Tag Archives: love

Advent and Christmas 2015: Highlighting the Advent Wreath

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

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Hello!

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

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

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

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

But, let me back up a bit.

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

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

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

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

Sigh. That felt good.

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Hello!

Merry Christmas! Yes, Christmas is here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now go find your family…

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

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

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

 

Advertisements

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.

Easter 2015 Unpacking the Trunk

IMG_0719for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter Sunday
Year B

Not to sound sacrilegious, but I am all about the theatre of church. I find it Holy when each part of the service flows from one moment to the next. I’ve also been around long enough to know this flow takes a lot of planning, preparation, practice, and work. As our packed trunk will be unpacked by the children at the opening of our Easter celebration, I have spent an afternoon with Pastor Joe blocking out the details. Here are our stage directions; adjust as fits your congregation. As the children’s sermon falls in its usual spot a third of the way through the service, scroll down if you want just the sermon. 

In addition to the Easter decorations, our Lenten trunk will be open, draped in white cloth, surrounded by Easter lilies, and bursting forth with all sorts of white streamers, banners, and garlands.

*  Choir processes in silently and takes their place in the loft.

*  The Chiming of the Hour.

*  Choir sings Verses One and Two of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden”
(solo male doing verse one; solo female doing verse two)
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #241
Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2013.
also
Hymnary.org

*  Two acolytes enter from back of church with lit torches, stopping at Row One.

*  Pastor Joe, wearing his robe but not the stole, follows them and continues over to the trunk. He gets the big, fancy Bible and returns to stand between acolytes.

*  Pastor Joe: Please rise in body and spirit for the Gospel of the Lord.
Reads John 20:1-18, Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…

*  Pastor Joe: The GOSPEL of the Lord.

*  Congregation: Praise to You, Lord Christ.

*  Pastor Joe: The congregation may be seated but I invite the children to come forward to unpack our Lenten trunk and prepare the sanctuary for our Easter celebration.

*  While the whole Choir now sings Verses Three, Four, and Five of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden,” there will be much messy and chaotic and (we hope) joyful activity:

* Acolytes go and light the candelabras and then meeting to light the Christ Candle together once it is unpacked and placed.
* Helping adults take their places as noted later.
* Children come down to meet Joe at the trunk.

* Joe hands the big, fancy Bible he was just reading to a child, Run this up there to Miss Lindsey at the lectern and then run back down here.”

* Joe hands Christ Candle to a child, “Take this to Miss Fran over there and then run back over here.”

* Joe hands Processional Cross to a child, Run this to Finn in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands the baptismal pitcher to a child, Run this to your mom in the back of the church.”  (This kid will be kept by her mom as in a few minutes she will process in with the filled pitcher.)

*  Joe hands out the boxes of doughnuts—yes, real doughnuts so there will be lots of boxes, all taped shut to prevent spilling—Run these to Mr. Ben and Mr. Dave and Mr. Ray in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands out the Alleluia streamers, “Here make sure every kid gets one of these when they come back.”

*  Joe gets two kids to put the white stole around his shoulders.

*  When all the kids return down front (except the one with the baptismal pitcher now in the back beside Finn with the processional cross),
Pastor Joe: Thank you for unpacking our trunk with the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. You are now holding the Alleluia streamers that you made long ago before Ash Wednesday. And we can now say that Easter word: Alleluia! Each time your hear this word today, I want you to wave your streamers and make the bells on them ring. Let’s practice: Alleluia! (Kids wave and ring.)

*  Pastor Joe: (Turning to the congregation) Please rise again in body and spirit for the Call to Worship.
(To the kids) Listen to how this goes.

*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.
(Doing this a second time so all the kids can participate.)
*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.

*  Opening Hymn

*  During the singing of the opening hymn, the Processional Cross is brought in, followed by the child with the baptismal pitcher who pours the waters into the font.

We will continue with the Service.

