Ritual of Love Mark 7:1-8 Pentecost 14B August 30,2016

20130822-223520.jpgGather the children with you at the baptismal font. Ask if anyone knows what this is called? Yep, it is the place we baptize, we get the person’s, often a baby, head wet and declare that they are a child of God. And YOU can remember your baptism, or remember you are a loved child of God even if you are not baptized, by putting your hand in the water and marking the sign of the cross. Let them try that briefly. Then direct to sit down.

Baptism is something that we call a ritual. It is a practice of the church to say certain prayers and blessings over a person getting baptized and it is a ritual that you have you remember and mark yourself with the water. A ritual is something we do again and again and often it reminds us of something. So let’s think a minute. Are there any rituals you do every day? (take answers and lead them to things like brushing teeth, washing hands. getting dressed, eating, sleeping) Yes! Those are rituals that are a part of every day.

20130822-223633.jpgSo our gospel today from Mark is Jesus telling some church people that the rituals that they are doing are not totally helping them… hmmm, that is kind of confusing because they were doing what God told them, to keep wash their hands and to keep clean  and staying away from certain foods. But they were also angry with Jesus and his followers because they were not doing those things. Jesus says, stop. You are using these rituals, these rules to only honor God on the outside but your heart is not focused on love and care for other people. God gave these rituals for loving and caring for others, not for being angry or hurting them.

So if we use a ritual, like baptism, to say that someone else is not ok or not loved then we are not talking about God. God opens up love to everyone. Jesus teaches us today that the ritual is good for helping us remember and that God’s love is over and above any ritual and is for all people.

Now, the ritual of remembering baptism can be a part of every day too, anytime you use water–for a bath, a shower, brush your teeth, to cook or to drink, You can remember God’s love for you and God’s love for your family and friends and even people you do not know! Pretty neat, right?

20130822-223749.jpgJesus, you give love and ritual. Help us to share our rituals in love and teach others about your way. Amen

20130822-223908.jpgMay you know God’s never ending ritual of love

 

FaithCross_WorshipHave a hand washing station with a bowl of water, a little soap and some towels. Invite people to wash their hands while remembering God’s love for them. They could pray a prayer of thankfulness or pray for another person or simply recite the Lord’s prayer as they wash.

God’s Words of Eternal Life and Love For Us All John 6: 56-69, Pentecost 13B, August 23, 2015

20130822-223520.jpgHave the children gather around the communion table. Ask them to tell you what happens at this table and in the worship service in regards to communion. Encourage them to tell you and the whole congregation, the story of the Last Supper and what Jesus is doing/offering in Holy Communion. Let them (if you’re comfortable) touch some of the things on the altar.

(In my ELCA tradition, some congregations do not commune children until a “first communion” class has been taken and some offer communion as soon as they have teeth. I personally, defer to offering communion to all ages and offer classes once a year for whole families to engage in the conversation of “What is Holy Communion?” Please tweak this Children’s Sermon to meet your congregation’s theology and tradition! Know that Faith Formation Journeys is here to support and honor your ministry! Thank you for your partnership!)

20130822-223633.jpg In our Bible lesson today, we heard Jesus talk about eating his body as if it were bread. Kinda weird huh? But, Jesus also reminds the people around him, his disciples, of the story of the Israelites who wandered around the desert for 40 years and God gave them manna or bread that came from heaven every single night. Jesus was reminding them that God over and over tells us a story of love, life, and being with God forever. And Jesus is telling people that the story of God’s love-IS FOR EVERYONE! That was so hard for people to hear! God’s story of love was even for people that we don’t like, are different from us, dress differently, act differently, live differently, like different foods, books or are even not nice to us! Are there sometimes people that you sorta hope you don’t have to be nice to? Yes, we all do! But Jesus tells us the story over and over that God LOVES everyone-even people we might not like-and will take care of them just like God takes care of you! Is that hard to believe sometimes? It is for me and even for a lot of adults. God wants all people to know about love and life forever.

So each time we gather at church, we always have communion, which means “together.” God gathers us all together and we all eat the same bread, and drink the same grape juice or wine. Even with people we may not like. Jesus says that when we eat this bread and drink from the cup, we are reminded that God is already so close to us that God is IN us, working in us and through us. If God loves us and is always with us and all people, how can we tell people the story God’s love? (Accept all answers-offer some congregational specific examples that the children could participate in.)

