Tag Archives: peace

Another thing…And also with you.

Since you and I are talking via the Internet I know that we can’t see each other, but I hope we can see eye-to-eye metaphorically on this issue.

When it comes to the worship service, different styles abound. We all have our preferences. But here’s something that really annoys me in any service.

When the preacher joyfully proclaims, “The Peace of Christ be with you!”–I am annoyed if, while we are returning the just as joyous “And also with you!”…the preacher is busy gathering notes and notebooks and moving on to the next thing in the service. WHAT? I think, LOOK AT ME! Granted, the preacher cannot look at each of us at the same time, but they can look at the congregation. They can graciously receive God’s peace from us.

When we first started at Edgewood Presbyterian, I loved how Pastor Sid glowed and obviously enjoyed this holy moment. And after he retired, I did not let too many Sundays pass before I took young Pastor Joe aside and confronted him on his rush to prepare for the next moment in worship. “Joe, we are talking to you. This not some pointless call and response. We are heaping Peace all over you. Please, pause and accept it.” I think he was stunned: 1) that I criticized him, and 2) that I was right. To this day, Joe knows when I’m in church because at this point in the service, he’s looking right at me. And glowing.

The Peace of Christ be with you…

 

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

Advertisements

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.

 

Dear Friends,

During July, I attended a teacher workshop on the history and stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama, my hometown. While tracing the development of the city once known as Bombingham, we focussed on the pivotal year of 1963 and the events here which changed the world. One of those moments was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. This African-American church was at the center of the local movement, hosting meetings and marches. At 10:22 am on Sunday, September 15, a bomb planted by white supremacists of the Ku Klux Klan ripped through the side of the church. Many people were hurt. Four young girls were killed: Addie Mae Collins (14 years old), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Denise McNair (11). It was Youth Sunday and they were preparing to join their friends and lead the service. The church lesson that day was “The Love that Forgives.”

Fifty years later, September 15th is once again on a Sunday. As the city of Birmingham has held commemorations throughout the year on how far we have come, local churches are planning their September 15th church service around the same theme interrupted on that horrific day. While some churches may focus on the specific Civil Rights significance of the day and others may look at Civil Rights in a broader sense, we are building services on “The Love that Forgives.” I am on a mission to share this opportunity and invite you to use this theme at your church and share this information with your friends and neighbors, near and far, so that we may all uphold the power of this love as we continue overcoming hate and oppression throughout the world.

We have gathered together some resources for use in crafting your Sunday School and worship service including the original International Sunday School lesson…shared in the PDF below through gracious permission for Abingdon Press (all rights reserved) .

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “[T]he arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” How powerful to bend with you all on September 15th!

May the Peace of Christ be with you,
Fran

Some information listed below but this is a PDF of the Compiled Resources: (updated 8/31/2013)
Love that Forgives

See also my 8/31/2013 post The Love that Forgives…

waleswindow1

Known as the Wales Window, this large window in the rear of 16th Street Baptist Church depictes the image of a black crucified Christ and was given as a memorial gift by the people of Wales.

The Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday, September 15, 2013:
Jeremiah 4:11–12, 22–28 (All of creation will suffer for Israel’s unfaithfulness.)
Psalm 14 (Fools say in their hearts that there is no God.)
1 Timothy 1:12–17 (Paul writes of Christ’s grace made evident in his own life.)
Luke 15:1–10 (Jesus tells of the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.)

Alternative texts:
Isaiah 40:4-11 (Every valley shall be lifted up…The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever…He will gather the lambs in His arms)
Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16 (My refuge and my fortress.)
Galatians 3:23-29 (…There is no longer Jew or Greek…)
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 (…the conviction of things not seen)
2 Peter 3:8-15a (…while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by Him at peace…)
Matthew 5:43-48 (…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.)
John 1:1-5 (The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.)
Luke 23:34 (Father, forgive them for they know not..) This was the text for that date in 1963 and was the basis for the Sunday School lesson, the Youth Sunday worship service, and the sermon to be delivered by Reverend Cross. The explosion happened just at the end of Sunday School. While the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church have artifacts, it seems most of the documents relating to the lesson and service were lost on that day. We are working to locate the Sunday School lesson…

Prayers:

Prayers from African-Americans in History
This site has beautiful prayers by W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Coretta Scott King and others.

From The Book of Common Prayer / The Episcopal Church (1979):

For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
glory, now and for ever. Amen.