IMG_0167Children’s Sermon
for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter
Year B
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter NOW EMPTY AS NOTED ABOVE.

Wow! Happy Easter! Everybody say, Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

Here we are at the big, joyful, mystery of Easter!

There sure was a lot of running this morning! I love how you all ran to unpack our Lenten trunk. I love how you ran to put each item from our Lenten trunk back in its place. Everything is now decent and in order.

In our Bible Story this morning, we heard about a lot of running. When Mary and the women found Jesus’s tomb empty, they ran to Peter and John. And then everybody ran back to the tomb and then, they all ran some more. They ran because things did not make sense and they were trying to find the sense of everything; they ran because things seemed out of control and they were trying to find some control for what was going on; they ran because everything seemed out of order and they were trying to find the order of everything.

And that’s the big, joyful, mystery of Easter:
The resurrection of Jesus puts order into our lives.

It’s that simple.
It’s that simple, but it’s that complex.
This doesn’t mean that everything in life is easy; this doesn’t mean the junk drawer in my kitchen is all organized and clutter-free; this doesn’t mean I will never be confused or sad again. Easter works with the craziness and puts order into our lives; Easter gives us direction, gives us purpose. And the direction, the purpose, the order in our lives is love.

Through the resurrection of Jesus, we know that God loves us. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. And as God loves us, we are called to love each other.

Long ago, on that first Easter, as the disciples were running around the empty tomb, Mary stood confused in the cemetery. A man asked her why she was crying. Mary turned around supposing the man to be the gardener; but He was Jesus, the gardener of the whole world. Mary turned around and found that Jesus had put love into our lives. When we want things to make sense, when we want to know how to lead, when we want to arrange everything in order, we go with love.

This is the mystery.
This is the direction.
This is the order.
For God so loved the world.
For God so loves you.

As you run, or walk, or crawl, or skip, or dance, or sit very, very still, remember Easter puts order in our lives. Easter puts love in our lives. We are Easter people. We are people of love.

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

Dear Lord,
Alleluia!
Christ is Risen!
Easter puts love in our lives.
Help us
put Your love
in the world.
Alleluia!
Amen

I hope you have enjoyed this Lenten/Easter series.
I’d love to read your comments.

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

Lenten Series Sermons 2015

towerBackground: See my explanation of our Lenten Series for the outline and plan.

I hope those of your reading this blog have figured out that many people have their fingerprints on it. This Lenten Series idea comes through my newest church buddy Pastor Joe Genau of my church Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Joe came to me with this ‘crazy’ idea…“I’ve got this huge trunk. It’s been my dream to use it…” And so the conversation exploded from there. We looked at the lectionary; we looked at other sites and readings about Packing Away the Alleluia; we looked at the kids in our congregation; and together we decided to get our kids ready for Easter by having them plan for the celebration, helping them figure out what we will need on that joyful Easter morning. I’m so excited about this series collaboration…and so excited about Pastor Joe including these kids in the worship of our Lord every Sunday. Love me some crazy!

This post here has all the Sunday sermons for the series. My church began Lent at an Ash Wednesday service that included a children’s sermon noted below. Since I’m such a slacker and did not post that sermon beforehand, you may want to adapt the First Sunday in Lent sermon to cover that object. Feel free to rearrange/substitute objects to fit your worship. Our point is to mark this Lenten Season as a time to set aside the important things we will need for the big, joyful, mysterious celebration of Easter so that we will be ready and new and special on that day.

for Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Ash Wednesday
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 51:1-17
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND Alleluia streamers with bells attached to small dowels. You’ll want to have many of these streamers on dowels so that on Easter you can pass them around the congregation.

Good evening!

It’s kind of strange to be at a worship service at night in the middle of the week. But it’s also kind of cool!

