Category Archives: Year C

Not the God of Chains

photo by Bill Woodruff

photo by Bill Woodruff

for Sunday, October 13, 2013
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 23
Year C
lectionary focus: 2 Timothy 2:8-15
note: A key word in this sermon is “chained.” Since I think this word can sound like ‘change,’ I include the definition and examples of ‘chained’ so that the listeners will hear the intended word.

Good morning!

Awhile back, when my friend Zachary was about six years old, he spent a Saturday afternoon with me. One of the things we did was stop by the grocery store. And right there in the middle of the cereal aisle, we found Pastor Sid! Well, Zach just stood there staring with his eyes wide and his mouth open, like this: (do the face). And when Pastor Sid said “Hello,” Zach blurted out, “What are you doing here?” Pastor Sid replied that he was doing his grocery shopping and trying to decide which cereal to buy. Then Zachary said, “You mean, they let you out of the church?”

Yes, it does seem funny…I mean, Zachary always saw Sid at church, and when we know people in one place, it is strange to see them in another place…especially someplace as ordinary as the grocery store. But people are people, no matter what they do, and people go different places.

Most of our Bible stories happen within a small area of the world. And the places where Jesus taught are all in a smaller area. But even there, Jesus did not teach and preach and heal in just one place. Jesus was always moving from one place to another: from the mountain to the river to the sea, from big cities to small villages, from fancy neighborhoods to dangerous neighborhoods. Jesus went to where there were people, all kinds of people, so He could share the love of God with everyone.

In our Bible story today, we hear that God is not chained. God is not locked up in one place with a metal chain…like a bike chained to a post or a dog chained to a fence or a boat chained to a pier. God is not chained here to the chancel steps. Each week, Pastor Sid tells us to go forth into the world with God. We go forth as the hands AND feet of God. We use our hands to do God’s work and we use our feet to walk out of this church and all over the place to share God’s love. This building may be our church, but the world is God’s church…and so it should never be strange to find ourselves sharing God’s love outside these walls. Whether we are learning at school or playing with friends or shopping for cereal, we are with God here, there, and everywhere.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
that You are not chained to one place.
Thank You
that You are everywhere.
Help me
to do Your work
and share Your love
and everywhere.

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

Different But the Same

9780688122751for Sunday, October 6, 2013
World Communion Sunday
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 17:5-10
inspiration: Gospel Commentary by Jeff Krantz and Michael Hardin
I like the line: “[our] constant status as ‘slaves’ in need of God’s grace…”
note: I love Carolyn Brown’s idea and suggest using the book Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris (1993) during Sunday School.

Good morning!

Have you ever noticed how many churches there are? Why, we have 5 churches just on this street! Churches are everywhere. Some are big; some are small. Some ring church bells; some have fancy stained-glass windows. Some have early services; some have evening services. In some churches, the people kneel; in some, the people stand. Some churches do mission trips far away; and some do service projects in their neighborhoods. There are many different churches because there are many different people. And when we visit another church, they aren’t doing things wrong; they are just doing things differently.

And while each church does church differently, today, churches all along our street, across our city, and around the world, are doing one thing in particular the same. Today is World Communion Sunday. This means that churches around the world are participating in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Each time we take the bread and wine, we remember that God loves us. And today, through World Communion, we are also celebrating that though each church does things differently, we each and all of us need God and His grace. By participating together around the world in Holy Communion, we celebrate our common need for God, and together we celebrate receiving His love and grace.

There are many different people. There are many different churches. There are many different ways of worshipping and serving God. But in the end, we all need God and we all are God’s children. Today we celebrate that we are different, yet we are the same.

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

Dear Lord,
We are each different
but we each need You.
We are each different
but we are each Your children.
Thank You
for loving us the same
each and all.

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

The Sacred Power of Sacred Sight

wonderfor Sunday, September 29, 2013
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 21
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 16:19-31
props: Superhero dolls or pictures

Good morning!

