Category Archives: Lent and Easter

The First Church Potluck?

bowlfor Sunday, May 4, 2014
3rd Sunday of Easter
Year A
lectionary focus: Luke 24:13-35
note: Don’t forget Graduation Sunday! Would this be a good Sunday to recognize those moving on to other things?
prop: casserole dish

Happy Easter!

Yes, it is still Easter. The mystery and joy of Easter are too big to celebrate in one Sunday so we continue celebrating the love of our Risen Lord. And to celebrate today, I brought this. (Show casserole dish.) I’m sure you have seen these around your kitchen. This is a casserole dish. It is large enough to hold a big lasagna or chicken spaghetti or some other yummy dish that will taste great and fill a family with love. I wonder if you have also notice that whenever something big happens, people share food. When a family has a baby born, or someone in the family is sick or had an accident, or some friends get back from a long trip, or especially when someone in a family dies, people will cook up lots of food and take it that family. Making dinner for people is a delicious way to share love. The food provides rest and comfort and nourishment and caring. You have probably heard when something big happens, people say, “What food can I bring?”

I’ve been thinking about this question as I’ve been reading the Easter story in the Bible. Did Peter and his wife take dinner to John and his family? Did Mary and Martha and Lazarus host a potluck dinner at their house? And then we have today’s Bible story. In today’s lesson from the Book of Luke, we hear how two of Jesus’s friends are walking to the village of Emmaus. Along the road, they meet Jesus. Only they don’t recognize Him. They walk and talk and share all that they are feeling about Jesus. They are so moved by their conversation with this Man that they invite Him to dinner. And there, at the table, when this Man, when Jesus breaks the bread and blesses it, their eyes are opened, and they recognize Him. When Jesus shares dinner, they feel rest and comfort and nourishment and caring. They feel His love.

I think this is why we share food with others. We know our bodies need food to grow and be strong, but Jesus shows us that we need sharing for our hearts to grow and be strong. Each time we take food to those in need or eat together…breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner…our eyes can be opened, our hearts can be opened, and we can feel the love of Jesus surround us.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for feeding us
with food
and with love.
Help us
to share with others
through food and love
that we all might see
Your love
everywhere.
Amen

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

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We See His Love

windowtreefor Sunday, April 27, 2014
2nd Sunday of Easter
Year A
lectionary focus: John 20:19-31

Welcome!

The other day I was working at my computer. I stopped to think for a few minutes and found myself staring out the window. I can see a big tree from there. Its leaves are new and just unfolded. As I watched, it looked like the tree was dancing! The branches were swaying slightly and the leaves were wiggling, popping up and down and all around. Now, we know that the tree was not dancing. We know that the branches and leaves were being moved by the wind. And yet, we can see the tree and leaves, but we cannot see the wind. We know the wind is there by seeing what the wind does.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. Alleluia! (Alleluia!) The mystery and joy of Easter are so great that we cannot celebrate it all in just one Sunday. In our Bible story today, Jesus is risen from the dead and has been visiting with the disciples. But one disciple was not there: Thomas. We don’t know exactly why he wasn’t there, but we do hear that  when the disciples told Thomas about seeing Jesus, Thomas had some trouble believing. The mystery and joy of Easter was too great for him. He wanted to see Jesus, too. He wanted to touch Him. The Bible story goes on that Thomas does get to see Jesus. Jesus is not angry or disappointed that Thomas hesitated to believe the others; Jesus simply reaches out to Thomas, saying, “Do not doubt but believe.” I have felt like Thomas. How nice it would be to see Jesus walk into my house. How nice to touch Him and hear His voice.

But when I think about the wind, I know I don’t have to see Jesus to believe. Just as I know the wind is there by seeing what the wind does, I look around for what Jesus does. All of the things around us: smiling people, flowers, the blue sky, sunshine, rain, friends, doughnuts, family, ways for us to help others, singing, a phone call, a good book, learning, laughing, loving; all of these things show us that we don’t need to see Jesus. We see His world. We see His love. We see Jesus by seeing what His love does. Jesus simply reaches out to us through all that is around us, saying, “Believe.”

