Category Archives: Year A

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.

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The Nose Knows

IMG_1341for Sunday, September 14, 2014
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 18:21-35

Welcome!

Some things in life are called Once in a Lifetime. They are so special we get to do them only one time: a school play, Prom, an amazing last second football win, a trip to Paris.

But have your ever noticed how chores are never done? We empty the dishwasher one day, and we have to empty it again the next. We make up our beds, then sleep in them and have to make them again. Every week we have to take out the trash. Every month we have to pay the bills. Chores are chores because we have to do them over and over and over again. When I was a kid, one of the most annoying things about chores was being “reminded” to do them. My mom would say, “Don’t forget to put your dirty clothes in the laundry.” And my sister would say, “It’s your turn to clear the table.” And in my family, we would respond to these “reminders” by placing our finger on our nose. Can you put your finger on your nose? Doing this (finger on the nose) was our silent way of saying “I know” because “know” like we know something (point to your brain) and “nose” like on our face (touch your nose) sound a lot alike. “Yeah, yeah, I nose that. You don’t need to remind me.”

Sometimes I feel like touching my nose when I read our Bible Stories. Yeah, yeah, I nose this story already. But we tell these stories over and over because they are special and important, too special and important to forget, too special and important to tell only one time.

And to add to our over and over of over and over, today’s Bible Story tells us that we must forgive over and over. We all nose we are to share and be nice and say sorry and it’s okay, but today the disciples ask Jesus just how many times do we have to forgive someone. They want to know if there is a limit. If we are ever done forgiving.

And Jesus says no.

Forgiving is something that we do over and over, but forgiveness is not a chore. We forgive again and again because each time it is an opportunity to experience something special. Forgiving others makes us feel better. Forgiving others brings us closer to each other. Forgiving others brings us closer to God. Forgiveness is such a big mystery that there is no limit. Forgiveness is an Over and Over Lifetime Event.

We certainly nose that God forgives each of us over and over, and today we are reminded again in a story we already nose to let others nose that we forgive them.

This time as we pray, when we say the word know, be sure to touch your own nose. Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We are thankful
that we nose
You love us.
We are thankful
that we nose
You forgive us.
Help us
to let others nose
that we love them
and that we forgive them.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.

Accepting the Yoke

for Sunday, July 6, 2014
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
4th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

yoke

Yoking With Friends

props: a yoke or photo of yoke from Caroline Brown (scroll to the Gospel text); a belay device or photo of belay device from the internet (try Wikipedia); a baseball glove; an airplane yoke or photo of airplane yoke (see below); or whatever modern tool you choose.

note: Three years ago, I accepted the yoke of creating this website. It has been a great adventure, keeping me close to the Trinity and bringing me close to new friends around the world. (Who is the Malta friend?) For this post, I couldn’t decide which one story to share, so there are three…but I encourage you to find your own yoke. I love how Jesus speaks to each and all of us through so many different pictures. He is always saying He is with us, He loves us.

Welcome!

Today’s word is Yoke. Everybody say Yoke. (Yoke) It is a funny sounding word. Kind of sounds like that yellowy-orangey thing inside an egg…but that is called a yolk. Yoke also sounds like a funny way to say joke…yoke, yoke, yoke…like I’m laughing weirdly. But actually a yoke is a tool. Here is a picture of one kind of yoke. (Show Caroline Brown’s yoke.) Though this is a common tool in some parts of the world, we don’t really use these too much anymore around here. We usually see them in pictures before there were cars or trucks or tractors…tractors being the clue. Without trucks and tractors to haul large loads and do heavy work, people use strong animals like oxen and horses. And if one ox or horse is good, two are better. A yoke is used to connect the two animals together to double their work effort. This part goes around their necks and this bar keeps the two animals shoulder to shoulder. Then whatever is behind the animals and connected to the harness can be pulled by both animals at the same time. Yes, it is still work for the animals, but as we know, two working together makes any job easier.