Today I brought some Superhero dolls. You recognize Superman and Wonder Woman and Batman and Storm and … I like to think about what super power I would have if I were a Superhero. I can’t decide between being able to fly or being able to be invisible. I think it would be cool to fly off in the sky like a bird whenever I wanted! But then I also think it would be neat to be invisible and move around with no one knowing I was there!  While it is fun to imagine having super powers, we know that they are just imaginary and we cannot have super powers like these action figures.

But…we do have sacred powers given to us by God. Sacred means holy, and some of the many holy powers that God has given to us are hope, faith, and love. With these sacred powers: hope, faith, and love, we do God’s work. But there is another sacred power we are given: the power of sacred sight. Sight is seeing with our eyes…we look around and we see. But sometimes our eyes don’t see things right in front of us; and sometimes we ignore seeing things that are right in front of us. Sacred sight is when we see with our hearts. When we look at people with our hearts, we can really see them and we don’t ignore them. Looking with our hearts, we can see all of a person’s needs and wants, the happy things and the sad things in their lives; we can see that they are just like ourselves; we can see them as children of God. And when we see other people as children of God, we are easily able to share our other sacred powers of hope, faith, and love. Through the power of sacred sight, we can strengthen God’s community and make the world a more beautiful place.

In our Bible story today, Jesus reminds us to use this power of sacred sight. Just like any skill, we need to practice it. We need to use it to improve it. So open your eyes wide right now…look out at there in the congregation…I bet you can see someone who needs a wave or a smile. Over there! Wave to Mama Nell! And over there, smile at all the big teenagers. And give the choir a big wave, too. Sacred sight is all about looking at people, looking right into their eyeballs, and seeing them to be children of God just like you are.

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 my holy power
of sacred sight.
Help me
to see others
as Your children.
Help me
to share Your love.

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

Making a Little Difference

sanddollarfor Sunday, September 22, 2013
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
18th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 16:1-13
prop: a sand dollar
source: I have read this story on various places across the Internet.

Good morning!

This is a sand dollar. A sand dollar is an animal that lives in the ocean. So this is actually just the shell of a sand dollar that died a long time ago. Sand dollars live on the ocean floor not far from the beach and when they are alive they are darker, covered with lots of tiny spines that look like hairs. These help them move along the ocean floor. When this one died, its shell washed up on the beach and my friend found it. We were surprised because most of the sand dollars that you find on the beach are broken from the waves. Sometimes…but very rarely, you can find live sand dollars at the beach. If the weather and tides are just right, you can see them at the surf’s edge or feel them with your feet as you wade out in the water.

But once upon a time, on a day after a big storm, a young boy went to the beach and saw hundreds of live sand dollars along the edge of the water. The tide was going out and it was already a hot day. The young boy knew that if the sand dollars stayed out of the water and got too hot, they would dry out and die. So very carefully, the boy picked up a sand dollar in each hand and carried them out beyond the breaking waves and gently placed them back on the ocean floor. The boy went back and forth, back and forth, carrying two sand dollars on each trip. A man came along the beach and stopped to watch the boy. After a few moments, the man called to the boy saying “What are doing? Don’t you know that you can’t save all of these sand dollars? There are hundreds of them! They are going to dry out and die. There is no way you can make a difference.” Well, the boy picked up two more sand dollars, looked at the man, and walked back past the breaking waves. The boy gently placed the sand dollars back in the water, stood up, and called back to the man, “I made a difference to those two.”

In our Bible story today, we are reminded that being faithful in the little things is just as important as being faithful in the big things. We don’t always get the big party and hoopla when we do the regular, ordinary, little nice things. And sometimes it seems that the little things won’t really make a difference. But Jesus tells us that everything makes a difference. And the little things we do may make a very big difference to someone else. As we do the little easy differences, it makes it easier to do the really hard differences that we are called to do.

Keep doing all the good, nice, little things you do. You are making a big difference in God’s world.

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 all the little ways
that people help me.
Help me
to be faithful
in little nice ways
to those around me.

