Tag Archives: Luke

Plans Are Worthless…

IMG_1319for Sunday, August 11, 2013
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
12th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 14
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 12:32-40
props: hymn “Brighten the Corner Where You Are” by Ina Duley Ogdon
first note: This summer I’ve been carrying in my heart a quote from President Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”* While it certainly fits here, I think including it would make the sermon too clunky. I share it to help you. Peace.
*full quote found at at the Eisenhower Archives under “Anecdotes,” Remarks at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference, 11/14/1957
second note: The first line of Miss Ina’s song (“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,”) reminds me to sing the praises of Jill Stewart. Jill is my editor, researcher, inspiration, friend. Her name is not on each of my posts, but her fingerprints are. She is not that famous, but has quietly rocked the world of many, and made my corner much brighter.

Good morning!

One hundred years ago, a woman named Ina Duley Ogdon, who dreamed of becoming a preacher, was invited to speak at a big church rally. Unfortunately, her father was injured in a accident. Miss Ina decided to stay at home, giving up her preaching dream, to care for her father. The next year, she wrote a poem, “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” to make the point that you don’t have to be an official preacher to preach God’s love. The words in her poem, which is now a hymn that we will sing with Miss Amanda in a few minutes, say: “Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, Do not wait to shed your light afar.” We don’t have to be famous to make a difference. We don’t need to wait for a special job or a special moment to share God’s love. Wherever we are, if we are shining with God’s love, then others far away in troubled places will be able to get through their tough times, much like a lighthouse at the beach guides ships to safe waters. When Miss Ina’s plans changed, she brightened the corner where she was, still making herself a blessing to others.

In our Bible story today, Jesus calls us to keep our lamps lit. Even when we make plans, we must be open to the unexpected…and be prepared to brighten the corner where we end up. Jesus tells us “Do not be afraid.” Instead, we should be curious about what the day will bring and prepared for the possibilities that will come our way. We don’t have to wait to be great. It is good to have dreams and plans and think about what to do in the future, but wherever God puts us, we can shine and share and be a blessing to others. And then we ourselves are blessed.

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

Dearest Lord,
Thank You
for being my treasure.
Help me
to brighten the corner where I am
that I may shine and share
Your love
with others.
Amen

And now Miss Amanda will lead us all in singing Miss Ina’s hymn.

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

31 Pairs of Socks

IMG_9981for Sunday, August 4, 2013
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 13
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 12:13-21
Note: Back to School is coming! Our Blessing of the Backpacks 2013 is scheduled for Sunday, August 18, and I will be posting that sermon by August 5.

Good morning!

Today, I have a story about two people.

The first guy goes to the store and buys 31 pairs of socks. The second guy goes to the same store and does exactly the same thing: he buys 31 pairs of socks…the same colors and types as the first guy. They each go home.

I wonder if you see any difference between these two guys?

The difference is seen when they get home. The first guy opens the sock packages and carefully arranges the socks in neat little rows in his dresser drawers. He is so proud that he will have a new pair of socks to wear each day of the month!

But on the other hand, the second guy goes home, keeps the sock packages closed up, carefully sorts them into neat little bags, and then takes the bags to the homeless shelter where he gives the new socks to the many guests that are staying there. Each guest now has a new pair of socks to wear!

I wonder if you see any difference between these two guys now?

In our Bible story today, Jesus reminds us that our lives are not built on the things we HAVE. Our lives are built on how we USE the things we have. We can be greedy, storing and using things just for ourselves. Or we can be generous, sharing and using things for others. Jesus warns us that when we selfishly store up THINGS–like socks, or money, or toys, or any THING, we make THINGS more important to us than God. When we generously share our things, we are being rich toward God and showing that God is our treasure.

My sock story today is about two different guys: one who values things and uses them to care for only himself, and another guy who values God and uses things to care for God’s children around him. I wonder which guy you want to be?

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 of my blessings.
Help me
to share my things
so others may see
that You are my treasure.
Amen

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

Five Giving

IMG_2776for Sunday, July 28, 2013
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 11:1-13

Good Morning!