In our Bible story today, Jesus calls all of us who are tired from working hard and carrying heavy burdens, and He offers us His yoke. It sounds funny. And no, Jesus is not offering us a real harness to carry or pull heavy objects. Jesus speaks in pictures. The people in the times of Jesus knew the purpose of a yoke; those people valued yokes; and they recognized the yoke as a symbol for strength and efficiency and community. With the picture of a yoke in their minds, the people understood that Jesus was offering to help them; Jesus was promising to be with them; Jesus was ready to work beside them.

photo by J. Stewart

The belay device is actually on the other end…no one ever photographs the belayer. photo by J. Stewart

(OPTION ONE) I’ve been thinking about what modern day tool Jesus might have picked to help us picture this truth today. And since it’s summertime, of course, I started thinking of summer activities that I enjoy…like rock climbing. When doing a really big climb, people use ropes and harnesses and this tool called a belay device. Your friend stays on the ground with the belay device attached to their harness, the rope runs through the belay, up through the climbing bolts in the rocks, and to the harness on your body. The friend on the ground is called the belayer. The belayer controls the amount of slack in the rope, so if you fall, you don’t fall very far…because the belay device helps lock the rope. The belayer and the climber have to talk a lot. When the climber is ready, she calls, “On belay!” And the belayer responds, “Belay on!” The belayer gives extra rope when the climber is moving, but if the climber needs a rest, the belayer locks off the rope with the belay device…so the climber stays safe.

I wonder if today Jesus could say, “Come to Me, all of you who are tired, and I will give you rest. Belay on and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My belay is easy, and my climb is awesome.”

With that picture of a belay device in my mind, I understand that Jesus is wants to spot my climb; that He is promising to hold my rope; that Jesus is connected to me for life. And I think my answer is, “Yes, Jesus, on belay!”

Jesus calls us in many ways to share our lives with Him. Jesus promises to be with us. Jesus loves us.

Will you pray with me?*

 

IMG_4651(OPTION TWO) I’ve been thinking about what modern day tool Jesus might have picked to help us picture this truth today. And since it’s summertime, of course, I started thinking of baseball. I wonder if a baseball glove might be a good symbol. A baseball glove protects our hand when catching a ball. We can certainly use a ball stand and practice hitting a baseball by ourselves and we can catch a ball that we throw into the air, but baseball works best with a friend. Whether throwing or catching, you need someone else to do the other. Baseball is better together.

So I can imagine today Jesus offering us His baseball glove: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired, and I will give you rest. Take My baseball glove and learn from Me. For My throw is easy, and My game is awesome. Want to catch?”

With that picture of a baseball glove in my mind, I understand that Jesus is offering to work with me; that He is promising to be with me; that Jesus is on my team. And my answer is, “Yes, Jesus, I would love to catch with You.”

Jesus calls us in many ways to share our lives with Him. Jesus promises to be with us. Jesus loves us.

Will you pray with me?*

photo by B. Stewart

photo by B. Stewart

(OPTION THREE) I’ve been thinking about what modern day tool Jesus might have picked to help us picture this truth today. And I thought of a yoke. Not the ox/horse yoke, but an airplane yoke. You’ve seen how cars have a steering wheel…one steering wheel. In an airplane, there are basically two steering wheels like in this photograph here, but instead of calling them steering wheels, they are called yokes. And they are connected. When one pilot moves his yoke, the yoke of the other pilot moves the same way. In addition to steering, flying a plane involves navigating and monitoring lots of controls…so pilots are flying together by working together.

So I can imagine today Jesus offering us to fly with Him: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired, and I will give you rest. Take My airplane yoke and learn from me. For My yoke is easy, and My flight is awesome. Let’s go fly.”

With that picture of an airplane cockpit in my mind, I understand that Jesus is offering to fly with me through life; that He is promising to navigate my way; that Jesus has the wheel. And my answer is, “Yes, Jesus, let’s fly.”

Jesus calls us in many ways to share our lives with Him. Jesus promises to be with us. Jesus loves us.

Will you pray with me?*

 

*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 being yoked with me.
Thank You
for helping us
live our lives
to Your glory.
Belay on!
or Let’s catch!
or Straight out, cleared for takeoff! (how a pilot responses to the tower)
Amen

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

Focusing on God

IMG_4628_edited-1for Sunday, June 29, 2014
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 8
Year A
lectionary focus: Romans 6:12-23

Welcome!

Today is June 29th. And according to the Internet, today is National Camera Day. A day to celebrate the wonders of cameras and making art by taking pictures. Reading the websites, no one is sure who first decided today would be National Camera Day, but people have been celebrating this day for several years. This is my camera. And in reading the history of photography, I’m also not sure who first invented the camera. But I have learned that this tool is the result of many people’s inventions. For over 200 years, designers have been tweaking and twisting and making picture-taking easier and easier and harder and harder. I am sure though that this camera here will not be the last, best machine of its kind. Many people will continue to improve the technology and develop more simple and more complex and more accurate cameras. And through these ever-better cameras, photographers will continue to inspire and encourage people around the world with their art.