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

The Love that Forgives…

waleswindow1for Sunday, September 15, 1963
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18
Year C
lectionary focus: Genesis 45:4-15
prop: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

For this Sunday, we break from the RCL to note the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This African-American church was the host of many meetings and marches during theCivil Rights Movement. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, a bomb planted by white supremacists exploded, injuring many and killing 4 little girls: Addie Mae Collins (14 years old), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Denise McNair (11). Happening at 10:22 a.m., the explosion occurred just as Sunday School was finishing and people were moving toward the Youth Sunday Worship at 11:00. The Sunday School lesson for that day was: “The Love that Forgives,” based on Genesis 45:4-15. This year, September 15th is again on a Sunday. Churches throughout Birmingham are inviting congregations around the world to join us in sharing and reflecting on that prophetic lesson interrupted that horrific day. This PDF found here: Love that Forgives includes the original September 15, 1963, International Sunday School Lesson graciously allowed to be shared by Abingdon Press, and other resources and suggestions for texts, hymns, prayers, and litanies to use in crafting your own teaching and worship services. (Opening the PDF takes 2-3 minutes due to the large size of the Sunday School lesson.)

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “[T]he arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” How powerful for all of us to bend together on Sunday, September 15, 2013!

The Children’s Sermon for this service is a bit difficult. We don’t want to gloss over the evil of that day, but we believe that no direct description of the church bombing should be used for at least two reasons: 1) Church should be a safe haven with no threat of violence; and 2) Children’s sermons do not have enough time to move from the horror of that day to looking forward on this day. Here is my suggested script; feel free to use, change, adapt to fit the needs of the children in your congregation. If you use this sermon, you will need the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963) as a prop; turn the pages and show the pictures as you recap the story. After church, during the children’s Sunday School, you may want to expand upon Max’s lesson. In addition to the story of Max and Joseph being good parallels for the theme of forgiveness, these stories also open the topic of differences: Max and Joseph are each different from the groups they come to lead.

Many thanks,

maxGood Morning!

Today I want to talk to you about some wild things…specifically Where the Wild Things Are. For 50 years now, we have been reading this story of Max. One day, Max and his mom have a quarrel. His mother calls him, “Wild Thing!” And Max says, “I’ll eat you up!” So Max is sent to his room without any supper at all. From there, Max goes on a great journey to Where the Wild Things Are. The monsters are excited to have Max; they make him their king, celebrating with a wild rumpus…that’s a big, loud party! Max enjoys all of this, but he comes to miss being at home, comes to miss being loved by his family. So Max returns home. At first it seems that all is the same as when he left, but then Max sees his dinner is there waiting for him. Max’s mother has forgiven him. And by coming home and eating his dinner, Max, too, forgives his mother. See, forgiveness is not just about excusing each other and going our separate ways; forgiveness is about letting go of the hurt so that we can rebuild our relationships.

In our Bible story today, we hear the story of Joseph and his brothers…his 11 brothers. As a young man, Joseph knows he is well-liked, and his brothers are quite jealous of him. So one day, the brothers actually sell him away from the family to go and be a slave in another land. Then, many years later, the brothers are traveling in that land and meet Joseph. You would think that Joseph would still be angry at his brothers and that his brothers would now be angry at themselves for the mean thing they did. But Joseph has missed his family; he wants to be with them again…and so Joseph reaches out with forgiveness. And not just the “Hey-it’s-okay-what-you-did forgiveness,” Joseph forgives them and encourages them to forgive themselves so they can reunite and rebuild their family.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is not the only story of disagreement and meanness in the Bible. Throughout the Bible we find people disagreeing with each other and people disagreeing with God. But in these stories, the fighting is followed by forgiveness; and the forgiveness is followed by a return to friendship. These stories repeat over and over that God is calling us to build and rebuild our families. God is calling us to build and rebuild our friendships and our communities. And God is calling us to build and rebuild our relationship with Him. God shows us how to do all of this building by forgiving us. And we answer God’s call by accepting forgiveness and forgiving each other. We let go of the hurts in our quarrels so that we can connect and grow with each other.