I know at this point in the summer we should not mention the first day of school, but I have a story to tell you about my daughter’s first day of kindergarten shortly after we had moved to a small town up north. That morning we did the big hoopla: good breakfast, packed her backpack, a photograph in her first-day-of-school outfit, showed her where I would pick her up in carpool at the end of the day, and took her to her new kindergarten class. Big kisses and happy smiles. Then at two o’clock that afternoon I got a phone call from the school.

“Mrs. Woodruff, you need to come pick up your daughter.”
“What?” I said, “Did she get sick on the first day?”
“No, ma’am, school got out today at one o’clock.”
“What??? I thought school went until three o’clock?”
“Yes, ma’am, it usually does. But today the weather prediction was for the temperature to be over eighty-five degrees, and in that case, we always close school at one o’clock.”
(Yes, I know, weird isn’t it? We lived a good bit further north at that time and the school did not have air conditioning.)

So I drove safely but quickly, and arrived to find Cherry happily sitting in the school office, hanging out with Miss Julie the secretary. I rushed up to Cherry and said, “I am so sorry! I didn’t know! Can you forgive me for not being here on time?” 
Cherry looked at me and said, “It’s okay, Mom. I’ll even five-give you for this.”
Since she was learning her numbers, she thought five-give would be more than four-give.

In our Bible story today, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer which includes a request for forgiveness. People use these words spoken by Jesus to pray quietly or aloud together in groups. Since the Bible was written thousands of years ago in the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic languages, we read and hear it today translated into English. And because it is hard to match words exactly from one language to another, you will hear the words of the Lord’s Prayer said slightly differently from church to church, especially the part where we ask for forgiveness.  (Make the order here fit your church’s format…) In our church, we say forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Some churches say forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And some churches say forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

A debt is the way of saying when something is owed…like I owed my daughter security for making her scared as she waited and waited and waited. A trespass is a way of saying when you interrupt something or barge in on someone…like I interrupted my daughter’s new routine by not being where I was supposed to be. And a sin…well, that covers debts and trespasses and everything that we do that hurts someone else. But do you notice that in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for forgiveness as we forgive others? We can’t ask for all of our mistakes to be erased without being willing and able to erase the mistakes of others. No matter which words we use, we ask to receive forgiveness in the same way we give it.

I am sure that none of you will be left on the first day of school…I say this as I look at all of your parents so they will learn from my mistake…but throughout life, we each make many mistakes. And when we make mistakes against others, we need to ask for their forgiveness. And when others make mistakes against us, we need to offer them forgiveness. And whichever way we say it, whatever words we use, let us give and receive…forgiveness…five-giveness…seven-times-seventy-giveness.

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

Dear Lord,
I am sorry
for the mistakes I make.
Please forgive me
as I forgive others.
Thank You
for Your love.
Amen

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

With Jesus to the Moon and Back

print 09 5for Sunday, July 21, 2013
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
9th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 10:38-42
inspiration: “Commoonion.” 

Good Morning!

Forty-four years ago this weekend, in 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to walk on the moon. This was a big, exciting event, and the whole world watched as Mr. Armstrong took the first step and said the memorable words, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” But something else exciting happened BEFORE they walked on the moon. Since everyone had already put in a full day’s work with this new and technical operation of getting the spaceship on the moon, NASA had scheduled time after the landing for the astronauts to eat and get a goodnight’s sleep before their big walking adventure. But shortly after they landed, astronaut Aldrin took communion on the moon. Mr. Aldrin is an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He had arranged with his home church, Webster Presbyterian Church in Houston, TX, to carry a pinch of bread and a small chalice of wine so that in this remarkable place and in the midst of this amazing work, he could stop and express his gratitude and hope. There on the moon, Mr. Aldrin took time to acknowledge that Jesus was with him.

Our Bible story today reminds us of the importance of recognizing that Jesus is with us. In this Bible story, Jesus is visiting His friends Lazarus and Martha and Mary. Martha is busy being hostess and getting the meal ready…and Mary is just sitting and visiting with Jesus. When Martha gets upset that Mary is not working, Jesus reminds her that welcoming is not just the serving of a meal but also the reception…the being with your friends. Jesus is our friend and He invites us to be present with Him.

