This would be a great Sunday to have children/youth of all ages in leadership during worship, education classes and any other opportunity. If not actual leadership (perhaps for safety reasons) then have the children/youth as partners with adults for leadership. Including the pastor! Here is a suggestion for a children’s sermon that can be led by the children fairly easily.
Gather the children in the middle of the sanctuary in the main aisle if you have one or some sort of central location. Ask the children if they have ever taught any one something new. (Accept all answers.) Ask if they have ever taught an adult something new. (Accept all answers.) Tell them that today-they will be the teachers and leaders and this children’s sermon is really for the adults. Have the children say to the congregation, “You are sent by God! Do not be afraid! God will tell you what to say!” Have the congregation say those phrases back to the children/youth. Ask a random adult of a couple of different ages (18-35, 35-50, 50-65, 65+) what they would like to say to the children today. Then ask a teenager and younger child what they want to tell the adults about God today.
We need each other! We need all of us together to proclaim God’s word of love, hope and grace. God works through us all and even those whom we don’t know or are different from us.
God gifts us all to proclaim God’s good news to all people in the world. God’s promises grow in us all, too. Have small terra cotta pots, soil and some flower seeds on a table. Place the table on tile or linoleum or have a tarp under the table. Invite the congregation to write or draw images or words of God’s promises on the pots. Then they can add soil and seeds. The actual potting could also be done after worship in another location. In this time of winter, watching new growth can be a reminder that God is always doing a new thing, even when it seems that the world is frozen and stagnate.
Gather the children and have a children’s Bible with you or any Bible will do. Say, “How many of you know your ABC’S (you can sing the song if you like!)? How did you learn them? Singing the song everyday? Lot’s of practice? When I want to learn to do something well, like when I learned to play the violin, I practiced every day. I didn’t always feel like practicing and I didn’t like it when something was too hard at first, but I kept at it as I knew that was the only way to get better. “ Ask them, “ What do you know about Jesus?” Accept all answers. Ask them, “ How do you know those things about Jesus?” Accept all answers. Probably someone will say bible. Talk about how the Bible helps us to know a little bit about Jesus and God. “Does it tell us everything about God? NO! We also learn about God all day long in our daily lives from parents, siblings, friends, SS teachers, choir directors, youth directors, maybe even pastors! What do these people tell us or show us about Jesus?” Accept all answers. Say, “Yes, every day we learn a little more about Jesus from each other don’t we? When they forgive us, pray with us, even tell us things that we don’t understand sometimes! What if we have a day where we don’t feel like showing people the love of Jesus? Yeah, we all have days like that don’t we. Me too!
In our Mark story today, the disciples are learning that they don’t know everything about Jesus yet. Jesus was telling them some HARD things! Such as people would make fun of Jesus, hurt him, and he would die! No one wants to hear of their friend getting hurt and so Peter was upset! I would be too! But Jesus knew that Peter didn’t know everything about him or God. Peter was still learning just like us! We learn our whole lives and Jesus says that the point of our lives is to seek God and to show other people the love of God. Seems easy but it’s also really hard! When we have to learn something hard at school like spelling words or math facts what do we do? We practice them every day! Loving and following Jesus is no different we have to practice it every day! We don’t have to be perfect, just try. Loving Jesus doesn’t mean that we are perfect or that everything at school is perfect, or that we will have lots of friends or get straight A’s. Jesus says life with God is all about practicing to love God even when it’s hard or we don’t feel like it. That’s how much Jesus loves us!
Dear Jesus, we love to learn about you! Thank you for all of the ways that we learn about you all day long from our families, our friends and everyone who loves us. We want to teach other people about God’s love too! Thank you for being with us even when it’s hard. Amen.
Have a cross from you worship space or some other wooden and fairly free standing cross on a table or on the floor in a place where it is easily accessible. Have post-it notes and pens, markers, etc available for people to write the names of those who have taught them about Jesus in their lives. Place those post-it notes on the cross and offer a prayer in the worship service for the people in our lives who teach us about Jesus even when it’s hard and we don’t feel like hearing about Jesus. Have note cards available for people to write either 1) thank you notes to those who have taught them about Jesus or 2) a note to tell someone that Jesus love them, or both! (You could deliver these to an assisted living facility, a shelter, a police or fire station, etc.
Have a piece of chart paper available that you can write on or have the children write on. Have the paper divided into threes (maybe make a peace sign). Ask: “What do you know about God who creates or makes stuff?” Write or have an older child write the answers. “What do you know about Jesus?” Again, write all answers. “What do you know about the Holy Spirit?” Write all answers. Say: “Wow! You know quite a bit! Do you think that this is all that there is to know about God? Who do you think knows EVERYTHING about God? (Yes some child will say “GOD!” Go with it!) It’s really hard for us to know everything about God isn’t it? We try and explain how God is creator, Jesus who died for us and the Holy Spirit who we talked about last week as wind, breath, or fire. (Or insert however you discussed the HS last week on Pentecost Sunday.) But we just don’t quite know everything do we?
