Category Archives: Special Sundays

Advent and Christmas 2016

img_2616for Advent and Christmas 2016.
Revised Common Lectionary Year A.
Narrative Lectionary Year 3.

Greetings!

During the past few Advents, we have highlighted tools we use to prepare for the mystery of Christmas: the Creche, the Chrismon Tree, and the Wreath. This year, we will partner with our Missions Ministry and focus on the Advent Calendar. Whereas with a traditional Advent Calendar doors are opened and a treat is received, our Advent Calendar will invite the people to bring an item each week for Missions. We are still processing the details so edits will be made to this post over the next few weeks…and your comments are always welcome!! Do not hesitate to adjust this series to fit your lectionary focus and the needs of your community.

(Editor’s note: My church has switched lectionary! Edgewood Presbyterian is spending this year exploring the Narrative Lectionary. Created in 2010 by Luther Seminary, the Narrative Lectionary is a four-year cycle and uses fewer but bigger chunks of text each week progressing September to May from Creation to the Early Church. For more information, click here. This is why you will notice both RCL and NL texts listed each week…fortunately, they (kinda) line up thematically for Advent.)

The Basic Outline

Christ the King Sunday: November 20
RC Lectionary: Colossians 1:11-20
N Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Since we will be asking the people to bring items each week, we will use this Sunday prior to Advent to introduce the series.

Advent 1: November 27
RC Lectionary: Matthew 24:36-44
N Lectionary: Daniel 6:6-27
Focus Word: Peace
Missions Item: Honey for a local food pantry. Alas, due to health code regulations, this must be store-bought, processed honey and not neighbor, artisan honey.

Advent 2: December 4
RC Lectionary: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13
N Lectionary: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Focus Word: Hope
Missions Item: Pajamas for First Light Womens Shelter

Advent 3: December 11
RC Lectionary: Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10
N Lectionary: Isaiah 61:1-11
Focus Word: Comfort
Missions Item: Socks for Mens Firehouse Shelter

Advent 4: December 18
RC Lectionary: Matthew 1:18-25
N Lectionary: Luke 1:26-49
Focus Word: Greetings
Missions Item: Chocolate kisses and hugs (Like Hershey’s)

Christmas Eve: December 24
RC and N Lectionary: Luke 2:1-14, 15-20
Focus Word: Go Forth
Missions Item: Gas Cards. Often those in need stop by the church asking for assistance; gas cards will be a way to help without handing out cash. Gas cards can also be donated to Children’s Hospital/Ronald McDonald House to assist those supporting sick family members.

And now the sermons…

Christ the King Sunday: November 20
RC Lectionary: Colossians 1:11-20
N Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Good morning!

Often times when we gather, we talk about the Church Calendar. We talk about the special seasons and the special days of the Church Year. We have the Season of Lent right before the Season of Easter. And after Pentecost, during the Green Growing Season of summer and fall, we have the special days of Communion Sunday and All Saints. Today on the Church Calendar is called Christ the King Sunday. Today we celebrate the glory of the Lord…and we also look forward to a new Church Year. Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday on the Church Calendar. That means next Sunday begins a new Church Year with the Season of Advent. And Advent is the time when we prepare for the mystery of Christmas.

Talking about calendars and Advent…well, I’m sure you have heard those two words together. One of the many ways we mark Advent and prepare for Christmas is with an Advent Calendar. There are many different kinds of Advent Calendars: some have pictures, some have stories, and some have candy or toys…but they all count down the days to the mystery of Christmas.

Advent Calendars have been used around the world for just over 100 years. On traditional Advent Calendars, a door is opened each day. Doors are a symbol for welcome and sharing and new opportunity. This year at EPC, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday by opening the door to a new Church Year and a new kind of Advent Calendar. Starting next week, for our Advent Calendar, instead of counting days, we will count weeks. And instead of us getting something, we will give items for Missions. Each week, we will bring an item to the church; gather our items; read the Bible Story; and then the items will be delivered to those in need. We will count down to and prepare for the mystery of Christmas by following Christ’s example of welcome and sharing, by sharing God’s love with our community.

