Tag Archives: Ordinary Time

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


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.

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

Guest Post

This past Sunday, my preacher Joe Genau was up for children’s sermon duty. He presented the most amazing connection between lectionary, kids, and what we call Rally Day—the day we all gather together during Sunday School to hear about the options for Sunday School and other missions during the year. Honestly, when I read the lectionary readings I thought for sure Joe would avoid Song of Solomon and the Psalm! His genius found a way! I think his idea of saying ‘a poem can be a present’ will fit with many other lectionary-ily difficult Sundays, and so I share it here as my first ever guest sermon post. Take note!

photo by Bill Woodruff. Chicago, 2015

photo by Bill Woodruff. Chicago, 2015

for August 30, 2015
14th Sunday after Pentecost
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 17
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

Guest Post by:
Rev. Joe Genau

Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
Birmingham, AL

Good morning!

One of the Bible readings we’re going to hear this morning is a little strange.
It’s a poem that someone wrote for a King and a Princess on their wedding day!
And it’s not the kind of poem that rhymes – but it does use big, fancy, beautiful words.
It says things like “You two look wonderful!” and “I’m really excited for you!” and “God really loves you!”

Whoever wrote the poem was really happy for the King and the Princess on their very big, very special day. This person was so happy, that they wrote the poem to tell everyone at the wedding just how happy they were.

Did you know that you can give someone a gift like that? Instead of buying them a present for their special day – their birthday, or their wedding day, or their graduation day – you can write them a poem or a song or a story and tell them how happy you are and how excited you are and how much God loves them.

Well, today is a special day for Edgewood Presbyterian Church.
After worship, we’re going to go upstairs and have a party because it’s Rally Day!
Rally Day is the day we celebrate the beginning of a new Sunday School year.
When we go upstairs, you’re going to find out who your teachers are, and what you’re going to learn about this year.

I’m so excited about this special day that I wrote a poem for you – and I’d like to read it to you now:

Rally Day is here – I am so excited.
My heart is so happy to see you all.
You all look so nice in your dresses and shirts and cool shoes.
You’re all getting so big – it makes me feel old sometimes.
You’re all so smart – and you’ll learn even more this year.
About life. And about church. And about God.
God’s word is like a lamp, showing us the way to live.
We have such great teachers! God gave them wisdom to share.
Have fun in Sunday School. Listen and act kindly to each other.
And ask lots of questions!
Ask lots of questions!
Always, ask lots of questions!

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

Dear God,
Thank you
For wise teachers
And for books to read
And for art
And for music
And for questions!
You love us.
We love you.

Thanks for sharing Joe!
We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Gathering Together

150712kidsfor Sunday, July 12, 2015
7th Sunday after Pentecost
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 10
Year B
lectionary focus: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24


I love how joyfully you all come up to the chancel steps. Some of you run; some of you skip; and some of you walk…slowly…but you each come with intention and a smile. And I love how when I come into church each Sunday, Mr. Ray meets me at the door and gives me a big hug before he gives me the bulletin. When we gather for church and when we gather on the chancel steps, we meet each other in a joyful way. And our joy gives witness to our unity, that we are excited to all be God’s children together.

On our bulletin cover this morning, there is a picture of doors. Some of you guys drew these doors a few weeks ago with Miss Lindsey. This picture shows our church is a welcoming place, inviting the world to come and join us and be part of God’s family. This picture shows that nothing will keep us from opening the doors to let the people in.

In our Bible story today, King David calls for the people of Israel to come to God’s house. King David leads the people dancing through the town, joyfully celebrating the Glory of God. The people go dancing and singing and playing instruments and inviting everyone to join them as they process to God’s temple. King David calls for the church doors to be lifted and opened that all may gather to worship God.

So you see, for thousands of years, people have been getting together to worship God. And we make a big deal of gathering. We open the doors and come into the church excited to see our friends; curious to meet new visitors; thankful that God is with us. We come into church and celebrate being together as family to worship God who loves us each very much.

This past week our special word was #dance and we looked for ways that people were dancing. This week’s special word is #music. I bet you can think of lots of good pictures to go with music. I wonder what pictures Pastor Joe is taking on his vacation to go with music? So keep your eyes watching and get your parents to snap and post some pictures with our #epcvbs. And remember, lift up your heads and worship with joy. We are gathered to celebrate.

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 doors that open.
Thank You
for our church family.
Thank You
for dance and music
and being together.
Us and You.
You love us.
We love You.

