This is a long annual tradition at EPC. (See this blog for the sermons.) As we start the new school year, we invite kids, students, teachers, parents, retirees, and all workers to bring their diaper bags, backpacks, purses, briefcases, carryalls, lunch boxes, whatever. During the children’s sermon, we look forward to the new learning in the new school year and ask God to be with us each and every day. We have college kids that come in town just for this Sunday! It is truly a special event. **First Pres at Auburn, AL shared that during their Blessing of the Backpacks they give a backpack charm (a cross or a fish) for the kids so they can carry on their backpacks a visual reminder that they are loved by their congregation and by God.

11. Waiting is the Hardest Part
(Themes for Advent and Lent)
In addition to the Blessing of the Backpacks, we use the children’s sermon time to explore season themes. Our Advent series of children’s sermons now runs on a three year cycle focusing on: the Advent wreath, the creche, and the Chrismon Tree; while the children get to light the candles of the wreath, layout the figures of the creche, and decorate the tree, all of God’s children get a lesson to soothe the waiting for the big joyous mystery of Christmas. During Lent, we have focused on different kinds of prayers, mission to others (with children bringing bread and socks and pet treats), and packing away the Alleluia (placing the items—Bible, processional cross, baptismal pitcher—we will need for the big joyous Easter celebration into a big trunk). (See this blog for sermons.) Yes, these happens during the children’s sermon but they are enjoyed by the whole congregation. **Gardendale Pres, AL, shared that they are interested in creche manipulatives to have in the nursery/children’s church area for the the kids to use after they leave the sanctuary. Krista Lovell from Generation to Generation was on hand at the Main Event with her wooden storytelling figures perfect for little hands to hold and all hearts to hear God’s story.

12. On the Cover of the Rolling Stone
(Church Bulletin Covers)
We recently started The Mud Ministry, an art program to provide images for the cover of the weekly church bulletin. We call it the Mud Ministry from John 9:15 “He put mud on my eyes…and now I see.” We invite church members to submit photographs, drawings, paintings, any artistic medium to illustrate something from that week’s lectionary. See these examples:

13. I Spy
(Chi Rho Spy)
This is why you came to this workshop! My Episcopalian friend Jill in Brevard, NC, came up with this one. We’ve taken photographs of their sanctuary…close-ups of windows, pews, the chalice, the organ, tapestries, the fount…and put them in two different photobooks (these by Shutterfly) with a verse on the left page and the photo on the right page. These books will be left in the pew once a month (or forever) and during worship, worshipers can look at the book and scan the sanctuary to locate the image. A quiet, artful, lovely meditation.

14. Do you say Crayon or Crown?
(Children’s Bulletins)
A way to harness that drawing power of children during church is to provide a Children’s Bulletin. There are many available for purchase. Check this site for a list of several:
http://www.buildfaith.org/2014/10/01/the-childrens-bulletin/
Or you can made/adjust your own. Use simple words to give the order of worship and provide an explanation of what is happening and why it is happening. Provide check boxes beside each step in the service. Be sure to have crayons and/or pencils in a plastic bag to be used with these.

15. The Used-Car Lot
(Streamers)
This past Lent, our Pastor Joe asked a question of the congregation during each sermon (such as: What is your commitment this Lent? How do you see God? What brings you joy?). In the bulletin was a 4 inch by 4 inch square of origami paper. After Joe asked the question, we had a few minutes to write our answer on the paper square. Then as we processed for communion, we dropped the paper square in a tall glass vase. The congregation was told they would see these again, but we kept it a surprise. On the Saturday before Easter, we took the 1000 squares, folded them into a triangle and glued them to long pieces of kite string; and then draped the flagged strings to the church rafters. It did kind of look like a used-car lot, but the image on Easter morning walking into the sanctuary with a 1000 colorful papers strung throughout…was breathtaking. While this was aimed at the adults, the kids were just as excited to share their thoughts (in words or drawings) on the paper squares. Everyone was amazed.

16. Bonus Track
(Your Church Newsletter)
Technically this is NOT a worship activity, but this fall in our church’s newsletter, we will start a column suggesting mealtime blessings. Our goal is to give kids something to anticipate…a new blessing!…but really anybody might want to try a different grace. The idea came from my Episcopal friend Jill who has the book A Grateful Heart; when you share her table, she has you pick a number between 5 and 65 and then you read the blessing on that page.

Whew! 16 possibilities…

And finally, I closed the workshop sharing a children’s sermon. One of my all time favorites that works nicely at this time of year as it is a Blessing of the Backpacks: More than a Cabbage. You can find it on this website by clicking here. As the lectionary has rolled around and this Cabbage from 2012 fits with 2015, I’m reworking it for Sunday, August 16, 2015 as The Curious Pineapple. Did you know that it takes 2 years for one pineapple to grow and be ready for harvest? And that each pineapple plant make only 1 or 2 pineapples in its whole life?? So much work for one delicious piece of fruit!

So that’s it. This is the end of the e-packet. Please share any comments or questions or wonderments via the Comments here or email me at: chancelsteps AT gmail DOT com

Peace,
Fran

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

Gathering Together

150712kidsfor Sunday, July 12, 2015
7th Sunday after Pentecost
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 10
Year B
lectionary focus: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24

Welcome!

