Tag Archives: Children of God

Blessing of the Backpacks 2017

Nuestra Luna by B Woodruff

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

Whoop! Whoop!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another thing…what’s in a name?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect for All Time

1507ch7896edfor Sunday, November 15, 2016
25th Sunday after Pentecost
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 28
Year B
lectionary focus: Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
prop: your church bulletin

Welcome!

We are people who like to do things in order. We start at the beginning, go to the middle, and finish at the end. Even our worship service goes in order. Each Sunday we pray and sing and listen and share and have communion. And each Sunday, right before you guys come down to the steps, we pray the Prayer of Confession. This is the part where we tell God that we’re sorry for what we have done wrong. When I was a kid your age, the Prayer of Confession always confused me. It made me sad that each week we again said that we were sorry. I kept wondering why we didn’t get better, why we didn’t get it right. I mean, I made mistakes as a kid, but I thought surely when I became a grownup I’d be perfect and not need to tell God sorry.

Well, I’ve got two things to tell you about that. One: we don’t get perfect and two: we are perfect. I know, I know—I just said that we don’t get perfect and yet we are perfect; this is one of those conflicting Jesus things. First, we will never get perfect in that we will always, every week, every day make mistakes. We will always need to tell someone and God that we are sorry. But the second thing is that God knows we His children are each perfect, and God loves each of us no matter what, no matter what mistakes we make. And because of these two things—that we are imperfectly perfect—each week, we say the Prayer of Confession and while our Amen is still echoing off the ceiling, Pastor Joe reminds us that we are forgiven and that God loves us and that we are God’s perfect children.

Each week after our time on the steps, the next activity in the order of worship is to hear the scriptures read. Today we hear these words from the Book of Hebrews: “For by that one offering (Jesus) forever made perfect those who are being made holy.” (New Living Translation)

As a grownup, I’ve come to love the part of the service where we pray the Prayer of Confession. Of course, I still make mistakes and need to tell God that I’m sorry, and that makes me sad—but I know the very next order of the service is to hear again loud and clear that God forgives me and loves me and thinks I’m perfect. Therefore, I encourage each of you to hold fast to this truth: confidently tell God that you are sorry and confidently accept God’s love and forgiveness, because nothing can separate you from God’s perfecting love.

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

Dear Lord,
We make mistakes.
We are sorry.
Thank You
for forgiving us
for loving us
and for making us perfect.
Amen

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

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.
Amen

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

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,
Fran

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…

waleswindow1

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:

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.
Amen.

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: http://www.godweb.org/kingprayers.htm 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.

Commentaries:
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?
Peace,
Fran

Happy Birthday!

fireworkfor Sunday, May 19, 2013
Pentecost
Year C
lectionary focus: Acts 2:1-21

Good morning!

Today we come to the end of the Easter Season. Today is called Pentecost. Today we celebrate the birthday of the church. But we are not celebrating the birthday of this church. Our church, Edgewood Presbyterian Church, is 101 years old this year and we do make a big deal of celebrating how long EPC has been here…but today we celebrate the birthday of the world church. For almost two thousand years, people have been coming together in congregations all over the world to follow Jesus’s commandment to love God and to love one another. Today we celebrate that we are not Christians alone. We are Christians together. We are a family with Christians all over the world.

Our Bible story today begins with the disciples at Easter. They have seen Jesus risen from the dead and then watched Him ascend to Heaven. They are still struggling with the Easter mystery. And suddenly the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. They are overwhelmed with the Easter joy…they know that Jesus, though in Heaven, is still with them always.

And the Bible story goes on…Jesus is not just for them; they are not just a few lucky people. Jesus is for everyone in the whole world: the people then and the people now.  Jesus is still with each of us. And Jesus still loves each of us. We are all blessed people. We are all part of God’s family.

At my house, when someone has a birthday, we usually have two parties: one with our friends and one with our family. Today, we celebrate the birthday of the church with just one party, one party celebrated all over the world…because as Christians, our friends are our family. And as Christians, we are all God’s children…brothers and sisters from one church building to the next all around the world.

So today we say, Happy Birthday to the church! And with churches all over the world, we celebrate that we are all one family…that we are all God’s children.

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 Your world church.
Help us
say Happy Birthday
with our family
all over the world.
Amen

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

Acting Just Like Children

for Sunday, September 2, 2012
Labor Day Sunday
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17
lectionary focus: (loosely) James 1:17-27

Good Morning! Happy Labor Day!

Once upon a time there was a teacher who was having a hard time with her class. Her students were being wiggly, and giggly, and staring out the window, and being curious about what was for dinner, and talking to the other students. Finally the teacher could stand it no more, and she burst out with , “Behave yourselves! You are acting just like children!”
Well, that made sense. They were children. But the way the teacher said it, made them think that being children was a bad thing.

This weekend we end our summer vAcations by celebrating our vOcations on Labor Day. VOcations are the jobs that people have. And on Labor Day, we celebrate all the work people do to make our community a great place.

But what about you guys? What vocations do you have? Where do you work? What are the jobs that God calls you to do?

In our Bible story today, we are reminded that God calls everyone to a vocation. God calls even children…even you. And your job right now is to be children. Your vocation, your job, is to remind grown-ups everywhere of the importance of being children, the importance of acting just like children. God wants us to be joyous and giggly and smiley and curious and never afraid of being children. But sometimes, grown-ups forget what they were like as children. Grown-ups get caught up in worldly things. Your job is to remind us all how to put the love and joy into Love thy neighbor as thyself. You are not just children, you are children of God.

So, behave yourselves! Behave just like the children of God that you are called to be! And thank you for sharing your vocation with us! Happy Labor Day!

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 letting me be a child.
Help me
to do my job
sharing Your love
sharing Your joy
and keeping the grown-ups smiling.
Amen

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