In our Bible story today, St. Paul has written a letter to the Romans to share God’s good news. St. Paul gives much advice on how to live a life for God. In today’s reading, St. Paul reminds us that through Jesus we are forgiven…but that doesn’t mean we stop striving to do what is right. As part of God’s Kingdom, we work to be better people. Picture this: we expand our hearts; we widen our smiles; we extend our words; we unfold our hands; all to be better instruments of God’s justice, mercy, and love.  And yet, each of us is not the best we are to be. Because of God’s grace, each of us are still growing and developing. Honing our focus on what God calls us to do. We continue each and every day to open ourselves and be filled with God’s light that we may reflect His love to the world around us.

Cameras are great tools for making art; our ever-growing lives for God are Holy art making the world a more beautiful place.

Now, let’s celebrate National Camera Day and God’s love for us by taking a group photo here on the chancel steps. Say, “Blessings!”

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 cameras.
Thank You
for new inventions to make art.
Help me
to grow and develop
as Holy art
to share Your love
with the world.
Amen

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

Acknowledging Jesus

IMG_3209for Sunday, June 22, 2014
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 7
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 10:24-39
note: Over the years, my family has moved three times so we have had three opportunities to ‘shop’ for a new church. We boiled the process down to judging churches by the number of people who greeted us. I keep this in mind each Sunday, trying to greet each visitor. Even though, in our small church where we say ‘Visit us twice and we’ll put you on a committee,’ it can still be difficult to put myself out there.

Welcome!

Last summer I went on vacation to another city with my friend Susan. While we were there we went to church. We had never been to this church; we just saw it near our hotel; looked it up online to find out the worship time; and we went. It was a very nice service; the choir was excellent; and the sermon was good. But no one spoke to us. The usher did smile and give us a bulletin. But after the service, not a single person welcomed us or greeted us or anything! Susan even stopped on the church steps to take a picture and still no one spoke to us! We were quite amazed. There were probably 150 people at the service. We wondered what was wrong. We wondered if maybe we had become invisible!

In our Bible story today from the Book of Matthew, Jesus is instructing the disciples as they prepare to go preach. Jesus tells them that they must acknowledge Him in the world…just as He will acknowledge them before God. People have long wondered how we are to acknowledge Jesus in the world. When we acknowledge something, we say that thing is true…but when we acknowledge someone, we greet them. Since Jesus is a someone, He is reminding us to greet Him in the world, just as He will greet us before God. To greet Jesus, we must see and recognize Him…and I know that each of you knows where we find Jesus. Jesus is in our hearts. So to acknowledge Jesus in the world is to greet HIm in our own heart and in the hearts of each other.

During church, we take a moment to share the Peace of Christ with those around us…sometimes I feel shy speaking to people I don’t know. And after church, there are so many people and I want to get to the doughnuts and maybe those people visiting our church were sitting so far from me. But if we don’t acknowledge Jesus in the people here at church, well then, it will be even harder to do that with the people out in the world!

Now you might think that you are too young to be greeters, that you don’t have to do that, but you are certainly smart enough to see and acknowledge and greet Jesus in other people and you are children of God. I challenge you each Sunday to find at least three people…regular members or someone you’ve not met before…and greet them here at church. Just walk up the them and say, “Hey, Good to see you today.”

And on your way home, you can check with everyone in your family to see how many people they greeted. Then we each will improve the way we acknowledge Jesus in the church…and that will make us better at acknowledging Jesus in the whole world. By greeting Jesus in others, we recognize others and Jesus and ourselves as visible.

Let’s practice. Repeat after me: Good to see you today! (Good to see you today!)

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 acknowledging us.
Help us
to acknowledge You.
Help us
to greet You
in the hearts of our old friends,
our new friends,
ourselves.
It is always good
to see You
in those around us.
Amen

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

The Importance of With

photo by c. woodruff

photo by c. woodruff

for Sunday, June 15, 2014
Trinity Sunday
Father’s Day
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 28:16-20
inspiration: Wow. Sara Miles. (read this)
Sara’s inspiration: Samuel Wells.

Welcome!