I know that you all know about Easter. Easter is a big, bright, joyful special day. We say Alleluia! and Christ is risen! and The Lord is risen indeed! This big celebration is coming but it is not Easter yet. We are now in the time before Easter. This is called the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we get ready for the big celebration that is coming. Easter is bright and colorful and loud. But Lent is dark and gray and quiet. Lent is a time when we focus on getting ourselves ready for the celebration, but we don’t celebrate just yet.

Our Bible story tonight reminds us that we must prepare ourselves to praise God. We pray so that we may ready for what God puts into our hearts.

This Lenten Season we will be putting away the things we will need for our Easter celebration so that we will be ready and feel new and be special on that day. Tonight we have these streamers that you guys made in Sunday School last week. Each streamer says Alleluia! This is an important word for Easter Sunday. It is one word that lifts many praises to God. And to remind us that it is a special important Easter word, we don’t let ourselves say this word during the Season of Lent. We save it. But notice we have many streamers that have “this” word on them. Not one streamer, but many…one for you and you and you and you and you and all of them out there and everybody. Because on Easter we need everybody’s voice to praise God. So now I’ll place the streamers in our trunk. They will be here ready for us to unpack on Easter and use to lift many praises to God.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, February 22, 2015
First Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Genesis 9:8-17; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big mysterious celebration of Easter AND the baptismal pitcher or other baptismal object.

Good morning!

The sanctuary looks a little different today. You notice that the paraments are now purple. And we have this big trunk at the front of the church. We are now in the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we prepare for the big celebration that is coming. You know about Easter. Easter is a big, bright, joyful celebration. We say Christ is risen and The Lord is risen indeed. This big celebration is coming but it is not Easter yet. Lent is a time when we focus on getting ourselves ready for the celebration, but we don’t celebrate just yet. On last Wednesday night, we began our preparations for Easter by packing away the streamers that you guys made. I wonder if you remember the special Easter word that is on the streamers. Let us whisper this word now. (Alleluia.) We don’t use this special Easter word during Lent. By keeping this word silent during Lent, it will make this word extra loud and joyful on Easter.

Today we are packing away another item that we will need for our big Easter celebration. This is our baptismal pitcher. You guys help Pastor Joe each week by carrying the pitcher full of water and pouring it into the font during the prayer. You do this to remind all of us that we are claimed by God, that we are all God’s children.

In our Bible story today, we hear about Noah and his family in the Old Testament going through the great flood. We also hear about Jesus in the New Testament being baptized in the river. These stories of water remind us that as the children of God, we go through the darkness of water, and we come out into the light of God.

Today we pack away the baptismal pitcher. We will not use it during Lent. This gives us time to be dark, and gray, and quiet. Then on Easter, we will unpack the pitcher. You will again pour the water. We will celebrate anew coming out of the darkness and into the light; we will rejoice anew that through the love of Jesus, God claims each and all of us as His children; we will shine anew with the brightness of God’s flowing love.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 1, 2015
Second Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the processional cross. (Fortunately ours comes apart into two pieces so it will fit in the trunk.)
bonus: We are considering a added wonderment of scattering sand around the entrances to the church. This will be an extended metaphor of Genesis 22:17. Not addressing this during the children’s sermon, but possibly in the adult sermon and/or Sunday School.

Welcome!

We are in the Season of Lent. We are preparing for the big, joyful, mysterious celebration of Easter, but it is not Easter yet. We are packing away the things we will need for our celebration. We have already loaded the trunk with those streamers with this Easter word that we do not say during Lent. We have placed our baptismal pitcher in the trunk awaiting the light at the end of the Lenten darkness. Today we will pack away our processional cross. I know…you must be thinking, ‘How is that going to fit into our trunk?’ Engineers are smart; the cross is made so we can take the top part off the pole and it won’t get damaged while it is packed away. And now, you are probably wondering, ‘Why pack away the cross?!’

In our Bible stories today, we are reminded that God has made a covenant with us. God has made a promise to us. Through Jesus, we have life eternal; through Jesus, we will always live with God. The cross is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The cross is also a symbol that we no longer fear because we are always with God.

