Tag Archives: Romans

Blessing of the Backpacks 2017

Nuestra Luna by B Woodruff

Blessing of the Backpacks
August/September 2017
lectionary focus: Romans: 8:38-39
props: backpack with school supplies, solar eclipse glasses, a Bible that you have written in the added text…

Whoop! Whoop!

It’s Back to School! We are gathered here at EPC for our annual Blessing of the Backpacks. And not just students with backpacks, we all take this time to lift up our briefcases, and purses, and lunch boxes, and diaper bags, and grocery bags, and ask God to bless us with strength, courage, and faith as we go about living our lives to God’s glory in this new school year.

I’ve got my backpack. I’ve got the usual school supplies: notebook, pencils, pens, phone, and keys. And once again, I’ve got an un-usual school supply. (take out solar eclipse glasses and put on) These are solar eclipse glasses. You might have heard and will certainly be hearing that on August 21 there will be a pretty cool solar eclipse. This means that in the middle of the day the sun will disappear. Wellllll, not really disappear. The science is: the moon, our moon, that orbits around our earth, will come between our earth and our sun so that our moon blocks our view of the sun and blocks the sun’s rays from coming to our earth—so in the middle of the day, it will get dark, and for a few minutes, it will seem that the sun has disappeared, gone away, left us.

Long ago before people understood the science of an eclipse, they would watch this event without special protective eclipse glasses and two scary things would happen: their eyes would get damaged—some would go blind—because eyes are not strong enough to look directly at even the edge of the sun; and the other scary thing that would happen—the people thought that they had done something bad and the sun was leaving them in darkness forever.

Now we know how to protect our eyes and we recognize the patterns of the solar system. We know that a solar eclipse is a cool and rare event—something to celebrate—and that even though it goes dark in the middle of the day, the sun is still there.

Our Bible Story today goes so well with the eclipse and back to school. It is one of my favorites. It is so great, let me just read it to you straight from the Bible. It’s from the book of Romans, chapter 8, verses 38 and 39.

For I am convinced that no thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord—neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor school, nor teachers, nor parents, homework, tests, pop quizzes, essay questions, ACT prep, research papers, overdue library books, dull pencils, broken shoe laces, bad hair cuts, school lunches, friends, not friends, football games, carpool, rainy days…nor eclipses…nor any thing else in all creation will be able to separate us from God.

Yep. That’s what it says. And it means that we are God’s precious children, and even when our world is dark, God is here and God loves us. We can’t do anything, nor can anything happen, that would make God go away.

Each day as you load up your backpack or briefcase or diaper bag, know that you carry God with you and that God carries you.

Will you put your hands on your backpack and pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the people repeat it.)

Dear Lord
Thank You
for a wonderful summer.
Thank You
for a new school year.
Bless me
with strength
with courage
and with faith
that I will confidently know
You are with me
always.
We love you.
You love us.
Always.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is 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

Welcome!

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.
Amen

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

Praying Without Words

For Sunday, May 27, 2012
The Day of Pentecost
lectionary focus: Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27

Good Morning!

We are each doing something right now…without really realizing it. We are breathing. But there are different kinds of breathing. Everyone take in a deep breath. Now let it out fast. That particular kind of breath is called a sigh. Do it again. Breathe in. Breathe out. Usually we sigh when we are tired or sad or not feeling well. But sometimes we sigh when we are happy and comfortable and feeling very well. Sighing is a way of breathing that also speaks our thoughts and feelings without saying words.

Today is Pentecost and we celebrate the Holy Spirit. In our Bible story, we hear how the Holy Spirit came into the world like a rushing wind and the disciples were filled with words of wisdom to preach and pray. But sometimes, for us, we don’t know the right words to say. This is when the Holy Spirit upholds us. As the Bible says, the Holy Spirit helps us speak with sighs too deep for words. When we are so sad we don’t know how to pray to God, the Holy Spirit helps us sigh. When we are so happy we don’t know how to thank God, the Holy Spirit helps us sigh. And God understands all the unspoken words that fill our sighs and showers us with His love. Sighing is a way of praying that speaks our thoughts and feelings without saying words.