For the Unity of the Church
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior,
the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the
great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away
all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body
and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith,
one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all
of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth
and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and
one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

For Social Justice
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the
people of this land], that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Oppressed
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

An Affirmation of Faith Based on the Writings of Dr. King
(various locations on the internet but this one accessed from: http://www.godweb.org/kingprayers.htm on August 6, 2013)
I refuse to believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.
I refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war, that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible.
I believe there is an urgent need for people to overcome oppression and violence, without resorting to violence and oppression.
I believe that we need to discover a way to live together in peace, a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of this way is love.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. I believe that right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
I believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
I believe that what self-centered people have torn down, other-centered people can build up.
By the goodness of God at work within people, I believe that brokenness can be healed. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.”
— The United Presbyterian Church

The 2008 Social Creed from the United Methodist Church

Grace and Race Litany
from Rev. Renee Williams-Thomas, December 2008

Prayers and Liturgies for Race and Justice
from the United Church of Christ, Massachusetts Conference

Liturgy for Race Relations Sunday, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Hymn Suggestions:

Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson — considered “The African-American National Anthem”

Jesus Loves the Little Children by Clare Herbert Woolston — Another moment that brought tears to my eyes was when I learned that the bricks chosen to build the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the sidewalk of its neighbor Kelly Ingram Park are red, yellow, black and white.

What Wondrous Love Is This attributed to Alexander Means

Lord, You Give the Great Commission (based on Luke 23:34) by Jeffery W. Rowthorn

Love Lifted Me by James Rowe

What Matter of Love

God So Loved by Chris Eaton

Let Justice Roll DownThere are many versions of this hymn/song but I particularly love the one by Doug Romanow that we sing at Montreat Youth Conference.

Birmingham Sunday by Joan Baez

A Love that Forgives by Caleb Hughes
video production by Russell Standridge (note: Opening screen states time of the blast incorrectly; it was NOT 10:55–it happened at 10:22 am central time.)

Children’s Sermon:
I will be posting my sermon script by September 1. If you like to craft your own, I suggest that you tread carefully in describing the events of September 15. Children dying is a horror any time, but children being murdered in church is certainly unsettling. I don’t want to gloss over the event or deny the evil of that day, but I will work to focus on being a positive force for all of God’s children.

Sunday School Lesson:
We are currently working on obtaining the actual Sunday School Lesson “A Love that Forgives.” We will post it or a link to it here as soon as it is located.

Commentaries:
from The Text This Week for Martin Luther King, Jr. January

Other Ideas:

At 10:22 am central time, church bells across Birmingham will ring for four minutes, one for the life of each girl killed in the church bombing. If your church does not have a BIG church bell, provide little bells for each member of the congregation to ring.

Other Informational Links:

16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL

50 Years Forward, Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Carolyn McKinstry’s website — present at the church bombing and author of While the World Watched (2011)

Timeline of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham

Episcopal Children’s Formation / Civil Rights Sunday

Episcopal Adult Formation / Civil Rights Sunday

Sharon Ely Pearson/ Civil Rights Sunday

More to come…but what ideas do you have?
Peace,
Fran

And Also With You

IMG_0433for Sunday, April 7, 2013
2nd Sunday of Easter
Year C
lectionary focus: John 20:19-31
inspiration: Forgiveness and Peace post by Carolyn Brown

Happy Easter!
Yes, it is still Easter! Easter is such a big joy and mystery that it is not just one day. Easter is why we are. We are an Easter people. Because Jesus died, and is risen, and lives, we, too, live in joyous community to praise God and enjoy Him forever! This is the joy and mystery of Easter.

In our Bible story today, it is still the first Easter day. So many things have happened. The disciples are scared. They are hiding in a room together, confused by this Easter mystery. And so, Jesus comes to them. Jesus, the risen and living Lord, comes and says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus spoke words of comfort and blessed the disciples.

We spent our time during Lent looking at prayer as a way to be close to God. We talked about praying when we are scared or have done wrong, or when we need help, or when we give thanks and praise to God. But just as Easter is a season that goes on, our praying continues. And our Bible story today reminds us of another kind of prayer…when we pray together. When people see each other on the street or in the store, they say Hi or Hello or How you doing? We greet each other to connect with each other. But we can also greet each other with a prayer. We can share words of comfort and blessing by saying “The peace of Christ be with you.” And the other person responds, “And also with you.” Let’s try that: (say it back and forth with the children) Here we are exchanging a simple yet powerful prayer. We are connecting with each other and with God. We are sharing that God loves us all, and that God forgives us all, and that we are all part of God’s family together.

