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.

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7 responses to “Lenten Series Sermons 2015

  1. Hello, I want to thank you again, and at the moment, particularly for this Lenten idea. We have our trunk at the front of the tiny sanctuary in our heritage church, and because we don’t do an Ash Weds service, (we have about 25-30 people on a Sunday), we packed away the streamers and Alleluias last Sunday, and will continue with the pitcher this week. I’m a new Minister in solo ministry with a small congregation where there are no other paid staff, so having to do everything (including create the bulletin each week), means that I am at times scrambling for ideas. Your blog is one I share all the time with colleagues in ministry, as it is always fresh, fun and relevant. Blessings on your work, In gratitude,

    Jennifer Swanson

    Rev. Jennifer Swanson Ioco United Church, British Columbia, Canada

    Author of What They See: How to Stand Out and Shine in Your New Job http://www.communicationdiva.com

    >

    • Thank you so much for your words! The comments I have gotten on this series have been great encouragement. Sometimes it is hard to know if these are a help to anyone. I’m thrilled to know that I’ve helped others and even reached British Columbia!! Peace and blessings to you and yours. May you come safely through the dark and chaos of Lent into the bright, joyful mystery of Easter!
      -Fran

  2. Really appreciate this! Especially at times when it feels impossible to pull off! Marg Stark Kensington Community Church UCC

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Love this feedback. Early this week, it did feel impossible. Now I just have to get Palm Sunday…which I keep typing Psalm Sunday…and Easter. Thank you for your encouragement.
      -Fran

  3. Pingback: Lenten Series 2015 | on the chancel steps

  4. Love this idea. Thanks! We packed up alleluias and then read your blog. Always tweaking things a little bit. We’ll be packing up our communion elements and flowers.

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