20130822-224425.jpg Dear Jesus, thank you for being the living story of God’s love for us. We are part of God’s story of love for the whole world and may we tell it every single day in every word we say and with every action we do. Your story of love goes on forever and forever through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

FaithCross_Worship Have a good sized booklet or two on a table with markers, crayons, stickers and other materials as needed. On the cover have the logo and name of you congregation. Have blank pages on the inside for people to write/draw part of God’s story in their lives. (You could also have blank sheets unattached and then bind them when finished.) Have this booklet available for a worship station for a few weeks. Find a way to share some of the stories in a corporate, gathered setting. Encourage all ages to participate!

20130822-223908.jpg +Jesus story of eternal life and love is written in you+

Children’s Sermon/Worship Station, August 16 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost – John 6:51-58

Prepare: Bring an apple and some apple candy, or a banana and some banana candy, etc. For the worship station you will just need the people in the room and maybe a white board or a good computer operator to throw ideas up onto the screen, unless you are an ELCA church that is participating in the ELCA Day of Service on September 13, 2015.  If this is the case, you will need some sign-up sheets!

20130822-223520.jpg As that children gather, ask them what looks better, the fruit or the candy? I imagine that most of them will go for the candy, but you might have a few who want the fruit, ask them why?

20130822-223633.jpg OK, candy tastes really good to most of us, but what does it really do? If you eat to much all at once you get a stomach ache. If you eat candy every day you might rot your teeth. If ALL you eat is candy you won’t be very healthy!

What about this fruit? It tastes good, too. I suppose if you eat too much all at once you might not feel too good either, but that might be because you are full of food! Eating fruit every day isn’t bad for your teeth, really (you still need to brush), and if ALL you ate was fruit you might be OK, certainly better than only candy!

Jesus is talking about food again this week, but this time he s saying things that might make us think about communion. He is talking about flesh and blood and the true food and drink. He has been talking about himself as the true bread from heaven and his blood as the true drink. Which is really why I brought the candy and the apple. The candy tastes like an apple, but it really isn’t an apple. The candy is mostly just sugar. It tastes good and is a nice treat sometimes, but it really doesn’t do us any good. The apple, on the other hand, is sweet, but also full of good vitamins and fiber, things that help us to be healthy!

Jesus is saying kind of the same thing – if you want your spirit to be healthy you need to feed it with real spiritual food, you need to feed it with the words and actions of Christ. Communion is part of that, so is worship, and so is service to others! This whole conversation that Jesus is having today started when he and his disciples feed all of these people with a few fish and loaves, and now Jesus is offering a completely different kind of meal. He is offering a meal for their spirits, encouraging them to listen to the good news, spread the word and to help each other!

20130822-223908.jpg Jesus feeds your spirit today and everyday. Eat and be full!

20130822-224425.jpg Jesus, Bread from Heaven, fill us with your good news, with you love, and with your grace. Send us out to be your hands and feet in the world so that we may find ways to feed those in need of real food, in need of real shelter and in need of real grace. Amen.

FaithCross_Worship ELCA Day of Service – if you are doing a day of service event in September take some time to highlight the event. Maybe even have someone from whatever organization you plan to work with come and talk for a couple minutes. Encourage people to sign up, or put it on their calendar. If you have the means you can even show Bishop Eaton’s video!

If you are not an ELCA congregation, or you are not doing the Day of Service – take a few minutes for a whole congregation brainstorming session! I have found that it is good to have a few “plants” in the congregation when you do this. Talk to one or two people ahead of time about what you are going to do, then have them speak up first from where they are to get the ball rolling. Ask them about needs in your wider community (outside your church), things that the church should be doing, or could be doing. See if you can get a spark going for creating your own service day for you congregation to go out and help in your community!

It Never Ends #itsagoodthing #itsaGodthing John 6: 1-21 Pentecost 9B July 26, 2015

*This sermon was preached by Pastor Brigette Weier at Lord of the Hills Lutheran Church in Centennial, CO on July 26th, the first week of the John 6 “Bread of Life” series. For more sermons go to www.alutheransayswhat.wordpress.com

 

One of the principles of teaching, especially younger children, is repetition, repetition, repetition. When I was a director of a preschool, I had some parents who wanted their children to come five mornings a week, which was fine, I was clear that the curriculum would be the same. They often then said, “oh maybe my child will get bored.” But those of us who have spent any time around young children know that they will want you to read the same book over and over, play the same game with them over and over, sing the same songs over and over, and watch the same video over and over.  So we patiently (mostly!) reread the books to them, replay the games, and yes tolerate the same song or video over and over. If you’re lucky, you’ll like some of these activities too! Repetition is how our brains gain mastery over a skill or a concept. Now repetition is not necessarily the exact same thing over and over all the time. It can also be variations on a theme that broaden and deepen our mastery of a skill, or even expand our knowledge within that skill set.

