Tag Archives: sermons

Another thing…what’s in a name?

While we are talking about these sermons, I’d like to share what my church, Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), calls this ministry.

Awhile back at a worship committee meeting, the discussion turned to inclusive language: using non-gender words for God, people-centered language, broad descriptions of family, and other expressions for the biggest possible definition of We. For all our awareness, we then noted that calling these Children’s Sermons is not inclusive. As if this part of worship is just for kids, or even larger, as if this is the only part for children.

We brainstormed and struggled and finally decided to name this part of worship The Sermon from the Steps and name the “adult” sermon, The Sermon from the Pulpit.

There doesn’t seem to be any confusion.* During worship, Pastor Joe says, “And now I invite kids young and old to come down front for the Sermon from the Steps.”

We have not banned the words ‘children’s sermon,’ and we support calling things by their obvious name. But we think Sermon from the Steps and Sermon from the Pulpit are truer names for our sermons and reflect our belief that we are all children of God and that we all belong together in worship.

As you review your use of inclusive language, we encourage you not to forget the kids. I found this post from the Unitarian Universalist Association helpful.
❤ Fran

*While it seems the name should be Sermon ON the Steps…to call the other one Sermon ON the Pulpit made us giggle.

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

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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

Alleluia! A Wonder-Full Easter!

for Sunday, April 8, 2012
Easter
lectionary focus: John 20:1-18
prop: the Alleluia box–which is now empty because you have privately removed the paper with the word Alleluia and resealed the box
(Note: If you did not use the Packing Away the Alleluia–scroll down and use the second sermon listed here.)

Good morning!
Happy Easter!
It is so great to see everyone today!

And I am so excited that we get to open this box! Do you remember what is in here? Do you remember that long ago on February 26 we packed away “that word” for the season of Lent? Well, Lent is over; Easter is here; today we celebrate that Jesus Christ is risen for us forever! Are you ready for me to open the box so we can all shout?

(open the empty Alleluia box)

Wait. Where’s the Alleluia? There’s nothing in here. It’s empty. There must be a mistake. Is it lost? You don’t think someone stole it? I am feeling very confused and kinda mad and even a little embarrassed and sad.

Today we celebrate Easter. And a few thousand years ago, Jesus had just died. On that first Easter, Mary and some friends went to the cemetery to finish the funeral service for Jesus. But when they got there, the tomb where Jesus’s body had been placed was empty. The tomb was open and it was empty. Mary and the others were confused. They got mad thinking someone had stolen His body. They were sad. And then Mary saw a man that she thought was the gardener of the cemetery…but He was Jesus, the gardener of the whole world. Jesus’s body was not in the tomb because Jesus was risen from the dead. He was no longer dead. He was alive. He was there with them. He is here with us.

The Alleluia is not in the box because the Alleluia is here with us, inside each of us. We cannot really pack away a word…just as Jesus cannot be kept in a tomb. Jesus is the Risen Lord. There is no mistake. There is no sorrow. There is no confusion. He is not lost. He continues to live with each and all of us, always, here, inside our hearts.

And so let us rejoice in the Lord!
Let us shout “that word” together: ALLELUIA!

(Note: there are many Alleluia songs designed for children’s choirs…if your children know one of these songs, this would be a good time for them to sing it.)

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

Dear Lord,
We praise Your name!
We are thankful
that You are living
here with us
in our hearts.
Help us to share
Your forever love.
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Amen

Easter Sermon #2…for those who did not Pack Away the Alleluia

lectionary focus: John 20:1-18
prop: an egg

Good morning!
Happy Easter!

This is an egg. This kind of egg comes from a chicken. In our culture we have many questions about eggs and chickens, like: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why did the chicken cross the road? Which end of an egg do you crack? We don’t really expect an answer with these questions. These questions are asked to make us wonder. When we wonder, we think and maybe ask more questions. Our Bible stories often make us wonder. Today’s story certainly does.

In the Book of John, Jesus has died on the cross and then 3 days later, Mary and some friends went to the cemetery to finish the funeral service for Jesus. But when they got there, the tomb where Jesus’s body had been placed was empty. The tomb was open and it was empty. Mary and the others were confused. They got mad thinking someone had stolen His body. They were sad. And then Mary saw a man that she thought was the gardener of the cemetery…but He was Jesus, the gardener of the whole world. Jesus’s body was not in the tomb because Jesus was risen from the dead. He was no longer dead. He was alive. He was there with them. He is here with us.