And so what we will bring for next Sunday? For the First Sunday of Advent, we will collect…honey. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, get a jar of store-bought, processed honey and next week, we will collect them for the Food Pantry at IPC; and we will see how honey is a sweet way to share God’s love.

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

Dear Christ the King,
Thank You
for the special days and seasons
of the Church Year.
Thank You
for many ways
to share Your love.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

***

Advent 1: November 27
Keep Calm and Advent On
RC Lectionary: Matthew 24:36-44
N Lectionary: Daniel 6:6-27
Focus Word: Peace
Missions Item: Honey for a local food pantry. Alas, due to health code regulations, this must be store-bought, processed, commercial honey and not neighbor, artisan honey.
Inspiration: In his Advent book Like a Cat Asleep on a Chair, my friend Wayne McLaughlin reflects on “The Clause” by C.K. Williams, “This entity I call my mind, this hive of restlessness…”

Good morning! Happy New Year!

Today we start a new Church Year with the Season of Advent. Advent is the time we prepare for the mystery of Christmas. Some people use an Advent Calendar to count down the days to Christmas. They open doors on the calendar to see a picture or to read a story or to get a treat. We are using the Advent Calendar idea to count down the four weeks to Christmas. But instead of us opening a door each week to get a treat, we are opening our hearts and giving gifts to those in need. Today, for the First Week of Advent, we are giving jars of honey to the IPC Food Pantry.

Honey is made by bees. Bees are very busy. Always moving, always working, always buzzing. Sometimes I feel like our world is a great big beehive—all the people are buzzing with activity just like bees. We race through the days doing this, taking care of that. We don’t slow down. We don’t stop. [Narrative Lectionary: Our Bible Story today is about the Prophet Daniel; he’s the one who ends up in the lions’ den. And how does Daniel get through? Daniel stays calm. Daniel stays calm and trusts God.] [RCLectionary: Our Bible Story today from the Gospel of Matthew reminds us to be ready for God, but not worry about God. We are to keep calm and trust God.]

At this time of year, the world seems particularly busy and crazy. But for us at church, Advent is a time to be particularly calm. We are called to pause from the buzzing here and there of the world around us. During Advent, we prepare for the mystery of Christmas calmly, quietly, peacefully.

Bees move quickly. But honey…when we pour honey, it moves sweetly and slowly. Our gift to the Food Pantry gives us a touch of peace while giving others a touch of God’s love through the sweetness of His creation.

Sharing peace is what Advent is all about. This is how we prepare for the mystery of Christmas.

Today starts the First Week of Advent; we have opened our hearts and given our first gift. Next week, for the Second Week of Advent, we ask you to bring pajamas for the guests at First Light Women’s Shelter. And through this Season, remember: Keep calm and Advent on!

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for bees who are quick.
Thank You
for honey which is slow.
Help me
open my heart
to be calm
and to share Your peace.
Amen

Note: Usually at this point, we have a special Advent song. This year we are opting for the organist to match the weeks and play one, two, three, then four verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but very slowly and in a minor key. This will sound familiar but very different and perfect for the Advent mood.

***

Advent 2: December 4
RC Lectionary: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13
N Lectionary: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Focus Word: Hope
Missions Item: Pajamas for First Light Women’s Shelter

Good morning!

We are in the Season of Advent. Advent is the time we prepare for the mystery of Christmas. Some people use an Advent Calendar to count down the days to Christmas. They open doors on the calendar to see a picture or to read a story or to get a treat. We are using the Advent Calendar idea to count down the four weeks to Christmas. But instead of us opening a door each week to get a treat, we are opening our hearts and giving gifts to those in need. Last Sunday, for the First Week of Advent, our gifts of honey went to the IPC Food Pantry. Today starts the Second Week of Advent, and today we have brought pajamas for the guests at First Light Women’s Shelter.