So every time you look at the moon, remember that astronaut Aldrin took time there to share that moment with Jesus. And the next time you are in the midst of great work…or great play, you, too, can take a moment to recognize that Jesus is with you and to share your gratitude and hope with Him. You can celebrate the presence of Jesus wherever and whenever and whoever you 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 being with me.
Help me
to welcome You
and be present with You
wherever
and whenever
I am.
Amen

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

I Am The…

IMG_2246for Sunday, July 14, 2013
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
8th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 10
lectionary focus: Luke 10:25-37
inspiration: How to do the Good Samaritan? Thanks to Rev. Christopher Henry of Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA, for hitting the nail on the head with his Day1.org sermon “Tell Me a Story.” (Please forgive me my errors with who vs whom.)

Good Morning!

Once upon a time…well, actually more than once upon a time. In fact, probably a gamillion times, we have told stories. We are Story People. We love to get wrapped up in a book or movie or show or tale or whisper . We love to hear about people and far away places and exciting adventures and funny mistakes. But I think we especially love to hear stories about ourselves. Whenever someone says, “One time when you were little…” oh, we each lean in a little closer and smile a little bigger. We love to hear about how we did things. By sharing stories, we learn about ourselves. Stories are very powerful.

Jesus knows the power of stories. In our Bible story today, a very smart man asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Now we all know that Jesus could have simply said, “Everyone.” But instead, Jesus involves us by telling a story–probably the most remembered of all His many stories–The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Once upon a time, a man went down the road to Jericho. He was attacked by robbers who stole from him, beat him, and left him wounded on the side of the road. Soon after a man from his church came down the road but crossed to the other side to avoid helping; next a man from his town came down the road, but he also crossed to the other side to avoid helping; then a unknown man from a far other town came down the road. Not only did this foreigner bind up his wounds, he also took him to an inn, cared for him, and left enough money for the innkeeper to continue caring for him.

Just like all of us listening now, the people listening to Jesus back then knew which character in the story acted like a neighbor. But I wonder if you noticed that Jesus did not name us in the story. Jesus did not say, One time, you were going down the road, or One time, you saw a man lying on the road. Jesus doesn’t tell us which character we are. He lets us figure it out and decide who we want to be in the story and who we want to be in the world. In the Good Samaritan and in each of His stories, Jesus helps you learn about yourself, giving you power to choose how to live the stories of your life.

I wonder who you will choose to be in the story of your life…

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 stories.
Help me
to keep You
in the story
of my life.
Amen

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

Dropping the Ball

IMG_1633for Sunday, July 7, 2013
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
7th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
inspiration: Thanks again to Carolyn for showing me how to “Shake the dust from my sandals!”

Once upon a time, two teams were playing a baseball game. It was a big, important game, and each player was doing his best to win for his team. The fans for each team were cheering away, hoping that their team would win. Each team was doing so well that it all came down to one play at the end. As the batter hit the ball to the far outfield, everyone knew…if the outfielder caught the ball, the outfield team would win; if the outfielder missed the catch, the infield team would score and win. Everyone held their breath as the ball took forever to soar across the field. The outfielder got in position, set his glove, and caught the ball…then he dropped it. The infield team scored and won. The outfield team lost. The young man who had dropped the ball stood there shaking his head. His coach ran onto the field and began yelling at him. The coach really chewed him out for his mistake. Then the player looked up at his coach, smiled, and said, “Yep, I did my best and it didn’t work. We lost the game. But…it is a game. And we are lucky enough to get to play baseball every day.”

Life is hard. Don’t ever say that you were not told that life is hard, because life is hard.