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

Hashtag Summer

150607epcvbsfwfor Sunday, June 7, 2015
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 5
Vacation Bible School
Year B
lectionary focus: Mark 3:20-35
props: camera phone and Instagram/FaceBook
note: Our small church has decided NOT to do Vacation Bible School this summer. Not as a week long event nor as part of Summer Sunday School. This year, we are giving ALL of our Sunday School teachers a break! We will still have a Sunday School time, but each week the children will be taught by our lovely intern (I suggested she use StoryPath books.), and all the rest from Middle School on up will be taught Bible 101 by our new preacher (I know! Where did we get this guy? Hope we don’t burn him out too quickly!).
I have been following Brother, Give Us a Word from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.  I applaud this awesome use of social media! My Pastor Joe and I discussed how we might use such an online tool with our congregation. And so #epcvbs is happening! This Sunday I will explain our Online Vacation Bible School during the children’s sermon time, give the first hashtag word (#family), and close with a group photo on the chancel steps. Through our church’s Instagram account (instagram.com/edgewoodpres) and hashtag words of the week, we will encourage our church family to connect and to post pictures using our main hashtag #epcvbs and the hashtag word of the week (see suggested hashtag words for each week following the sermon below). We want to provide our church family with another way to stay connected visually, mentally, and spiritually during summer vacations. (Since this Online Vacation Bible School is an intentional intergenerational activity, this hashtag word of the week will not be part of the children’s sermon every week—though it can be.) (Since not everyone views social media, Pastor Joe will print out the pictures each week and post them on the “wall” in the Narthex.) So here goes…let me know if I don’t make any sense.

Happy Summer!

I am so excited that summer is here and we are into our summer routines of not really having a routine! Summer is a big travel time and lots of us will be visiting family: grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins. Like holidays, summer is a great time for family to get together.

In our Bible story today, Jesus talks about family. Jesus points out that family is not just your parents or your brothers and sisters or your grandparents or your cousins. Jesus tells us that the people He calls family are those who follow God. Whoa! That means since we follow God that we are part of Jesus’s family! And since each of us are part of Jesus’s family, then we are part of each other’s family…meaning we are all family together. This is why we call each other part of our church family. Looks like we’ve got a big, happy family!

One of my favorite things that families do is take family photographs. So today I’ve brought my camera to take our church family picture together here on the chancel steps. But the thing is…I want each of you to be able to see the picture. Do you guys know who this is? You may have seen him in Pastor Joe’s office. He’s the church mouse. Pastor Joe posts pictures of the church mouse on an app called Instagram. So we’re going take our picture with the church mouse, post it on Instagram, and then all of our church family can see it! Here, you Ben, hold the church mouse.

And I’m going to stand back here, you guys squish in on the steps, and you guys in the congregation do your best photo-bomb pose! I might have to take two pictures. One, two, say Alleluia! (take the picture or two!)

One of the ways that Instagram makes it easy to share pictures is through labels called hashtag. Do you fingers like this. (Do the hashtag symbol if you understand what I’m talking about.) By using a hashtag label, we give a picture a theme. The hashtag for this picture that I just took is of course #family.

This is fun! I want to do this more. And I bet you guys would be good at it too! Let’s do this. All summer long, our church family is invited to post pictures on Instagram. This week, we start with #family. So when you guys (those on the steps with me here) and you guys (those in the pews out there) see something that makes you think “family,” we want you to photograph it, hashtag it with #family, and then post it to share. And so we can see them all together, Pastor Joe will print out the pictures and post them on the Narthex wall. AND each week this summer, Pastor Joe will give us a new hashtag word of the week for next week, and we can find other opportunities to photograph the new theme.

But we also need a hashtag to connect all of the pictures and themes. Our main hashtag will be #epcvbs. EPC stands for Edgewood Presbyterian Church and VBS stands for Vacation Bible School. Using Instagram, we are taking our Vacation Bible School wherever we are this summer. Through #epcvbs, we can share our family adventures with our whole church family. This way, we can all be church family together, following God whether we are here or there, near or far; we can stay connected spiritually and visually through the magic of technology.

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 family.
Thank You
that we are each
part of Your family.
Help us all
stay connected this summer
through worship,
through fun,
and through technology.

Suggested Weekly Hashtag Words that fit with the Revised Common Lectionary
We are still working on these. We want to find hashtags that don’t pull up inappropriate pictures on Instagram…if you know what I mean.