So the next time, you are not sure what to say, pray with a Holy Spirit sigh and God will know what you mean and what you need.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You for words.
Thank You for prayers.
Thank You for prayers without words.
And with a big, happy sigh
(sigh)
Amen

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

I Wonder Where You Are In This Story

13th Sunday after Pentecost
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 19
for Sunday, September 11, 2011
lectionary focus: Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Note: The Presbyterian Church USA offers an entire resource packet (linked here) to create a Service of Remembrance for the Tenth Anniversary of September 11. Their material includes a children’s sermon that I think is too frank. Here is mine. If you wish to avoid any reference to 9/11, you can omit paragraph 2 and the sermon still flows.

I love stories! I love to read myself into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh, or mysteries, or kings and queens, or the Bible. But not all stories are in books. Each of us has a story. When we tell about the things that we have experienced, we are telling the story of our life. And when groups of people come together, they have a story, too. You and the people here today are continuing the story of our church started by a group of people almost 100 years ago. And we and our neighbors around us are part of the story of our country started 236 years ago. Our lives are one story after another–some happy, some sad. When we tell of these events, others become part of our story with us. When we hear what happens to other people, we become part of their story with them.

Today is September 11, and in the story of our country, this is the day something sad happened and our country went to war. You might notice people remembering this day as they fly the American flag or they talk quietly, telling their memories of that day. It is hard, but good, to remember all the parts of our story.

We share Bible stories even though they happened a long time ago and none of us were there, so that those stories become part of our story now. In the book of Romans today, we are reminded that there are many different kinds of people in the world–it takes all kinds of characters to make stories–and each character is important. Some people bring happiness to our story; they are easy to like. But some people bring sadness. Jesus tells us that we must forgive them when they hurt us. We are not limited to forgiving them just once; Jesus says to forgive them again and again and again and again…just as many times as God forgives us for the mistakes we make. Forgiveness is how we move from a sad part of the story to next adventure in our lives.

I love stories. Mine and yours, the story of our church and of our country–by sharing all of these–the happy and the sad–and telling them again and again, we bring others into our story, and we join them in their story, and as a people, we weave them all together to be the one story of God’s beautiful world.

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 stories.

Help me to share my stories.

Help me to listen to other’s stories.

Help us all

share Your story

with the whole world.

Amen

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

as A rule

12th Sunday after Pentecost
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 18
for Sunday, September 4, 2011
lectionary focus: Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

Happy Labor Day Weekend! Tomorrow is a holiday where we celebrate the Working People in our community. And since everyone works, it is a commemoration for everyone. But what work do all these people do? Some are teachers, some are shopkeepers, some are bankers, some are doctors, some are preachers, some are farmers, some are builders…why, the list goes on and on. And what is your work? You are all students! That is your work.

One thing that I have noticed is that every job has rules. Have you noticed that you have lots of rules to follow at school? I bet your teachers have rules for the classroom and the hallway and the lunchroom and the playground…everywhere you go there are rules. Why do we have all of these rules?

Well, I like to think of them more as guidelines. They are reminders. Because when it all boils down, we only have one rule in this world. All the other rules are summed in these words from Christ: Love your neighbor as yourself.

But wait a minute? If there is only one rule, why do we have all of these guidelines?
The guidelines help us know how to love our neighbors.
Huh?
When we are waiting our turn, what are we really doing? We are loving our neighbor. When we listen and not interrupt, what are we really doing? We are loving our neighbor. When we pick up trash, we are loving our neighbor. When we stop at stop signs, we are loving our neighbor. When we share, we are loving our neighbor.

In our Bible story today, Jesus talks about people working in the community, about following the rules, because love does no wrong to a neighbor. It takes all sorts of people to make a community–to make a school, to make a church, to make a family. And our guidelines help us remember the one rule that makes community possible: Love your neighbor as yourself. As we go forth to celebrate our work, remember that God calls us to work together, to live together, to love together.