I love how joyfully you all come up to the chancel steps. Some of you run; some of you skip; and some of you walk…slowly…but you each come with intention and a smile. And I love how when I come into church each Sunday, Mr. Ray meets me at the door and gives me a big hug before he gives me the bulletin. When we gather for church and when we gather on the chancel steps, we meet each other in a joyful way. And our joy gives witness to our unity, that we are excited to all be God’s children together.

On our bulletin cover this morning, there is a picture of doors. Some of you guys drew these doors a few weeks ago with Miss Lindsey. This picture shows our church is a welcoming place, inviting the world to come and join us and be part of God’s family. This picture shows that nothing will keep us from opening the doors to let the people in.

In our Bible story today, King David calls for the people of Israel to come to God’s house. King David leads the people dancing through the town, joyfully celebrating the Glory of God. The people go dancing and singing and playing instruments and inviting everyone to join them as they process to God’s temple. King David calls for the church doors to be lifted and opened that all may gather to worship God.

So you see, for thousands of years, people have been getting together to worship God. And we make a big deal of gathering. We open the doors and come into the church excited to see our friends; curious to meet new visitors; thankful that God is with us. We come into church and celebrate being together as family to worship God who loves us each very much.

This past week our special word was #dance and we looked for ways that people were dancing. This week’s special word is #music. I bet you can think of lots of good pictures to go with music. I wonder what pictures Pastor Joe is taking on his vacation to go with music? So keep your eyes watching and get your parents to snap and post some pictures with our #epcvbs. And remember, lift up your heads and worship with joy. We are gathered to celebrate.

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 doors that open.
Thank You
for our church family.
Thank You
for dance and music
and being together.
Us and You.
You love us.
We love You.
Amen

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

Hashtag Summer

150607epcvbsfwfor Sunday, June 7, 2015
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 5
Vacation Bible School
Year B
lectionary focus: Mark 3:20-35
props: camera phone and Instagram/FaceBook
note: Our small church has decided NOT to do Vacation Bible School this summer. Not as a week long event nor as part of Summer Sunday School. This year, we are giving ALL of our Sunday School teachers a break! We will still have a Sunday School time, but each week the children will be taught by our lovely intern (I suggested she use StoryPath books.), and all the rest from Middle School on up will be taught Bible 101 by our new preacher (I know! Where did we get this guy? Hope we don’t burn him out too quickly!).
I have been following Brother, Give Us a Word from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.  I applaud this awesome use of social media! My Pastor Joe and I discussed how we might use such an online tool with our congregation. And so #epcvbs is happening! This Sunday I will explain our Online Vacation Bible School during the children’s sermon time, give the first hashtag word (#family), and close with a group photo on the chancel steps. Through our church’s Instagram account (instagram.com/edgewoodpres) and hashtag words of the week, we will encourage our church family to connect and to post pictures using our main hashtag #epcvbs and the hashtag word of the week (see suggested hashtag words for each week following the sermon below). We want to provide our church family with another way to stay connected visually, mentally, and spiritually during summer vacations. (Since this Online Vacation Bible School is an intentional intergenerational activity, this hashtag word of the week will not be part of the children’s sermon every week—though it can be.) (Since not everyone views social media, Pastor Joe will print out the pictures each week and post them on the “wall” in the Narthex.) So here goes…let me know if I don’t make any sense.

Happy Summer!

I am so excited that summer is here and we are into our summer routines of not really having a routine! Summer is a big travel time and lots of us will be visiting family: grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins. Like holidays, summer is a great time for family to get together.

In our Bible story today, Jesus talks about family. Jesus points out that family is not just your parents or your brothers and sisters or your grandparents or your cousins. Jesus tells us that the people He calls family are those who follow God. Whoa! That means since we follow God that we are part of Jesus’s family! And since each of us are part of Jesus’s family, then we are part of each other’s family…meaning we are all family together. This is why we call each other part of our church family. Looks like we’ve got a big, happy family!

One of my favorite things that families do is take family photographs. So today I’ve brought my camera to take our church family picture together here on the chancel steps. But the thing is…I want each of you to be able to see the picture. Do you guys know who this is? You may have seen him in Pastor Joe’s office. He’s the church mouse. Pastor Joe posts pictures of the church mouse on an app called Instagram. So we’re going take our picture with the church mouse, post it on Instagram, and then all of our church family can see it! Here, you Ben, hold the church mouse.

And I’m going to stand back here, you guys squish in on the steps, and you guys in the congregation do your best photo-bomb pose! I might have to take two pictures. One, two, say Alleluia! (take the picture or two!)

One of the ways that Instagram makes it easy to share pictures is through labels called hashtag. Do you fingers like this. (Do the hashtag symbol if you understand what I’m talking about.) By using a hashtag label, we give a picture a theme. The hashtag for this picture that I just took is of course #family.