Each Sunday as the choir comes into the church, our acolyte carries the processional cross. This reminds us that we are each followers of Jesus, carrying a cross of resurrection and life. We will not be packing away all of our church crosses, just this big processional cross. Then on Easter, we will unpack it. We will again lift high our cross. We will again proclaim the love of Christ. We will again adore His sacred name. With brightness and joyfulness. We will be Easter people remembering anew God’s covenant and promise of life to us. God is with us always.

And so I place the cross in our trunk. It is kind of odd to pack away the cross. But we are not getting rid of it; we are not forgetting it; we are preparing the things we will need for the great celebration to come. We are allowing ourselves a time of darkness, so that we can shine in the brightness of Easter.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 8, 2015
Third Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 19:1-14 (verse 10)
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND a clean, empty doughnut box. (We have doughnut time after the service; we will continue this time of fellowship through Lent, but with another treat; I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces on this Sunday.)

Uh oh. I can see the excitement on your faces that I am holding a doughnut box. And now I can see the worry on your faces as you remember that during this time of worship we are packing away the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. Yes. You are right. Today we pack away the doughnuts. Just so you will know: this is an empty doughnut box. And just so you will know: I am sure there will be some sort of treat after the service.

And just so you will know: I wonder too why do we have to pack away the doughnuts???

The Bible is full of stories that speak to us of God, stories that share wisdom and hope and faith and love. And today’s story from Psalm 19 reminds us that God’s Word to us is sweeter than honey.

Each Sunday after church, we enjoy a time of fellowship, talking and eating doughnuts. This time of fellowship, of sharing God’s love with each other and reflecting on God’s Word to us, is very important and special. Today, to show we understand how special God’s Word is and how special our fellowship time together is, we are packing away the doughnuts. We will continue to have our fellowship time, but to give a little darkness and quiet in that time as we are in the Season of Lent, we will skip the doughnuts. And then on Easter Sunday, the doughnuts will return! We will spend our Easter fellowship time rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of God’s Word, tasting the doughnuts that like God’s Word are as sweet as honey.

I place this empty doughnut box in our trunk. The box is next to our streamers with this Easter word we do not say during Lent. It is next to our baptismal pitcher and our processional cross. We are in the dark and quiet Season of Lent. We are preparing ourselves for the big, joyful mystery of Easter. The celebration is coming, but we are not celebrating yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 15, 2015
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: John 3:14-21
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the Christ Candle.

Good morning!

Light is a big part of our worship service. Each Sunday, the acolytes bring the light into the church and  light our candles; and at the end of the service, they carry the light out into the world. The light is a symbol and a reminder that Jesus is the light of our lives. Through Jesus, there is no darkness. Through Jesus, we let the light of God’s love shine to those around us. We sing the song, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Our Bible story today says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only son; Light has come into the world; and whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.”

On Easter Sunday, we will start our celebration by lighting a new candle: this candle. This Christ candle is larger than our other candles. It is marked with the cross and the Greek letters alpha and omega, reminding us that Jesus is the beginning and the end. We use this candle throughout the Easter Season and on other special occassions. Lighting this candle on Easter will end our Lenten Season of darkness.

Then of course! We need to pack this candle away so that it is ready for our big, joyful Easter celebration. We place it here in our trunk next to the streamers, and the pitcher, and the cross, and the doughnut box. We know that this Lenten time of darkness and quiet will end. We will unpack the trunk. We will shout with joy and we will run with gladness. The celebration is coming but it is not time to celebrate yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 22, 2015
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Jeremiah 31:31-34
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the big, fancy Bible. We have a big, fancy Bible that stays on the lectern; during the children’s sermon we will take it from there to place in the trunk.

Welcome!