Go forth and enjoy!

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 guidelines.

Help me to remember

the one true rule:

Love my neighbor as myself.

Amen

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

He Sat Down and Helped Him Cry

11th Sunday after Pentecost
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 17
for Sunday, August 28, 2011
lectionary focus: Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Good morning! Today I have a story. Once upon time there was a little boy named Miles. Miles had a toy that he really liked to play with. One day my friend Zachary went over to Mile’s house to play. As they got into their game and built all sorts of towers and hiding places, well, Mile’s toy got broken. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault; neither boy meant to break it; it just fell and broke into a million pieces. Miles began to cry a million tears. Zach wanted to fix it, but a million pieces is impossible to get back together. So Zach did the next the best thing to fix this situation. Zach sat down with Miles and helped him cry.

In our Bible story today, we are given suggestions on how to help our neighbors. We are told to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) When our neighbors or friends are happy, we should celebrate with them. We should laugh and smile and give big, heavy sighs of joy. This makes the happiness bigger and better. But when our neighbors or friends are sad, and there is no way to fix their sadness, then we can be sad with them. Sometimes sad things happen and the only way to respond is to cry. Jesus even tells the disciples that you can’t push away sadness. The disciple Peter wants to pretend there is nothing to worry about; Jesus tells him No, (and this sounds weird) that to have happiness, we must live also with sadness. (Matthew 16:23-24) But sharing our sadness makes it smaller and better, too.

Happiness is great. But sharing happiness is easy. When sadness comes, and it does come, sharing sadness with our friends can be hard. But weeping with those who weep makes the sadness less painful for everyone. I hope that you will remember this when you have a friend who is sad and that you will be like Zach and help them cry.

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 being with us in happy times.

Thank You for being with us in sad times.

Help me to cheer with those who are happy

and to cry with those who are sad.

Amen

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

Waiting for a Peach

10th Sunday after Pentecost RCL Year A
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 16
lectionary focus: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124:1-8; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 or none at all
prop: a fresh peach

Good morning! Happy August 21st!

This is a peach. In the summertime, I love to eat fresh peaches. They taste like sunshine to me.

But have you ever gone to eat a peach and when you picked it up, it felt hard? Too hard to eat? The peach was just not soft enough–it wasn’ t ripe. Or as my grandmother would say, it wasn’t fit. But when you want a peach, you want a peach. And so sometimes, I’ve gone ahead and tried to eat it. BIG MISTAKE! Instead of sunshine, it tasted like hard, yellow plastic. And once you’ve bitten into a peach too early, there’s no saving it. I should have waited. But it is hard to wait.

We have several good Bible stories today, but when I went to prepare my sermon, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to say. I thought about the stories; I thought about what to say; it was hard. Then I started to run out of time; it was almost today; what was I going to do? I prayed to God to help me! I decided to sit down and stay at my desk until I finished my sermon. I tried one thing–didn’t like it. I tried something else–didn’t like it either. This was too hard! Finally after a couple of hours and no sermon, I took a break. I went into the kitchen to get…a peach. And guess what? The peach was hard–too hard to be eaten. I knew if I wanted to enjoy that peach I would have to wait.

And then I realized, sometimes, that is God’s answer to our prayers–we must wait.

Everything has its perfect moment, and we can’t force it to happen, no matter how much we want it, or it won’t be good. Yes, waiting is hard–whether we are waiting
for a good idea,
or for something fun,
or to be big enough,
or to be old enough,
or to be strong enough,
or just to eat a delicious peach.

But when we do listen to God and we wait until we are fit, it will be great. Just like sunshine.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for hard peaches.
Thank You
for perfect peaches.
Thank You
that everything has its time.
Help me to wait
for the best time.
Amen.

Thank you, children. Now go forth and share God’s love.

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