I am a violinist and the old joke of “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!” is correct! I would practice scales, then etudes based on the scales, then I could play harder and harder pieces that the scales and etudes I had practiced hours and hours prepared me for. All of the hours spent in a practice room, often came along with me in daily life. I would hum the pieces, listen to them on tapes (!) and of course the music would get stuck in my head! As a music major, I lived, breathed and ate music. If you want to get good at something, you need to do it over and over, learning nuances of the skill, until it becomes second nature and part of who you are. Young brains are not the only brains that benefit from repetition for mastery of a skill, those of us who are “a bit older” benefit as well; the more that we see or do something, the better, the more it sticks with us. Professionals in any field will tell you that they have to keep practicing; they have completely immersed themselves in their craft.

This fact is one that has been true from the beginning of creation. The Bible is God’s story of meeting humanity over and over with God’s words and signs of love and reconciliation. God rescuing the Israelites through the Red Sea, God sustaining them in the desert with manna, God giving boundaries for living as community,  God revealing God’s work through prophets, God being present in all times and in all places, in exile, in restoration, in the rebuilding of the temple. God tells us the story, sings us the songs and reveals signs of God’s presence over and over and over. God created us to need repetition, to see and hear the story from all of these different experiences. God reveals what God is up to in so many different ways, including revealing Godself in the earthy, fleshy, and tangible Jesus, who walked in our midst as another repetition of God’s love for the whole world.

We have this story that we have heard over and over of Jesus feeding large crowds of people. It is repeated in every gospel. We know it well. It would be simple to reduce our John story today to be about feeding the hungry, proclaiming God’s generosity and abundance in the witness of our human tendency for scarcity, fear of what we don’t understand or Jesus who offers us miracles of God’ power.  This witness from John is also those things and those are important concepts to consider: We have enough, God provides and so share! But I figured you might already know that and would want more than an eight word sermon.

Here is what the true miracle is about with these two seemingly unconnected stories of bread, fish and water: God through Jesus is singing to us again a song in a different key, so that we might see and hear again, God’s work of love and reconciliation in the world. The writer of John begins this story with the reminder of all of the signs that Jesus has already shown the people. In the signs, Jesus is revealing to the disciples and to the crowds,  that once again that God is doing a new piece based on an old scale. Our 2 Kings reading this morning is an echo of Jesus feeding the people on the grass, with the question of “Is there enough for all?” and the resounding response from God of “Yes!” ringing in our ears. God never gives up on breaking into our ever day lives with abundant love.

This story is one witness of our need to practice gratitude for God’s presence and generosity, to practice being part of a larger crowd, to practice knowing that nothing is simply a left over, everything has value and is not wasted in God’s kingdom, to practice waiting for Jesus and not ditching him (does that bother anyone else?),  to practice remembering that Jesus comes to us no matter where we are, and to practice not being afraid. Like the disciples, no matter how much we see God, experience God and encounter God, we forget and rely on our own abilities, what we think we have or don’t have and we think that we can just leave Jesus somewhere on the shore while we head out to sea.

We gather together each Sunday to practice all of these things-and they are a lot! We practice being in community, praying, abundance, generosity, gratitude, hearing the story and being in Christ’s presence. We practice in this space, it’s like our practice room, so that we when we leave, prayer, generosity, hospitality, love, abundance and the story of God’s work in and through Jesus Christ, is second nature and is a little more stuck in our heads, in our hearts and in our actions.

Each time we practice, we hear the story a new way, we encounter Christ in bread, wine, in water, or in the word, we immerse ourselves in the life and love of Christ and this love from God  is part of who we are and can’t help but to spill out into the whole world. This week we will host and invite the community and families into our practicing of love, generosity, abundance and gratitude through VBS.  The worry of enough room will give way to laughter and close bonds shared, worry of enough snacks will give way to leftovers, fear of things not going just as planned will give way to Jesus coming to us and saying “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”   We will all encounter Christ in yet another way that will add to our understanding, we will repeat the stories, the songs and the love of God being revealed in our midst. We will tell the story to one another of God’s abundance, love and how God calls us to immerse ourselves everyday with the practices of repetition of prayers, gratitude, love and generosity of all that God has first given us.