The word wonder can mean to think and ask questions–and don’t you know that Mary and the disciples had plenty of questions on that first Easter! But the word wonder can have another meaning–when we are filled with wonder, it means we are full of joy and excitement–and don’t you know that Mary and the disciples were filled with wonder to see the Risen Lord!

Today is Easter. Our Bible story today is the Easter story. It is the most wonder-full story in the Bible. Today we hear the good news and we are filled with joy and excitement. I wonder if each of us can carry this wonder–this overflowing joy of God’s love–in our hearts every day and every where?

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

Dear Lord,
Our lives make us wonder.
But Your life
fills us with wonder.
Help us to share
the wonder of Your love.
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Alleluia!
Amen

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

Why Palm Branches?

for Sunday April 1, 2012
Palm Sunday
lectionary focus: Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16
prop: palm branches
resource: http://www.historictrinity.org/palmsunday.html 

Good morning!

Today I would like for you to think about where you live, about your home. Home is a great place. There you have good things to eat, a good place to sleep, all of your toys and special things. And of course, there you have the love of your parents and family. Ahh. Home. A good, safe place.

Which brings me to my question: Why palm branches? Why Palm Sunday?

We celebrate today as Palm Sunday to remember the day Jesus came to Jerusalem and everyone was so glad to see him. They had a parade. They waved palm branches for Him and sang Hosannas.

Which brings me to my question: Why palm branches? Why Palm Sunday?

In the place of Jesus, there are lots of deserts. Dry, sandy, hot places. And back in the time of Jesus, when people had to travel through these dry, sandy, hot places, they looked for a safe place to stop and rest. They would look for an oasis, a little lake in the middle of the desert. And at this lake, there would be trees–palm trees. Here the people could get water from the lake and shade from the palm trees. They could rest. They were safe from the dry, sandy, hot desert. Now to find these lakes in the desert, the people would look across the desert sands for the tall, feathery branches of the palm trees, waving to them. And because these palm trees showed travelers where to find a safe spot, people adopted the palm as a symbol for welcome and safety. A symbol for rest and sanctuary and love. A symbol for home.

So the people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem waving palms to let Him know He was safe, He was loved, He was home. We know that by the end of Holy Week, things for Jesus were not so safe. But through that darkness we come to know that God is our home, our eternal and glorious home.

We do not live in the desert, but today we use the palm branches to remember Jesus’s parade in Jerusalem and to remind us that here at church we have a home, safe with lots of people who love us, safe with our Lord who loves us very much. Ahh. Church. A good, safe home.

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 making us home.
Help us
to share Your safety
and love
with others.
Amen

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

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.

Two for One

16th Sunday after Pentecost
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 22
for Sunday, Oct 2, 2011

Note: This week I offer two sermons: one for those celebrating World Communion Sunday and one for those focussing on the lectionary.

Sermon I–World Communion Sunday 2011
lectionary focus (loosely): Philippians 3:12-14
The inspiration for this sermon came from the essay “Living from the Heart” by Pam Pitcher in “Under the Chinaberry Tree: a publication of the Chinaberry Book Service,” 1995.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been hungry. And what do we do when we are hungry? We get something to eat. The sooner, the better. We might get to go out to a restaurant. We might just go to the kitchen. We need to go to the grocery store regularly to have food ready. Did you know that one of the reasons we come to church is because we are hungry? But here we are not hungry for food; we are hungry for something else.

On the church calendar, today is known as World Communion Sunday. Today churches across the world celebrate that we are all really one church. Yes, we have different buildings, different names, different ways of worship. But we all are God’s church. We are a family of churches that loves God and God loves each of us. And how do families usually celebrate? By eating together. So today churches across the world are serving communion. The name communion is used for the meal in church where we eat bread and drink juice. But is this piece of bread and this sip of juice really a meal? Does this feed our hunger? No. And yes. We don’t eat this meal to keep our bellies from rumbling. We eat communion because we hunger for a world full of love and kindness and safety.