[Narrative Lectionary: Our Bible Story today is from the Prophet Joel.]
[RC Lectionary: Our Bible Story today is from the Prophet Isaiah.] We hear words of hope for our future. But hope is not a weak word that means ‘we wish.’ Hope is a strong word that means ‘we know.’ During Advent, we renew our hope, renew our knowledge that our future is beautiful and abounding in God’s love.

Pajamas are an odd gift to connect to hope. But let’s think about it. We don’t have to have pajamas; a t-shirt and shorts work just fine. So giving pajamas goes beyond the practical, beyond what is needed; pajamas are special. And giving something special is a way of expressing hope. First Light Women’s Shelter is a place for women who do not have a home. By giving pajamas to the guests at First Light, we are wrapping them in a coat of love, love, love. We are renewing their hope, their knowledge that their future is beautiful and always abounding in God’s love.

Sharing hope and peace is what Advent is all about. This is how we prepare for the mystery of Christmas.

Today starts the Second Week of Advent; we have opened our hearts and given our second gift. Next week, for the Third Week of Advent, we ask you to bring socks for the guests at the Men’s Firehouse Shelter. And through this Season, remember: Keep calm, express hope, and Advent on!

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for pajamas
to keep all Your children warm.
Help me
open my heart
to be calm
to express hope
and to share Your peace.
Amen

Note: Usually at this point, we have a special Advent song. This year we are opting for the organist to match the weeks and play one, two, three, then four verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but very slowly and in a minor key. This will sound familiar but very different and perfect for the Advent mood.

***

Advent 3: December 11
RC Lectionary: Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10
N Lectionary: Isaiah 61:1-11
Focus Word: Comfort
Missions Item: Socks for Men’s Firehouse Shelter
Editor’s Note: For this Sunday, an alternate Revised Common Lectionary is the Annunciation which falls on Week 4 in the Narrative Lectionary. This gets a bit tricky, but you may want to switch my sermons around and do Week 4 here and adapt this theme to fit the RCL for Week 4. Confusing, I know!

Good morning!

We are in the Season of Advent. We are using our Advent Calendar to count the four weeks to the mystery of Christmas. But instead of us opening a door each week to get a treat, we are opening our hearts and giving gifts to those in need. For the First Week of Advent, our gifts of honey went to the IPC Food Pantry; last Sunday, for the Second Week of Advent, our gifts of  pajamas went to the guests at First Light Women’s Shelter. Today starts the Third Week of Advent—and today we have socks for the guests at the Men’s Firehouse Shelter.

Let me explain. The Firehouse Shelter helps men who need housing or clothes or food or help with medicine or school or work or the law. Socks may not seem big enough to help, but think of this. Our feet are our friends. Taking care of our feet is important so that we can feel healthy and get around in this world. When our feet hurt, everything hurts; when our feet feel good, it sure helps our heart and mind and the rest of our body feel good.

[Narrative Lectionary: In our Bible Story today, the Prophet Isaiah uses poetry to describe how God loves us by clothing us with salvation and righteousness. Salvation and righteousness are not actual clothes that we wear; Isaiah is being poetic about how God makes us feel safe and comfortable. Our gifts of socks will keep the men’s feet warm and dry and cushioned in comfort. Our small, simple gift of comfort will help the men walk securely in God’s love.]
[RC Lectionary: In our Bible Story today, the Prophet Isaiah looks to the glory of the Lord…describing how the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame shall leap like a deer. Isaiah uses poetry to describe how God makes us feel safe and comfortable and strong. Our gifts of socks will keep the men’s feet warm and dry and cushioned in comfort. Our small, simple gift of comfort will help the men walk strongly in God’s love.]

Sharing hope and peace and comfort is what Advent is all about. This is how we count the weeks to Christmas. This is how we prepare for the mystery of Christmas.

Today starts the Third Week of Advent; we have opened our hearts and given another gift. Next Sunday starts the Fourth and final week of Advent. For next Sunday, we ask you to bring…a bag of Chocolate Kisses and Hugs. And through this Advent Season, remember: keep calm, express hope, share comfort, and Advent on!