This is fun! I want to do this more. And I bet you guys would be good at it too! Let’s do this. All summer long, our church family is invited to post pictures on Instagram. This week, we start with #family. So when you guys (those on the steps with me here) and you guys (those in the pews out there) see something that makes you think “family,” we want you to photograph it, hashtag it with #family, and then post it to share. And so we can see them all together, Pastor Joe will print out the pictures and post them on the Narthex wall. AND each week this summer, Pastor Joe will give us a new hashtag word of the week for next week, and we can find other opportunities to photograph the new theme.

But we also need a hashtag to connect all of the pictures and themes. Our main hashtag will be #epcvbs. EPC stands for Edgewood Presbyterian Church and VBS stands for Vacation Bible School. Using Instagram, we are taking our Vacation Bible School wherever we are this summer. Through #epcvbs, we can share our family adventures with our whole church family. This way, we can all be church family together, following God whether we are here or there, near or far; we can stay connected spiritually and visually through the magic of technology.

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 family.
Thank You
that we are each
part of Your family.
Help us all
stay connected this summer
through worship,
through fun,
and through technology.
Amen

Suggested Weekly Hashtag Words that fit with the Revised Common Lectionary
We are still working on these. We want to find hashtags that don’t pull up inappropriate pictures on Instagram…if you know what I mean.

For the week of
June 8: #family

June 15: #davidandgoliath or #bestill

June 22: #morning or #balance

June 29: #honor or #HONORGOD

July 6: #welcome or #music or #fullness

July 13: #rocks

July 20: #picnic

July 27: #water

Aug 3: #truth or #GODSTRUTH

Aug 10: #backtoschool or #blessingofthebackpacks

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

Easter 2015 Unpacking the Trunk

IMG_0719for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter Sunday
Year B

Not to sound sacrilegious, but I am all about the theatre of church. I find it Holy when each part of the service flows from one moment to the next. I’ve also been around long enough to know this flow takes a lot of planning, preparation, practice, and work. As our packed trunk will be unpacked by the children at the opening of our Easter celebration, I have spent an afternoon with Pastor Joe blocking out the details. Here are our stage directions; adjust as fits your congregation. As the children’s sermon falls in its usual spot a third of the way through the service, scroll down if you want just the sermon. 

In addition to the Easter decorations, our Lenten trunk will be open, draped in white cloth, surrounded by Easter lilies, and bursting forth with all sorts of white streamers, banners, and garlands.

*  Choir processes in silently and takes their place in the loft.

*  The Chiming of the Hour.

*  Choir sings Verses One and Two of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden”
(solo male doing verse one; solo female doing verse two)
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #241
Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2013.
also
Hymnary.org

*  Two acolytes enter from back of church with lit torches, stopping at Row One.

*  Pastor Joe, wearing his robe but not the stole, follows them and continues over to the trunk. He gets the big, fancy Bible and returns to stand between acolytes.

*  Pastor Joe: Please rise in body and spirit for the Gospel of the Lord.
Reads John 20:1-18, Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…

*  Pastor Joe: The GOSPEL of the Lord.

*  Congregation: Praise to You, Lord Christ.

*  Pastor Joe: The congregation may be seated but I invite the children to come forward to unpack our Lenten trunk and prepare the sanctuary for our Easter celebration.

*  While the whole Choir now sings Verses Three, Four, and Five of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden,” there will be much messy and chaotic and (we hope) joyful activity:

* Acolytes go and light the candelabras and then meeting to light the Christ Candle together once it is unpacked and placed.
* Helping adults take their places as noted later.
* Children come down to meet Joe at the trunk.

* Joe hands the big, fancy Bible he was just reading to a child, Run this up there to Miss Lindsey at the lectern and then run back down here.”

* Joe hands Christ Candle to a child, “Take this to Miss Fran over there and then run back over here.”

* Joe hands Processional Cross to a child, Run this to Finn in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands the baptismal pitcher to a child, Run this to your mom in the back of the church.”  (This kid will be kept by her mom as in a few minutes she will process in with the filled pitcher.)

*  Joe hands out the boxes of doughnuts—yes, real doughnuts so there will be lots of boxes, all taped shut to prevent spilling—Run these to Mr. Ben and Mr. Dave and Mr. Ray in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands out the Alleluia streamers, “Here make sure every kid gets one of these when they come back.”

*  Joe gets two kids to put the white stole around his shoulders.

*  When all the kids return down front (except the one with the baptismal pitcher now in the back beside Finn with the processional cross),
Pastor Joe: Thank you for unpacking our trunk with the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. You are now holding the Alleluia streamers that you made long ago before Ash Wednesday. And we can now say that Easter word: Alleluia! Each time your hear this word today, I want you to wave your streamers and make the bells on them ring. Let’s practice: Alleluia! (Kids wave and ring.)

*  Pastor Joe: (Turning to the congregation) Please rise again in body and spirit for the Call to Worship.
(To the kids) Listen to how this goes.

*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.
(Doing this a second time so all the kids can participate.)
*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.

*  Opening Hymn

*  During the singing of the opening hymn, the Processional Cross is brought in, followed by the child with the baptismal pitcher who pours the waters into the font.

We will continue with the Service.

IMG_0167Children’s Sermon
for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter
Year B
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter NOW EMPTY AS NOTED ABOVE.

Wow! Happy Easter! Everybody say, Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

Here we are at the big, joyful, mystery of Easter!