Jesus blessed His friends with Peace. He still blesses us today with His peace. Not that everything is peaceful and calm and without problems, but that in the midst of it all, our hearts are full of God’s peace.

We are an Easter people. And God calls us to be active, peaceful people. We are called to share God’s love and peace. As we continue celebrating Easter, continue your prayers, and greet each other with God’s peace…sharing the joy and mystery of Easter. The peace of Christ be with you! (And children respond, And also with you.)

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
that we are Easter people.
Help me
to share Your love
and Your peace
through the Easter season
and always.
Amen

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

When You Grow Up

for Sunday, April 22, 2012
3rd Sunday of Easter
Earth Day
lectionary focus: 1 John 3:1-7
props: a bowl of flower seeds all mixed together; or bedding boxes with sprouts from many different flowers

Good morning! Alleluia!

Today is the third Sunday of Easter and today is also celebrated as Earth Day. A few weeks ago, I talked to you about seeds. We talked about how a seed must have a quiet period and then stop being a seed in order for it to become the plant or flower or tree that it is supposed to be. After that sermon I took all of the different seeds that I showed you and put them in one bowl. Then this past week, to celebrate Earth Day and make the world more beautiful, I went to plant the seeds. Problem is, now I’ve forgotten which seed is for which flower! I mean, I can tell the marigold and the sunflower seeds, but these other seeds look so much alike I don’t know which ones they are. And seeds don’t really look like the flowers they will become. Hum. What a great mystery? We will have to wait and see!

[Or you can start with…A few weeks ago, I got a whole bunch of seed packets to plant a flower garden. I took the seeds out and put them in the starter boxes. Problem is, I forgot to mark the boxes and the boxes got moved and even though the plants are coming up…I don’t know which sprout is which flower! None of these sprouts looks like the flowers they will become. Hum. What a great mystery? We will have to wait and see!…then adjust the next paragraph to fit sprouts instead of seed.]

These seeds remind me of our Bible story today. We don’t know which flowers these seeds will be when they grow up, but we do know that they will be flowers. When we look at each of you, we do not know what you will be when you grow up. Some of you want to be doctors or teachers or football players. But we do not know. What you will be has not been revealed. What a great mystery? We will have to wait and see! But what we do know is this: when each of you grow up, each of you will be a child…a child of God. God loves each of us so much that no matter what we ‘become’ as a grown-up, we will always be His children. You will always be a child of God.

Sometimes it can be scary not knowing what will happen to us in the future. We can have fear and worry and doubts arise in our hearts about what we will become. But the Risen Lord offers us peace for today and tomorrow. Because of the Risen Lord, no matter what we become, we will always be children of God and that puts gladness in our hearts forever.

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

Dear Lord,
Alleluia!
Thank You for mysteries.
Thank You for tomorrow.
Thank You
that I will always be
a child of God
no matter what.
Help me to grow
and be the best me that I can be.
Alleluia!
Amen

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

Advent and Christmas Eve 2011

This post contains 5 sermons covering the 4 Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve. In the language of Godly Play, we need time to get ready for the mystery of Christmas. My church uses the children’s sermon time to light the Advent Wreath candles: the children gather on the chancel steps; we review the previous candle’s theme; we present today’s theme and message; we light the candles using an echo prayer; and we end singing the third verse of Away in a Manager. My church also uses new church members/families to light the candles each week, and the family with the newest baby lights the candles on Christmas Eve. I hope that you will be able to adapt these sermons to your own worship time.

1st Sunday in Advent–Nov 27–Hope–Mark 13:24-37
2nd Sunday in Advent–Dec 4–Peace–2 Peter 3:8-15a
3rd Sunday in Advent–Dec 11–Love–John 1:6-8, 19-28
4th Sunday in Advent–Dec 18–Joy–Luke 1:26-38
Christmas Eve–Dec 24–Christ is Born!–Luke 2:1-20

1st Sunday in Advent–November 27, 2011
The Candle of Hope
lectionary focus: Mark 13:24-37

Welcome to the First Sunday in Advent!

Advent is the church season when we prepare ourselves for the joyful mystery of Christmas. As this takes time, we have four Sundays in Advent. Each week we will talk about how to prepare our hearts for Christmas and we will light one more candle in our Advent wreath. This Sunday we will be lighting the first candle which is the Candle of Hope.

