Category Archives: Other

Blessing of the Backpacks 2017

Nuestra Luna by B Woodruff

Blessing of the Backpacks
August/September 2017
lectionary focus: Romans: 8:38-39
props: backpack with school supplies, solar eclipse glasses, a Bible that you have written in the added text…

Whoop! Whoop!

It’s Back to School! We are gathered here at EPC for our annual Blessing of the Backpacks. And not just students with backpacks, we all take this time to lift up our briefcases, and purses, and lunch boxes, and diaper bags, and grocery bags, and ask God to bless us with strength, courage, and faith as we go about living our lives to God’s glory in this new school year.

I’ve got my backpack. I’ve got the usual school supplies: notebook, pencils, pens, phone, and keys. And once again, I’ve got an un-usual school supply. (take out solar eclipse glasses and put on) These are solar eclipse glasses. You might have heard and will certainly be hearing that on August 21 there will be a pretty cool solar eclipse. This means that in the middle of the day the sun will disappear. Wellllll, not really disappear. The science is: the moon, our moon, that orbits around our earth, will come between our earth and our sun so that our moon blocks our view of the sun and blocks the sun’s rays from coming to our earth—so in the middle of the day, it will get dark, and for a few minutes, it will seem that the sun has disappeared, gone away, left us.

Long ago before people understood the science of an eclipse, they would watch this event without special protective eclipse glasses and two scary things would happen: their eyes would get damaged—some would go blind—because eyes are not strong enough to look directly at even the edge of the sun; and the other scary thing that would happen—the people thought that they had done something bad and the sun was leaving them in darkness forever.

Now we know how to protect our eyes and we recognize the patterns of the solar system. We know that a solar eclipse is a cool and rare event—something to celebrate—and that even though it goes dark in the middle of the day, the sun is still there.

Our Bible Story today goes so well with the eclipse and back to school. It is one of my favorites. It is so great, let me just read it to you straight from the Bible. It’s from the book of Romans, chapter 8, verses 38 and 39.

For I am convinced that no thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord—neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor school, nor teachers, nor parents, homework, tests, pop quizzes, essay questions, ACT prep, research papers, overdue library books, dull pencils, broken shoe laces, bad hair cuts, school lunches, friends, not friends, football games, carpool, rainy days…nor eclipses…nor any thing else in all creation will be able to separate us from God.

Yep. That’s what it says. And it means that we are God’s precious children, and even when our world is dark, God is here and God loves us. We can’t do anything, nor can anything happen, that would make God go away.

Each day as you load up your backpack or briefcase or diaper bag, know that you carry God with you and that God carries you.

Will you put your hands on your backpack and pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the people repeat it.)

Dear Lord
Thank You
for a wonderful summer.
Thank You
for a new school year.
Bless me
with strength
with courage
and with faith
that I will confidently know
You are with me
We love you.
You love us.

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

Another thing…And also with you Part 2

While we are talking about this…

To get my posts out here on the Intrawebs, I click a blue Publish button. But in real life, in a crowded fellowship hall, getting everyone’s attention can be hard and awkward. I encountered this custom by a UMC preacher over 25 years ago, and it’s become a technique I love sharing.

The leader calls for order by lifting the words “The Lord be with you.” Conversations pause as the crowd turns (automatically) responding “And also with you,” and all await the announcements, instructions, blessings, whatevers.

Now some might argue this reinforces  a call-and-response attitude and negates the holiness that I advocate during the Passing of the Peace. Possible. So the leader must be sure to watch the crowd during their response. More possibly, I like to think this method brings holiness to our attention and attention to our holiness.

The Lord be with you…


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

Another thing…And also with you.

Since you and I are talking via the Internet I know that we can’t see each other, but I hope we can see eye-to-eye metaphorically on this issue.

When it comes to the worship service, different styles abound. We all have our preferences. But here’s something that really annoys me in any service.

When the preacher joyfully proclaims, “The Peace of Christ be with you!”–I am annoyed if, while we are returning the just as joyous “And also with you!”…the preacher is busy gathering notes and notebooks and moving on to the next thing in the service. WHAT? I think, LOOK AT ME! Granted, the preacher cannot look at each of us at the same time, but they can look at the congregation. They can graciously receive God’s peace from us.

When we first started at Edgewood Presbyterian, I loved how Pastor Sid glowed and obviously enjoyed this holy moment. And after he retired, I did not let too many Sundays pass before I took young Pastor Joe aside and confronted him on his rush to prepare for the next moment in worship. “Joe, we are talking to you. This not some pointless call and response. We are heaping Peace all over you. Please, pause and accept it.” I think he was stunned: 1) that I criticized him, and 2) that I was right. To this day, Joe knows when I’m in church because at this point in the service, he’s looking right at me. And glowing.

The Peace of Christ be with you…


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

Another thing…what’s in a name?

While we are talking about these sermons, I’d like to share what my church, Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), calls this ministry.

Awhile back at a worship committee meeting, the discussion turned to inclusive language: using non-gender words for God, people-centered language, broad descriptions of family, and other expressions for the biggest possible definition of We. For all our awareness, we then noted that calling these Children’s Sermons is not inclusive. As if this part of worship is just for kids, or even larger, as if this is the only part for children.

We brainstormed and struggled and finally decided to name this part of worship The Sermon from the Steps and name the “adult” sermon, The Sermon from the Pulpit.

There doesn’t seem to be any confusion.* During worship, Pastor Joe says, “And now I invite kids young and old to come down front for the Sermon from the Steps.”

We have not banned the words ‘children’s sermon,’ and we support calling things by their obvious name. But we think Sermon from the Steps and Sermon from the Pulpit are truer names for our sermons and reflect our belief that we are all children of God and that we all belong together in worship.

As you review your use of inclusive language, we encourage you not to forget the kids. I found this post from the Unitarian Universalist Association helpful.
❤ Fran

*While it seems the name should be Sermon ON the Steps…to call the other one Sermon ON the Pulpit made us giggle.

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