Our Lord, our God. He is with us. He is in us. His love is our world. Let us continue to rejoice in the mystery and joy of Easter.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
that we see Your love
all around us.
Help us
to help others
see Your love
all around them.
Amen

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

We Are His Flowers

easter14for Sunday, April 20, 2014
Resurrection of the Lord
Easter Day
Year A
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18

Happy Easter! Alleluia! (Alleluia!) Look at all of the flowers! We have filled so many vases! The flowers make the sanctuary look lovely, and after our service, we will deliver them to members of our church family who are sick and ill and cannot be here today. Thank you for sharing with them in this way.

The flowers you have brought come from many places. Some of you got them at the store, some from the farmers’ market, some from your yard, some from your gardens. But each of them came from God’s earth. Flowers are part of plants. Flowers have the important job of making seeds; the seeds are how the plant makes more plants. And each year, each plant makes more flowers to make more seeds. Flowers are part of the beautiful cycle of God’s green earth. Flowers are God’s beautiful creations. And flowers make people smile.

Today is Easter Sunday. Alleluia! (Alleluia!) The Easter story begins with Jesus’s friends being sad. Jesus has died on the cross. The women are going to the cemetery to finish the funeral service. When they get there, something seems very wrong. The stone door has been moved and the tomb is empty. Jesus’s friends think someone has taken the body of Jesus. There is much confusion. Mary stands there in the cemetery, crying and frustrated. She sees a man. Mary thinks He must be the gardener…

Now we know that a gardener’s job is make sure the plants have what they need to grow and bloom and be beautiful. Gardeners work hard to make sure the plants are well cared for. Our Bible story today does not describe the cemetery, so I don’t know if the first Easter was abloom with so many flowers like our sanctuary today. But when Mary thinks that Man is just the gardener, she is wrong…but she is right. That Man, of course, is Jesus, alive, risen from the dead. That Man is not the gardener of the cemetery; that Man is Jesus, the gardener of the whole world, and we are His flowers. Jesus cares for us, making sure we have what we need to grow and bloom and be beautiful. You are each God’s beautiful creation. And Jesus is the Gardener who cares for us.

During the past few weeks as we have prepared for the mystery and joy of Easter, we  have practiced Almsgiving. We have shared items with those in need that they may know God’s love. Today is Easter. Alleluia! (Alleluia!) Today is why we are here every Sunday. Today Jesus overcame all of the sorrow and cruelty and trouble of the world so that we live beautiful, everlasting lives. Today we begin the Seven Sundays of Easter…because Easter is too big to celebrate for just one Sunday. Today we are overcome by the mystery and joy of Easter. And today we reach out again with almsgiving; we share these flowers here in these vases, but we also pledge to continue sharing ourselves. Mary was right. Jesus is the Gardener of the whole world. We are His beautiful flowers, here to share His love and make others smile.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for the flowers.
Thank You
for being our Gardener.
Help us
to continue sharing Your love
throughout Easter,
throughout our lives,
in the garden of Your world.
Amen

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

Lenten Series: They Are Holy (Almsgiving)

IMG_3986_edited-1for Sunday, April 13, 2014
Palm Sunday
Passion Sunday
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
note: This is part of our Lenten Series on Almsgiving. Today we are collecting toiletries for our local shelter; for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, it would be cool to collect winter coats connecting to the laying of garments before Christ’s donkey.

Welcome! Thank you for your Almsgiving! Yes, here, we are gathering all of the toiletries into this basket. I see shampoo and soap and hairbrushes and toothpaste. So many items to help our friends feel clean and comfortable.

We call our church God’s house. We take care of God’s house by keeping it clean. We put back the hymnals and Bibles in the pew racks. We pick up our bulletins. During the week, we dust and vacuum. We change the flowers and the candles. We replace the burned out lightbulbs and put out new prayer cards. We repair anything that breaks. By making God’s house clean and neat, we keep it a comfortable and welcoming…and Holy place to be.

And since Jesus lives in our hearts, we also keep our bodies clean. My friend Margaret Atwood says, “In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” I agree! But I also agree that after smelling like dirt, it feels really good to get clean. To bathe and shampoo my hair and put on lotion and fresh, clean clothes. Ah. Nice. Getting myself clean and neat makes me feel comfortable and healthy…and Holy.