Our Bible stories have been around for thousands of years. The story of Max has been around for 50 years. Through these stories, we see that forgiveness has always been a hard thing to do. And when a story is repeated over and over, we know, too, that it is important. God wants us to know that love and forgiveness are important. God wants us to know that He has such a love for us that He forgives us.

People are not perfect. Sometimes families disagree. Sometimes friends and neighbors disagree. During our church service today, we remember mean events and disagreements that have happened around the world; we remember people who have been hurt; and we remember that we are called to have the love that forgives…this is how we will continue to overcome meanness and disagreements in the world.

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 You love me.
Thank You
that You forgive me.
Help me
to build
and rebuild
my friendships
by forgiving others
and accepting forgiveness.
I am Your child.
We are all Your children.

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

God, the artist of the eARTh

IMG_0125for Sunday, September 8, 2013
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18
Year C
lectionary focus: Jeremiah 18:1-11
prop: If you are able and if you are very brave, have a small ball of clay for each child (and adult!). Be sure to have water or hand-wipes for hand-washing. And if you do this, prepare for this sermon to take a bit longer…

Good morning!

We are each artists! Yes, we are artists because each of us creates beautiful things for the world. Some of us are painters. Some of us writers, or drawers, or singers, or dancers, or actors, or builders, or even sports artists or math artists. Art is making something beautiful that also makes us think and feel. And when we do our art, we use many different tools. Painters uses brushes and canvases and paint and water. Singers use their voices and music and words and instruments. Quarterbacks uses footballs and pads and fields. And scientists use computers and beakers and Bunsen burners.

In our Bible story today, the prophet Jeremiah describes God as an artist, in particular, a potter. A potter is an artist who works with clay to make bowls and cups and plates. No, God doesn’t directly make bowls and cups and plates, but yes, God is an artist because He creates beautiful things for the world. God creates the mountains and trees and flowers…and us. God uses many tools for his art: rocks and dirt and leaves and smiles and love. God guides us to be beautiful! Each of us is a unique, artistic creation by God.

To help you remember the story of Jeremiah describing God as an artist, I have for you each a small ball of clay. My helpers will hand one to you. Take it and roll it in your hand. Feel how smooth it is. It is slightly sticky and moist. Now take it and pull it with your fingers. Stretch it out kind of flat and then cup it around your elbow. And get the clay to make a little bowl…an elbowl. (Add instructions as needed.) And remember that when an artist makes a mistake…wait…artists don’t make mistakes! I know, I know, sometimes your art doesn’t look or sound or feel like what you think it should. But when that happens, the artist in you pushes that hiccup and guides your creation back to where it will be beautiful. And the artist in you will smile at that little twist in your work that makes your work unique. And when you smile, remember that God, too, smiles at the beautiful creation that you are.

You can keep this clay and your elbowl. When you have it set, leave it for a few days and it will dry. Then you can use it to hold little things like marbles or rings or dreams or prayers.

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

Dear Lord,
You are a great artist!
Thank You
for creating me.
Help me to be
Your beautiful creation
that makes You smile.

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

Best Friends Unawares

newstudentfor Sunday, September 1, 2013
Labor Day Sunday
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
15th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17
Year C
lectionary focus: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
note: The book Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh (Abrams, 2011) is an excellent extension to this sermon.

Good morning!

Well, here we are at the start of school. The new year is always exciting and a little bit scary. You’ve had a few days in your new classroom with your new teacher. You might have already known some of the kids in your class, but there were probably a few you did not know. Thing is, in just a few weeks, you will feel like you have known all of your classmates forever. The new school year’s feeling of “newness” will wear off as you learn more about your teacher and your classmates and what they like and what they do.  …  But, at some point this school year, you will…and I say will, not may…you will get a new kid in your class. Many times without much warning, there will be a new kid. And for them, there will be that “newness” big-time. By then the rest of you in the class will already know each other, and the “newness” of the new kid will be small for you guys. So, I want you to remember now how all of this “newness” at the start of the year feels. I want you to remember what it is like not being sure of someone’s name; remember what it is like not being sure how to get to the restroom from your new classroom; remember what it is like going through your new daily schedule; remember what it is like not knowing who to sit beside. And then remember how nice it feels when someone gently helps by reminding you what their name is, or which hallway to use, or what comes next, or to come sit by them. And decide now that you will be a person to help make your future new classmate’s life a little less scary, a little bit easier.