Before we start, I need to get something important. I’m going up here to the lectern and get an important book. I’m taking the big, fancy Bible. And I am sure you can guess what we are going to do with it. Yep, we are going to pack away the Bible. We’ve been surprised by some of the things we have packed away in our trunk for the upcoming big, joyful Easter celebration. But the Bible?? Don’t worry; our readers will still have a Bible to read our stories. But we are packing away this one for Easter because the Easter story is so big and so joyful that we need the big, fancy Bible for Pastor Joe to read.

I want to show you today’s Bible story. It is here, in the Book of Jeremiah. We read that God says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” You know, it really doesn’t matter how big the Bible is or how fancy the binding or lettering. The important thing is that these stories are the Word of God to us. Through our Bible stories, God is telling us how to live; God is writing His word on our hearts. And that word is love.

Easter is the greatest story of love. And so on Easter, we will celebrate in a great big way and we will read this greatest story of love from the big, fancy Bible. For now, we place it here in our trunk to be ready with the streamers, and the pitcher, and the cross, and the candle, and the doughnuts. Soon we will unpack the trunk. We will shout with joy and run with gladness. The Easter celebration is coming but it is not time to celebrate yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

IMG_0669for Sunday, March 29, 2015
Palm Sunday
Year B
lectionary focus: Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-16; John 13:1-7, 31B-35 (from Maundy Thursday’s readings)
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the white vestment stole.

Good morning! Good morning!

It seems the celebrating has begun! But wait! While the dark and the gray and the quiet of Lent has gotten thin today, we have not arrived at the Easter celebration yet. In our Bible story today, the people welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, having a parade and waving palm branches as symbols of welcome and safety. But we know the rest of the story. We know that the real celebration is not here yet. While today we enjoying the palms and singing Hosanna, we know that this week we have to go through the darkest, grayest, quietest part of Lent before we come out into the brightest, shiniest, and most joyful Easter next Sunday.

And so today we finish packing our trunk for Easter. We started long ago packing the streamers with the Easter word. We then added the baptismal pitcher. We took apart and added our processional cross. Then we packed away the doughnuts. That was so hard to do!! Then the Christ Candle went in, followed by the big, fancy Bible. Seems we don’t have much left to pack. But today we will add the stole. The what? The stole. This is a stole. (point to the current one being worn by your pastor) The stole is this lovely cloth Pastor Joe wears over his robe. The stole is a sign that he is a preacher. It makes him look very fancy and special.

But the stole is also a symbol of work. Later this week we will hear the Bible story of the last meal Jesus has with his friends. During this meal, Jesus stops and washes the disciples’s feet. I know! It sounds crazy! We want clean hands when we eat, but Jesus gets down on his knees and washes his friends’ dirty, stinky feet! Like us, I am sure the disciples were wondering why He did that!!! And so we will all understand, Jesus explains. Yes, He said that He is our teacher and Lord, but He is showing us what we are called to do. We are called to work; we are called to take care of each. None of us is so fancy and so special that we cannot work for each other. So preachers wear the stole as a symbol of the towel Jesus used when He washed and dried the disciples’s feet, and the stole reminds us that we are called to work for each other.

Today we pack away Pastor Joe’s stole. But not this lovely purple one because purple is the color of Lent. For our bright, shiny Easter celebration, we change to a pure, shiny white. This is the stole we will pack today for Pastor Joe to wear next Sunday. (now show the white stole) This is the stole Pastor Joe will need for our big, mysterious, joyful Easter celebration next Sunday.

All of our objects are safely packed away. We are ready to celebrate, but we are not there yet.

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

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter Sunday
Year B

(Not to sound sacrilegious, but I am all about the theatre of church. I find it Holy when each part of the service flows from one moment to the next. I’ve also been around long enough to know this flow takes a lot of planning, preparation, practice, and work. As our packed trunk will be unpacked by the children at the opening of our Easter celebration, I have spent an afternoon with Pastor Joe blocking out the details. Here are our stage directions; adjust as fits your congregation. As the children’s sermon falls in its usual spot a third of the way through the service, scroll down if you want just the sermon.)