There sure was a lot of running this morning! I love how you all ran to unpack our Lenten trunk. I love how you ran to put each item from our Lenten trunk back in its place. Everything is now decent and in order.

In our Bible Story this morning, we heard about a lot of running. When Mary and the women found Jesus’s tomb empty, they ran to Peter and John. And then everybody ran back to the tomb and then, they all ran some more. They ran because things did not make sense and they were trying to find the sense of everything; they ran because things seemed out of control and they were trying to find some control for what was going on; they ran because everything seemed out of order and they were trying to find the order of everything.

And that’s the big, joyful, mystery of Easter:
The resurrection of Jesus puts order into our lives.

It’s that simple.
It’s that simple, but it’s that complex.
This doesn’t mean that everything in life is easy; this doesn’t mean the junk drawer in my kitchen is all organized and clutter-free; this doesn’t mean I will never be confused or sad again. Easter works with the craziness and puts order into our lives; Easter gives us direction, gives us purpose. And the direction, the purpose, the order in our lives is love.

Through the resurrection of Jesus, we know that God loves us. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. And as God loves us, we are called to love each other.

Long ago, on that first Easter, as the disciples were running around the empty tomb, Mary stood confused in the cemetery. A man asked her why she was crying. Mary turned around supposing the man to be the gardener; but He was Jesus, the gardener of the whole world. Mary turned around and found that Jesus had put love into our lives. When we want things to make sense, when we want to know how to lead, when we want to arrange everything in order, we go with love.

This is the mystery.
This is the direction.
This is the order.
For God so loved the world.
For God so loves you.

As you run, or walk, or crawl, or skip, or dance, or sit very, very still, remember Easter puts order in our lives. Easter puts love in our lives. We are Easter people. We are people of love.

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

Dear Lord,
Alleluia!
Christ is Risen!
Easter puts love in our lives.
Help us
put Your love
in the world.
Alleluia!
Amen

I hope you have enjoyed this Lenten/Easter series.
I’d love to read your comments.

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

Lenten Series Sermons 2015

towerBackground: See my explanation of our Lenten Series for the outline and plan.

I hope those of your reading this blog have figured out that many people have their fingerprints on it. This Lenten Series idea comes through my newest church buddy Pastor Joe Genau of my church Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Joe came to me with this ‘crazy’ idea…“I’ve got this huge trunk. It’s been my dream to use it…” And so the conversation exploded from there. We looked at the lectionary; we looked at other sites and readings about Packing Away the Alleluia; we looked at the kids in our congregation; and together we decided to get our kids ready for Easter by having them plan for the celebration, helping them figure out what we will need on that joyful Easter morning. I’m so excited about this series collaboration…and so excited about Pastor Joe including these kids in the worship of our Lord every Sunday. Love me some crazy!

This post here has all the Sunday sermons for the series. My church began Lent at an Ash Wednesday service that included a children’s sermon noted below. Since I’m such a slacker and did not post that sermon beforehand, you may want to adapt the First Sunday in Lent sermon to cover that object. Feel free to rearrange/substitute objects to fit your worship. Our point is to mark this Lenten Season as a time to set aside the important things we will need for the big, joyful, mysterious celebration of Easter so that we will be ready and new and special on that day.

for Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Ash Wednesday
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 51:1-17
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND Alleluia streamers with bells attached to small dowels. You’ll want to have many of these streamers on dowels so that on Easter you can pass them around the congregation.

Good evening!

It’s kind of strange to be at a worship service at night in the middle of the week. But it’s also kind of cool!

I know that you all know about Easter. Easter is a big, bright, joyful special day. We say Alleluia! and Christ is risen! and The Lord is risen indeed! This big celebration is coming but it is not Easter yet. We are now in the time before Easter. This is called the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we get ready for the big celebration that is coming. Easter is bright and colorful and loud. But Lent is dark and gray and quiet. Lent is a time when we focus on getting ourselves ready for the celebration, but we don’t celebrate just yet.

Our Bible story tonight reminds us that we must prepare ourselves to praise God. We pray so that we may ready for what God puts into our hearts.

This Lenten Season we will be putting away the things we will need for our Easter celebration so that we will be ready and feel new and be special on that day. Tonight we have these streamers that you guys made in Sunday School last week. Each streamer says Alleluia! This is an important word for Easter Sunday. It is one word that lifts many praises to God. And to remind us that it is a special important Easter word, we don’t let ourselves say this word during the Season of Lent. We save it. But notice we have many streamers that have “this” word on them. Not one streamer, but many…one for you and you and you and you and you and all of them out there and everybody. Because on Easter we need everybody’s voice to praise God. So now I’ll place the streamers in our trunk. They will be here ready for us to unpack on Easter and use to lift many praises to God.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, February 22, 2015
First Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Genesis 9:8-17; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big mysterious celebration of Easter AND the baptismal pitcher or other baptismal object.

Good morning!