In our Bible story today, we have one of my favorite verses: “Do not forget to show kindness to newcomers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” When we meet new people, we never know what will happen. They may be our next best friend. They may be an angel in our lives. And so God reminds us to be kind and helpful and friendly to those new people we meet so that we don’t miss out on something grand. Life is full of good surprises. And new friends are some of the best surprises there are.

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 this school year.
Help me
to remember the “newness”
and to help the new students
who will join my class.

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

Upside Down

IMG_3376for Sunday, August 25, 2013
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 16
Year C
lectionary focus: Jeremiah 1:4-10
prop: a globe
note: a good pop song to share with this lesson is Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down”

Be sure to watch the post for September 15 and the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama…resources are being added…

Good Morning!

Here we are…the end of August; the end of summer; the start of school; the start of Fall! Soon we will be going to football games, and getting out sweaters, and picking apples, and watching leaves change color and drop to the ground, and raking the yard, and all of those Fall kind of things we do when the weather gets cool, then cold, then colder. This change in seasons happens now because we live here (show globe) in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Earth’s trip around the sun, the Northern Hemisphere is entering the Fall Season.
But down there is the Southern Hemisphere. And for countries down there like Australia, their seasons are the opposite of ours. This means the Southern Hemisphere is now entering the Spring Season. We here are finishing summer; they there are finishing winter. We here are starting Fall; they there are starting Spring! They are packing up their coats and sweaters; they are looking for daffodils; they are watching the trees sprout little green leaves; they are planting gardens…
It’s weird to think of the seasons upside down like this! Yet this is what it is. And it certainly keeps things interesting and exciting.

In our Bible story today, God turns the world upside down for a young man named Jeremiah. Instead of calling on a wise, experienced grownup to do some important work, God calls young Jeremiah. At first, Jeremiah does not understand flipping things around…Jeremiah says he is just a boy, how can he do God’s work? Jeremiah thinks this is impossible. But God lets Jeremiah know that nothing is impossible with God. God tells Jeremiah that He has known him since before he was born…and has called him from the beginning to do God’s work. And God promises to be with Jeremiah while he does the work.

Like the opposite seasons on Earth, the story of God calling Jeremiah reminds us that just when we think we have everything figured out, God likes to turn things upside down and flip them around. This keeps our world interesting and exciting…and reminds us not to be fearful because God is always with us.

As we start the Fall season and you start back to school, remember that God is with you. And even though you are young kids, you can do work for God. You may surprise some people by sharing God’s love, but God likes that. Whether you are upside down or not, anything is possible with God.

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 the different seasons.
Thank You
for liking surprises.
Help me
to share Your love
and upside down.

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.
Happy Spring to those of you in Australia
and other Southern Hemisphere countries!

Here’s an Idea! Blessing of the Backpacks 2013

IMG_9864for Sunday, August 18, 2013
Blessing of the Backpacks 2013
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
13th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 15
Year C
lectionary focus: Hebrews 11:29-12:2
prop: incandescent lightbulb (carefully) nestled in your backpack

There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.
~Sir Joshua Reynolds

(Edison’s favorite quote around his laboratory.)

Good morning! We are getting ready for a new school year and we all have our backpacks today! For this service last year, I had a cabbage in my backpack. I wonder what I have this year? Here’s an idea:

This is a lightbulb. This is not something that you will find in anybody’s backpack, but you will see lots of them in schools. And in school, you will learn that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. Some people say that it is the most important invention because without it we’d be in the dark. But the thing is, Thomas Edison did NOT invent the lightbulb. No, in fact there is a whole list of guys who made lightbulbs long before Mr. Edison did. Thomas Edison was the scientist who made the lightbulb practical and easily available for everybody. This kind of lightbulb works by running electricity through the wire inside which then glows, shining light. But the early guys used wires inside that were very expensive, hard to find, or only glowed for a few minutes. Candles were much better than those bulbs. Mr. Edison, though, thought there had to be a way to make a lightbulb work easily. So he began experimenting, trying to find the right wire to use inside. Mr. Edison tried over 6,000 types of wires before he found the right one.* That’s a lot of wires! (Side note: You’d have to eat 30 Oreos every school day for a school whole year to eat 6,000 Oreos!) Mr. Edison had what we call perseverance. He moved forward in his work with persistence. This means that even though it was hard work, he stuck to it.