Our Bible Story today tells us to be prepared for God, to expect God, to be filled with hope. Now, I have always thought hope meant there was something that we wanted but we might not get it: I hope it snows; I hope I have fun today. I thought hope was a whiny feeling that was also a bit scary…but boy, was I wrong! The word hope means that bubbly, fizzy, crazy excitement we have about knowing we are getting something! It is the anticipation, the expectation for something good that we know will happen. We have a saying in our culture about “having butterflies in our stomach,” when we are so excited it feels like butterflies are flapping around inside us! There is a great poet who said, “Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul.” (Emily Dickinson, 254)

Wow! Hope is not just having one Advent candle; hope is having a whole sky of fireworks lighting up our hearts! God’s hope is excitement because it will happen. This is how God wants us to be ready for Christmas. This is how God wants us to be ready to live each day. God wants us to be filled with hope like we are going to burst with excitement about carrying the love and joy of Christmas in our hearts every day.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: Today Miles and his grandfather will light our candle.)
While we now light the first candle of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light this candle
on the first Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with a bursting hope
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

2nd Sunday in Advent–December 4, 2011
The Candle of Peace
lectionary focus: 2 Peter 3:8-15a

Today is the Second Sunday in Advent!

Last Sunday, we lit the first candle, the Candle of Hope. We talked about hope being that excited expectation of what we know will happen; we are bursting with hope for the mystery of Christmas.

When I was a child, the place where I lived did not get much snow. When I grew-up, I lived in western North Carolina and we got lots of snow. My first winter there, we got 18 inches in one day! I was amazed to learn that snow is very quiet. Now, when it rains, we can hear it. The rain beats on the roof; the rain hits the windows; the rain rattles in the downspouts; and don’t forget the sound of thunder! But when it snows, it is silent. You can’t tell it is happening unless you are watching it. We would sit and watch the snow fall and fall and fall and never hear it. And then, when everything is covered in snow, everything else gets quiet, too. I was amazed that something so silent could change everything so completely.

Our candle for the second Sunday in Advent is the Candle of Peace. We prepare ourselves for Christmas by having Peace. Like snow, peace comes quietly. We do not hear it, and yet when there is peace, it changes everything, making the world get quiet and look so beautiful. Our Bible story today calls us to wait for God with peace. Yes, we are to be filled to bursting with hope, but we are to be changed with peace. As we prepare ourselves for the joyful mystery of Christmas, we carry an excited hope wrapped in a beautiful blanket of quiet peace.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: This Sunday our new members, the Atwood family, will light our candles.)
While we now light the first and second candles of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light these candles
on the second Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with a quiet peace
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

3rd Sunday in Advent–December 11, 2011
The Candle of Love
lectionary focus: John 1:6-8, 19-28

Today we will be lighting the third candle of Advent! Just one more Sunday before Christmas! So far we have lit the first candle of Advent, the Candle of Hope, and the second candle of Advent, the Candle of Peace. Today we will light the third candle, the Candle of Love. In our Bible story today, we hear of Jesus’s cousin, John. John was just a bit older than Jesus. When they were grown up, John went out in the world to prepare the people for the preaching of Jesus–to tell people that Jesus was coming to save the world. The people listened to John and then asked him, “What are we supposed to do? How are we to get ready for Jesus?” I think it is perfect that on this Sunday with the story of John that we have the Candle of Love. Because love is the answer. Love is what God wants us to do. And love is doing. Love is not just a feeling, it is an action. We do love by helping and sharing and laughing to show our feelings of love to God and to each other.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: Today the three Lindseys will light our three candles.)
While we now light the first, second, and third candles of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light these candles
on the third Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with a loving heart
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

4th Sunday in Advent–December 18, 2011
The Candle of Joy
lectionary focus: Luke 1:26-38

Welcome! Today we light the last of the Advent candles…our preparation is almost over. We have lit the Candles of Hope, and Peace, and Love. Today we will light the Candle of Joy. Ah, joy! It seems funny to prepare for Christmas with joy as joy is what happens on Christmas. And preparing for something is supposed to be work. And work is supposed to be hard…not joyful and fun? In our Bible story today, we hear about Mary learning that she will be the mother of Jesus. Being a mother is a lot of work. I would think Mary would be a little scared and worried about all the work she was going to have to do. But Mary responds with excitement. She is bursting with hope, yet wrapped in peace, and filled with love that she will get to do this great work. Mary is joyful to do this great work: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord!” Each of us should do our work with such joy. And I don’t mean just the fun things we do to prepare for Christmas or work here at church; I mean our chores around the house and our work at school. God calls each of us to do all sorts of work–and some of it is hard work–but if we respond with joy then it doesn’t seem like work at all. When we prepare ourselves by carrying hope, and peace, and love, and joy…we are ready to serve God in the way He calls us to make the world a more beautiful place.