In our Bible story this morning we read about a really smart guy named Nicodemus or Nic for short. He knew all kinds of stuff about the Bible, God, rules, and special religious holidays. He didn’t know a lot about Jesus and so he went to talk to him at night so that no one else would know that Nic had questions, there was stuff that even he didn’t understand. Have you ever had something that you didn’t understand, maybe at school? Did you go and talk to someone? Yes? Good! Nic did a great thing by talking to Jesus. Jesus told Nic some things that he didn’t know and it was confusing! But Jesus said to him, you can’t know everything! Only God does! God comes to you with love and healing and that is the most important thing to know! There will always be stuff about God you don’t understand-everything that we wrote on this paper is not everything about God, right? But all we need to know is that God loves us very much, always will no matter what, and always is with us. That’s it! Simple but still hard, huh? Yeah, even for me and other adults we don’t quite get it, but we get to try and just live in God’s love and share it with people every single day. How can you show your love for people and God’s whole world? (Accept all answers.) Great ideas! During Worship Station time, you can take a red construction paper heart, write Creator, Jesus, and Holy Spirit on the three “points” if you will of the heart (see better description below). Then write your own name in the middle of the heart to remind you that you are part of God’s love in the world. Decorate it however you want and take it home! Make some to share (with friend’s or family members names on it)!
Dear God Creator, Jesus our Savior and the Holy Spirit our Breath, we love you and we are grateful that you love us always. You make us your own and bring us to live into your love for the whole world. You make us new each day and you are at work bringing healing and wholeness all around us. We pray to be a part of your love and wholeness in the world. Amen.
Have red construction paper hearts (fairly good size-about 4 ½ X 5 ½), markers, heart stickers and anything else you would like to decorate the hearts. Have a sample made where at the top of the two rounded parts of the heart one side says “Creator” (or “Father” “Mother” depending upon your tradition), and the other “Jesus.” Have the words “Holy Spirit” written on the point of the bottom of the heart. Encourage people to write their own name on the center of the heart and/or write ways to share the love of God with the world. They can take them home or tape them on a cross.
Have a tulip, a tulip bulb (or some other bulb flower) or the poinsettia. Gather the children around the tulip/poinsettia. If using the poinsettia ask the children when they last saw this plant. Christmas! The cool thing about poinsettia’s is that they “bloom” (red leaves) when it’s cold and actually need to stay in a dark closet with no light for much of the year. We bring them out in the fall when there is less sunlight and that is when they thrive. In the dark the poinsettias are renewing and getting ready to grow!
If using a tulip and bulb ask the children if they have every planted bulbs before. Does this bulb look like it could become a flower right now? No. It doesn’t. It just looks dead and pretty useless right now. But we plant the bulb in the fall about 6-8 inches underground so that no sunlight gets to them. All winter they stay a bulb in the ground, dead and not doing much. And then when the weather gets warmer and the ground unfreezes and becomes softer and warmer, the bulb begins to grow a stem. And a couple of weeks later you get these beautiful tulips that grow! This dead bulb will stay just the way it is unless we bury it in the dark and let it sit for a while. Beautiful things can come from the dark!
In our Bible story from John today Jesus talks about how new life can come from things that look dead and useless. In nature, tress, flowers and plants have parts of them that die, these become seeds that grow into new life. Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples that he too will die, but it’s not what they think. Jesus will die, they will be sad, but God will bring new life from Jesus’ death-like this flower. Jesus’ death and God raising him to life means that we have new life too! Each and every day God makes us new and we can grow like this flower to share God’s beauty and love with the whole world. When we die, we go to be with God in new life after we die. Jesus gathers us all up in this life and in the next and we are never alone! God brings life from EVERYTHING NO MATTER WHAT! Pretty cool, huh! We have new life and we are never alone.
For a worship station have soil, (small cup for scooping the soil), small terra cotta pots, and seeds. Permanent markers are the best way to draw on the pots so warn parents and have supervision. Have people draw symbols of new life on their pot and then plant a seed. You can have them take them home for the plants to grow during the Easter season, or give them away to an assisted living facility, half-way house or other places where your congregation can share the good news of new life and community forever in Jesus.
God, you bring new life from everything around us. You promise that we are with you always, even when we’re in the dark and can’t see the sunlight. Gather all your people so that the whole world will know your presence and love. Amen.
Week 1: 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31: Do you consider yourself called to God’s mission and work in the world in anyway? Why or why not? Do you think God calls us all or just some? How do you think God can use you in your school, job or community to share the love of Christ?
Week 2: 1 Corinthians 2: 6-16: What are some gifts that God has given you? How have you used them? What do you think it means to have the mind of Christ?
Week 3: 1 Corinthians 3: 1-9: It’s very easy to forget that we belong to God and not to anything else. Paul speaks of belonging to “people” but in our culture we belong to pro sports teams, groups, work places, neighborhoods, gyms, and many other organizations. (Which is not a bad thing.) How can we remember that above all else we belong to God? Who shares God’s love and nurtures your faith?
Week 4: 1 Corinthians 3: 10-11, 16-23: What is your faith foundation? Are there spiritual practice that help to lay the foundation for you? If you are holy and God’s temple how does that change how you are in your daily life? How you treat other people?
God of life, we forget that we belong to you. We forget that we and all people are your holy temple. Help us to treat one another as with the “mind of Christ” so that the whole world will know your love. Amen.
Ask each week who is in need in your neighborhood or faith community? Find out if a meal, shoveling the walk, house cleaning or babysitting would be a way to bolster someone struggling. Pray for them each day.