The sanctuary looks a little different today. You notice that the paraments are now purple. And we have this big trunk at the front of the church. We are now in the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we prepare for the big celebration that is coming. You know about Easter. Easter is a big, bright, joyful celebration. We say Christ is risen and The Lord is risen indeed. This big celebration is coming but it is not Easter yet. Lent is a time when we focus on getting ourselves ready for the celebration, but we don’t celebrate just yet. On last Wednesday night, we began our preparations for Easter by packing away the streamers that you guys made. I wonder if you remember the special Easter word that is on the streamers. Let us whisper this word now. (Alleluia.) We don’t use this special Easter word during Lent. By keeping this word silent during Lent, it will make this word extra loud and joyful on Easter.

Today we are packing away another item that we will need for our big Easter celebration. This is our baptismal pitcher. You guys help Pastor Joe each week by carrying the pitcher full of water and pouring it into the font during the prayer. You do this to remind all of us that we are claimed by God, that we are all God’s children.

In our Bible story today, we hear about Noah and his family in the Old Testament going through the great flood. We also hear about Jesus in the New Testament being baptized in the river. These stories of water remind us that as the children of God, we go through the darkness of water, and we come out into the light of God.

Today we pack away the baptismal pitcher. We will not use it during Lent. This gives us time to be dark, and gray, and quiet. Then on Easter, we will unpack the pitcher. You will again pour the water. We will celebrate anew coming out of the darkness and into the light; we will rejoice anew that through the love of Jesus, God claims each and all of us as His children; we will shine anew with the brightness of God’s flowing love.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 1, 2015
Second Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the processional cross. (Fortunately ours comes apart into two pieces so it will fit in the trunk.)
bonus: We are considering a added wonderment of scattering sand around the entrances to the church. This will be an extended metaphor of Genesis 22:17. Not addressing this during the children’s sermon, but possibly in the adult sermon and/or Sunday School.

Welcome!

We are in the Season of Lent. We are preparing for the big, joyful, mysterious celebration of Easter, but it is not Easter yet. We are packing away the things we will need for our celebration. We have already loaded the trunk with those streamers with this Easter word that we do not say during Lent. We have placed our baptismal pitcher in the trunk awaiting the light at the end of the Lenten darkness. Today we will pack away our processional cross. I know…you must be thinking, ‘How is that going to fit into our trunk?’ Engineers are smart; the cross is made so we can take the top part off the pole and it won’t get damaged while it is packed away. And now, you are probably wondering, ‘Why pack away the cross?!’

In our Bible stories today, we are reminded that God has made a covenant with us. God has made a promise to us. Through Jesus, we have life eternal; through Jesus, we will always live with God. The cross is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The cross is also a symbol that we no longer fear because we are always with God.

Each Sunday as the choir comes into the church, our acolyte carries the processional cross. This reminds us that we are each followers of Jesus, carrying a cross of resurrection and life. We will not be packing away all of our church crosses, just this big processional cross. Then on Easter, we will unpack it. We will again lift high our cross. We will again proclaim the love of Christ. We will again adore His sacred name. With brightness and joyfulness. We will be Easter people remembering anew God’s covenant and promise of life to us. God is with us always.

And so I place the cross in our trunk. It is kind of odd to pack away the cross. But we are not getting rid of it; we are not forgetting it; we are preparing the things we will need for the great celebration to come. We are allowing ourselves a time of darkness, so that we can shine in the brightness of Easter.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 8, 2015
Third Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 19:1-14 (verse 10)
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND a clean, empty doughnut box. (We have doughnut time after the service; we will continue this time of fellowship through Lent, but with another treat; I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces on this Sunday.)

Uh oh. I can see the excitement on your faces that I am holding a doughnut box. And now I can see the worry on your faces as you remember that during this time of worship we are packing away the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. Yes. You are right. Today we pack away the doughnuts. Just so you will know: this is an empty doughnut box. And just so you will know: I am sure there will be some sort of treat after the service.

And just so you will know: I wonder too why do we have to pack away the doughnuts???

The Bible is full of stories that speak to us of God, stories that share wisdom and hope and faith and love. And today’s story from Psalm 19 reminds us that God’s Word to us is sweeter than honey.

Each Sunday after church, we enjoy a time of fellowship, talking and eating doughnuts. This time of fellowship, of sharing God’s love with each other and reflecting on God’s Word to us, is very important and special. Today, to show we understand how special God’s Word is and how special our fellowship time together is, we are packing away the doughnuts. We will continue to have our fellowship time, but to give a little darkness and quiet in that time as we are in the Season of Lent, we will skip the doughnuts. And then on Easter Sunday, the doughnuts will return! We will spend our Easter fellowship time rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of God’s Word, tasting the doughnuts that like God’s Word are as sweet as honey.

I place this empty doughnut box in our trunk. The box is next to our streamers with this Easter word we do not say during Lent. It is next to our baptismal pitcher and our processional cross. We are in the dark and quiet Season of Lent. We are preparing ourselves for the big, joyful mystery of Easter. The celebration is coming, but we are not celebrating yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 15, 2015
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: John 3:14-21
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the Christ Candle.

Good morning!

Light is a big part of our worship service. Each Sunday, the acolytes bring the light into the church and  light our candles; and at the end of the service, they carry the light out into the world. The light is a symbol and a reminder that Jesus is the light of our lives. Through Jesus, there is no darkness. Through Jesus, we let the light of God’s love shine to those around us. We sing the song, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Our Bible story today says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only son; Light has come into the world; and whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.”