God repeats those themes in us and promises to reveal over and over how we are forgiven, we are loved and how we are sent to share over and over with the whole world that there is enough, there are leftovers-always room for more-and God is with us in every time and in every place. God promises to immerse us with signs of love, generosity, grace and hope today, tomorrow and forever.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll never be bored with the repetition of that story. Amen.

No Ordinary Gift Children’s Sermon John 6: 35-51 Aug. 9th, 2015

20130822-223520.jpg Have a box decorated beautifully with a bow, but it’s empty, and a baggie of off brand fish crackers. Say, “Which one do you think is a gift? (yes someone might say the fish-go with it!) The pretty box? What do you think is in there? The snack crackers? Why do you say that? Let’s open the box. Hmmmm it’s empty, it’s pretty but doesn’t help us really at all. The crackers are ordinary and plain but they will feed us and we can share with our friends.
Do you like getting gifts? We tend to think of gifts as elaborately packaged items that cost a lot of money. When someone say they have a gift for us we kinda secretly hope that it’s that expensive new toy or video game that we want or for adults, let’s face it just some money. But sometimes the best gifts are not in a pretty bow or something expensive. I know my best gifts have been my kids (although one could argue that they are expensive) and homemade things from friends, parishioners or students. Sometimes when we offer a hug or our time or something that we made ourselves, we are giving the best gift ever that we can share over and over with lots of people and it never runs out.
20130822-223633.jpgOur bible story today is what happens after Jesus feeds 5,000 people bread and fish and there were left overs. Jesus tells the crowds gathered that he is the bread of life that comes to all people from God no matter if they deserve it or not. Now the crowds were complaining that Jesus said he was the bread of life come down from heaven as they thought that was ridiculous! He was just Joseph’s kid, no one special and certainly not everyone should deserve God’s blessings. Some people believed (and some still do) that you had to follow a bunch of rules to get God’s blessings of life forever and that it would be a special and magical event, not some ordinary guy with ordinary bread and fish. But Jesus says no! God’s gift is in the ordinary! God comes to us with everything we need in Jesus, a human just like us and yet not like us because he is God’s son. Jesus shows us that God comes to us, meets us in our daily lives with what we need but we don’t always see it because it’s so ordinary. We don’t give a second thought to the lunch we’ll go home to, or the actual HOME we’ll go to, the family that we have, all ways that Jesus meets us where we are.
Jesus says that we are all drawn to him and so drawn or gathered to God and that not one of us will be lost. Part of being in God’s life is that we are connected to each other too. We might complain that we didn’t get a good enough gift or that we don’t see how something is a gift at all! But God promises to come to us over and over with all that we need with enough to share through the love of Jesus.
20130822-224425.jpgJesus the bread of life, you give us what we need to serve your world and to share with other people. Help us to see your love in ordinary things in our lives. Amen

FaithCross_Worship Have lots of snack size baggies, fish crackers, colored note cards, hand sanitizer, pens or markers available on a table. Remind people to hand sanitize  and then to put some crackers in baggie. Have them write on a card, “You are a gift from God” and put the note in the baggie. Have them make several to take with them to hand out to whomever they wish to bless that day with the love of Jesus.
20130822-223908.jpg +You are a gift from God+

It Never Ends Sermon on John 6: 1-21 Pentecost 9B

One of the principles of teaching, especially younger children, is repetition, repetition, repetition. When I was a director of a preschool, I had some parents who wanted their children to come five mornings a week, which was fine, I was clear that the curriculum would be the same. They often then said, “oh maybe my child will get bored.” But those of us who have spent any time around young children know that they will want you to read the same book over and over, play the same game with them over and over, sing the same songs over and over, and watch the same video over and over.  So we patiently (mostly!) reread the books to them, replay the games, and yes tolerate the same song or video over and over. If you’re lucky, you’ll like some of these activities too! Repetition is how our brains gain mastery over a skill or a concept. Now repetition is not necessarily the exact same thing over and over all the time. It can also be variations on a theme that broaden and deepen our mastery of a skill, or even expand our knowledge within that skill set.