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for socks
to bring comfort to all Your children.
Help me
open my heart
to be calm
to express hope
to give comfort
and to share Your peace.
Amen

Note: Usually at this point, we have a special Advent song. This year we are opting for the organist to match the weeks and play one, two, three, then four verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but very slowly and in a minor key. This will sound familiar but very different and perfect for the Advent mood.

***

Advent 4: December 18
RC Lectionary: Matthew 1:18-25
N Lectionary: Luke 1:26-49
Focus Word: Greetings
Missions Item: Chocolate kisses and hugs. (Like Hershey’s)
Editor’s Note: Sorry that the Narrative Lectionary is not matching the Revised Common Lectionary on this day. But for the RCL, Joseph is greeted by an angel in a dream…feel free to adjust this sermon to match that text better.

Good morning!

We are still in the Season of Advent. We are using our Advent Calendar to count the four weeks to the mystery of Christmas. But instead of us opening a door each week to get a treat, we are opening our hearts and giving gifts to those in need. For the First Week of Advent, our gifts of honey went to the IPC Food Pantry; for the Second Week of Advent, our gifts of pajamas went to the guests at First Light Women’s Shelter; then last Sunday, for the Third Week of Advent, our gifts of socks went to the guests at the Men’s Firehouse Shelter. Today starts the Fourth and FINAL Week of Advent, and today we have brought Chocolate Kisses and Hugs for the guests at SafeHouse.

In our Bible Story today, Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and learns that she is to be the mother of Jesus. That’s a pretty big job to be given in this world—and immediately Mary says, “Here I am Lord!” While she joyfully accepts this call, Mary realizes that she needs to make plans and prepare, so she travels to her Cousin Elizabeth’s house. There Elizabeth greets Mary with hugs and kisses, and Mary has time to prepare for the new life before her in peace and comfort.

We, too, are a people who like to prepare for what comes next. Advent is the Season when we prepare for the mystery of Christmas. But throughout the year and throughout the world, there are people who need to go some place to make their plans. We have brought these chocolate kisses and hugs for the guests at SafeHouse. SafeHouse is a peaceful, comforting place for women in need to go and make their plans for what is next in their lives. Our chocolate gifts are symbols of our own greetings of hugs and kisses to welcome them as they prepare.

Sharing hope and peace and comfort and greetings is what Advent is all about. This is how we count the weeks to Christmas. This is how we prepare for the mystery of Christmas.

Today starts the Fourth and Final Week in Advent and we have opened our hearts and given another gift. This coming Saturday is Christmas Eve. We will again celebrate the mystery of Christmas! But we will bring one more gift—to finish our journey to Christmas we want you to bring a gas card—those prepaid cards to use at gas stations—so Pastor Joe can help people in need get where they need to be. So for this final week of Advent: keep calm, express hope, share comfort, offer greetings, and Advent on!

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for chocolate
to greet all Your children with hugs and kisses.
Help me
open my heart
to be calm
to express hope
to give comfort
to offer greetings
and to share Your peace.
Amen

Note: Usually at this point, we have a special Advent song. This year we are opting for the organist to match the weeks and play one, two, three, then four verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but very slowly and in a minor key. This will sound familiar but very different and perfect for the Advent mood.

***

Christmas Eve: December 24
RC and N Lectionary: Luke 2:1-14, 15-20
Focus Word: Go Forth
Missions Item: Gas Cards. Often those in need stop by the church asking for assistance; gas cards will be a way to help without handing out cash. Gas cards can also be donated to Children’s Hospital/Ronald McDonald House to assist those supporting sick family members.

Merry Christmas!!

Yes, Christmas is here! We have counted the Four Weeks to the mystery of Christmas, opening our hearts each week with gifts for those in need. For the First Week of Advent, our gifts of honey went to the IPC Food Pantry; for the Second Week, our pajama gifts went to the guests at First Light Women’s Shelter; then socks for the guests at the Men’s Firehouse Shelter on the Third Week; and last Sunday, chocolate kisses and hugs for the guests at SafeHouse. Tonight, Christmas Eve, you have brought gas cards.