In addition to the Easter decorations, our Lenten trunk will be open, draped in white cloth, surrounded by Easter lilies, and bursting forth with all sorts of white streamers, banners, and garlands.

*  Choir processes in silently and takes their place in the loft.

*  The Chiming of the Hour.

*  Choir sings Verses One and Two of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden”
(solo male doing verse one; solo female doing verse two)
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #241
Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2013.
also
Hymnary.org

*  Two acolytes enter from back of church with lit torches, stopping at Row One.

*  Pastor Joe, wearing his robe but not the stole, follows them and continues over to the trunk. He gets the big, fancy Bible and returns to stand between acolytes.

*  Pastor Joe: Please rise in body and spirit for the Gospel of the Lord.
Reads John 20:1-18Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…

*  Pastor Joe: The GOSPEL of the Lord.

*  Congregation: Praise to You, Lord Christ.

*  Pastor Joe: The congregation may be seated but I invite the children to come forward to unpack our Lenten trunk and prepare the sanctuary for our Easter celebration.

*  While the whole Choir now sings Verses Three, Four, and Five of “Woman, Weeping in the Garden,” there will be much messy and chaotic and (we hope) joyful activity:

* Acolytes go and light the candelabras and then meeting to light the Christ Candle together once it is unpacked and placed.
* Helping adults take their places as noted later.
* Children come down to meet Joe at the trunk.

* Joe hands the big, fancy Bible he was just reading to a child, Run this up there to Miss Lindsey at the lectern and then run back down here.”

* Joe hands Christ Candle to a child, “Take this to Miss Fran over there and then run back over here.”

* Joe hands Processional Cross to a child, Run this to Finn in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands the baptismal pitcher to a child, Run this to your mom in the back of the church.”  (This kid will be kept by her mom as in a few minutes she will process in with the filled pitcher.)

*  Joe hands out the boxes of doughnuts—yes, real doughnuts so there will be lots of boxes, all taped shut to prevent spilling—Run these to Mr. Ben and Mr. Dave and Mr. Ray in the back of the church and then run back down here.”

*  Joe hands out the Alleluia streamers, “Here make sure every kid gets one of these when they come back.”

*  Joe gets two kids to put the white stole around his shoulders.

*  When all the kids return down front (except the one with the baptismal pitcher now in the back beside Finn with the processional cross),
Pastor Joe: Thank you for unpacking our trunk with the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. You are now holding the Alleluia streamers that you made long ago before Ash Wednesday. And we can now say that Easter word: Alleluia! Each time your hear this word today, I want you to wave your streamers and make the bells on them ring. Let’s practice: Alleluia! (Kids wave and ring.)

*  Pastor Joe: (Turning to the congregation) Please rise again in body and spirit for the Call to Worship.
(To the kids) Listen to how this goes.

*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.
(Doing this a second time so all the kids can participate.)
*  Pastor Joe: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
*  Congregation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen Indeed.

*  Opening Hymn

*  During the singing of the opening hymn, the Processional Cross is brought in, followed by the child with the baptismal pitcher who pours the waters into the font.

We will continue the Service…

IMG_0167Children’s Sermon
for Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter
Year B
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter NOW EMPTY AS NOTED ABOVE.

Wow! Happy Easter! Everybody say, Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

Here we are at the big, joyful, mystery of Easter!

There sure was a lot of running this morning! I love how you all ran to unpack our Lenten trunk. I love how you ran to put each item from our Lenten trunk back in its place. Everything is now decent and in order.

In our Bible Story this morning, we heard about a lot of running. When Mary and the women found Jesus’s tomb empty, they ran to Peter and John. And then everybody ran back to the tomb and then, they all ran some more. They ran because things did not make sense and they were trying to find the sense of everything; they ran because things seemed out of control and they were trying to find some control for what was going on; they ran because everything seemed out of order and they were trying to find the order of everything.