On Easter Sunday, we will start our celebration by lighting a new candle: this candle. This Christ candle is larger than our other candles. It is marked with the cross and the Greek letters alpha and omega, reminding us that Jesus is the beginning and the end. We use this candle throughout the Easter Season and on other special occassions. Lighting this candle on Easter will end our Lenten Season of darkness.

Then of course! We need to pack this candle away so that it is ready for our big, joyful Easter celebration. We place it here in our trunk next to the streamers, and the pitcher, and the cross, and the doughnut box. We know that this Lenten time of darkness and quiet will end. We will unpack the trunk. We will shout with joy and we will run with gladness. The celebration is coming but it is not time to celebrate yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 22, 2015
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Jeremiah 31:31-34
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the big, fancy Bible. We have a big, fancy Bible that stays on the lectern; during the children’s sermon we will take it from there to place in the trunk.

Welcome!

Before we start, I need to get something important. I’m going up here to the lectern and get an important book. I’m taking the big, fancy Bible. And I am sure you can guess what we are going to do with it. Yep, we are going to pack away the Bible. We’ve been surprised by some of the things we have packed away in our trunk for the upcoming big, joyful Easter celebration. But the Bible?? Don’t worry; our readers will still have a Bible to read our stories. But we are packing away this one for Easter because the Easter story is so big and so joyful that we need the big, fancy Bible for Pastor Joe to read.

I want to show you today’s Bible story. It is here, in the Book of Jeremiah. We read that God says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” You know, it really doesn’t matter how big the Bible is or how fancy the binding or lettering. The important thing is that these stories are the Word of God to us. Through our Bible stories, God is telling us how to live; God is writing His word on our hearts. And that word is love.

Easter is the greatest story of love. And so on Easter, we will celebrate in a great big way and we will read this greatest story of love from the big, fancy Bible. For now, we place it here in our trunk to be ready with the streamers, and the pitcher, and the cross, and the candle, and the doughnuts. Soon we will unpack the trunk. We will shout with joy and run with gladness. The Easter celebration is coming but it is not time to celebrate yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

IMG_0669for Sunday, March 29, 2015
Palm Sunday
Year B
lectionary focus: Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-16; John 13:1-7, 31B-35 (from Maundy Thursday’s readings)
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the white vestment stole.

Good morning! Good morning!

It seems the celebrating has begun! But wait! While the dark and the gray and the quiet of Lent has gotten thin today, we have not arrived at the Easter celebration yet. In our Bible story today, the people welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, having a parade and waving palm branches as symbols of welcome and safety. But we know the rest of the story. We know that the real celebration is not here yet. While today we enjoying the palms and singing Hosanna, we know that this week we have to go through the darkest, grayest, quietest part of Lent before we come out into the brightest, shiniest, and most joyful Easter next Sunday.

And so today we finish packing our trunk for Easter. We started long ago packing the streamers with the Easter word. We then added the baptismal pitcher. We took apart and added our processional cross. Then we packed away the doughnuts. That was so hard to do!! Then the Christ Candle went in, followed by the big, fancy Bible. Seems we don’t have much left to pack. But today we will add the stole. The what? The stole. This is a stole. (point to the current one being worn by your pastor) The stole is this lovely cloth Pastor Joe wears over his robe. The stole is a sign that he is a preacher. It makes him look very fancy and special.

But the stole is also a symbol of work. Later this week we will hear the Bible story of the last meal Jesus has with his friends. During this meal, Jesus stops and washes the disciples’s feet. I know! It sounds crazy! We want clean hands when we eat, but Jesus gets down on his knees and washes his friends’ dirty, stinky feet! Like us, I am sure the disciples were wondering why He did that!!! And so we will all understand, Jesus explains. Yes, He said that He is our teacher and Lord, but He is showing us what we are called to do. We are called to work; we are called to take care of each. None of us is so fancy and so special that we cannot work for each other. So preachers wear the stole as a symbol of the towel Jesus used when He washed and dried the disciples’s feet, and the stole reminds us that we are called to work for each other.

Today we pack away Pastor Joe’s stole. But not this lovely purple one because purple is the color of Lent. For our bright, shiny Easter celebration, we change to a pure, shiny white. This is the stole we will pack today for Pastor Joe to wear next Sunday. (now show the white stole) This is the stole Pastor Joe will need for our big, mysterious, joyful Easter celebration next Sunday.

All of our objects are safely packed away. We are ready to celebrate, but we are not there yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter Sunday
Year B

(Not to sound sacrilegious, but I am all about the theatre of church. I find it Holy when each part of the service flows from one moment to the next. I’ve also been around long enough to know this flow takes a lot of planning, preparation, practice, and work. As our packed trunk will be unpacked by the children at the opening of our Easter celebration, I have spent an afternoon with Pastor Joe blocking out the details. Here are our stage directions; adjust as fits your congregation. As the children’s sermon falls in its usual spot a third of the way through the service, scroll down if you want just the sermon.)

