Tag Archives: Matthew

The Nose Knows

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

Welcome!

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

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

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

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

And Jesus says no.

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

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

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

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

We are not Christians alone.

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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.

Acknowledging Jesus

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

Welcome!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of With

photo by c. woodruff

photo by c. woodruff

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

Welcome!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for being with me.
Help me
to be with You.
Help me
to be with others
and share Your love.
Amen

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

Lenten Series: They Are Holy (Almsgiving)

IMG_3986_edited-1for Sunday, April 13, 2014
Palm Sunday
Passion Sunday
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
note: This is part of our Lenten Series on Almsgiving. Today we are collecting toiletries for our local shelter; for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, it would be cool to collect winter coats connecting to the laying of garments before Christ’s donkey.

Welcome! Thank you for your Almsgiving! Yes, here, we are gathering all of the toiletries into this basket. I see shampoo and soap and hairbrushes and toothpaste. So many items to help our friends feel clean and comfortable.

We call our church God’s house. We take care of God’s house by keeping it clean. We put back the hymnals and Bibles in the pew racks. We pick up our bulletins. During the week, we dust and vacuum. We change the flowers and the candles. We replace the burned out lightbulbs and put out new prayer cards. We repair anything that breaks. By making God’s house clean and neat, we keep it a comfortable and welcoming…and Holy place to be.

And since Jesus lives in our hearts, we also keep our bodies clean. My friend Margaret Atwood says, “In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” I agree! But I also agree that after smelling like dirt, it feels really good to get clean. To bathe and shampoo my hair and put on lotion and fresh, clean clothes. Ah. Nice. Getting myself clean and neat makes me feel comfortable and healthy…and Holy.

Today is called Palm Sunday. Today we begin the last week leading us to the Mystery and Joy of Easter. Our Bible stories this week take us from riding in a parade, to carrying the cross, to finding the empty tomb. We go from happy, to sad, to joyful. So many important things happen this week that we call it Holy Week. And as our hearts and minds go through all of the emotions of Holy Week, we ask: What can we do to help others? Our Almsgiving this Lenten Season has shared bread and water and socks and eyeglasses and even treats for animals. Today we have brought toiletries. Yes, it is a funny word, but these are items that help our bodies feel clean and comfortable and ready to go forth into the world. We share these items with others who are having a hard time so that they will feel clean, that they will enjoy comfort, and that they will know we see Christ in them, we see them as Holy. Thank you for your Almsgiving. Thank you for doing this Holy work of sharing God’s love.

Next week we will begin Easter with great jubilation. We will rejoice in the Lord. We want you to bring flowers. Your flowers will fill the sanctuary with nature’s beauty…and then after church, we will share the flowers with those in our church family who are suffering from illness or conditions that keep them from coming to church. Since they cannot be here, we will take some of here to them.

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

Dear Lord,
We enter Holy Week
thinking of others.
Bless our gifts for them
that they may feel clean,
that they may enjoy comfort,
that they may know we see them as Holy.
Amen

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

Lenten Series: Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt, and You (Almsgiving)

breadThe first Sunday  of Lent in our Lenten Series focussing on the Discipline of Almsgiving.
for Sunday, March 9, 2014
First Sunday in Lent
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 4:1-11
note: Have a big basket on the chancel steps to collect the loaves of bread brought by the children for today’s almsgiving. (You might also want to have some extra loaves to give to those children whose family forgot.)
note 2:  The opening story comes from Sleeping With Bread by Dennis Linn, Shelia F. Linn, and Matthew Linn (1995) (Google eBook)

Welcome! Such beautiful loves of bread!! Please place them here in this basket.

Long ago during World War II, there were children whose homes were destroyed and their families separated by the warfare. Those children were then kept safe in various camps. But because of the war and the destruction and the stress they were living through, many of these children had a hard time sleeping. Someone decided to give each child a piece of bread to hold during the night. The bread in their hands reminded the children that they had eaten that day and that they would have food to eat the next day. The bread reminded them that they were not alone, giving them comfort, making them feel safe, and they could sleep.