(If you are using special friends to light the candles, a brief introduction of them is appropriate: Lighting our four candles today are some of our college students who have come home for the holidays.)
While we now light the first, second, third, and fourth candles of Advent, will you repeat after me?
(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light these candles
on the fourth Sunday in Advent
to remind ourselves
that we must prepare
with joy
for the coming of the Christ child.
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

Christmas Eve–December 24, 2011
The Christ Candle–Christ is Born!
lectionary focus: Luke 2:1-20

Merry Christmas!

We began our Advent season a long time ago, four weeks ago. We have talked about Advent being the season to prepare for the joyful mystery of Christmas, the season of waiting for Christmas. In sign language, the sign for waiting is THIS…your hands in front of you and wiggling your fingers. Wait. Can you do that with me?

As we waited for Christmas, we lit the four candles of Advent. Tonight we have the Garcia family with Jon and Maria and Grace and new baby Anna to help us light the candles. First they will relight the four Advent candles. We remember the first Candle of Hope–we are bursting with a knowing hope; we remember the second Candle of Peace–we are quietly changed by peace; we remember the third Candle of Love–we are prepared to do love; we remember the fourth Candle of Joy–we work with joy. I think we are prepared for Christmas!

But wait (sign wait)! What about tonight’s candle? The white candle is called the Christ Candle. In the Bible stories of the birth of Jesus, one of my favorite parts is the shepherds. Those guys were out on a regular night, doing their regular job, watching the sheep. The Bible tells us that in the middle of this regular work night, the angels filled the skies singing about the birth of Jesus. The shepherds were afraid! But the angels told them to Fear Not! That the Jesus was born and the world was filled with hope and peace and love and joy. The Bible tells us that after the angels left the shepherds, the shepherds looked at one another and went with haste to meet the Baby Jesus. The shepherds did not wait. The shepherds hurried. They hurried to meet the joy of the world. The sign language sign for hurry is THIS moving your hands as the letter H up and down. Notice how much it looks like wait. Notice how easy it is to move from waiting to hurrying. And so tonight we end our wait and hurry to the mystery of Christmas, hurry to meet the Baby Jesus. And so the Garcia family will now hurry and light the Christ Candle. And as they do, will you repeat after me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We light the Christ Candle.
We end our Advent waiting.
We are prepared
for the mystery of Christmas.
We hurry to welcome the Baby Jesus.
Alleluia
Alleluia
Amen

And now we will sing Away in a Manger.
(Everyone sings the third verse of Away in a Manger: Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.)

We are not Christians alone. My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
I’d love to hear how you have used these sermons.
Merry Christmas!
And a Peaceful New Year!

Be Surprised!

17th Sunday after Pentecost
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 23
for Sunday, October 9, 2011
lectionary focus: Philippians 4:1-7-9

One day I asked my friend Zachary what his favorite part of the church service was. He said that his favorite part was the surprise. “What surprise?” I asked him. “You know,” he said, “where we remind each other to Be Surprised!”  ??  Oh! Zachary was talking about the part of the service where we greet each other with the words “The Peace of Christ be with you.” When people said “Peace of Christ,” Zach heard “Be surprised.”

I think Zachary is right. The word surprise can mean something unexpected, but it can also mean to feel wonder or amazement. And The Peace of Christ is amazing! We should be surprised! We should be amazed! In our Bible story today, we are told not to worry, but to be gentle, to hope, to pray, and to rejoice; and in doing these good things, the Peace of Christ will fill our hearts. And when we are filled with the Peace of Christ, we feel WOW! And we want our family and friends to feel WOW! That is why today and every day, we should tell each other to be amazed by God’s astounding love that He has for each of us. We should tell each other to Be surprised! Therefore, repeat after me: The Peace of Christ be with you! (The children repeat.) Be surprised! (The children repeat.)

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for the Peace of Christ.
Help me
to be surprised.
Amen

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