I am a violinist and the old joke of “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!” is correct! I would practice scales, then etudes based on the scales, then I could play harder and harder pieces that the scales and etudes I had practiced hours and hours prepared me for. All of the hours spent in a practice room, often came along with me in daily life. I would hum the pieces, listen to them on tapes (!) and of course the music would get stuck in my head! As a music major, I lived, breathed and ate music. If you want to get good at something, you need to do it over and over, learning nuances of the skill, until it becomes second nature and part of who you are. Young brains are not the only brains that benefit from repetition for mastery of a skill, those of us who are “a bit older” benefit as well; the more that we see or do something, the better, the more it sticks with us. Professionals in any field will tell you that they have to keep practicing; they have completely immersed themselves in their craft.

This fact is one that has been true from the beginning of creation. The Bible is God’s story of meeting humanity over and over with God’s words and signs of love and reconciliation. God rescuing the Israelites through the Red Sea, God sustaining them in the desert with manna, God giving boundaries for living as community,  God revealing God’s work through prophets, God being present in all times and in all places, in exile, in restoration, in the rebuilding of the temple. God tells us the story, sings us the songs and reveals signs of God’s presence over and over and over. God created us to need repetition, to see and hear the story from all of these different experiences. God reveals what God is up to in so many different ways, including revealing Godself in the earthy, fleshy, and tangible Jesus, who walked in our midst as another repetition of God’s love for the whole world.

We have this story that we have heard over and over of Jesus feeding large crowds of people. It is repeated in every gospel. We know it well. It would be simple to reduce our John story today to be about feeding the hungry, proclaiming God’s generosity and abundance in the witness of our human tendency for scarcity, fear of what we don’t understand or Jesus who offers us miracles of God’ power.  This witness from John is also those things and those are important concepts to consider: We have enough, God provides and so share! But I figured you might already know that and would want more than an eight word sermon.

Here is what the true miracle is about with these two seemingly unconnected stories of bread, fish and water: God through Jesus is singing to us again a song in a different key, so that we might see and hear again, God’s work of love and reconciliation in the world. The writer of John begins this story with the reminder of all of the signs that Jesus has already shown the people. In the signs, Jesus is revealing to the disciples and to the crowds,  that once again that God is doing a new piece based on an old scale. Our 2 Kings reading this morning is an echo of Jesus feeding the people on the grass, with the question of “Is there enough for all?” and the resounding response from God of “Yes!” ringing in our ears. God never gives up on breaking into our ever day lives with abundant love.

This story is one witness of our need to practice gratitude for God’s presence and generosity, to practice being part of a larger crowd, to practice knowing that nothing is simply a left over, everything has value and is not wasted in God’s kingdom, to practice waiting for Jesus and not ditching him (does that bother anyone else?),  to practice remembering that Jesus comes to us no matter where we are, and to practice not being afraid. Like the disciples, no matter how much we see God, experience God and encounter God, we forget and rely on our own abilities, what we think we have or don’t have and we think that we can just leave Jesus somewhere on the shore while we head out to sea.

We gather together each Sunday to practice all of these things-and they are a lot! We practice being in community, praying, abundance, generosity, gratitude, hearing the story and being in Christ’s presence. We practice in this space, it’s like our practice room, so that we when we leave, prayer, generosity, hospitality, love, abundance and the story of God’s work in and through Jesus Christ, is second nature and is a little more stuck in our heads, in our hearts and in our actions.

Each time we practice, we hear the story a new way, we encounter Christ in bread, wine, in water, or in the word, we immerse ourselves in the life and love of Christ and this love from God  is part of who we are and can’t help but to spill out into the whole world. This week we will host and invite the community and families into our practicing of love, generosity, abundance and gratitude through VBS.  The worry of enough room will give way to laughter and close bonds shared, worry of enough snacks will give way to leftovers, fear of things not going just as planned will give way to Jesus coming to us and saying “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”   We will all encounter Christ in yet another way that will add to our understanding, we will repeat the stories, the songs and the love of God being revealed in our midst. We will tell the story to one another of God’s abundance, love and how God calls us to immerse ourselves everyday with the practices of repetition of prayers, gratitude, love and generosity of all that God has first given us.

God repeats those themes in us and promises to reveal over and over how we are forgiven, we are loved and how we are sent to share over and over with the whole world that there is enough, there are leftovers-always room for more-and God is with us in every time and in every place. God promises to immerse us with signs of love, generosity, grace and hope today, tomorrow and forever.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll never be bored with the repetition of that story. Amen.

Let us walk with you on the journey of faith. Whether your feet are big or small, fresh or worn, running or crawling, God's love goes with you and you stand on holy ground.