In our Bible story today from the Book of Matthew, Jesus has spent some time alone in the wilderness praying and preparing for His ministry. Because He has been out there so long, He is hungry. Satan comes to Him and tempts Him to change the rocks into bread to eat. Jesus is not one to be tricked by the Devil, but Jesus responds in a tricky way. Jesus says that man does not live by bread alone.

Now Jesus is NOT getting ready to explain the different food groups and how to eat a balanced diet. What we hear from Jesus is the reminder that we do not live our lives by ourselves. We are not alone. We live our lives WITH God and WITH each other.

We are now in the Season of Lent. During this Season, we are focussing on the discipline of almsgiving. As we find ways to make sure that others have what they need, we strengthen our relationship with God and each other. Today you brought loaves of bread. Mr. Bill and I will take all of this bread after the service down to the First Light Homeless Shelter. The guests there will enjoy this bread with their dinner tonight. They will be nourished. And in this stressful, lonely, and fearful time in their lives, they will feel comfort and safety. They will have food today and know that they will have something to eat tomorrow. But most importantly, the guests at the shelter will feel your love and God’s love. Through your gift, they will know that they are not alone.

Thank you for bringing these beautiful loaves today! Next week, we will hear the story of Nicodemus going out to meet Jesus…and so we are asking you to bring new socks for your almsgiving on next Sunday. Again, we will email you on Thursday to remind you!

Now 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 Bread.
Thank You
that we are not alone.
Please bless this Bread
as we share it with others
so they will know
our love
and Your love.
Amen

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

Praying for Stephanie

IMG_0479for Sunday, February 23, 2014
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
7th Sunday after Epiphany
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 5:38-48

We all know that Jesus said, Love your neighbor as yourself. But in today’s Bible story from the Book of Matthew, Jesus says this a different way. Jesus says, Love your enemies and pray for them.

When I was in school, there was a girl in my class named Stephanie. I didn’t like Stephanie. She hummed all of the time. It drove me crazy. I knew that Jesus said I should love my neighbor, so I loved Stephanie. While I didn’t like her because she hummed all of the time, it was easy to love her because I just ignored her. I didn’t sit next to her in the lunchroom or during circle time. I didn’t choose the same activities she was doing. I just avoided her…but hey, look Jesus, I still loved her.

Then one day, our teacher, Mr. Wesemann, gave us projects to do and assigned us each a partner for our project. I bet you can guess whom my partner was…Stephanie.
Ugh! Why her? Why the humming girl?

But Jesus said, Love your enemies and pray for them.

So I started praying! Please God, fix Stephanie! Make her stop humming.
But even though I kept praying for her, she didn’t change!
I kept praying, Why God? Why don’t you change her?

Then one day, as Stephanie and I worked on our project, she was humming again. I couldn’t stand it. I blurted out, “Why do you hum all of the time? Would you just stop it?!”
And Stephanie snapped back, “Why are you always drumming on the table? Would you just stop it?”
We glared at each other.

That night, when I prayed, I apologized to God. I didn’t realize my drumming was driving Stephanie crazy. I was just drumming. I guess, like she was just humming. I realized that praying for Stephanie didn’t mean that I was to ask God to fix Stephanie; praying for my enemies meant I was to ask God to fix our relationship, to fix us from not being friends to being friends.

The next day Stephanie and I sat down to work on our project. We were both grumpy. Then Stephanie said, “Hey, I thought our project could use a little pizazz. So I wrote a song for it.” And when she sang the song, it was really great! And the best part…well, one of the best parts, was it had my name in it. And as she sang, I automatically started drumming along with it. And as I drummed, Stephanie nodded her head and smiled.

That night when I said my prayers, I thanked God for Stephanie and that we had been partners. And I thanked God for fixing us, for helping us find a way to be friends.

Jesus asks us to do some weird things. Praying for our enemies certainly sounds odd. But when we pray for God to fix our relationships, we all come out better.

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 old friends
and new friends.
Help us learn
how to be better friends.
Amen

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