In addition to the Easter decorations, our Lenten trunk will be open, draped in white cloth, surrounded by Easter lilies, and bursting forth with all sorts of white streamers, banners, and garlands.

*  Choir processes in silently and takes their place in the loft.

*  The Chiming of the Hour.

*  Choir sings Verses One and Two of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden”
(solo male doing verse one; solo female doing verse two)
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #241
Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2013.
also
Hymnary.org

*  Two acolytes enter from back of church with lit torches, stopping at Row One.

*  Pastor Joe, wearing his robe but not the stole, follows them and continues over to the trunk. He gets the big, fancy Bible and returns to stand between acolytes.

*  Pastor Joe: Please rise in body and spirit for the Gospel of the Lord.
Reads John 20:1-18Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…

*  Pastor Joe: The GOSPEL of the Lord.

*  Congregation: Praise to You, Lord Christ.

*  Pastor Joe: The congregation may be seated but I invite the children to come forward to unpack our Lenten trunk and prepare the sanctuary for our Easter celebration.

*  While the whole Choir now sings Verses Three, Four, and Five of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden,” there will be much messy and chaotic and (we hope) joyful activity:

* Acolytes go and light the candelabras and then meeting to light the Christ Candle together once it is unpacked and placed.
* Helping adults take their places as noted later.
* Children come down to meet Joe at the trunk.

* Joe hands the big, fancy Bible he was just reading to a child, Run this up there to Miss Lindsey at the lectern and then run back down here.”

* Joe hands Christ Candle to a child, “Take this to Miss Fran over there and then run back over here.”

* Joe hands Processional Cross to a child, Run this to Finn in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands the baptismal pitcher to a child, Run this to your mom in the back of the church.”  (This kid will be kept by her mom as in a few minutes she will process in with the filled pitcher.)

*  Joe hands out the boxes of doughnuts—yes, real doughnuts so there will be lots of boxes, all taped shut to prevent spilling—Run these to Mr. Ben and Mr. Dave and Mr. Ray in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands out the Alleluia streamers, “Here make sure every kid gets one of these when they come back.”

*  Joe gets two kids to put the white stole around his shoulders.

*  When all the kids return down front (except the one with the baptismal pitcher now in the back beside Finn with the processional cross),
Pastor Joe: Thank you for unpacking our trunk with the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. You are now holding the Alleluia streamers that you made long ago before Ash Wednesday. And we can now say that Easter word: Alleluia! Each time your hear this word today, I want you to wave your streamers and make the bells on them ring. Let’s practice: Alleluia! (Kids wave and ring.)

*  Pastor Joe: (Turning to the congregation) Please rise again in body and spirit for the Call to Worship.
(To the kids) Listen to how this goes.

*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.
(Doing this a second time so all the kids can participate.)
*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.

*  Opening Hymn

*  During the singing of the opening hymn, the Processional Cross is brought in, followed by the child with the baptismal pitcher who pours the waters into the font.

We will continue the Service…

IMG_0167Children’s Sermon
for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter
Year B
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter NOW EMPTY AS NOTED ABOVE.

Wow! Happy Easter! Everybody say, Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

Here we are at the big, joyful, mystery of Easter!

There sure was a lot of running this morning! I love how you all ran to unpack our Lenten trunk. I love how you ran to put each item from our Lenten trunk back in its place. Everything is now decent and in order.

In our Bible Story this morning, we heard about a lot of running. When Mary and the women found Jesus’s tomb empty, they ran to Peter and John. And then everybody ran back to the tomb and then, they all ran some more. They ran because things did not make sense and they were trying to find the sense of everything; they ran because things seemed out of control and they were trying to find some control for what was going on; they ran because everything seemed out of order and they were trying to find the order of everything.

And that’s the big, joyful, mystery of Easter:
The resurrection of Jesus puts order into our lives.

It’s that simple.
It’s that simple, but it’s that complex.
This doesn’t mean that everything in life is easy; this doesn’t mean the junk drawer in my kitchen is all organized and clutter-free; this doesn’t mean I will never be confused or sad again. Easter works with the craziness and puts order into our lives; Easter gives us direction, gives us purpose. And the direction, the purpose, the order in our lives is love.

Through the resurrection of Jesus, we know that God loves us. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. And as God loves us, we are called to love each other.

Long ago, on that first Easter, as the disciples were running around the empty tomb, Mary stood confused in the cemetery. A man asked her why she was crying. Mary turned around supposing the man to be the gardener; but He was Jesus, the gardener of the whole world. Mary turned around and found that Jesus had put love into our lives. When we want things to make sense, when we want to know how to lead, when we want to arrange everything in order, we go with love.

This is the mystery.
This is the direction.
This is the order.
For God so loved the world.
For God so loves you.

As you run, or walk, or crawl, or skip, or dance, or sit very, very still, remember Easter puts order in our lives. Easter puts love in our lives. We are Easter people. We are people of love.

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

Dear Lord,
Alleluia!
Christ is Risen!
Easter puts love in our lives.
Help us
put Your love
in the world.
Alleluia!
Amen

I hope you have enjoyed this Lenten/Easter series.
I’d love to read your comments.