And that’s the big, joyful, mystery of Easter:
The resurrection of Jesus puts order into our lives.

It’s that simple.
It’s that simple, but it’s that complex.
This doesn’t mean that everything in life is easy; this doesn’t mean the junk drawer in my kitchen is all organized and clutter-free; this doesn’t mean I will never be confused or sad again. Easter works with the craziness and puts order into our lives; Easter gives us direction, gives us purpose. And the direction, the purpose, the order in our lives is love.

Through the resurrection of Jesus, we know that God loves us. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. And as God loves us, we are called to love each other.

Long ago, on that first Easter, as the disciples were running around the empty tomb, Mary stood confused in the cemetery. A man asked her why she was crying. Mary turned around supposing the man to be the gardener; but He was Jesus, the gardener of the whole world. Mary turned around and found that Jesus had put love into our lives. When we want things to make sense, when we want to know how to lead, when we want to arrange everything in order, we go with love.

This is the mystery.
This is the direction.
This is the order.
For God so loved the world.
For God so loves you.

As you run, or walk, or crawl, or skip, or dance, or sit very, very still, remember Easter puts order in our lives. Easter puts love in our lives. We are Easter people. We are people of love.

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

Dear Lord,
Alleluia!
Christ is Risen!
Easter puts love in our lives.
Help us
put Your love
in the world.
Alleluia!
Amen

I hope you have enjoyed this Lenten/Easter series.
I’d love to read your comments.

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

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.

Rock Hopping

IMG_8185for Sunday, May 18, 2014
5th Sunday of Easter
(Graduation Sunday?)
Year A
lectionary focus: 1 Peter 2:2-10
props: rocks
note: We are recognizing Graduation Sunday on this day hence the inset paragraph; we have all of the Youth gather on the steps with us for this occasion. Use or omit, whichever is appropriate.

Welcome!

When we go with the Youth Group to church camp at Montreat, North Carolina, one of the many fun things we do is go Rock Hopping. There is a creek full of rushing water that comes down from the mountain. The creek water is very cold, even in the hottest part of the summer. And the creek is full of rocks. Some of the rocks are small enough to hold in your hand; others are big enough for several people to sit down and rest; and other rocks are just the size of your foot. And while those rocks come in many sizes, there are really only two kinds of rocks: the rocks that the water rushes over and covers up and the rocks that stick up out of the water and are dry. When we rock hop, we try to walk and jump and climb from dry rock to dry rock without stepping in…or falling in…the icy water. We are trying to stay dry, but of course getting wet is part of the joyful fun of Rock Hopping! As we are hopping down the creek, I can almost hear rocks calling to me: “Step here! Come this way! I’m firm and don’t wiggle! There’s no slippery moss on me!” I know, the rocks don’t talk; they are not alive; but I do think if they were alive and could talk, they would enjoy all of the laughing and screaming and jumping and falling and balancing as much as we do.

I thought about these rocks in Flat Creek when I was reading our Bible story for today. In this story from the Book of 1 Peter, we hear another one of those weird phrases from the Bible: St. Peter calls us to be living stones. Stone is another word for rock. But living? We just agreed that rocks are not living. They are just rocks. We use them for many things: we use them to build buildings and houses and roads and bridges. And we use the rocks in Flat Creek as stepping stones. Those rocks are how we get from one place to the next. Those rocks are what hold us up.

So how can we be living stones?

I like to think that when St. Peter calls us to be living stones, we are being called to live our lives in ways that help people move forward, that we are to help people get from one place to another, and that we are to do that in a fun and entertaining way. We are to be helpful stepping stones that others may firmly and safely and joyfully live their lives.