Today’s Bible story includes the most important word in the Bible! Ohhh. I see lots of eyebrows going up and eyebrows coming together and puzzled faces as most of you are trying to figure out which word I’m saying is the most important word in the Bible. Some of you are thinking that it must be love or forgiveness or mercy or justice or God or Jesus or Holy Spirit. No. Not those words. They are definitely important, but the most important word in the Bible is with. What? Yes, you heard me correctly. I say that the most important word in the Bible is the word with. With is a simple word. With is a small word that means beside or together. Ahhhh. I think you are starting to see why I say that this little, simple word is the most important word in the Bible.

In our Bible story today, Jesus sends the disciples out into the world to share God’s love and tells them, Remember I am with you always. There’s that word! Jesus is WITH us always. Jesus does not promise that things will be easy or that we will always get what we want. Just this simple word with. Jesus is beside us always. We are together with Jesus always. He is here now. He is here later. He is here. And that is what God’s love is all about. With. Together. Never apart. Never alone.

A few weeks ago, I got a stomachache. I had some sort of virus and it made my stomach hurt. The doctor gave me some medicine to ease the pain but said it would just take some time for the virus to go away. My husband was great at taking care of me. A lot of the time I just lay there and moaned in pain. Mr. Bill would ask What could he do? He wanted to do something for me. He wanted to fix it. And there wasn’t any thing he could do. But it was nice just having him with me. And so he just sat with me.

When Jesus said this most important word in the Bible, I am with you always, He was showing us how to be Christians. He was showing us that simply being together, simply being beside each other, simply being with each other is how we show God’s love in the most simple, basic way.

He is with us always. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Near or far, happy or sad, healthy or sick, Jesus is with us always, with us, loving us.

Say this word after me: with (with). Amen.

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 being with me.
Help me
to be with You.
Help me
to be with others
and share Your love.
Amen

We are not Christians alone. (We are with each other!)
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Welcome!

joyfor Sunday, June 8, 2014
Day of Pentecost
Year A
lectionary focus: Acts 2:1-21
note: You can certainly adjust this sermon to fit a mission trip your congregation knows; to create a size comparison between the mission area and your local area, check here for country size and here for US state size.

Welcome!

Recently my daughter Cherry went on a medical mission trip to Uganda. Uganda is a country on the continent of Africa. Uganda is about the size of Alabama and most of Mississippi together…so it is a tiny country. Yet Uganda has five times the number of people as we do in the same space! So, Uganda is a tiny country with lots of people! It took Cherry 15 hours by airplane and 6 hours by bus to get where they were going. Some people in Uganda speak English, by many people don’t. The official language is Swahili, but most people don’t speak that either. In fact, in this small area there are forty different languages spoken! That means that talking can be difficult! My daughter’s group had several translators with them. Each translator knew several languages, but each one did not know all forty languages. Sometimes her usual translator would say…I don’t know that language, I’ll go get one of the other translators. Understanding people’s stories took time, but they found a way. Cherry said the communications were another amazing aspect of the trip.

Today on the church calendar is called Pentecost. We get this name from another language, the Greek language: pentecost means fiftieth. We call today Pentecost because it has been fifty days since Easter. Pentecost sounds much prettier and fancier than saying Holy Fiftieth Day!  In our Bible story today, we hear how on this fiftieth day, the disciples received the Holy Spirit. The disciples were all together when a great force came over them. And then each was able to share God’s love in one of the many languages of the people in the community. The disciples were speaking in the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs! With the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to speak about God’s great deeds in many different languages!

Nowadays we think there are almost 7000 different languages in the whole world. Sharing information and stories can be difficult with so many languages, but our Bible story today tells us that we should not let differences in language prevent us from sharing God’s love with each other. Everyone is invited to be part of God’s family. All are welcome. Or we could say Bienvenidos! Or Willkommen! Or Merhba! Or as they say in the Rutooro language in Uganda: Oraire ota! (oh-rah-EE-ray OH-tah) Give that one a try; say after me:  Oraire ota!  (Oraire ota!) Welcome! Welcome! We are all welcome to God’s love.

The church is a community of people. Not just the people here, but people everywhere. God calls us and equips us through the Holy Spirit to share with others and build God’s church around the world.

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

Dear Lord,
The world is full of Your people.
Thank You
for helping us
find ways to share
Your love
near and far
with each and all.
Amen

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