Today is called Palm Sunday. Today we begin the last week leading us to the Mystery and Joy of Easter. Our Bible stories this week take us from riding in a parade, to carrying the cross, to finding the empty tomb. We go from happy, to sad, to joyful. So many important things happen this week that we call it Holy Week. And as our hearts and minds go through all of the emotions of Holy Week, we ask: What can we do to help others? Our Almsgiving this Lenten Season has shared bread and water and socks and eyeglasses and even treats for animals. Today we have brought toiletries. Yes, it is a funny word, but these are items that help our bodies feel clean and comfortable and ready to go forth into the world. We share these items with others who are having a hard time so that they will feel clean, that they will enjoy comfort, and that they will know we see Christ in them, we see them as Holy. Thank you for your Almsgiving. Thank you for doing this Holy work of sharing God’s love.

Next week we will begin Easter with great jubilation. We will rejoice in the Lord. We want you to bring flowers. Your flowers will fill the sanctuary with nature’s beauty…and then after church, we will share the flowers with those in our church family who are suffering from illness or conditions that keep them from coming to church. Since they cannot be here, we will take some of here to them.

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

Dear Lord,
We enter Holy Week
thinking of others.
Bless our gifts for them
that they may feel clean,
that they may enjoy comfort,
that they may know we see them as Holy.
Amen

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

Lenten Series: Calling for You (Almsgiving)

harveyfor Sunday, April 6, 2014
5th Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: John 11:1-45
note: This is part of our Lenten Series on Almsgiving. As another option to the Humane Society, we looked for an organization that supports Guide Animals, but could not find a local one that needed our assistance.

Welcome! Lots of dog food and cat food and pet treats! Thank you! Thank you! Our basket is so heavy!

During Lent our Almsgiving has focused on helping people. We’ve given bread and socks and eyeglasses and money to help provide clean water. Today our almsgiving goes to help animals. Like people, sometimes animals need help. Dogs and cats may have to go to an animal shelter and wait for a new family to give them a home. A few weeks ago my friend Jill and her family adopted a puppy. Now their home is busy with Harvey; walking him and feeding him and playing with him. We say that they are training him, but most of the time it is the puppy training the family how to care for him. Jill said that it was hard at the animal shelter to decide which puppy to adopt; they wanted to take them all! But their home could not handle 35 puppies and 13 cats. They chose Harvey and now their home is alive with puppy.

In our Bible Story today, one of Jesus’s best friends, Lazarus, is dying. Everyone is sad and has gathered together. Everyone, except Jesus. Jesus takes so long to arrive that in fact, Lazarus dies before He gets there. Lazarus’s sisters are hurt and upset. Jesus says to them, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Then Jesus does a great miracle: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus comes out of the tomb, comes back to life, because Jesus calls him to live. This miracle is amazing and one we would all like to see. The thing is, every day, Jesus calls each of us to live. Every day, Jesus calls us to come out into the world, and we answer this miraculous call to life by caring for each other.

Today our caring extends to the animals of God’s world. Some people may think it odd we are helping animals. But when God created the world, God made us responsible for taking care of each other and of all creation. Like people, sometimes animals need our help. We can’t adopt all of the dogs and cats, but our gifts today support the shelters that help the animals until they find their new best friends. We are answering Jesus’s call to live by helping God’s creation…the people creations and the animal creations. Thank you for sharing in God’s miracle of life.

Next Sunday is called Palm Sunday and we begin what is called Holy Week…the week leading us to Easter Sunday. Next week, we ask that you bring what we call toiletries. No, not a toilet like in the bathroom, but toiletries, items we use in the bathroom to make our bodies clean: soap and shampoo and toothpaste and brushes and lotions. Come and see how these gifts help share God’s love and make others feel welcomed.

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 Your people.
Thank You
for Your animals.
Blessing our gifts
as we answer Your call
to live
to love
to share in the miracle of life.
Amen

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

Lenten Series: On Top of Your Head (Almsgiving)

IMG_3858for Sunday, March 30, 2014
4th Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: John 9:1-41
note: This is part of our Lenten Almsgiving Series; you will need a basket to collect the eyeglasses. We will be giving the old prescription lens to our local Lions Club and the new reading glasses to one of our shelters. The opening story will work with eyeglasses or sunglasses.