For the week of
June 8: #family

June 15: #davidandgoliath or #bestill

June 22: #morning or #balance

June 29: #honor or #HONORGOD

July 6: #welcome or #music or #fullness

July 13: #rocks

July 20: #picnic

July 27: #water

Aug 3: #truth or #GODSTRUTH

Aug 10: #backtoschool or #blessingofthebackpacks

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

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


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.

We are not Christians alone.

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


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.


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)

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

Focusing on God

IMG_4628_edited-1for Sunday, June 29, 2014
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 8
Year A
lectionary focus: Romans 6:12-23


Today is June 29th. And according to the Internet, today is National Camera Day. A day to celebrate the wonders of cameras and making art by taking pictures. Reading the websites, no one is sure who first decided today would be National Camera Day, but people have been celebrating this day for several years. This is my camera. And in reading the history of photography, I’m also not sure who first invented the camera. But I have learned that this tool is the result of many people’s inventions. For over 200 years, designers have been tweaking and twisting and making picture-taking easier and easier and harder and harder. I am sure though that this camera here will not be the last, best machine of its kind. Many people will continue to improve the technology and develop more simple and more complex and more accurate cameras. And through these ever-better cameras, photographers will continue to inspire and encourage people around the world with their art.

In our Bible story today, St. Paul has written a letter to the Romans to share God’s good news. St. Paul gives much advice on how to live a life for God. In today’s reading, St. Paul reminds us that through Jesus we are forgiven…but that doesn’t mean we stop striving to do what is right. As part of God’s Kingdom, we work to be better people. Picture this: we expand our hearts; we widen our smiles; we extend our words; we unfold our hands; all to be better instruments of God’s justice, mercy, and love.  And yet, each of us is not the best we are to be. Because of God’s grace, each of us are still growing and developing. Honing our focus on what God calls us to do. We continue each and every day to open ourselves and be filled with God’s light that we may reflect His love to the world around us.

Cameras are great tools for making art; our ever-growing lives for God are Holy art making the world a more beautiful place.

Now, let’s celebrate National Camera Day and God’s love for us by taking a group photo here on the chancel steps. Say, “Blessings!”

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 cameras.
Thank You
for new inventions to make art.
Help me
to grow and develop
as Holy art
to share Your love
with the world.

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is 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.


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,
It is always good
to see You
in those around us.

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.

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

It Is Snowing Right Now

snowmanfor Sunday, February 16, 2014
6th Sunday after Epiphany
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 5:21-37
note: You may need to adjust the opening riddle to fit your local weather. In light of our recent Snowmageddon here in the southeast, my statement as printed here may be honestly true!


Today, I’ve got a riddle for you: It is snowing right now. (Wait for a reaction and respond accordingly…be ready in case someone blurts out ‘somewhere else!’) Yes, it is snowing. No, I’m not crazy, and I’m not lying. It is snowing. No, you don’t see any snow out the windows…but it is snowing right now. (or say Even without being able to see through the church windows, I know it is snowing right now.) How? Well, it is snowing right now…somewhere in the world. Oooohhh, now you see that my statement is true…you just assumed that I meant here…which I did not say. So my statement It is snowing right now is true but when I clarify that it is snowing right now somewhere in the world, my statement becomes honest. This is a riddle game that we sometimes play in Youth Group to test our listening and thinking skills.

I thought about this game when I was reading our Bible story for today. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus is preaching and reminds us of the Commandment to be Truthful. But as we just heard, we can be truthful without being honest.

And then I thought about a story* I once heard of a little monster named Florence whose parents said they did not want to see her making faces at her sister. So Florence made sure that her parents were not around when she made faces at her sister. Then her parents never saw her make faces, but Florence was not acting honestly.

Jesus preaches about the importance of honesty and truthfulness because He understands that it is easy to be tricky. Jesus makes His thoughts on this clear in our Bible story by saying, “When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (The Message) Jesus is telling us that being truthful and honest is not just what we say, being truthful and honest is also what we do. The word to describe this is INTEGRITY. Everyone say INTEGRITY. To have integrity means that your whole self is honest. You speak truthfully and you act truthfully. And not just some of the times, but you are wholly truthful even when no one else is looking.

Riddles are fun, but we should make sure that people know when we are playing. Then when we are not playing, people will know and trust that our words and our actions are honest and truthful. We will be people of integrity. We will be Children of God in our words and our actions.

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 words.
Help me
to speak and act
and honestly
that I will have

*Based on the two (fabulous) books by Florence Parry Heide: Tales for the Perfect Child  (1985) and Fables You Shouldn’t Pay Any Attention To (1978).

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