As we hear our Bible Stories tonight about the birth of Jesus, I think it is funny for us to bring gas cards. Mary and Joseph travel by donkey; the shepherds use their feet; and later the wisemen will ride camels. None of them are stopping at gas stations. But throughout these stories, the people of God are traveling. They are going forth, answering God’s call.

The people of God are stilled called to go forth, and we are the people of God. Cars are one way that we go forth. Pastor Joe will keep our gifts of gas cards to share with those in need to help them go forth.

But as the Season of Advent moves to Christmas, do not think we are finished. With the mystery of Christmas, we are called to keep our hearts open—to go forth throughout the year finding other ways to continue keeping calm, expressing hope, giving comfort, and offering greetings. There is always more work to do for God and with Jesus, we have plenty to share.

Sharing is not just what Advent is all about. Sharing is what everything is all about. We have prepared for the mystery of Christmas by doing that which is the mystery of Christmas. Sharing. Always sharing.

For God so loved the world…
and we answer God’s call by going forth with open hearts and sharing. Keep calm, express hope, give comfort, offer greetings, and go forth.

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

Dear Lord,
Merry Christmas!
You are here!
We are here!
We are ready!
Our hearts are open!
We will go forth
and share Your love!
Amen
Amen

As the children return from the Steps, the organist will play 5 verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas…but this time regular tempo, regular key.

***

Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!
Peace of Christ with you all as you go forth and share!

(Especially share with me any typos, mistakes, whatevers that you see!)

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

Advent and Christmas 2015: Highlighting the Advent Wreath

IMG_1661This post contains 5 sermons: 4 for Advent and 1 for Christmas Eve. (For our other Advent series, check 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.) This year during the children’s sermon, my church Edgewood Presbyterian Church is highlighting the Advent Wreath. Each week a Youth (who are also our lay readers during December) will light the Advent candles at the appropriate time. We are using the traditional words: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love in the traditional order—but on Christmas Eve we will rearrange our traditional Order of Worship in a meaningful way!

We are also excited to use a hymn written especially for the Advent Wreath. Light a Candle Bright and Tall by David Wood (2012) can be found here. I have left a message on his post; I encourage you to do the same if you use his song.

The First Sunday of Advent: November 29: The Candle of Hope
lectionary focus: Luke 21:25-36
The Second Sunday of Advent: December 6: The Candle of Peace
lectionary focus: Luke 1:68-79
The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudet Sunday): December 13: The Candle of Joy
lectionary focus: Philippians 4:4-7
The Fourth Sunday of Advent: December 20: The Candle of Love
lectionary focus: Luke 1:35-45 (46-55)
Christmas Eve: December 24, 2015: The Christ Candle
lectionary focus: 1 John 4:7-9, 16b

*****

Let us begin…(and please let me know of any typos, errors, or broken links!) 

*****

candle1For Sunday, November 29, 2015
First Sunday of Advent
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 21:25-36
references:
hope not as wish-so, but as know-so from an article by Jack Wellman, Patheos, 5/26/2014
Desmond Tutu quote from The New York Times, 3/7/2010.

Hello!

We are now in the Season of Advent. Advent is the time we get ready for the mystery of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration that Jesus becomes the light of the world, that we live in His light, and that no darkness can cover up the light of Jesus. While the stores and shops are trying to get us to rush up to Christmas, we here at Church settle into the time of getting ready. We sing slowly, we pray slowly, and we listen slowly.

To help us mark these four slow weeks until Christmas, we light the candles of the Advent Wreath. Notice there are four blue candles for the four weeks. We light one candle each week, slowly making the wreath brighter and brighter and brighter. And when we have lit all of the blue candles, then it will be time to light the white candle; then it will be Christmas.

But Christmas is still a long time from now. And so today, the First Sunday of Advent, Finn will light one candle. We start with the Candle of Hope.