Everybody in the world needs food to live. Food gives our bodies the energy to do what needs to be done. But our hearts need God to live. God gives our hearts the love to do what needs to be done. When we share the communion meal, we are remembering that God loves us and that we should love each other. Through this celebration meal, we are filled with God’s love so we may go out and do good things in the world. I hope your bodies are never hungry for food. But I hope that you always hunger to go forward and to do good things in the world for God.

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 loving me.
Thank You for feeding me.
Help me to be hungry
for love
and kindness
and safety
that I may make the world
a better place.
Amen

Sermon II–Let the Words of My Mouth
lectionary focus: Psalm 19:14
The inspiration for this story came from a sermon by my friend Rick Allred.

Where is your mouth? Show me what teeth you have. Can you give me a big smile? Stick out your tongue. Do you know how to hum? Now listen to this.
Our mouths are wonderful things. They can do so much. We use them when we eat, when we sing, when we talk, when we say (smile while saying this) I-like-you without making a sound, and when we pray.

Because we use them so much, it is important to keep our mouths healthy. My dad is a dentist and he taught me to brush my teeth after every meal. It’s a good thing to do. But one time, my friend Zachary was getting ready to brush his teeth. He squirted some of the toothpaste onto his toothbrush. He made a nice, long squirt the whole length of his toothbrush. It was perfect and looked real pretty. Then he thought he could make it taller, so he squirted another long squirt on top of the first squirt. He had a double-decker! Then he thought he could make it even taller, so he squirted another long squirt on top of the first and second squirts. Now it was a triple-decker!!! Then Zach’s mom came into the bathroom. Uh, oh. He had too much toothpaste. There was no way he could use all of that. So Zach thought he would put it back into the toothpaste tube. But can you do that? No! Once you squirt out the toothpaste, it is not going back in.

In our Bible story today, the psalmist sings a line that many people use as a daily prayer: Let the words I say with my mouth make You happy, O Lord. God wants us to use our mouths to say good and helpful words.

But what about when we forget and say something not nice, something mean or ugly. Can we put the words back into our mouths like we never said them? No. Once we say something, the words cannot go back in. And if we say something mean or ugly, the hurt is done. Therefore let us be like the psalmist and ask God’s help that the words from our mouths be words of love and kindness and help. Those are the words that will make the Lord happy. And those words are never too much and never need to be put back.

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 our mouths.
Thank You for toothpaste.
Let the words I say with my mouth
make You happy
and be good and helpful
to all.
Amen

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

Solving Puzzles: Last? or First?

14th Sunday after Pentecost
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 20
for Sunday, September 18, 2011
lectionary focus: Matthew 20:1-16
prop: a jigsaw puzzle in the box unassembled

Today I brought a puzzle. My family likes jigsaw puzzles. Now when we get puzzles, do you think we go out and buy them already put together? No! The point is that we like to figure out which pieces goes where. We like to solve the puzzle. This game is fun because it makes us think, and work together as a team, and we have to look at the picture differently so that we can see how to match the pieces together in the best way to make sense of it. My family also likes word puzzles. We like to look at words that we put together in our language that really don’t seem like they should go together. Sometimes we see jumbo shrimp for sale. Jumbo means really big, and shrimp means really small. How can something really small be really big at the same time? Or something might happen and we say, “That’s pretty awful.” Pretty is a beautiful word. Awful is a ugly word. How can something be beautiful and ugly? Next week is my daughter’s birthday and on the day she was born, her father was holding her and he was crying. And I said, “Bill, you’re holding your baby daughter! You shouldn’t be crying; you should be happy!” And he said, “I’m crying because I am happy.”

Well, Jesus likes puzzles, too. In our Bible story today, Jesus is telling story puzzles to his friends. And He says this, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” You’ve all stood in line before: how can the last person be first and the first person be last? People have been trying to figure this one out since Jesus said it 2000 years ago. I wonder what it means to you today.

I think Jesus used story puzzles to teach because Jesus wants us to think. He wants us to work together as a team. He wants us to look at the problems in our lives in a different way so we can find the best way to solve them, the best way to make sense of them. Our lives are full of odd mysteries. And when we study the puzzles in the Bible, it makes understanding the puzzles in our lives easier. And when we think, and work together as a team, and look at things differently…solving problems can be fun.

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

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for all the puzzles in life.
Help me
to enjoy solving them.

Amen

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