In our Bible story today, Jesus prepares the disciples for this reality. Jesus sends His followers out to share God’s love, but He warns them that it will not always be easy. Jesus tells us that sometimes things will be great and sometimes things will be not so great. But we are a joyous part of God’s kingdom! We are loved by God every day! And if certain things don’t work out–we don’t win a game or go on a trip or get something we want, we should “shake the dust from our sandals” and move on. Wait? “Shake the dust from our sandals?” Yes, those are the words our Bible story uses. Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t let disappointing events weigh us down, get us dirty, mess up our day. Just like when we get mud or dirt on our shoes, whether we are wearing sandals or tennis shoes or just our feet, we clean off the dirt and move on. We are doing our best and sharing God’s love…and that is what we are called to do: to build God’s kingdom. And building a kingdom is hard, but we are lucky enough to get to build it every 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 Your love.
Help me
to build Your kingdom,
and help me
to shake the dust from my sandals
when things are hard.
Amen

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

Facing Forward

IMG_1687for Sunday, June 30, 2013
6th Sunday after Pentecost
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 8
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 9:51-62
inspiration: My friend’s choral director says, “Nose and Toes face the conductor.” I initially thought of going with a Fourth of July/Freedom theme with something about the Founding Fathers looking forward, but realized that would make the sermon clunky and cover too many topics. I decided to stay focussed on God’s love. (Thanks, Jill, for the help!)

Good morning!

I have a teacher at my school who always tells her students, “Keep your face forward.” I think this sounds funny. Since our faces are on the front side of our bodies, our faces seem to be always forward. I think what the teacher means is she wants the students to look where they are going; to look at the front of the line or at the front of the room or at her; to look ahead with their eyes so that their minds are focussed on going in the right direction.

In today’s Bible story, we hear a similarly funny line: “Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem.” While this is a different way of telling us that Jesus is going on a trip to the city, these words are really talking about Jesus being focussed on doing what God has called Him to do. Yes, there are daily details that need to be handled and are completed, but Jesus is not going to be sidetracked from His mission. By setting His face to what He needs to do, Jesus stays focussed on what is most important. Jesus is bringing God’s love forward into the world.

We, too, can set our faces to do what God calls us to do. Yes, we will need to take care of the daily details like eating and chores and reading and playing. But when we set our faces toward God’s Kingdom, we stay focussed on what is most important. We stay focussed on sharing God’s love with each other. We take God’s love forward into the world.

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

Dear Lord,
Help me
to set my face
forward.
Help me
to share Your love
now
and always.
Amen

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

Not Sitting Around

IMG_4646for Sunday, June 9, 2013
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 5
Year C
lectionary focus: 1 Kings 17:8-24; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17
Note: If you haven’t done a Graduation Sunday, these texts can certainly lend themselves to the Go Forth with God theme.
Inspiration: A thought provoking idea from Rob Moss…

Good Morning!

It is June! It is Summer! It is Vacation! Time for traveling! When I was a kid, we traveled a lot, sometimes far away and sometimes down the street. My mom would always remind us before each trip, before each outing, before  each going out the front door: we needed to learn something, to have fun, to be safe, and to remember that we were representing the family and should behave ourselves.

In our Bible stories today, we hear about a lot of traveling. God sends the Prophet Elijah on a trip; St. Paul shares news from his travels; and Jesus goes to the small town of Nain. All of these are traveling stories. But actually, there are very few people in the Bible who just ‘sit around.’ God likes for us to travel. God wants us to get out in the world, to see other places, to learn about God’s people. But our travels are not just about learning things and having fun. Whenever we go on a trip or an outing or out the front door, we have an opportunity to represent God and to share His love. Yes, this is our church, but by going out, we connect with our neighbors and build God’s community beyond the walls of our church. This is one of the ways we make the world a more beautiful place.

Today’s Bible stories remind us that God’s people do not sit around. While Jesus never traveled very far from His birthplace in Bethlehem, He did not just sit and wait for people to come to Him. Jesus went out into the world–to their tables to eat, to their houses to visit, and to the seashore and countryside to share stories. As we each travel this summer, let us remember to learn something, to have fun, to be safe, and most importantly, to represent God and to share His love wherever we go.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for Your love.
Help me
to share Your love
in all my travels
far away
and down the street.
Amen

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

You Are My Water

for Sunday, June 2, 2013
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
9th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 4
lectionary focus: Luke 7:1-10
inspiration: Wow! This is a dramatized version of the 2005 commencement address of David Foster Wallace for Kenyon College. It could spark great discussion in Youth Group!

waterGood morning.