(If this is Graduation Sunday…)
Today we are celebrating moving forward. School is just about finished for the year. We will all enjoy summer vacation and then start back to new grades and maybe even new schools. Tamara will be starting a new grade and a new school. Tamara is graduating from high school and next August will go off to Warren Wilson College. Tamara used to sit on the chancel steps like y’all do each week; then Tamara got old enough to be in Youth Group; and Tamara has rock hopped at Montreat like a master. As she moves forward to a new adventure, we here at Edgewood Church will continue to be her stepping stone, firmly and joyfully lifting her up and supporting her throughout her life. And as we do this for Tamara, we here at Edgewood Church will support each and every one of you, too. There is nothing that separate you from the love of God…or from from the love of us.

Today I brought each of you a little river rock. Keep this and remember that you are called to live your life helping others. You are called to be a living stone.

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 fun games
like Rock Hopping.
Thank You
for calling me
to be a living stone.
Help me
to help others
live their lives
safely and joyfully.
Amen

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

Jesus is Here. Jesus Loves Us. It Will All Be Okay.

shepherdfor Sunday, May 11, 2014
4th Sunday of Easter
Good Shepherd Sunday
Graduation Sunday
Year A
lectionary focus: Psalm 23

Welcome!

Here is a story that Pastor Catherine told recently:
One day Pastor Catherine was at the grocery store. There she saw a mother with her baby daughter. The baby daughter was not happy; she was in the seat of the grocery cart crying at the top of her lungs. The mother was trying to shop as quickly as possible but the baby just kept crying and crying and crying. The mother was speaking very softly and saying beautiful words of comfort. “It’s okay Susie. I’m sorry you are so upset. It was not a good idea to stop at the store now, but in a few minutes this will be finished and then you can go home and have your favorite lunch and I’ll tuck you into bed for a nice nap. Don’t cry, Susie. I love you. I am here. It will all be okay.” And the mother just kept saying these soothing words over and over while the baby kept crying. When Pastor Catherine was leaving the grocery store, she saw the mother loading the groceries into the car and putting her baby into the carseat. Pastor Catherine went over to the young mother and said, “Excuse me, I just want to say what a good job you are doing. You were speaking so lovingly while your daughter was so upset. You are a great mother to Susie.” The young mother stopped and looked kind of puzzled and then said, “Oh. My daughter is Janet. I am Susie. I was saying the words I know Jesus would say to comfort me.”

Today is a day of many celebrations. Today we are still celebrating Easter…because the mystery and joy of Easter are too big to celebrate on just one Sunday; and I’m sure you know that we are celebrating Mother’s Day because you already have been making your mother feel special; and we are celebrating our friends who are graduating from high school and going forth into the world in a new way. And in addition to celebrating Easter and Mother’s Day and Graduation Day, our Bible story today is the 23rd Psalm, the Lord is My Shepherd, so the church calls today Good Shepherd Sunday.

Now most of us may not know any actual shepherds, but we know that sheep need a shepherd. Sheep trust the shepherd to care for them. Sheep trust the shepherd to stay with them and lead them. Through good weather and bad weather. Through good pastures and not so good pastures. Through safety and danger. Wherever they are, whatever they are doing, sheep trust their shepherd to continue always to care for them and be with them.

Pastor Catherine’s funny story about the mother in the grocery store reminds us that each of us trusts Jesus to comfort us. Like sheep trusting the shepherd to care for them, we too trust Jesus to care for each of us. No matter who we are, or where we are, or what we are doing, Jesus is with us. As mommies and daddies and children, as family and friends, as students and workers, as God’s Easter people, we trust Jesus will always be with us in good moments and bad, in the excitement of special days and the slowness of boring days, in the times of comfort and in the times of fear. The Lord is our shepherd. Jesus is here. Jesus loves us. It will all be okay. And we go forth trusting Jesus to continue to be with us, to lead us, to comfort us now and always. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

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 celebrations.
Thank You
for Your love.
Thank You
for always being with me.
Amen

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