Welcome! See all of the eyeglasses! Thank you! Thank you! Here put them in this basket. Wow. So many for our almsgiving. Thank you.

Yesterday I went looking for my own glasses. Since I only need them to read and see things up close, I put them down and sometimes forget where they are. I looked beside the bed because I had used them reading the night before. Not there. I looked in my purse. Not there. I looked in the kitchen. Not there. I looked beside the computer. Not there. So I went to my husband and said, “Have you seen my glasses? I can’t find them anywhere!” And Mr. Bill said, “I see them. They are on top of your head.” (You can act this out and end with them on top of your head.)

In our Bible story today, Jesus heals a man who was blind, someone who had never been able to see his whole life. This miracle caused quite a stir. The people argued about how it had happened and when it had happened and who was this Jesus. But the man who had been blind was not confused. He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he praised Jesus.

Seeing with our eyes is important. Through our eyes, we see where we are going and what we are doing and whom we are with. But Jesus did not work just to heal those blind in their eyes. Jesus lived His life that we all are able to see the Kingdom of God with our hearts. Jesus is the light of the world, and through His teachings and blessings and love, we each are able to see with our hearts all of the beauty of God’s world around us. And seeing God’s world, we want to share God’s love with each other.

Today we have collected eyeglasses. As tools, these will help others see with their eyes more clearly; as gifts, these will help others see God’s love with their hearts. Thank you for your almsgiving that we all might see and share God’s Kingdom.

Next Sunday, we will hear a story about a best friend so we are asking you to bring dog food and cat food and pet treats.

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 our eyes that see.
Thank You
for our hearts that see.
Please bless our almsgiving
that others my see Your Kingdom
and know Your love.
Amen

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

Lenten Series: Living Love (Almsgiving)

IMG_6494for Sunday, March 23, 2013
3rd Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: John 4:5-42
notes: Have extra cups (and extra cups of coins) ready before the service. We are using Red cups for accent. 

Welcome!

Look at all the Cups of Coins! Everybody rattle your coins in your cups! Such a joyful noise! Now everybody pour your coins into this big basket. What a marvelous sound! It is so loud and tinkly. (Collect all of the coins into one big basket; you might want to have an older youth collect the now empty cups to keep them from being a distraction.) But these Cups of Coins don’t sound anything like water, do they?

Our Bible Story today sounds like it is about water. In the Gospel of John, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well, the place where the people get their water since they don’t have sinks with faucets. Every day the people have to go to the well to get water that they use for drinking and cooking. Every day. Back and Forth. Jesus points out to the woman that everyone who drinks the water from the well will be thirsty again. Then Jesus tells her that He has Living Water, water that becomes in us a spring gushing up to eternal life.

Like our Cups of Coins, this Living Water doesn’t sound like water at all.

Many times in the Bible, stories speak of one thing but mean something else. In this story, Jesus says Living Water, but He is really talking about God’s love. Our bodies need water to live; each day we get thirsty to remind ourselves to drink what our bodies need. But we also need God’s love. And the joy Jesus shares is this, we are never without God’s love. God’s love fills us like a big, old bucket that never empties. God’s love just grows more and more. The more of God’s love that we share, the more of God’s love that we experience. Living Water is really Living Love.

The Cups of Coins that you brought today will be used to share water AND God’s love. There are people around the world who do not have the clean drinking water our bodies need. We will send our Cups of Coins to Living Waters for the World. Through this organization, we will help dig wells in these communities. Through this organization, we will share God’s love. Today your almsgiving gives others what they need: water for living and living water. I like the sound of that. Thank you.

Next Sunday, we ask you to bring eyeglasses: either old prescription glasses that are no longer needed or a pair of new reading glasses that you choose from the store. We will SEE how those connect with our Bible story next week.

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 water to drink.
Thank You
for water to live.
Thank You
for Your love
that never ends.
Bless those
who need drinking water
that we may also show them
Your endless love.
Amen

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