In our Bible story today, we are reminded that life is about sticking to it. We are called to be persistent, to live our lives with perseverance, to keep working even when things get hard. And these are good words for us to hear right now before we start school. Oh, sure, school is fun and all of that, but there will be times, there are times, that school is hard. Sometimes, we would much rather do anything than think! But just like inventing a lightbulb is one experiment at a time, learning is one thought at a time. Think and then think some more…and soon you will want to think even more! And then you will have a mind full of bright, shining lightbulbs!

Today we prepare to start school and we ask God to be with us as we learn. We ask God to be with us as we think. We ask God to stick with us as we stick with learning. We ask God to light our paths and guide our feet that we may run the race to learning with perseverance.

When we say our prayer today, I will say a line and use some hand motions and I’d like for you to repeat the line using the same motions. Will you pray with me?

Dear Lord,
As I hold my backpack, (hold your backpack)
Lord, keep me learning.
As I hold my head, (hold your head)
Lord, keep me learning.
As I hold my feet, (hold your feet)
Lord, keep me learning.
As I hold my heart, (hands over your heart)
Lord, keep me learning.
Guide my feet, (hands on feet)
Guide my heart, (hands on heart)
Guide my mind. (hands on head)
Bless me (folded hands for the remainder of prayer)
through this school year
that I may persevere
in my race to learn.

And now we will sing with Miss Amanda “Guide My Feet While I Run this Race.”

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.
Happy New School Year!

* information source

Dear Friends,

During July, I attended a teacher workshop on the history and stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama, my hometown. While tracing the development of the city once known as Bombingham, we focussed on the pivotal year of 1963 and the events here which changed the world. One of those moments was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. This African-American church was at the center of the local movement, hosting meetings and marches. At 10:22 am on Sunday, September 15, a bomb planted by white supremacists of the Ku Klux Klan ripped through the side of the church. Many people were hurt. Four young girls were killed: Addie Mae Collins (14 years old), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Denise McNair (11). It was Youth Sunday and they were preparing to join their friends and lead the service. The church lesson that day was “The Love that Forgives.”

Fifty years later, September 15th is once again on a Sunday. As the city of Birmingham has held commemorations throughout the year on how far we have come, local churches are planning their September 15th church service around the same theme interrupted on that horrific day. While some churches may focus on the specific Civil Rights significance of the day and others may look at Civil Rights in a broader sense, we are building services on “The Love that Forgives.” I am on a mission to share this opportunity and invite you to use this theme at your church and share this information with your friends and neighbors, near and far, so that we may all uphold the power of this love as we continue overcoming hate and oppression throughout the world.

We have gathered together some resources for use in crafting your Sunday School and worship service including the original International Sunday School lesson…shared in the PDF below through gracious permission for Abingdon Press (all rights reserved) .

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “[T]he arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” How powerful to bend with you all on September 15th!

May the Peace of Christ be with you,

Some information listed below but this is a PDF of the Compiled Resources: (updated 8/31/2013)
Love that Forgives

See also my 8/31/2013 post The Love that Forgives…


Known as the Wales Window, this large window in the rear of 16th Street Baptist Church depictes the image of a black crucified Christ and was given as a memorial gift by the people of Wales.

The Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday, September 15, 2013:
Jeremiah 4:11–12, 22–28 (All of creation will suffer for Israel’s unfaithfulness.)
Psalm 14 (Fools say in their hearts that there is no God.)
1 Timothy 1:12–17 (Paul writes of Christ’s grace made evident in his own life.)
Luke 15:1–10 (Jesus tells of the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.)