I always thought that hope meant a wish…I hope that it snows this year. But our Advent hope is not a wish-so, this hope is a know-soby our hope in Jesus, we know that the world is surrounded by His light.

This one candle by itself does not seem like very much. But there is a wise man named Desmond Tutu who said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Let me say that again, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” And so the Candle of Hope is the perfect place to start our Advent.

After our prayer, we have a special song to sing.
Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Candle of Hope
that everyone may see
Jesus is the Light of the World.
Help us
to live in Your Light,
to live in Your Hope.
Shine within our hearts today.
Amen

And now we will sing the first verse of Light a Candle Bright and Tall.

*****

candle2For Sunday, December 6, 2015
Second Sunday of Advent
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 1:68-79

Hello!

We are now in the Season of Advent. Advent is the time we get ready for the mystery of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration that Jesus becomes the light of the world, that we live in His light, and that no darkness can cover up the light of Jesus. The world is trying to get us to rush up to Christmas, but we here at Church are settling into this time of getting ready. We are singing slowly, we are praying slowly, and we are listening slowly.

To help us mark these slow weeks until Christmas, we light the candles of the Advent Wreath. As we light one more blue candle each Sunday, the wreath will get brighter and brighter and brighter. And when we have lit all of the blue candles, then it will be time to light the white candle; then it will be Christmas.

But it is not Christmas yet. Last Sunday, we lit the first candle, the Candle of Hope. We heard that by our hope in Jesus we are able to see the light despite all of the darkness.

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, and that means Adrian will now light the second candle, the Candle of Peace.

I always thought peace meant completely silent and still. Listen to the candles. We can’t really hear them. Yet, notice how they flicker and move. The flames are so quiet, but they are not still.

In our Bible story today from the book of Luke, we hear that peace is an action. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaims God’s faithfulness, God’s salvation, and God’s peace. We are reminded that God calls us to move forward into the action of peace.

Our Advent Wreath is now a little bit brighter. We continue our slow journey to the celebration of the light of Jesus. With Hope and Peace, let us move forward into the action of sharing the light of Jesus.

After our prayer, we have another verse of our special song.
Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Candle of Peace
that everyone may see
Jesus is the Light of the World.
Help us
to live in Your Light,
to live in Your Hope,
to live in Your Peace.
Shine within our hearts today.
Amen

And now we will sing the second verse of Light a Candle Bright and Tall.

*****

1advent8260aFor Sunday, December 13, 2015
Third Sunday of Advent
Year C
lectionary focus: Philippians 4:4-7

Hello!

We are well into the Season of Advent. Advent is the time we get ready for the mystery of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration that Jesus becomes the light of the world, that we live in His light, and that no darkness can cover up the light of Jesus. It certainly seems we are rushing up to Christmas, but here at Church we are in this time of getting ready. We are trying to sing slowly, we are trying to pray slowly, and we are trying to listen slowly.

But you know, this Advent stuff has been going on a long time. And it’s still not Christmas. We’re trying to be all slow, trying not to rush getting ready for the celebration. But slow is hard.

And so today. We’re going to take a break from slow.

It’s still not Christmas yet, but today is the Third Sunday of Advent, today we light the Candle of Joy. And you know: joy just ain’t slow.

But, let me back up a bit.

On the First Sunday of Advent, we lit the first candle, the Candle of Hope. We heard that by our hope in Jesus we are able to see the light despite all of the darkness.

Last week on the Second Sunday of Advent, we moved forward with action and lit the Candle of Peace. We listened to the silent candles, but watched them flicker and move.

And like I said, today is the Third Sunday of Advent. Now Sarah will light the Candle of Joy.

Another name for the Third Sunday in Advent is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is an old Latin word that means Rejoice! And what do we hear in our Bible story today? From the book of Philippians, loud and clear, we hear “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Say after me, “Rejoice!” (Rejoice!) (Get them really going on this…lots of joy!)

Sigh. That felt good.

The Advent Wreath is a way for us to mark the long, slow weeks until Christmas. The three candles of our wreath are giving a good amount light. Makes us excited about how much more light is coming. With Hope, Peace, and Joy, the world is looking brighter and brighter.