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

Lenten Series 2015

IMG_3415Looking for Lent options? We are crafting a Lenten Series. (See the sermons here.)

Building on ‘Burying or Packing Away the Alleluia,’ each Sunday, we will add to our trunk special objects that we will use on Easter Sunday. Our phrase is ‘a big celebration is coming, but we are not there yet.’ We are looking forward to Easter remembering that we are Easter people on a journey with God. (And yes, we will key on the Revised Common Lectionary for each Sunday.)
I hope those of your reading this blog have figured out that many people have their fingerprints on it. This Lenten Series idea comes through my newest church buddy Pastor Joe Genau of my church Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Joe came to me with this ‘crazy’ idea…“I’ve got this huge trunk. It’s been my dream to use it…” And so the conversation exploded from there. We looked at the lectionary; we looked at other sites and readings about Packing Away the Alleluia; we looked at the kids in our congregation; and together we decided to get our kids ready for Easter by having them plan for the celebration, helping them figure out what we will need on that joyful Easter morning. I’m so excited about this series collaboration…and so excited about Pastor Joe including these kids in the worship of our Lord every Sunday. Love me some crazy!

Here is our outline:

Ash Wednesday: Pack Away the Alleluia Streamers
We have a large packing trunk that will be kept at the front of the church and draped in purple. At this first service, we will place many streamers with the word Alleluia. Yes, we need more than one, as it is not THE Alleluia, but YOUR Alleluia that we need on Easter.

1st Lent: Remembering our baptism, we pack away the baptismal pitcher.

2nd Lent: Remembering our covenant with God, we pack away the processional cross.

3rd Lent: Remembering the sweetness of God’s word, we pack away the doughnuts. Yes, this might be impossible! After worship each Sunday, we have fresh, warm doughnuts; today we will pack them away and not have them until Easter Sunday. (I’m sure there will be some other option…but we know this will get the kids’ attention.)

4th Lent: Remembering God’s grace, we pack away the Christ Candle.

5th Lent: Writing God’s word on our hearts, we pack away the big, fancy Bible.

Palm Sunday: Remembering that through the joy of the Palm Sunday parade and the darkness of Holy Week, we look to the light of Easter and pack away Pastor Joe’s white stole.

Maundy Thursday: The trunk will be closed and draped in black.

Easter Sunday: Now the trunk is open, draped in white, and filled with flowers and streamers and possibly balloons and other symbols of joy. Our service will begin with Pastor Joe and two acolytes processing to the front. Joe will unpack the big, fancy Bible. Flanked by the acolytes and their lit torches, he will read a portion of John 20:1-18 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” Joe will then invite the children to come unpack the trunk with the special objects we need for our Easter celebration. Our hope is this will involve much running (as on the first Easter) with children taking the baptismal pitcher to be filled, carrying fresh hot doughnuts to the narthex, stationing the processional cross at the start of the choir line, lighting the Christ Candle at the front of the church, and passing out the many Alleluia streamers (which are on thin dowels and have bells tied to them) to all the children of God. Now that the children have helped us, we will begin our celebration of the big mystery of Easter. Later in the service, the children’s sermon will follow a traditional Easter sermon.

A more formal script coming soon…

Peace,
Fran

Lean Downstream

IMG_1966Our guest preacher has gone rogue and is using a different text!
for Sunday, February 1, 2015

lectionary focus: Isaiah 43:16-21
prop: canoe paddle

Good morning!

This is a canoe paddle. This is used in a canoe on a lake or a river. On a lake, the paddle helps you get the canoe from one place to another. But on a river, the paddle really just helps you steer because the flowing water of the river does most of the work of moving you downstream. And as you go downstream in a river, there are some places where there are lots of rocks and the water piles up in a big, frothy mess. These are called rapids. And they can be kind of tricky to get your canoe to go through. When I was learning to canoe, my husband, Mr. Bill, taught me how to handle the rapids. You lean forward towards the rapid. See if you lean forwards in the canoe you put the weight in the front and the canoe just swooshes through the frothy water easy peasy. If you get scared and lean away from the rapid, you put the weight in the back and water will spill into the canoe and flip it so that you go through the rapid and the rocks in the water and not safe and dry in the canoe. While this leaning forward makes sense, it can actually be hard to do. Our instinct is to lean back, to get away from the scary, big, frothy mess of water. But the way to get through this difficult thing, is to get through this difficult thing. The plan, the adventure, the fun, all happens when we lean forward.

In our Bible story today from the Book of Isaiah, the people of God are not canoeing on a river. But they are facing a big, difficult, scary mess. They have been working hard in a strange land. And they’ve gotten whiney. They want to lean away; they want to turn back. But the Prophet Isaiah reminds the people that even in the dry wilderness, God is there. God is doing a new thing for His people. God is making a way for them to go…but God’s people need to trust Him; God’s people need to lean forward.

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in difficult places. We want to turn around. We want to go back. We think that behind us is safety and comfort. But know this: God is with you always. And God is leading you to new and better things each day. God is making a way for you through the difficult things. God has chosen each of you and God is calling each of you to trust Him and to lean forward.

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 adventures
in our lives.
Help us
to trust You
and to lean forward
that we may go forth
in Your world.
Amen

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