Alternative texts:
Isaiah 40:4-11 (Every valley shall be lifted up…The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever…He will gather the lambs in His arms)
Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16 (My refuge and my fortress.)
Galatians 3:23-29 (…There is no longer Jew or Greek…)
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 (…the conviction of things not seen)
2 Peter 3:8-15a (…while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by Him at peace…)
Matthew 5:43-48 (…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.)
John 1:1-5 (The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.)
Luke 23:34 (Father, forgive them for they know not..) This was the text for that date in 1963 and was the basis for the Sunday School lesson, the Youth Sunday worship service, and the sermon to be delivered by Reverend Cross. The explosion happened just at the end of Sunday School. While the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church have artifacts, it seems most of the documents relating to the lesson and service were lost on that day. We are working to locate the Sunday School lesson…


Prayers from African-Americans in History
This site has beautiful prayers by W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Coretta Scott King and others.

From The Book of Common Prayer / The Episcopal Church (1979):

For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
glory, now and for ever. Amen.

For the Unity of the Church
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior,
the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the
great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away
all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body
and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith,
one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all
of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth
and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and
one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For Social Justice
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the
people of this land], that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Oppressed
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

An Affirmation of Faith Based on the Writings of Dr. King
(various locations on the internet but this one accessed from: on August 6, 2013)
I refuse to believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.
I refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war, that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible.
I believe there is an urgent need for people to overcome oppression and violence, without resorting to violence and oppression.
I believe that we need to discover a way to live together in peace, a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of this way is love.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. I believe that right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
I believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
I believe that what self-centered people have torn down, other-centered people can build up.
By the goodness of God at work within people, I believe that brokenness can be healed. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.”
— The United Presbyterian Church

The 2008 Social Creed from the United Methodist Church

Grace and Race Litany
from Rev. Renee Williams-Thomas, December 2008

Prayers and Liturgies for Race and Justice
from the United Church of Christ, Massachusetts Conference

Liturgy for Race Relations Sunday, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Hymn Suggestions:

Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson — considered “The African-American National Anthem”

Jesus Loves the Little Children by Clare Herbert Woolston — Another moment that brought tears to my eyes was when I learned that the bricks chosen to build the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the sidewalk of its neighbor Kelly Ingram Park are red, yellow, black and white.

What Wondrous Love Is This attributed to Alexander Means

Lord, You Give the Great Commission (based on Luke 23:34) by Jeffery W. Rowthorn

Love Lifted Me by James Rowe

What Matter of Love

God So Loved by Chris Eaton

Let Justice Roll DownThere are many versions of this hymn/song but I particularly love the one by Doug Romanow that we sing at Montreat Youth Conference.

Birmingham Sunday by Joan Baez

A Love that Forgives by Caleb Hughes
video production by Russell Standridge (note: Opening screen states time of the blast incorrectly; it was NOT 10:55–it happened at 10:22 am central time.)

Children’s Sermon:
I will be posting my sermon script by September 1. If you like to craft your own, I suggest that you tread carefully in describing the events of September 15. Children dying is a horror any time, but children being murdered in church is certainly unsettling. I don’t want to gloss over the event or deny the evil of that day, but I will work to focus on being a positive force for all of God’s children.

Sunday School Lesson:
We are currently working on obtaining the actual Sunday School Lesson “A Love that Forgives.” We will post it or a link to it here as soon as it is located.

from The Text This Week for Martin Luther King, Jr. January

Other Ideas:

At 10:22 am central time, church bells across Birmingham will ring for four minutes, one for the life of each girl killed in the church bombing. If your church does not have a BIG church bell, provide little bells for each member of the congregation to ring.

Other Informational Links:

16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL

50 Years Forward, Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Carolyn McKinstry’s website — present at the church bombing and author of While the World Watched (2011)

Timeline of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham

Episcopal Children’s Formation / Civil Rights Sunday

Episcopal Adult Formation / Civil Rights Sunday

Sharon Ely Pearson/ Civil Rights Sunday

More to come…but what ideas do you have?