After our prayer, we have a special song to sing.
Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Candle of Joy
that everyone may see
Jesus is the Light of the World.
Help us
to live in Your Light,
to live in Your Hope,
to live in Your Peace,
to live in Your Joy.
Shine within our hearts today.
Rejoice!!
Amen

And now we will sing the third verse of Light a Candle Bright and Tall.

*****

1xmas8289For Sunday, December 20, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)

Hello!

We are still in the Season of Advent. Advent is the time we get ready for the mystery of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration that Jesus becomes the light of the world, that we live in His light, and that no darkness can cover up the light of Jesus. The world has been getting us to rush up to Christmas, but we here at Church have been slowly getting ready. We have been singing slowly, we have been praying slowly, and we have been listening slowly.

To help us mark these slow weeks until Christmas, we have lit the candles of the Advent Wreath. The wreath has gotten brighter and brighter and brighter.

But it is not Christmas yet. On the First Sunday of Advent, we lit the first candle, the Candle of Hope. We heard that by our hope in Jesus we are able to see the light despite all of the darkness.

On the Second Sunday of Advent, we moved forward with action and lit the Candle of Peace. We listened to the silent candles, but watched them flicker and move.

And last week on the Third Sunday of Advent, we took a break from slow and lit the Candle of Joy. Rejoice!!

And now look! There’s only one blue candle left! And we are going to light it today. Go ahead JD and light the Fourth Candle, the Candle of Love.

Our Bible stories during Advent have given us bits and pieces of the Christmas story. Today’s reading we hear of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her visit with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary sings a beautiful song, a song of hope, peace, and joy, all wrapped up in a coat of love, love, love. Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” Love is about as big a light as we humans can make. And yet, God’s love for us is brighter. We call this the Candle of Love because no matter what, God’s love will always outshine the darkness.

All four blue candles are now lit. But we have a few more days left in Advent. We have a few days to carry slowly the brightly shining lights of hope, peace, joy, and love. And then we will celebrate Jesus becoming the light of the world, we will celebrate living in His light, we will celebrate a love and a light that knows no end.

After our prayer, we have another verse of our special song.
Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Candle of Love
that everyone may see
Jesus is the Light of the World.
Help us
to live in Your Light,
to live in Your Hope,
to live in Your Peace,
to live in Your Joy,
to live in Your Love.
Shine within our hearts today.
Amen

And now we will sing the fourth verse of Light a Candle Bright and Tall.

*****

IMG_1661For Thursday, December 24, 2015
Christmas Eve
Year C
lectionary focus: 1 John 4:7-9, 16b (This is flexible if you are not using this scripture.)

Technical notes:
On Christmas Eve, EPC does a candlelight service of 6 lessons and carols with the children’s sermon coming between the second and third lesson, the adult sermon between the fourth and fifth lesson, and following the sixth lesson the sharing of the light. We have decided this year to switch up the order.* The adult sermon will come between the third and fourth lesson. After the fourth carol is sung, those younger children who have opted to be in the nursery will brought in to the sanctuary and be invited with all the children down to the chancel steps. We will ‘review’ the Advent Wreath; light the Christ Candle; and then all listen from the steps as the fifth lesson (1 John 4:7-9, 16b) is read. We will pray; sing the Advent Wreath verse; and send the children to join their families as we prepare for the congregational candlelighting. With our children’s sermon series focus on the light, we want to make sure the children are ALL there for the candlelighting…it is the highlight of our series on Jesus becoming the light of the world!
*Parents will be notified so they can make decisions about their children who typically stay through the early children’s sermon and then head to the nursery.

Hello!

Merry Christmas! Yes, Christmas is here!

We have moved slowly through Advent; all four of our blue Advent candles are lit; now we are here at Christmas. We are celebrating that Jesus has become the light of the world, that we live in His light, and that no darkness can cover up the light of Jesus.