I recently heard a story told by David Foster Wallace.

There are these two young fish swimming along. And they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish says, “Morning guys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and eventually one of them says to other, “What is water?”

See, fish see water as so common that they don’t notice it.

In our Bible story today, a man calls on Jesus to help him. The man tells Jesus that he knows he is so common that Jesus really shouldn’t notice him, that Jesus really shouldn’t pay attention to him, but this man says he knows Jesus does pay attention even to him. This man understands the great mystery of faith: while we are so common, so regular, so ordinary, Jesus still chooses to be with each of us…Jesus chooses to pay attention and to comfort each of us…Jesus chooses to love each of us.

We, too, have faith like this man in the Bible story. I mean, we remind ourselves every time we come to church that Jesus is with us, that Jesus comforts us and loves us.

But here is the message in these two stories–this fish story and this Bible story: our faith calls us to know Jesus loves us AND to notice those around us like Jesus does. As followers of Jesus we are to do His work. And His work is to comfort us. But I wonder how we as faithful children of God can comfort all these people around us? We comfort people by choosing to notice people: by looking them in the eyes, by smiling at them, by nodding our heads or waving our hands in greeting, by learning their names, by listening to their words, by seeing them as fellow children of God. And like Jesus, we notice people by choosing to help make them comfortable.

Now we can be like those fish and choose not to notice what is all around us. Or we can be like Jesus and choose to notice and include and comfort these ordinary, common children of God all around us.

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 noticing us.
Thank You
for comforting us.
Help me
to notice others
and to help make
others comfortable.
Amen

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

Easter 2013 Running Forward!

shoesfor Sunday, March 31, 2013
Easter Sunday
Year C
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18; Luke 24:1-12
(note: This sermon connects well to the song Siyahamba/We Are Marching.)

Good Morning!
Welcome to the Joy and Mystery of Easter!

I like the way that we all hurry down to the chancel steps for children’s sermon. I like how we all sit close together on the steps. And sitting right here in the middle of all of y’all, it makes it easy for me to see…your shoes. Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! I do believe that some of you have new shoes today! You all certainly have nice shoes…shoes that look good but also look like they help you jump and run.

Our Bible story today has a lot of running. The story begins on the very first Easter Sunday. Jesus’s friends are sad. Jesus has just died on the cross. His friends are going to the cemetery to finish the funeral service. When the women get there, something seems very wrong. The stone door has been moved and the tomb is empty. They think someone has taken the body of Jesus. And so the running begins. The women run to the disciples; the disciples run to the tomb; back and forth, back and forth; lots of running. And then Mary stands there in the cemetery, crying and frustrated. She sees a man. Mary thinks He must be the gardener…but He is the gardener of the whole world…He is the risen Jesus. Jesus is not in the tomb because Jesus is alive. He was there with them then and He is here with us now in our hearts. This is the Joy and Mystery of Easter!

During the Season of Lent, we looked at prayer as a way to be close to God. But Easter does not mean our prayers should stop. Easter is such a big joy and mystery that it keeps on going for six more Sundays! The Season of Easter means all of our prayers now include celebration! We rejoice and praise God that He is with us; that He loves us; that we are His children. Whether we are praying for thanksgiving or for forgiveness or for help, knowing that we will do what God needs us to do, our prayers honor God for being God. We offer God our love because He loves us. We shout Alleluia!

And so with the Season of Easter, we move forward. Not running all confused like the disciples on the first Easter. No, we move forward, taking bold and confident steps, marching in the light of God, to praise God and enjoy Him forever. We move forward to share His love with the world.

We pray and we share. And we pray and we share. And whatever shoes we are wearing…or not wearing, with each step we take, fast or slow, we move forward, closer to 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 Your Easter love.
Help me
to share Your love
moving forward
closer and closer to You
in the joy and mystery
of Easter.
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Amen

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