In the center of our Advent Wreath is the white candle. Surrounded by the Candles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, we call this center candle the Christ Candle. As Sabrina lights the Christ Candle, let us listen to Word of the Lord. (The reading of 1 John 4:7-9, 16b)

Our Advent Wreath is now fully bright. But the light does not stop and end here. As we just heard, the light and love lives in us. And God calls us to share the light of Jesus. In just a moment, you guys will go back to where your families are sitting. You each have a candle there like this. Our acolytes will take the light from the Christ Candle and share it with each of us, and we will share it with each other, and soon our bright Advent Wreath will be even brighter as the light shines throughout the church. Now it’s important to remember, when we are holding the light of Jesus, when we are holding the lit candle, we do not tilt the candle. Wax can be hot. We always hold the lit candle bright and tall.

Jesus is the light of the world. We live in His light. No darkness can cover up the light of Jesus.

After our prayer, we will sing our special song.
Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Christ Candle
that everyone may see
Jesus is the Light of the World.
We live in Your Hope.
We live in Your Peace.
We live in Your Joy.
We live in Your Love.
We live in Your Light.
Shine within our hearts.
Amen

And now we sing the final verse of Light a Candle Bright and Tall.

And now go find your family…

Thanks be for each of you,
my on the chancel steps friends,
for being part of my family!

Merry Christmas!
May the light of Jesus continue to shine through you.
Fran

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

 

KEEP (SH)OUT(ING)!

IMG_1895

This is how it played out at EPC. It was awesome. ~Fran

for Sunday, October 4, 2015
World Communion Sunday
19th Sunday After Pentecost
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 22
Year B
lectionary focus: Mark 10:2-16

note and PROP: As Edgewood Presbyterian Church celebrates World Communion Sunday, our children’s sermon will prepare the congregation and the table for Communion. Our prop is a fence section that will be placed on top of the Communion Table. By turning the fence into a table, we are saying: there is plenty to share; the table is big; we are one world. A great book to extend this lesson is The Greatest Table by Michael Rosen.

Good morning!

I have a BIG prop today! This is a section of fence. We put fences around things for safety. We fence our yards so our dogs can play and not get lost. We put fences beside roads so that drivers will know where to drive their cars. We put fences around dangerous things like power stations and water towers so that people don’t get hurt. Fences can be very helpful. But some people want to build fences to be selfish. Some people want to use fences to say that other people need to go away; to say that other people are not welcome there; to say that other people need to KEEP OUT (helper puts sign on the fence). Some people want to use fences because they feel there is not enough to share.

In our Bible story today, Jesus fusses at the disciples when they are being selfish. The disciples use themselves to make a fence to keep children away from Jesus. Jesus moves the disciples, opens His arms, hugs all the children, and reminds the disciples that there is plenty of Jesus to share.

Today we celebrate World Communion Sunday. Today we celebrate that there is STILL plenty of Jesus to share all over the world. Today we celebrate that we don’t have to be selfish with Jesus and His love.

But I wonder about the fences. I wonder about the people who forget that there is enough to share. I wonder what we can do. I wonder how we can move the fences like Jesus. I wonder how we can show that there is plenty to share. Here are 3 ideas.

First. I think we need to change the sign on the fence. That sign says KEEP OUT. But if we add God’s love and put a few more letters on the sign, it now reads KEEP SHOUTING GOD LOVES YOU! I think that makes Jesus’s message loud and clear.

Second. Today at EPC, we are changing this fence into a table. Watch as our helpers take the fence and place it here on top of Jesus’s table. And now our other friends will  add the elements. That fence which was designed to keep people out is now making the table bigger, is now welcoming us all to eat with Jesus.

And third. We can remember that there is enough to share. Whether we are sharing Jesus or love or kindness or food or shoes or a place to live, there is enough. And Jesus calls us all to share, calls us to make sure that others are welcome, calls us to show how big His table is.

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 keeping us safe.
Thank You
for sharing with us.
Thank You
for reminding us
to share with others
and to move selfish fences.
KEEP SHOUTING!
GOD LOVES YOU!
Amen
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